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 Aiden or Jackson 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.

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, 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. In fact, names from that generation, like Stella, Evelyn, Nora and Audrey are already in the top 100!

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 in 2016, and the last time they peaked in popularity (1880 is the earliest year the Social Security Administration has data for):

  1. Sophia/Sofia (1917)
  2. Olivia (1881)
  3. Emma (1881)
  4. Adeline (though it's been around since the 1800s, it has been pretty steadily under the radar the whole time until now)
  5. Ava (1883, although it's never been terribly popular)
  6. Isabella (1880)
  7. Mia (an anomaly-- first appeared in 1933, had a spike in the 1960s after "Rosemary's Baby" starring Mia Farrow was released, then quietly steadily grew in popularity)
  8. Amelia (1917)
  9. Riley (a newcomer; has been rising in popularity since the 1990s)
  10. Charlotte (popular in the 19-teens and 1920s. Its popularity declined a bit until the late 1940s, when it hit another spike in popularity and then declined again until the 2000s)
  11. Emily (steadily rising since 1973. Last biggest charting was in 1884)
  12. Zoey (its former most common spelling, Zoe, was quietly used until the 1970s when it suddenly got more popular, and has been steadily growing ever since)
  13. Abigail (1880)
  14. Madelyn (Madeline was the most common spelling until recently-- in that spelling it was most popular in the late 19-teens to mid 1920s)
  15. Aria (first appeared in 1900, but was only sporadically used until the 2000s, when it began to take off in popularity)
  16. Evelyn (1921)
  17. Layla (first appeared in 1950, had a brief spike in popularity in the 1970s [possibly due to the eponymous song by Eric Clapton] and has been steadily climbing the charts since the 1990s)
  18. Aubrey (originally used for boys, Aubrey has been steadily gaining in popularity for girls since the 1990s)
  19. Madison (used a few times in the 1970s, it wasn't until the movie "Splash" was released in 1984 that this name became popular. It hit its peak in the mid 2000s, and has been slowly declining since.)
  20. Harper (new to the charts since the late 1990s)
  1. Jackson (1921)
  2. Aidan (entered the charts in 1990)
  3. Noah (1923)
  4. Mason (had a mini spike in popularity in the early 1920s, then laid low until the late 1970s, and it's been increasing in popularity ever since)
  5. Liam (appeared for the first time in the top 7000 in 1947, has been getting more popular since the late 1970s)
  6. 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)
  7. Jacob (1880)
  8. Kayden (first appeared in the top 7000 in 1989; has been most popular since the mid 2000s)
  9. Michael (been in the top 60 for the past 130 years. Peaked in 1944, 1911, 1880)
  10. James (has been consistently in the top 10 since 1880. It hit a spike in the 1950s, and declined a bit, but never really went away)
  11. Lucas (had a mini spike in popularity in the early 1920s, but has mostly been used since the late 1970s)
  12. Benjamin (has been consistently popular since 1880)
  13. Elijah (had a spike in popularity in the early 1920s, fell out of favor and has been gaining popularity since the early 1980s)
  14. Jayden (climbing since 1994)
  15. Alexander (1880)
  16. Ethan (been climbing steadily since 1951. Peaked and barely made the top 1000 in 1884)
  17. Grayson (first appeared in 1905, but stayed uniformly unpopular until the 1990s)
  18. Matthew (1880)
  19. Oliver (1918)
  20. Daniel (been in the top 60 for the past 130 years. Last peaked in 1880)


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
  • Ida
  • Hattie
  • Helen
  • Frances
  • Daisy
  • Della (an alternative to the now-popular Ella?)
  • Lydia
  • Delia
  • Arthur
  • Walter
  • Albert
  • Louis
  • Elmer
  • Herman
  • Bert
  • Harvey
  • Eugene

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

  • Florence
  • Edna
  • Ethel
  • Martha
  • Lucille
  • Doris
  • Virginia
  • Vera
  • Lois
  • Blanche
  • Thelma
  • Ruth
  • Edith
  • 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

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 was very popular in the 1990s and 2000s. Following in the Kay- trend, Kaylee, Kaylin, Cadence & Mikayla have followed suit. Ditto for -in and -lyn names, like Jordan, Jasmine, Madison and Brooklyn. Kaitlyn is falling out of favor, but Kaelyn, a similar name, took up its mantle. In turn, Kaelyn spawned Maylin, Jaelin, Braylin etc. In the 70s, Jennifer's popularity not only spawned lots of Je- sounding names like Jessica and Jenna, but also Heather, for the -er ending. Ryan became the new Brian because it sounds similar, but seemed fresher. In this way, Jason was popular in the 1960s and 70s, but Jayden took over in the 1990s, and names like Aiden, Brayden, Cayden etc. have followed in its wake. Also Jaylen and Jayton have picked up in popularity to a lesser extent.

Books, Movies, Music and TV are one inspiration for names, but like any other fashion trend, they also have a tendency to produce one-hit wonders. For example, in 1996, 7 babies were named Jamiroquai after the band. 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, it was never used before on its own in the USA). I once met a 60-year-old woman named Jalna, it was a character out of her mother's favorite romance novels in the 1930s. Another example is the rash of Alexises born in the 1980s thanks to the night time drama Dynasty. Unlike the Jamiroquais, though, Alexis stuck around for a long time in popularity, also inspiring the similar sounding names Lexis, Alexa and Alexia. Aisha is another name that had staying power. Originally made popular in Stevie Wonder's 1976 song "Isn't She Lovely," Aisha remains popular to this day (helped by the fact that it was the name of the prophet Muhammed's second wife in the Islamic tradition).  Similarly, Scarlett has been coming into vogue for several years now, possibly influenced by the main character in Gone With the Wind. Why wasn't Scarlett more popular a name after the movie was released in 1930? 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 in an era when the most common names were more conservative things Mary, Barbara and Margaret. Many other names come from movies/television/books/songs etc. stick around. Other movie/literary names en vogue right now are Scout, Atticus, Holden, & Leia.

Famous People 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. Notable trends: watch out for Bear, Finn, Luna, and James as a girls' middle name in the coming years. Also, celebrities themselves can have an impact on naming. For example, Angelina wasn't particularly popular until the actress Angelina Jolie became famous. Now both Angelina and Jolie are quietly on the upswing. Likewise, the names of Angelina Jolie's children, (particularly Maddox and Knox) weren't particularly popular until she used them. Then once the names were out there, people heard them and thought "whoa, that's cool" and as a result, the popularity of these names is on the rise. Ditto for Gwen Stefani's & Gavin Rossdale's son Kingston's name.

Famous people can also have a *negative* impact on names. For example, the name Adolph was moderately popular up until the 1930s when its popularity plummeted and has never regained its former standing, thanks to Adolf Hitler. Another example are the names Chelsea and Hillary. Both names were on the upswing for girls until Bill Clinton became president in 1992. First Lady Hillary Clinton and First Daughter Chelsea Clinton were directly responsible for the plummeting of those names in popularity that year. I guess people didn't want their daughters associated with such polarizing political figures. However, Hillary got a little spike in popularity in the 2008 when she ran for president. Conversely, when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the name of the oldest of his daughters, Malia, spiked in popularity and remained popular. The name of President Obama's younger daughter, Sasha, spiked in popularity the year after Obama was elected, but then dropped off. It's hard to predict why-- maybe because Malia fit in nicely with the trend of -ia names already happening (Aaliyah was popular at the time) whereas Sasha's popularity had already been declining since the 1980s? Who knows?

Sounds are what names are made up of. Certain sounds come and go with fashion. For example, currently, names that contain long /a/ and long /i/ sounds are more "current"-sounding. Kaylee and Kylie sound more contemporary than Kelly -- Kelly has the short 'e' that was more popular in the 1960s and 70s. You would probably name a kid Miles before you named one Mills, Brayden before Braddon, etc. In a similar vein, Latin/Spanish/Italian forms of names are more popular now than their French counterparts, which ruled throughout the 1950s-1980s. For example, today Daniela sounds more contemporary than Danielle, which was popular in the 1970s. Ditto for Michaela vs. Michelle, Julia vs. Julie, Diana vs. Dianne etc. However, it's not all about vowels. Some sounds don't really go out of style, For example, Gina, Deena, and Tina sound a bit dated. Nina and Lina sound more timeless, and Amina is very "right now." Tracy and Stacy may have their stars setting from their heyday in the middle 20th century, but Lacey, Jaycie, Casey, Maci and Gracie have taken their place. Why is this? That would probably take volumes to explain, and no one explanation is probably correct! To oversimplify, people jump on a trend, and then get sick of it, and move on. Tracy and Staci sounded like adorable little girls in 1965, but by 1985, all the Stacys and Tracys were no longer little kids, so the name was no longer associated with small girls. However, Lacey and Casey were similar names that people discovered in the 1980s and 1990s. They sounded familiar enough with the -acy sound,  but were new and different and exciting. By the 2000s, those had begun to sound a little old hat, but Jaycie, Maci and Gracie were relatively unused and ripe for the picking. What's next? Dacey? (the similar name Daisy is already getting popular) Why not? It's an Irish surname stemming from the word déas meaning "south." Irish names as well as surname names are popular right now-- Finn, Liam, Declan... For some reason, Dacey never really took off. Bracey? You'd think with the popularity of Bray- names (Braylin, Braydon, Braylee etc.), this medieval Norman-English surname would get a nod, but its popularity has barely registered. In short, fashion is amazingly hard to predict! But, we CAN say what is popular in the moment, and possibly predict trends in the near future.

What's In

What's Out

  • for girls: -ana names: Ariana, Adriana, Eliana, Aliana, Indiana, Gianna
  • -aden and -alen names: Brayden, Caden, Zayden, Aidan, Jayden, Jaylin, Braylon, Maylin, Kaelyn
  • Places, Concepts and General Words as names: Trinity, Austin, Chance, Cadence, Winter, Wolf, Fox, Serenity, Genesis, Bear, Blue, Lyric
  • Long a sounds: Kaelyn, Aiden, Jacob, Hayley, Ava, Grace, Caleb
  • for guys--Biblical Names: Isaiah, Elijah, Gabriel, Ethan, Caleb, Joshua, Jacob, Isaac, Noah
  • Modern Unisex names starting with Br- Braylin, Braylee, Braxton, Braxley, Brixton, Brighton, Bristol, Brynlee, Brynlyn, Brylin, Brylee, Breeley, Breelin-- basically take Brax, Brix, Bray, Bree, Bryn or Bry and then add -lee, -lyn, or -ton.
  • Paisley, and names that rhyme with it: Kaisley, Haysley, Jayslie, Maisley etc.
  • "Rocker" names: Hendrix, Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Everly, Isley, Presley
  • -er  and -en names: Ryker, Ryder, Calder, Carter, Hunter, Tucker, Fletcher, Ryden, Rylen, Calden, Harper, Camden,
  • -ia and -aya names: Leah, Kaya, Aniyah, Aria, Aliyah, Ellia, Olivia
  • -ton and -ston names: Jaxton, Easton, Weston, Bryceton, Axton, Maxton
  • long i/y in names: Tyler, Kylie, Kyla, Kylan, Rylan, Miles, Kyron, Kai, Shiloh, Isla
  • Names that begin and end with A: Ariana, Alaya, Amaya, Aniyah, Alasia, Aliyah, Ajayla
  • Z names: Zoe, Zion, Zayden, Zara
  • Double names with Grace, Belle or Anna: Lily Anna, Ella Belle, Sophie Grace
  • J & D Names: Jennifer, Jenna, Jeremy, Jason, Julie, Jamie, Jill, Justin, Jerry, Douglas, Donald, Diane, Debbie, Denise, Darren
  • -ary names: Cary, Gary, Jerry, Barry, Terry, Larry, Carrie, Teri, Sherry
  • Nicknames as whole names: Katie, Beth, Kim, Jenny, Kathy, Sue, Vicki, Tony, Johnny
  • Short e sounds: Jennifer, Jessica, Michelle, Kenneth, Jeff, Greg, Stephanie, Heather, Kelly, Dennis, Debbie, Melvin, Kenneth, Ethel
  • monosyllabic "surfer" names: Chad, Brad, Todd, Craig, Scott, Troy, Keith
  • "yu" names: Eunice, Eugene, Buford, Beulah
  • -da, -la, -ma, -na, and -dra names: Sandra, Linda, Darla, Verla, Brenda, Deedra, Wanda, Irma, Norma, Edna, Paula, Hilda
  • French names: Anne, Diane, Danielle, Michelle, Christine, Julie, Marie, Denise, Maurice, Claudette, Annette
  • -er- in the beginning/middle of a name: Vern, Ernie, Erma, Irving, Myrtle, Shirley, Earl, Ernest, Thurman, Vernon, Merle
  • -old and -ald names: Arnold, Gerald, Harold, Reginald, Donald, Ronald
  • -leen and -een names: Charlene, Marlene, Lurleen, Shirlene, Geraldine, Claudine, Irene, Ernestine
  • Girls' Names ending in -is: Gladys, Phyllis, Doris, Myrtis, Deloris, Janis, Mavis, Lois (exception: Alice)
  • -bert and -berta names: Norbert, Gilbert, Herbert, Delbert, Hubert, Wilbert, Alberta, Roberta
  • Double names with Jo, Lou and Sue: Mary Sue, Betty Lou, Lou Ann, Sue Ellen, Mary Jo, Jo Ann