Looking for the perfect name for your firstborn, you practically earn a degree in actuarial science studying the Social Security most popular names list. Of course you wouldn’t choose a ubiquitous name like Emily or Jacob, but you’re also determined to suss out those names that are rising too fast through the ranks: Lila and Luca, Peyton and Pax.
No, what you want is a name as classy as a sterling teaspoon, as cool as vintage Balenciaga, as hard to locate as a wood-framed cottage in Manhattan—yet just as desirable.
And you think you’ve actually found it—a name not even registering on the Top 1,000 or hiding deep in its middle, a name you truly love, yet have never even heard used for a real live human being.
Until your first visit to Dr. Laura Popper’s office, or your first summer on the beach in Easthampton, or—you must have been out of the country—the preschool interview at Bank Street, when you are horrified to encounter another little Imogen. A Maisie or a Maeve. A Jasper, two Dashiells, and three Ashers.
What’s going on here? How can you work so hard to find a name that’s singularly distinctive, only to discover it’s everywhere—or at least, everywhere you go?
Call it Elite Popularity, the same principle that has everybody wearing the same Alexander Wang for Linda Farrow sunglasses and drinking the same tomato martinis at the same little hidden-away speakeasies. These elite favorites might not be what the masses are wearing in Atlantic City or sipping at Applebee’s, but they’re just as ubiquitous on a higher plane.
The problem is that when it comes to baby names, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint the Elite Popular Choices as well as considerably tougher to offload a pick if it becomes embarrassingly pervasive. You can’t just sell little Jasper’s name on Ebay, after all, the way you might a clichéd Prada bag.
But as the co-founder of nameberry, which we like to think of as the high-quality, intelligent source for stylish names, I have the privilege of peeking behind the digital curtain and seeing which names discerning parents are seeking out this year, this month, and this very minute.
It’s not Emily and Jacob, that’s for sure. Here, the nameberry Top 25 for the first two months of this year, with the number of places higher or lower each name is on the elite list compared with the most recent Social Security list.
Warning: The smaller the differential, the more likely it is you’re going to hear the name yelled not only in the halls of Dalton but on the D train.
1. CHARLOTTE +86 2. SERAPHINA +>998 (not on the Top 1,000, though thanks to the younger Miss Affleck, it’s heading up fast) 3. OLIVIA +3 4. ELIZABETH +5 5. LUCY +107 6. ISLA +617 7. VIOLET +177 8. SOPHIA -1 9. ALICE +317 10. MAISIE +>990 (not in the Top 1,000) 11. AVA -6 12. SCARLETT +198 13. LAURA +202 14. CAROLINE +80 15. GRACE +6 16. CLAIRE +46 17. LILY +7 18. AMELIA +50 19. IMOGEN +>981 (not in the Top 1,000) 20. HARPER +277 21. ELLA -2 22. MATILDA +807 23. STELLA +164 24. JANE + 366 25. EMMA -24
1. HENRY +77 2. FINN +366 3. OLIVER +115 4. JAMES +13 5. ASHER +201 6. JACK +33 7. JASPER +445 8. MAX +118 9. KAI +220 10. ATTICUS +679 11. LIAM +64 12. JUDE +212 13. FELIX +341 14. OWEN +44 15. QUINN +265 16. NOAH -1 17. MICHAEL -15 18. MILO +431 19. SAWYER +206 20. PHINEAS +>970 (not in the Top 1,000) 21. WILLIAM -14 22. HARPER +275 23. LEO +204 24. AUDEN +>976 (not in the Top 1,000) 25. SILAS +288
These names and numbers tell us a couple of significant things:
In a reversal of the naming habits of the general population. Elite parents are more likely to give their sons non-traditional names than they are their daughters. The boys’ list diverges 6513 points from the general list, compared with 6451 for the girls. And only four names on the boys’ list—James, Michael, William, and Noah—are on the overall Top 25, versus eight of the girls. The conclusion: Rich boys can get away with a quirky name like Quinn or Phineas, while upscale girls are more often given conventional, non-hoochie names such as Caroline and Jane.
This divergence from male conventionality stretches even further, judging from the names on the Elite list. It’s probable that Elite boys are less likely to be named after their fathers or grandfathers, while the overall boys’ popularity list is still crowded with outmoded names such as Anthony and John that can only be explained by family ties. Names on the Elite boys’ list more often have soft sounds—Asher, Silas—and vowel endings—Kai, Milo—which telegraph a greater acceptance of an unconventional style of masculinity.
Elite parents are still influenced by popular culture, but it’s a higher class of popular culture. Yes, they imitate celebrity parents’ baby names, but they copy Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck and Julia Roberts, not Britney Spears. Other upscale influences: authors Harper Lee and W.H. Auden, literary heroes Atticus Finch and Tom Sawyer and Scarlett O’Hara—or maybe that’s just Scarlett Johansson.
Other names frequently searched recently on nameberry include:
ADELINE ARABELLA AURORA BEATRIX CLARA CLEMENTINE DELILAH ELEANOR ELIZA ELODIE ESME HAZEL IRIS MAEVE OLIVE PIPER REMI THEA VIVIAN
BLAIZE DASHIELL FINNEGAN HOLDEN HUXLEY LEVI MASSIMO RAPHAEL REMY RHYS RONAN SAMPSON SIMEON