Fashion and Trends

Name Nerds main

You may not realize it, but names you like and don't like are influenced by the fashion of the day. Think about it: The name Herbert probably does not make you think of a little boy playing on a playground, like, say Brandon or Tyler might. Why is that? Because the name Herbert, like so many other "stodgy old-timers" has fallen out of fashion. It's pretty simple--once a name is used for a while, people get tired of it, and look for something new.

Another trend that names follow is that names that have similar sounds to already popular names "piggyback" their way onto the charts. For example, Kaitlyn is currently very popular, and has been for a number of years. Following in the Kay- trend, Kaylee, Kaylin, Cadence & Mikayla have followed suit. Ditto for -in and -lyn names, like Jordan, Jasmine, Madison and Brooklyn. In the 70s, Jennifer's popularity not only spawned lots of Jessicas and Jennas, but also Heather, for the -er ending. Ryan became the new Brian because it sounds similar, but seemed fresher.

3 Generation Cycle
Names tend to go through a 100-year cycle now. Think of your great-grandmother's name. Does it sound fresh and useable now? My great-grandmother was Amy, (who I was named after). This was also her mother's name. Others of her generation were: Anna, Elizabeth, Ella (now in the top 10), Emma, Emily, Carrie, Lily, Sarah... all those sound fine now. Basically, a generation needs to die out before the names sound fresh again. For example, the generation after my great-grandmother's--my grandmother's & her peers'--names' still sound a little stodgy: Ethel, Dorothy, Mildred, Edna, Gladys, Margery, Irene... Believe it or not, those names will probably be all the rage in 10-20 years.

Girls names tend to cycle faster than boys' names--people tend to be more conservative in naming boys. Also, it is more common for a boy to be named after his father than a girl named after her mother. This is why you may know little babies as well as 50-year-old men named Michael, but probably know relatively few babies named Barbara (more common among 40-60 year olds).

Here's a chart of the top 20 names now, and the last time they were popular (1880 is the earliest year the Social Security Administration has data for):

  1. Emily (steadily rising since 1973. Last biggest charting was in 1884)
  2. Madison (relatively new to the chart)
  3. Emma (1881)
  4. Hailey (relatively new to the chart)
  5. Kaitlyn (relatively new to the chart)
  6. Sophia (1882)
  7. Abigail (has been the most popular since the 70s. Used by Puritans. Most common year in the last 130 was 1880)
  8. Olivia (1881)
  9. Hannah (1880)
  10. Isabella (1880)
  11. Sarah (1880, though has remained in the top 100 for all but 5 years of the last 130)
  12. Brianna (relatively new to the chart)
  13. Ashley (relatively new to the chart)
  14. Jasmine (relatively new to the chart)
  15. Samantha (1880 - disappeared altogether until it was resurrected by a TV show in the 1960s)
  16. Ava (1883, although it's never been terribly popular)
  17. Alyssa (relatively new to the chart)
  18. Elizabeth - this name has been in the top 25 for the past 130 years. A reason for this could be that it has multiple nicknames which go in and out of fashion, like Bess/Bessie (1900s), Betty (40s), Betsy (50s), Beth (70s-80s) etc.
  19. Natalie (1931-- an anomaly!)
  20. Kaylee (relatively new to the chart)
  1. Jacob (1880)
  2. Aidan (entered the charts in 1990)
  3. Michael (been in the top 60 for the past 130 years. Peaked in 1944, 1911, 1880)
  4. Joshua (1883)
  5. Matthew (1880)
  6. Nicholas (1914)
  7. Ethan (been climbing steadily since 1951. Peaked and barely made the top 1000 in 1884)
  8. Andrew (been in the top 100 for the last 130 years. Last peaked in 1880-1883)
  9. Christopher (1880 & 1893)
  10. Daniel (been in the top 60 for the past 130 years. Last peaked in 1880)
  11. Anthony (1922-1925)
  12. Joseph (in the top 20 for past 130 years. dropped into double digits from 1934-1971, but in the top 10 the rest of the years)
  13. William (in the top 5 from 1880-1949. Enjoyed a moderate rest in the double digits in the 70s, 80s & 90s falling as far as #20)
  14. Alexander (1880)
  15. Jonathan (1988, 1885)
  16. Ryan (been climbing since 1946)
  17. David (1960, 1880)
  18. Christian (1881)
  19. Tyler (climbing since 1944)
  20. Jayden (climbing since 1994)

Here are some contemporaries of the 1880s names that may be climbing the charts soon. These still may be considered too stuffy to use, or "cutting edge" depending on whom you are talking to.

  • Minnie
  • Clara (a replacement for the 1980s favorite Claire?)
  • Ida
  • Hattie
  • Helen
  • Frances (already cropping up with celebrities now and again)
  • Daisy (Rose and Jasmine are already popular, why not?)
  • Stella (already a staple in celebrity families)
  • Della (an alternative to the now-popular Ella?)
  • Lydia
  • Delia
  • Alice (a replacement for the tired Allison?)
  • Arthur
  • Walter
  • Albert
  • Oscar (already getting some notice in the celebrity world)
  • Oliver (also already 'in the wind' as a naming choice)
  • Louis
  • Elmer
  • Herman
  • Bert
  • Harvey
  • Eugene

Here are some names you may see in 10-20 years:

  • Florence
  • Edna
  • Ethel
  • Martha
  • Lucille
  • Doris
  • Elsie
  • Virginia
  • Mabel
  • Vera
  • Lois
  • Blanche
  • Hazel (actress Julia Roberts recently named her daughter this)
  • Thelma
  • Ruth
  • Harold
  • Raymond
  • Carl
  • Ralph
  • Howard
  • Donald
  • Kenneth
  • Stanley
  • Ernest
  • Clarence
  • Herbert
  • Earl
  • Melvin
  • Bernard
  • Russell

Names that is may take a while to come back into fashion. Some of these are still hanging around the top 1000, but still falling.

  • Barbara
  • Sharon
  • Donna
  • Janice
  • Joyce
  • Joan
  • Nancy
  • Linda
  • Marilyn
  • Beverly
  • Betty
  • Carol
  • Jean
  • Gail
  • Marie
  • Douglas
  • Norman
  • Donald
  • Craig
  • Ronald
  • Roger
  • Larry
  • Jerry
  • Gary
  • Dale
  • Glenn
  • Gerald
  • Bruce
  • Gene
  • Terry

Names of my generation that are still holding onto low spots in the top 1000, but falling quickly and will probably not be resurrected very soon.

  • Jennifer
  • Tanya
  • Karen
  • Michelle
  • Danielle
  • Amy
  • Heather
  • Nicole
  • Tammy
  • Julie
  • Kimberly
  • Melissa
  • Tina
  • Tracy
  • Stacy
  • Dawn
  • Kelly
  • Denise
  • Cheryl
  • Dana
  • Erica
  • Jamie
  • Heidi
  • Kim
  • Jeffrey
  • Gregory
  • Jason
  • Eric
  • Chad
  • Jeremy
  • Scott
  • Kevin
  • Shawn
  • Todd
  • Travis
  • Trevor
  • Shane
  • Troy
  • Derek
  • Brett
  • Corey
  • Jared
  • Brian
  • Steve
  • Justin
  • Randy

Other trends that make up Naming Fashions

fad names: These are the one-hit-wonder names that hit hard and quickly faded. For example, in 1996, 7 babies were named Jamiroquai. Nobody before or since has been named that. Other examples: I know a few girls named Cricket (from the Soap opera Days of Our Lives), Adia (from a Sarah McLachlan song), & Jadzia (from Star Trek, although it is a nickname for the Polish name Jadwiga). I once met a 60-year-old woman named Jalna, it was a character out of her mother's favorite romance novels in the 40s.

Books, Movies and TV are one inspiration for fad names, but like any other fashion trend, they also disperse names to many corners of the country/world. An example is the rash of Alexises born in the 1980s thanks to the night time drama Dynasty. Similarly, Scarlett seems to be coming into vogue, since everyone loved Gone With the Wind. Why wasn't it more popular a name after the movie was released? Maybe because the naming trends back then were too conservative to fuel something as outlandish as Scarlett? I know a whole lot of girls named Tara after the plantation in GWTW, because their mothers loved the movie, but didn't want to take the plunge and go with Scarlett.

Celebrities also influence name fashion. While they don't necessarily invent the trends, they seem to catch on to them earlier than the rest of us. If you note a bunch of celebrities using a name (like Isabel(la) 5 or 10 years ago), then it's likely that it will catch on with the rest of the population in the following few years.

What's In

What's Out

  • Latin, Spanish, & Italian versions of names -- Anna, Diana, Daniela, Michaela, Christina, Julia, Maria
  • Old fashioned-names, and and names ending in -a: Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Grace, Olivia, Abigail, Emma, Emily, Hannah, Madeline
  • K & C names (and names with Ks in them): Kaitlyn, Mikayla, Kayla, Kaylee, Caden, Cameron, Caleb, Conor
  • for girls-- feminine names: Isabella, Emily, Brianna, Lily, Sarah, Elizabeth, Natalie, Mia, Chloe, Ariana, Victoria
  • -aden and -alen names: Brayden, Caden, Aidan, Jayden, Jaylin, Braylon
  • places and words as names: Trinity, Austin, Grace, Chance, Cadence, Summer, Autumn, Faith, Serenity, Genesis
  • Long a sounds: Katelyn, Aiden, Jacob, Hayley, Ava, Grace, Caleb, Kayla
  • for guys--Biblical Names: Isaiah, Elijah, Gabriel, Ethan, Caleb, Joshua, Jacob, Isaac, Noah
  • French versions of names: Anne, Diane, Danielle, Michelle, Christine, Julie, Marie
  • modern names ending in -y: Jody, Lori, Kelly, Amy, Tammy, Carrie, Christie, Cindy, Sandy, Wendy, Nikki
  • J & D Names: Jennifer, Jenna, Jeremy, Jason, Julie, Jamie, Jill, Justin, Jerry, Douglas, Donald, Diane, Debbie, Denise, Darren
  • ambigendrous surname-names: Bailey, Taylor, Casey, Peyton, Cameron, Mackenzie, Morgan, Skylar (these are falling for both sexes, but especially girls)
  • -ary names: Cary, Gary, Jerry, Barry, Terry, Larry, Carrie, Teri
  • nicknames as whole names: Katie, Beth, Kim, Jenny, Kathy, Sue, Vicki, Tony, Frank
  • Short e sounds: Jennifer, Jessica, Michelle, Kenneth, Jeff, Greg, Stephanie, Heather, Kelly, Dennis, Debbie
  • monosyllabic "surfer" names: Chad, Brad, Todd, Craig, Scott, Troy, Keith