Preparing for a new addition to the family? Congratulations! You might be Googling for the best onesies, diapers, carseats and strollers to purchase. But what’s one thing you can’t find at the store? The best or, most popular, baby names, of course!
Choosing a name can be a months long process. And you might even be amongst those who are considering middle names, double names, or, hey, maybe once you’re holding your baby and looking into their little face, you might end up choosing a different name altogether.
Related: Choosing your baby’s last name: From hyphenated names to maiden middle names
Any of this might be true for you but, how do you even go about finding a name? And, should you consider a popular baby name? Name trends come and go but there are some reasons why choosing a popular baby name may or may not be right for you.
Name trends and how they’re formed
If you’re wondering how name trends are even formed, you’re not alone. Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Texas, conducted a study, “Analyzing Influences on U.S. Baby Name Trends,” to figure out how name trends are formed and what dictates them in the first place. The researchers compiled data from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) yearly name lists along with statistics from the Pew Research Center and other sites.
The SMU study found that name trends are not only formed by the amount of times a given name shows up in the SSA’s records but also through historical events, pop culture and religious figures. Everyone from famous authors to athletes, popular presidents to biblical figures and even hurricanes or wars can have an impact on which name expecting parents will choose for their little one.
For example, “Emma” has been in the top three ranking for popular baby girls names since 2003. And, in 2002 was when the writers “Friends” named Ross and Rachel’s daughter, “Emma.” Since that episode aired, the name “Emma” has been a steady favorite for parents all these years!
But, the name “Stephanie,” which is the feminized version of “Stephen” made popular since the 1900s for the connection to Saint Stephan, has been dropping in popularity for many years. It has seen a 97% decrease in popularity since 1980. And, out of the thousands of babies born every year in the US, only an average of 26 babies born per year between 2000 and 2019 were given the name “Stephanie.” So, “Stephanie” (and it’s male equivalent, “Stephan”) are no longer considered popular baby names.
A current popular name trend is recycling vintage names! Think: Evelyn and Charlotte or Noah, Theodore and James, all of which are currently on the SSA’s top ten baby names list of 2021.
To follow or not to follow: Are name trends right for you?
Considering whether or not to choose a popular baby name based on the current name trends can be a hard choice. After all, if you Google “popular baby names 2022,” chances are the results will be different ten years from now. There are some things you might want to think about before you choose a trendy name.
The pros of looking for of-the-moment names are that your child will fit in with their own generation and, if you go with a timeless name that’s also trendy then you’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
On the other hand, some names are only ever popular for a fashionable moment and then they fade away or are given new meanings that you might not like. For example, “Karen” has been on the decline since 2020. Or, if you name your child after some celebrity who’s having a big moment in your time, that same celebrity could have some kind of falling out with the public later on that might make you regret your choice.
And, of course, you have to assume that if you’re going with a popular name then all of the other parents deciding on baby names around the same time as you could potentially choose the exact same name. Your child will forever be called on in class with the first initial of their last name. Remember all of the “Marissas” or “Jakes?” No? Well, you might remember them as “Marissa A.” or “Jake C.”.
Popular names from past years
So, now that we’ve gotten past all of that data on baby name popularity, check out these popular baby name ideas from past years that we’ve already put together for you.
Popular names for girls, boys and separated by region
And, if you’re curious about popular names for girls and boys, or, maybe, names that are popular in specific regions, we’ve got you covered there too.
Expert advice or quotes from real moms about choosing a baby name
If you’re still undecided, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Read on for real advice or quotes from moms who have been in your shoes.
“I saw Steel Magnolias when I was 11 and Dylan McDermott’s character Jackson Latcherie was the most handsome, charming, adorable man my little eyes had ever seen and I swore I’d name my son Jackson. 16 years later, I did.” —Kate, As Kate Would Have it
“My son, Tristan, is named after Brad Pitt’s character in Legends of the Fall. I have loved that name since I watched that movie as a teenager. I also STILL dislike Julia Ormond from that movie, more than 20 years later. So maybe don’t name your kid Julia.” —Joanna, Ramblin Mama
Did you choose a popular baby name? Tell us about your experience by emailing editor AT mother.ly and we may feature your quote in our story!