12.11.09

Top Baby Names of the Future

Ava is in, Michael is out. Looking toward the next decade, baby-naming experts Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, predict the most popular names—in 2019.

Who really cares which names are most popular now? It’s much more interesting to predict which ones are going to be popular in ten years. And more relevant too: Many parents want to know which names that sound fresh and stylish today might be heading for overexposure tomorrow.

To that end, we’ve come up with our picks for the top 20 girls’ and boys’ names of 2019, along with the reasoning, scientific and subjective, behind our choices. Some of these names are already rising rapidly through the ranks; others might still be considered cutting edge (but won’t be for long). And because we’re not perfect, we give alternative choices for each slot.

Here, the top ten names for both girls and boys for 2019.

Girls

1. AVA—Glamour Girl name beats out Eva along with other A names for top spot.

Why: Ava has come from nowhere in the past 20 years—it hovered near the bottom of the Social Security Top 1,000 in 1988, when only 167 girls got the name—to No. 5 today. That’s a 10,000 percent increase in 20 years, nearly 2,000 percent in the past decade. And using our patented Nameberry method of calculating a name’s upward slope (which would get us laughed out of any math department, but hey, we’re writers), Ava racks up an enormous 98 over 20 years and an impressive 35 in a decade.

The fact that Ava starts with an A is a further nudge toward the top. A Yale study showed that children whose first names start with A are more likely to score top grades in school, a finding that’s proven influential whether parents are deliberately choosing A names for that reason or just following the crowd that is. Over the last half century, the number of children receiving names that start with A has tripled.

Other more subjective factors promoting Ava: Its simplicity combined with the fact that few moms or grandmas bear the name. Names usually resurface after four generations. And celebrity baby influences include Reese Witherspoon’s and Hugh Jackman’s daughters.

Runners up: AVERY or ADA.

2. AMELIA—New spin on new top name Emma and longtime No. 1 Emily.

Why: In the 130 years since the U.S. government began keeping track of babies’ names, there have only ever been eight girls’ names in the No. 1 spot. Most recently, Emily held that position for 12 years, only to be unseated in the most recent statistics by cousin Emma.

What we conclude from that: It’s hard to make it to the top, and names that do tend to resemble names that already have. (Witness Jennifer and Jessica in the ‘80s and ‘90s; Lisa and Linda a few decades earlier.)

That’s why we see Amelia moving to the front of the pack, even though her stats are less impressive than those of some hotter names such as Marley or Miley. Over the past decade, Amelia’s slope is a modest 16 and percentage increase an uninspiring 200 percent. Yet Amelia is solidly in the top 100 and still trending upward, is a Top Ten name in Britain, and is seen as a worthy substitute for the way-overused Emma and Emily.

Runner up: EMILIA.

3. ELLA—All names—ella—Isabella, Gabriella, Stella—have been popular, but Ella itself gets the most attention.

Why: We confess: We were tempted to put Bella here. And thanks to the Twilight phenomenon, Bella’s slope is double that of Ella: 70 compared with 35. But Ella’s percentage increase is 1,100 over the past decade, compared with Bella’s nearly 800 since 2000, the year it began vaulting upward. And we think Twilight may push Bella into fad territory, while Ella (think Fitzgerald) is classy and timeless.

Runners up: BELLA or ELLIE.

4. VIOLET—Purple-y flower name popularized by Ben and Jen’s little girl.

Why: Statistically speaking, Violet’s rise is among the most dramatic of all the girls’ names. Starting in 1998, it’s racked up an impressive slope of 67 and a usage increase of 605 percent. The overall trend toward old ladyish names is one reason for Violet’s newfound stardom, but the high visibility of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck’s adorable daughter is perhaps a more important reason.

Runner up: SCARLETT.

5. LILA—The double L is the winningest name sound of the next decade.

Why: Every girls’ name with the double L sound is vaulting up the charts: Leila, Laila, Layla, Lily, Lillian, Liliana, Leilani, with the taste extending all the way to Talullah and Lucille. Of that fashionable crowd, we pick Lila to rise the furthest: simpler than Leila, fresher than Lily. Lila’s upward trajectory began in 1998, and she’s evidenced an impressive slope of 68 and a usage increase of nearly 500 percent over the past decade. Starbaby influence: supermodel Kate Moss’s little Lila.

Runner up: DELILAH.

6. GRACE—Simple, cool, and well, graceful.

Why: Grace began her slow upward climb back to prominence in the late ‘70s and has been in the top 25 for nearly a decade now. But it’s a lovely, classic name that’s got staying power—it was last in the U.S. top 25 for 35 years, from 1880 to 1914—and it’s set to become the favorite middle name, taking over from Rose, of the next decade.

Runners up: GRACIE or PATIENCE.

7. RUBY—Sassy choice with a rich jewel undertone.

Why: Ruby is like Oscar: Their numbers have not increased as impressively as their fashion status. A couple of decades ago, there were plenty of little kids named Ruby and Oscar, but their parents were rarely tastemakers. Today, both names are so far in they’re out—which means they’ve still got plenty of room to travel beyond the borders of Tribeca and Silver Lake.

Runners up: GOLDIE or PEARL.

8. MATILDA—Unlikely hottie, the old-fashioned name was given star power by the daughter of Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger.

Why: There’s one big reason Matilda is back in the top 1,000 for the first time in four decades, and she’s got blonde hair and lives in Brooklyn. But there are further reasons we believe it will stay there and climb much higher, including its charming vintage feel and great nickname potential, from Mattie to Tillie to Tilda.

Runner up: MILLIE.

9. HARPER—Boyish choice with literary ties to (female) author Harper Lee.

Why: The revival of To Kill a Mockingbird meets the new tastes for cross-gendered and occupational names to make this one of the hottest choices for girls, rising from number 887 to 297 in the past five years for an impressive slope of 118. Lisa Marie Presley recently chose it for one of her twin daughters, and George Stephanopoulos and the Dixie Chicks’ Martie Maguire also have little female harp players.

Runners up: FLANNERY or SCOUT.

10. EVELYN—Grandma name just beginning to enjoy a revival, thanks to the Eva/Ava craze.

Why: Evelyn has been quietly trending upward for more than two decades now, but we see it breaking into the top 50 in the next year or two and regaining the prominence it enjoyed a century ago. In fact, Evelyn is evidence of the Hundred Year Rule, which holds that most names only come back into style after a rest of a hundred years. Evelyn was a top 20 name from 1907 until 1930.

Runner up: EVELINE.

Boys

1. ETHAN—Biblical nice guy name finishes first.

Why: Old Testament names have now firmly supplanted the New Testament. In 2008, for the first time since national records have been kept, all of the five top- ranking names—Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, and Daniel—came from the OT. This compares to only 30 percent in 2001, 20 percent in 1994, and 0 in 1947, when James, John, Robert, Richard and William ruled. Over the last two decades, Ethan has seen a 394 percent increase in usage.

In addition to long-time favorites such as Benjamin, Samuel, and Joshua, parents are looking further afield to such long-neglected biblical choices as Isaac, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Ezra. Ethan wins out because it’s one of the friendliest, least weighty of the bunch, with its cheery ee-opening, two-syllable sound.

Runners up: Caleb or Asher.

2. AIDEN—Traditional Irish name trounces rhyming copycats Jayden, Brayden, and Caden

Why: Aiden, nouveau Americanized spelling of the conventional Irish Aidan, was almost unheard here before 1995, when it crept onto the top 1000 list with only 140 boys receiving the name. Ten years ago it had moved halfway up the list to 545, still accounting for only 367 baby Aidens across the country. But by 2008 it had leapt to 16 and 15,411 children, accounting for a just over 4,000 percent increase in mere ten years and a slope of almost 53.

For decades American parents of all ethnicities have had a love affair with jaunty Irish boys’ names, from Patrick to Kevin to Sean, Brian and Ryan. As these lost their freshness, Aidan/Aiden moved up to fill the gap, given a big push by dreamboat character Aidan Shaw, the Carrie Bradshaw squeeze on Sex and the City, who first appeared on the show in 1998, the year his name began its steep ascent.

3. MILO—Parents like the upbeat, energetic O-ending.

Why: There’s something contagiously cheery about names that, like ‘hello’ and ‘cheerio,’ end in the vowel ‘o,’ and Milo—which bears a resemblance to the happy word ‘smile’ and the celebrity-inspired hottie Miley—is definitely the one heading up. After first appearing on the Social Security list in 2001, it’s been climbing ever since, showing a 297 percent increase and a slope of 67.

Hollywood is high on these o-ending names: Liv Tyler, Sherry Springfield, and Ricki Lake all chose Milo for their sons, Robert Downey, Jr. has an Indio, Colin Firth a Mateo, Jill Hennessey a Marco, Madonna a Rocco, Taylor Hansen a Viggo, the David Beckhams and Jon Bon Jovi have Romeos and Ricky Martin, doubling the Latin theme, named his twins Valentino and Matteo.

Runner up: Leo

4. CHARLIE—Unisex nicknames are finding their way onto the birth certificate.

Why: As our society becomes increasingly casual, with kids and most adults on a chummy first-name basis, it’s not surprising that for the first time since the Age of Aquarius parents are going directly to nicknames over the more formal versions of names. This trend took off first in the UK, where Alfie and Archie and Ellie and Evie have been hot for over a decade. In another flashback to the ‘60s, there is a strong unisex element, as celebrities like Rebecca Romijn, Julie Chen, Denise Richards and Tiger Woods are naming their daughters Charlie and Sam. Over the past ten years, Charlie has shown a 96 percent increase, while in the same period, the full name Charles, has dropped down in the ratings. Charlie has been on the girls’ list since 2005.

Runner up: Sam

5. OSCAR—Odd Couple name gains wide acceptance.

Why: Oscar has gone from a roly-poly fuddy-duddy grandpa name to a hipster favorite, and it is set to spread far beyond its limited upscale environs. Baby namers of 2019 will be choosing retro names like this and will be turning to even more serious, solid, somewhat fusty names such as Arthur, Walter, Victor, Edmund, Everett, Leon, Theodore and Julius, which are just beginning to come out of the attic now.

Runner up: Felix

6. RYDER—Western cowboy name gallops up the list.

Why: Ryder has shown one of the biggest leaps on the boys’ list, with a ten-year 1,081 percent increase and a steep slope of 72, thanks to its relaxed cowboy feel. Unlike similar names like Harper and Sawyer, which have drifted into the girls’ column, Ryder is unequivocally masculine, a factor important to the many parents increasingly concerned about the feminization of male names. The 2004 naming of Kate Hudson’s son Ryder gave the name additional momentum.

Names ending in er—most of which refer back to ancient occupations—are also trending up, with Tyler, Cooper, Parker, Hunter, Carter, Tanner, Sawyer, Gunner, Walker, Porter and Chandler all ranking in the top half of the Social Security rankings.

Runner up: Wyatt

7. CASH—The failed credit economy has lasting impact on baby names

Why: Call it coincidence, but Cash has become a viable baby-name option since the economic downturn. Just on the list since 2003, when there were a mere 165 currency-named kids, the number of babies receiving the name jumped to 1,370, indicating a 730 percent increase and a 119 slope. Chase (also spelled Chace) was also on the rise. But baby namers are split on their confidence in luxury-goods names: Valentino and Armani are up, but Tiffany, Chanel, Mercedes and Lexus are tanking.

Runner up: Chase

8. RIVER—Parents go green with nature names

Why: Yes, environmental consciousness extends even to baby names as parents look to nature for inspiration. There is a whole gardenful of flower names for girls, whereas the tendency is to look across the river and into the trees for boys. Over the last ten years, River has seen a 66 percent increase, and a slope of 72.

In addition to River (which entered the list in 1994, one year after the death of River Phoenix) and the hippieish Ocean, this category also includes Forest and Field, the fast-rising river name Hudson, and, newer to the mix, Banyan, Birch, Cedar, Pine, Oak, Sage, Sky, Hawk, Trout, Fox and Wolf, any of which could make its mark by 2019.

Runner up: Hudson

9. KAI—A winning combination of gentle and exotic

Why: The merging of several trends has made Kai an unexpected winner. It’s multi-multi-cultural, having roots in the Hawaiian, Japanese, Navajo and Scandinavian cultures, it’s short enough to make an ideal middle name, but unlike many of the currently popular powerboy single-syllable boys’ names like Colt and Holt, Kai shows the softer, more melodious side of boy-naming. Kai –which was used by Jennifer Connelly for her son--has seen a giant bounce in the past twenty years, increasing 1,029 percent for a 31 slope.

Runner up: Luca

10. MAXIMUS—A name bound for maximum exposure.

Why: In the nine years since it’s come into play, Maximus has jumped 613 percent and racked up a slope of 31. It all started with the release of Gladiator, in which the powerful Russell Crowe character embodied the name. And then there is the meaning—who could resist dubbing their son a name that means “the greatest”? Offshoots and variations—Maximilian, Maxwell, and good old Max—are all trending up, with plenty of celeb cred: Jennifer Lopez, Lance Armstrong, Charlie Sheen Christina Aguilera, and Kerry Katona are all part of the Max brigade.

Another Maximus factor is the august Roman -us ending, with other names like Atticus, Cassius, Augustus and Magnus heating up.

Runners up: Max, Maxwell, Maxfield, Maximilian

Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz are the developers of the baby-naming site nameberry.com and the authors of 10 books on names, including Beyond Ava & Aiden.