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How Can I Avoid Giving My Baby the Next Big Trendy Name?

Dear Name Lady: We have a very common last name, so we don't want to choose a name for our baby girl that is too common. We've ruled out the current top 25 names. But there are a lot of names that we like (e.g., Annabelle and Eva) that are in the top 100s now and seem to be rising in popularity. Do you have any suggestions -- either of specific names or general trends to look out for -- on how to avoid choosing a name that will top of the charts in a few years? - Jane

A lot of parents today suffer from "name acrophobia" -- the fear that their favorite baby name will climb to the dizzying top of the popularity charts. Is there any surefire way to avoid picking the next Jacob or Emma?

Indeed there is. If you want to know the deep, dark secret, come closer so I can whisper. Ready? To avoid an upcoming hit name...pick a name that nobody likes, not even you. After all, the names that rise are the names with broad appeal.

What, you don't want to name your son Buford? Then let's cut to the core of the problem. What you and I and many others want is to have it both ways. We want a name that's fashionable, yet not in fashion. We want everybody to like the name we choose, but nobody to consider choosing it themselves.

Not surprisingly, that's a difficult target. If you do stumble across a familiar, attractive name that nobody's using, a hundred other parents are probably stumbling across it at the same time. But there are a few rules of thumb that can help you identify the most likely fast risers:

- Watch out for hot sounds. Sound-alike groups like Aidan, Braden and Hayden often sweep up the charts together. Similarly, the rapid rise of Isabella was an early sign that Annabelle was heading upwards.

- Follow the momentum. Name popularity isn't just about a name's current ranking, it's about where it's been and where it's heading. Take a look at the historical trend for Annabelle at the Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager, and you'll see a name that's pushing upwards. Meanwhile, a name like Julianna is at the same level of popularity, but seems to have settled in steadily. That makes Julianna a good bet to avoid the kind of super popularity you're worried about.

- Choose something timeless. Names like Johanna and Cecilia have held steady for generations, never really going in or out of fashion. Even if they do become more popular, that timeless history should protect them from sounding too trendy.


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October 28, 2009 3:06 AM
By Linnaeus (not verified)

Hello Jane!

Finding the "popular sounding but not" name is very difficult. Here's my two cents as well:

- Indulge your dark side. By this, I mean those parts of your personality that aren't supported by everyone else. Choose something geeky and obscure, something that connects to a long-forgotten and unfashionable bit of family history, that sort of thing. Something that is important to you but not to everyone else.

October 28, 2009 8:33 AM
By PunkPrincessPhd (not verified)

Great advice, Linnaeus!

October 28, 2009 3:55 PM
By Sebastiane (not verified)

Interesting, when considering a name, I don't necessarily care if others like it or not, I don't care if its fashionable or not either, hence is why a lot of the names on my list will probably never make it into the top 1000. I like the names I like because of their sound, meaning, history etc. I had no idea that parents cared if other parents would like their child's name or not, or whether its fashionable, but this would make a lot of sense as to why people choose names that every other person gives their child, even if they think it will be unique. I guess the other trick is, don't use names that have a similar feel as other trendy names. Eva is very similar to Ava and Annabelle to Isabelle. And if you like a name, then don't worry if others will raise their eyebrows or not. I like the name Dagmar and I know it does not have the same appeal to many Americans as it would to me. Bottom line is: I don't care. I like it, and when they get to know my child, they will learn to love the name ;)

October 29, 2009 10:02 AM
By Zoerhenne (not verified)

Jane-Keep in mind also the popularity/or not of the name in your area specifically. There are many places in the US that have pockets of popular names that aren't necessarily in the top 25 on the SSA list. Caroline is currently #94 on the SSA list but I personally know 3 of them around the age of 5/6. Similarly I know a few Kaden's #99 (of various spellings though) in the same age group. And Mason #35 on SSA list was the most popular name given to new baby boys in my area in recent months. So its all a bit difficult-I wish you the best.

October 31, 2009 1:18 PM
By AG2 (not verified)

I agree with Zoerhenne. The best list to consult after checking the status of the NameVoyager is the SSA list for your state. Those are the kids your daughter will be in class with.

November 1, 2009 7:38 AM
By Christiana (not verified)

Find a name that you mike, even if it is closer to the top of the chart that is going DOWN. If it's in the top 100, but it was recently in the top 50, then in a few years, it'll likely be lower, soon. If you can find a lower ranked one that never made it far up and is heading down, then even better.

November 1, 2009 6:23 PM
By A Rose (not verified)

There are also a lot of names that were once popular but no longer are, but might have popular-ish sounds. For example Marylin has the "lynn" ending that's popular with names like Katelyn and Ashlyn, but sounds old fashioned as well.

November 8, 2009 3:43 PM
By Tammy (not verified)

I plan on having a baby in the next five years and I am in the process of immigrating to new Zealand. How do I find out what the name stats are there?

November 9, 2009 1:22 PM
By Jennifer (not verified)

The advice I've heard is, pick a name that was not in the TOP 50 (that was important) for the past 3-5 years. That way, you will end up with a name that is pronouncable, but not so common that your child grows up with 10 kids with his/her same name, like I did, "Jennifer". Ahhh!

November 19, 2009 4:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If you want a name that will not be popular pick something unusual. Or, look to your grandparents for inspirations. My grandmothers were Edith and Mary, I don't see those coming back anytime soon. NOt so for my grandfathers.. Jack and... Jack.
My name is Maureen. I hated it when I was young, but now that I am older, and one of the only Maureen's that I know, I love it. Your kids will appreciate your efforts to keep them from being the next "Jenny" or "Mike".
Mind you Jenny and Mike are prett safe now... when I was in school, there were 5 of each.

December 2, 2009 12:00 AM
By pamiam (not verified)

Don't be quick to go for an unusual name. I was the only Pam in school and always wanted a more cutesy name like many of my friends had. I did like Pamela but NOBODY ever called me that and I still cringe when one of my family members reverts back to Pammy!

December 22, 2009 1:57 AM
By Shay (not verified)

If you have a specific name you love, roll with it and be prepared for your kid to be "first name last initial" until he/she gets a nickname. If you don't have a specific attachment (doesn't sound like you do), then wait until you're about six months along, and go to your local hospital. if there's a name that keeps popping up on the posters around the nursery or the birth annoucements website, RUN! Here are the names of some girls in my daughter's class (I kid you not)
1)Jeniyah (called Jeniya b/c she enrolled first)
2)Jenaya S. (called "Miss S" b/c she's snotty)
2)Jen'Nayah (called Jen, to her mother's annoyance)
3)Key'Nia (called Kiki, at her grandfather's suggestion)
4)A'Nya (called A'Nya)
5)Naya (called 'Just Naya')

A'Nya's mom told me she heard the name in the hospital and liked it. Around school, 2005 is being called "The year of the Niyah".

January 2, 2010 2:48 AM
By Mandy (not verified)

Hi Tammy, here is a link and some info that might help you.

The NZ stats for 2009 will not be released for another wee while.

Top 10 Baby Girls' Names in New Zealand 2008
1 Sophie
2 Olivia
3 Ella
4 Isabella
5 Charlotte
6 Lily
7 Emma
8 Emily
9 Jessica
10 Grace

Top 10 Baby Boys' Names in New Zealand 2008
1 Jack
2 James
3 William
4 Samuel
5 Joshua
6 Riley
7 Liam
8 Oliver
9 Benjamin
10 Daniel


January 27, 2010 1:02 PM
By Amber (not verified)

My husband and I liked Welsh names for a long time but kind of grew out of them. What about Rhodri for a boy's name? It doesn't end in -an.

January 28, 2010 10:52 PM
By Ces (not verified)

Wow, serious?! Interesting! Where do you live? I live in California and most names are either American "standards" or Spanish names. For example, this is any idea of the names from my grade school classes:
Eduardo (this one is called Lalo though)

Lucero (Lucy for short)

I have never actually seen a name with an apostrophe in it. (:

February 21, 2010 12:23 AM
By Hannah (not verified)

It's really hard to predict what will happen in the world of name trends. I never knew anyone with my name (Hannah) growing up and never would have guessed that it would be a top name!

May 21, 2010 5:36 AM
By Violet (not verified)

You could try an ethnic name from another country. That will certainly be an original name for your baby.

August 5, 2010 10:15 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't pick something unusual or worry about popularity charts. Pick a name you like. Frankly, there is a reason these "unusual" names aren't high on the popularity charts, THEY AREN'T AS NICE!

September 7, 2010 12:31 PM
By Bryn (not verified)

My name, Bryn (pronounced 'Brin'), is a man's name in Wales. When I visited the country they all teased me for having a man's name, whereas in the US the very few Bryns I've heard of are women. I think it works well for either gender and isn't really trendy. I've only actually met one other Bryn in my life and she spelled it 'Brynne'.

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