popularity

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What's Wrong with Being Popular?

Is it weird to only like popular names? I tend to love names that are in the top ten or 15 in my state. However, I always hear how they are "overused," "boring," or "he/she will be one of five in their class." On the flip side, I've never really liked any of the more unusual names that I have found. Is there really no more room for another Olivia or Jacob?

–Happy at the Top

You're not weird at all! The popular names are at the top of the charts because lots of people are using them. And yet so many parents put unnecessary pressure on themselves to choose a name that’s not popular (but yet, not odd or … too unpopular).

There are many things a name can and should do: Represent your child to the world; honor a special person or place; highlight a quality or virtue you value. Being wildly creative needn’t be on that list.

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I'm Looking for a Baby Name that Pops!

We have a daughter named Poppy and are having another girl. We're looking for a name that's equally as spunky, young, and unique. I had Luna and Nova picked out, but found out that both are on track to become very popular. What other unique names might fit? The middle name will be June or Ruby, but I don't like those as firsts; they sound dated.

–Seeking a Sister Name

Trying to ride the line between "unique and fresh" and "too popular" is very difficult. Names are unpredictable, and can suddenly rise and fall without a lot of warning. Plus, what sounds young and spunky to you may also appeal to lots of other parents.

What we can do is look at trends and see what’s happening. You’re correct that both Luna and Nova have spiked upward recently, while June and Ruby (for comparison) peaked a century ago—although both are rising again today.

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Is Our Favorite Baby Name Too Popular?

I'm having a boy soon and need help! I love the name Maddox and that's the one name that my husband and I can agree on. But is it too common?

–Mad About Maddox

"Too common" is in the eye of the beholder. Maddox is not a top-100 name in the U.S.; on the just-released official Social Security Administration list, it is ranked #143. The name ticked up just three places from the previous year's list. Names as varied as Eric, Santiago, Ezekiel, and Damien are all "more common" than Maddox.

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There Must Be More Baby Names Like This One!

Today, I came across the name Benton. I really like it because it's unique, but it still has familiar sounds: It has the nickname "Ben" and the trendy "-n" ending all rolled into one! It got me wondering: Are there any other names like Benton out there?

–Been Thinking 'Bout Benton

I love this question because there are so many ways to look at it. And no matter how you define "names like Benton," there are plenty of choices that fit the bill. Benton's brother could be a new invention like Daxton, an old surname like Wickham, or a new take on a chart-topper, like Jules or Harris.

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Is Eva the New Ava?

When we had our first child, our agreed-upon girl's name was Eva, which I still love. Our first ended up being a boy, and now that we're expecting a girl, I was excited to return to Eva. However, my husband has fallen out of love with the name, saying it's too popular with all the little Avas running around our neighborhood. To him, Ava and Eva are basically the same name with overlapping pronunciations. I disagree, but I see his point. Is he right? If so, what is an alternative to Eva? I want something with a Jewish/Israeli connection and preferably short.

–Still Love Eva

Ava and Eva do overlap, as you mention, with similar letters and sounds. In some places and with some accents the two names could be confused, even though the first letter and its sound are different. But that connection between the two need not rule Eva out.

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When Does Old Become New Again?

Why is it that old-fashioned names have come back so strongly? I've always loved them because I love classic books (in 1992, I named my cat Martha after a minor character in The Secret Garden), but I figure this can't be everyone's reason. Is this about collective nostalgia?

–Frustrated Old-Lady Namer

In a way, it is about nostalgia—or at least the effort to marry nostalgia with distinctiveness. In an age where everyone wants fresh-sounding names that are known, but not too popular, parents with a traditional bent tend to turn back three or four generations to find names that feel fresh again.

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How Common Is Too Common?

I'm having a baby soon, a girl. I love a lot of popular names, like Emmy and Avery. But if I use one of them, I'm thinking of spelling it differently (like Emie or Avri or Abbi) because I have a very common last name. Also, I really like "i" at the end of girls' names to replace "y" or "ie," but I don't know if that will work.

–Worried Mother

Will it work? That depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you simply like the ends-with-I spelling, then using it works for you—no problem.

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Is This Name Too Big a Burden?

I am 28 weeks pregnant with my second boy. Our first son's name is Callum. My husband and I like uncommon but not weird names. I suggested at least 30 names before he fell in love with the name Atlas. Is it weird? Too uncommon? I don't want people to make fun of my son's name.

- Worried About Weird

Atlas may seem like a big name for a little baby. In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan who was sentenced to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. His name evokes both strength and suffering, in contrast to Callum, which suggests calmness and peace. Atlas is also associated with globes and maps.

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Why Isn't This Name More Popular?

We are expecting a baby girl later in the year. I have stumbled across the name "Hartley" which just feels special to me. I love the idea of the nickname "Hart." It's just surprising that it's so uncommon. Am I missing something obvious as to why we shouldn't use it?

- Perhaps Hartley's mum

Many parents worry about a name being "too popular." You're smart to be worried about the reverse -- a mysterious lack of popularity. It's like a seeing a product advertised for a ridiculously low price. You figure there must be a catch.

Often, a name that other parents have passed on does have a hidden flaw. Maybe it's the name of a movie villain, or maybe it sounds like some rude slang term you're not familiar with, or maybe it just sounds unattractive to everybody else.

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A Celebrity Just Chose My Favorite Name!

My fiancé and I are expecting a boy in less than a month, and our top name choice is Bodhi. It has a wonderful meaning, and isn't too popular either. But now we just found out that Megan Fox named her second son Bodhi!

The name Bodhi is definitely our favorite, but now we're scared its popularity is going to spike. We don't want any of our children to have a "popular" name, as we both grew up with them and know what it's like to have six other kids in the class with the same name. So, what do we do? Is Bodhi going to get super-popular now that a celebrity used it?

- Another Jessie

Bodhi is definitely one of the "buzziest" Hollywood names of the moment. But unless you and Megan Fox are eyeing the same preschools, Hollywood popularity isn't what you're worried about. Nationwide, does "buzz" necessarily translate to babies?

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