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Friday, October 11, 2013

By the Numbers - Top 100 Girls Names 2012

It recently came to my attention that Stella is a top 100 name. Actually, it has been in the top 100 for three years already after a meteoric rise that started in 1998. I guess I was not the only one that found it to be a quirky, fun alternative to the extremely popular Ella. What this discovery made me realize is that I really don't know the top 100 names. I tend to look up rankings when I want to know something specific and haven't just looked at them in depth much. So, I am going to try to do a bit more of that.

It Starts With...
If all letters were created equal, each letter would have about 4 names in the top 100, but that is clearly not the case. The letter "A" is by far the most popular for girls in 2012, and probably as a general rule, the most common start of girls names. The other letters that are overrepresented are S, M, L, K,E, and C. I was surprised to find out there isn't a single "D" name in the top 100, so if you are looking for a unique initial, try Darcy, Dori, or Deanna on for size.

It Ends With...
Just another interesting break down about how popular various endings are. 

It Sounds Like...

 Depending how you look at it, there are either 5 or 6 names that are phonetically identical in the top 100. The last, Madelyn and Madeline, really depends on the parent's intentions, as they can be pronounced differently but not everyone does (to the chagrin of many naming nerds I am sure). As these names are effectively in the top 100 two times, they are even more popular than their ranking alone suggests. Also, if we could all agree on how to spell these names, five (or six) more names could be in the top 100. In that case, Maria, Brooke, Payton (wait! its another phonetic twin), Paisley, and Paige could squeeze in! Even Ruby may have squeezed in.

 Along with the identical spellings, there are also some names that are obviously related, even though they are distinct from another. They may share a sound or a nickname. This is obviously quite subjective. For awhile I had Aubrey and Audrey both on here, only one letter difference, but I decided to try to limit it more than that (similarly I removed the name family of Arianna, Ariana, and Aria). Once again, a name that appears on this list (or could if I broadened it) is more "popular" than even the top 100 ranking suggests. No one is certain how many "Maddie/Maddy"s there are in classrooms, or"Belle"s, or "Lexi"s, these nicknames may be much more common than their lengthened versions. As with all things with name popularity, its a matter of opinion whether having a Kaylee and Kayla in the bedroom is better than having two Kaylee's. It is something interesting to think about though!

WHAT? That is top 100?
What inspired this post was the discovery that Stella is in the top 100, but there are plenty of others in the top 100 that surprised me. These are the names women who are not name nerds may choose feeling like its unique and they have never heard it used on a child, just to realize once the child is born that the name is shockingly popular amongst newborns.  Of course labeling these names is again somewhat subjective, but a name is likely to feel like it should be on this list if its a recent arrival to the top 100, especially after a fast rise. Even if a name has been in the top 100 for a decade, it might have this "rare" feeling if it has longer history is of rarity. For example, Riley has been in the top 100 since 2002, over a decade, but has only been in the top 1000 since 1990. It had a fast rise. When the people who are currently choosing baby names (20-40 year olds) were forming their naming vocabularies, Riley was hardly on the name radar, it would have been very rare to know one. I did not go through and analyze every name this way, but I did go into names I had this "surprise" feeling about and pulled some numbers. After looking at some of the numbers, I found out some of the names that surprised me (such as Maya and Lydia) are probably just personal blind spots, but the below list is names that could be surprising based on their fast rise.

*Stella reappeared in the top 1000 14 years ago after a hiatus

In Summary
OK. Was this post nerdy enough for you? FIVE charts. It took a lot of time and effort. I do hope to complete it for the boys top 100 as well. I hope people find some use in it, I certainly learned a lot. I also wanted to say, I know a lot of times when I blog about names being popular it comes off as "negative". That tone is a result of my personal preferences. When push comes to shove, popularity is just one fact about a name that could contribute to someones choice to use it. Its good, in my opinion, to have all the facts when your choosing a name, and popularity is part of the puzzle, for better or worse!

What do you think? Were there any "surprise" names for you? Any names I found to be surprising that you thought obviously were popular? Would any of this information change your choice for a name?


  1. Thanks for the very interesting analysis!

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