The conventional wisdom around baby-naming used to be that the baby boy names never changed, while the most popular baby girl names were more subject to whims and trends. With the exception of on year, Michael was the most popular boy's name in the country from 1954 to 1998, for example, while the girls rotated through six No. 1s in the same period (Mary, Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley and Emily).
Now, it seems as the rules governing the most popular baby names have flipped. The most popular baby girl names in the top spots are pretty steady, and the boys' names shift every few years. If you're looking for a traditional, up-and-coming, trendy or unique baby girl name, take a look at the current most popular choices — and the trends affecting what names are on the rise, affecting the baby names of 2021.
These baby girl names are hot, and getting hotter.
There really isn't much variation among the top baby-girl names in the United States. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which keeps track of the most popular baby names, the same names have been swapping places in the top five going back to 2009. You can see the full list of 100 most common names below, but the perennial top five are: Olivia, Emma, Ava, Sophia and Isabella.
And while it seems like nothing will be able to knock those names out of the top five, these are the ones that have the best shot. In addition to keeping track of the most popular names, the SSA tracks which names have the biggest jumps in popularity. These are the ones that are on deck to crack into the top 10 next year, based on what parents are actually naming their children. This year, the fastest climbers are:
If any names bump Olivia and Emma out of the top spots, they're not going to be radically different: most of these also end in the same -a sound.
And the names that are losing popularity for girls? The names that had the biggest decreases in popularity were Emmarie, Saniyah, Tatiana, Zhavia, Jayden, Aislinn, Aiyana, Avalyn, Emilee and Avah. Many of these are alternative spellings, like Emmarie for Emery or Avah for Ava, so assume parents are opting to keep things simple.
BabyCenter and Nameberry find other up-and-comers.
BabyCenter keeps tabs on its users' interest in baby names, and put out its own list of the most popular lookups on the site. There were a few names in the BabyCenter Top 10 that didn't make the SSA top ten: Riley (which was all the way up at No. 3!), Aria and Aaliyah. These names might be even more current than the SSA list, since the SSA waits until after the year is over to release its data. (Right now, the recent data is for 2019.) But it's also based on what parents are looking at, and not what exactly what names they decided on.
Baby-naming website Nameberry has its own list of the most-increased lookups among its users. For this year, Katara, Artis, Chantel, Teddy, Bunty, Ximena, Azula, Nimue and Marinette saw the biggest jumps. Recently trend had been for shorter, four-letter names — think Cora and Luna — but, for baby girls at least, we could see this circling back around again with some longer names slipping in.
Politics comes to baby names.
Since the 2020 presidential election season has dominated the airwaves and the internet, you'd think people would see baby-naming as an oasis away from politics, but the election has found a way to trickle down into baby-girl names. Nameberry and BabyCenter both say that interest in the name Kamala, as in vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, has skyrocketed; it's up 3,715% (!) on the former and 104% on the latter.
Similarly, Jill and Liberty saw a big jump in BabyCenter lookups, with a 12% rise. (Karen, on the other hand, saw a 13% drop.) The same thing happened last election: In 2017, there was a spike in baby girls named Melania, and it hit No. 933 on the SSA's list of the most popular baby names. (It fell out of the top 1,000 again in 2018 and hasn't made it back on since.)
And other names that have been in the news have seen a bump, too, like Breonna — as in Breonna Taylor — which is up 108% because of the name's association with the racial justice movement, according to BabyCenter.
More popular names come from mythology and pop culture.
Nameberry has also seen an increase in names with a mythological bent, like Persephone, Cleo, Calliope, Freya and Athena. Of those, Persephone and Cleo are already climbing, jumping more than 100 places each on the SSA list.
BabyCenter says the news is also a big influence on baby-names: By far, it saw the biggest increase in the name Kobe, after Kobe Bryant. But Gianna, the name of Bryant's daughter, moved up more than 50 places on the BabyCenter list.
And Nameberry notes that vintage nicknames for girls are still in: Billie, as in Billie Eilish, is both a newsmaker and a old-timey girls' moniker, so that goes to the top of the list. But Nellie is also a fast-riser on the SSA list — it's up 198 places — as is Winnie, Millie (like Millie Bobby Brown), Maisie and Stevie.
Parents of girls are looking to for more gender-neutral names.
When BabyCenter reported on its top baby-naming trends of the year, it found that gender-neutral names are still on the rise. But beyond names that are used equally for boys and girls, like Dakota or Tatum, more girl parents are reaching for names that are traditionally more associated with boy names. The list includes Noah (up 35%), Ezra (up 32%), Kai (up 20%) and Grayson (up 19%). Perhaps soon, the site notes, we won't have separate boy and girl lists at all.
These are the 100 most popular names for girls, according to the SSA.
This is the most recent data available, which is for 2019.
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