Every generation has a set of names that are ubiquitous. Even though your parents may have thought they were crafting the perfect moniker through a combination of inspiration, creativity, and acknowledgement of your family’s history, you might have ended up being one of three Sarahs in your class. And while millennials like me likely went to school with so many Daniels, Allisons, and Elizabeths that we had to keep track of them by the first initial of their last names, these names will probably seem old-fashioned to babies being born in 2017. So which names are going to be crazy popular in the coming years? I analyzed the Social Security Administration’s data on baby names and consulted trend expert Daniel Levine — director of the Avant-Guide Institute and publisher of WikiTrend.org — to find out.
Of the 477 female names that increased in popularity from 2015 to 2016, a ton were plays on the theme of nobility. Reign, along with counterparts Reina, Raina, Rayne, and Reyna, all jumped on the charts. Similarly noble names like Royalty, Princess, and Heavenly also saw an increase in use. The children are our future, and also our monarchs.
Aria is currently the 23rd most popular name for baby girls, and it’s rising in popularity along with variations like Ariah, Ariyah, and Arya. So the question is, are parents naming their little bundles of joy after the vengeful Stark sibling on Game of Thrones or the savvy teenage conspirator on Pretty Little Liars? Perhaps both or neither, but this name is clearly all over pop culture and baby cribs right now, and will only become more prevalent in the future.
A significant amount of girl’s names rising in popularity aren’t necessarily associated with any particular gender. Sloan and Sloane are both becoming more common, as are names like Harlee and Frankie. The name Landry is even increasing in popularity for both baby boys and girls. Levine says this is in keeping with larger societal movements: “This trend is directly connected to the greater acceptance of gender fluidity, in which strictly boy or girl names have given way to labels that are more flexible and therefore more culturally relevant. Related to this, many parents are opting to wait to name their babies until well after they are born in order to see what fits.”
While the most popular girl’s names for the past few years have been short and simple (Emma, Ava, Mia), the names now rising in popularity are longer with more complicated spellings. One such name is Adeline, which shot up from the 135th most popular name in 2016 to the 63rd most popular name in 2016. Variations Adelina and Adelaide are also on the rise.
This was by far the girl’s name that spiked most in popularity last year, jumping 2487 spots to land in the 1000 most popular names. Similar choices Kaylani, Ailani, and Nalani were also in the top 12 names that jumped in popularity. Levine says “uniqueness” and “customization” are current “megatrends,” and that “having something original and personalized is the ultimate in braggability.” These unique (well, formerly unique) names are about to be commonplace.
On the boy’s side, the name that surged the most in popularity in 2016 is Kylo. Yes, like Kylo Ren, the villain in the new Star Wars movie that came out at the end of 2015. The name skipped 2368 spots to become the 901st most popular boy’s name. Were parents really inspired to name their babies after such an evil (unless there’s a twist in the next movie) character? Did they hear it in that context but just think it would sound cool as a non-evil name? These are some interesting inquiries to ask new parents. Levine notes, “These days, with the enormous popularity of superheroes and graphic novels, it’s no surprise that we are seeing children named after fictitious heroes and anti-heroes. Other names from the dark side, for both boys and girls, include Ajax, Lex, Atlas, Kang, Jadis, Jareth, Loki, Match, Sylar, Faora, Hela, and Siryn.”
Speaking of names from the dark side, a lot of new little humans share a name with the famous bad boy (formerly) of One Direction. Whether you love Zayn or hate him, whether you’re devastated or oblivious about the hiatus of 1D, whether or not you only care about #Larry, there are going to be a lot of new Zayns in the population. Zayn was in the top 10 boy’s names that rose in popularity last year and is now the 421st most popular name.
Sick of hipster references yet? Too bad, because many current and rising baby names give nods to this world. While Mason as a baby name and a jar have been extremely popular for years, some new variations on this style of name are on the rise. Shepherd rose 242 spots in 2016, and Denver, where lots of young people now move after college, rose 60 spots. Levine jokes, “Perhaps we should start looking for babies with names like Artisanal, Organic, and Spirulina.”
That’s not a typo — the traditional name Josiah has been upgraded with an edgy z, and it’s climbing the top 1000 most popular boy’s names. Other cool new spellings of names you know and love include Jaxon (the 41st most popular boy’s name) and Jayceon (249th most popular). Levine points out, “In addition to people wanting unique names to stand out as special and creative, some families are choosing new spellings to make their children easy to find in crowded online spaces like Facebook. And some parents are choosing new spellings of old names because the URL is still available.”
Finn, Finnley, and Finnegan are all on the rise for baby boys, and Finn is currently the 175th most popular name. The Irish name is taking over the U.S. via cute, cuddly babies. Could it break the top 100 next year? Maybe with one more TV heartthrob named Finn, it would be a done deal.
The future of names
So what kind of names are really popping? Complicatedly spelled, royalty-inspired, gender neutral, villainous, hipster ones. But if anyone can make these unprecedented names work, you know it’s a baby. One interesting thing to consider: down the line when there are lots of middle-aged dudes named Darthz and Jar, it will probably seem shocking to name your kid Michael.