05.08.09

Top 20 Baby Names of 2008

Baby-naming expert Pamela Redmond Satran—coauthor of 10 books on names, including Beyond Ava & Aiden, due out next month—explains what’s hot and what’s not from the latest rankings by the Social Security Administration, released Friday.

There’s a new queen of girls’ names. Emma takes the top spot on the Social Security Administration’s newly released 2008 list of most popular names for girls, unseating Emily after her 12-year reign.

Emma becomes only the eighth girls’ name in U.S. recorded history to be No. 1, while Jacob holds onto its No. 1 spot on the boys’ list for the 10th straight year.

Barack, while it didn’t crack the top 1,000 last year, is projected by the SSA to make it for 2009.

The new Top Ten names and their meanings:

Boys:

1. Jacob—Hebrew: “supplanter”
2. Michael—Hebrew: “who is like God”
3. Ethan—Hebrew: “strong, firm”
4. Joshua—Hebrew: “the Lord is salvation”
5. Daniel—Hebrew: “God is my judge”
6. Alexander—Greek: “defending warrior”
7. Anthony—Latin: “priceless one” “priceless”
8. William—English from German: “resolute protection”
9. Christopher—Greek and Latin: “one who carries Christ”
10. Matthew—Hebrew: “gift of God”

Girls:

1. Emma—German: “healer of the universe”
2. Isabella—the Spanish and Italian variation of the Hebrew Elizabeth, which means “pledged to God”
3. Emily—Latin: “energetic”
4. Madison—English: “son of the mighty warrior”
5. Ava—Latin: “like a bird”
6. Olivia—Latin: “olive tree”
7. Sophia—Greek: “wisdom”
8. Abigail—Hebrew: “my father is joyful”
9. Elizabeth—Hebrew: “pledged to God”
10. Chloe—Greek: “young Greek shoot”

Chloe is the newest entrant to the top 10, hopping up six places to unseat Hannah. And its cognate Khloe enjoyed the biggest jump on the girls’ side, leaping 469 spots to No. 196, thanks to reality-TV star Khloe Kardashian. Chloe has been at the top of popularity lists for several years throughout Great Britain and in other European countries, with the U.S. finally catching on.

Celebrities were also responsible for the other big risers on the list. Miley, as in Cyrus, entered the top 1,000 only two years ago, jumped 152 spots to No. 127. Audrina, inspired by reality-TV star Partridge, is one of the five fastest-rising names for girls. Jacoby, influenced both by Red Sox rookie star Jacoby Ellsbury and by the popularity of both Jacob and Jake, moved up 200 spots for the largest increase on the boys’ side.

Debut names on the top 1,000 include, on the girls’ side, Isla, as in redheaded hottie and Sacha Baron Cohen mate Fisher, and on the boys’ side, Marley, as in reggae’s Bob and the canine in the hit book and movie Marley and Me. For girls, Marlee, Marely, and Marley were three of the five fastest-rising names. Taking all spellings together, the Marley variations are firmly in the girls’ top 100.

Other star-inspired names leaping up the list for girls include Rihanna, Kimora, Hayden, Serena, Scarlett, and, less likely, Penelope. Celebrity baby names that have proven influential for girls include Harper, chosen for their infant daughters by George Stephanopolous, Lisa Marie Presley, and one of the Dixie Chicks; Violet, daughter of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck; Eden and Emerson, daughters of two of the Desperate Housewives; and even the old-fashioned Hazel, the child of Julia Roberts.

Names taken from celebrities that are gaining in popularity for boys include Jude, Kobe, Anderson, and Joaquin. Barack, while it didn’t crack the Top 1,000 last year, is projected by the SSA to make it for 2009. Celebrity baby names on the rise for boys are Kingston, son of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale; River, chosen by Keri Russell; Milo, Liv Tyler’s son; Romeo, the middle son of the Beckhams; Maddox, name of Brangelina’s oldest; and Levi, infant son of Matthew McConaghey.

The fastest-falling names for girls often have an association with a falling glamorous star. Examples: Dayanara, name of the Miss Universe ex-wife of Marc Anthony; Raquel, as in Welch; Lindsay; Tatum; and even Diana.

For boys, the celebrity connection is less clear when it comes to names on the way out. Walker, as in George W. Bush’s middle name, was one of the biggest losers, along with Fabian. But other boys’ names dropping from site are those that simply sound old-style to the modern ear: Carl, Scott, Gary. Looking at general trends, many of the boys’ names growing in popularity have two syllables feel like surnames: Beckett, Paxton, Ryker, Kolton, Zayden, Brycen, Kellen. For girls, the trend is toward elaborate feminine names, with many variations of Lila, Paisley, Valentina, Delilah, and Juliet all shooting up the list.

There are some quieter pockets of popularity. Showing strength, for boys, are newer biblical choices Jonah, Asher, and Solomon, along with studious brothers Graham and Grant, Reed and Reid, Johan and Jonas, Charlie and Quinton. Booming girls’ names headed for Harvard include Leah, Cora, Nora, Clara, Charlotte, and Josephine.

Xtra Insight: The Big Battle Over the Baby Name 'Cohen' by Pamela Redmond Satran

Pamela Redmond Satran is a developer of the baby-naming site nameberry.com and the coauthor of 10 books on names, including Beyond Ava & Aiden, due out next month.