classic names, name popularity, name predictions, name trends, nicknames, popular names, retro names, Shakespearean names
Along with all the articles on popular names that came out with the 2011 name data, there were several which warned parents not to give their baby a name from the Top 10 , because in thirty years it will sound old and frumpy.
I don’t know why they all decided thirty years was the point at which this would occur – I would have thought by the age of thirty, you would be too mature to care if you had a fashionable name or not anyway. Seriously, if you are over the age of thirty, and thinking ZOMG my name is like totally lame and uncool now! all I can tell you is Get a grip! You’re not in high school any more. Also, nobody has used ZOMG since 2007.
Of course, it’s kind of silly, because if everyone stopped using the Top 10 names because they were too popular, then they wouldn’t be Top 10 any more, ten other names would be. The only way you can avoid some names being at the top of the popularity lists is to have a law that each name can only be used once per year. In which case, pity the kids born in December, who will be named Farqui-Neemehoor or Exmayhemaliah.
However, putting that rather obvious objection aside, I decided to take a look at the Top 10 of 1982, to see if those names really had dated as badly as the Commodore 64, Bucks Fizz, and puffed shoulders, or were still going strong, like Angelina Jolie, environmental activism, and deely bobbers.
1. Sarah: Classic name which has never left the rankings. Has been Top 100 since the 1960s. Currently gently declining at #31.
2. Rebecca: Almost continually in the rankings, only dropping off in the 1930s. Was Top 100 from the 1960s until the late 2000s. Currently gently declining in the mid 100s.
3. Melissa: Has charted since the 1950s, and was Top 100 from the 1960s to the 2000s. Currently stable in the mid-300s.
4. Jessica: Has charted since the 1960s, and was Top 10 by the 1980s. It kept climbing, and became the #1 name of the 1990s. Currently stable at #20.
5. Nicole: Has charted since the 1950s, and was Top 100 from the 1960s until the late 2000s. Currently stable in the low 200s.
6. Lauren: Has charted since the 1940s, and was Top 10 by the 1980s. It continued to climb, and peaked in the 1990s. Lauren has only just left the Top 100, and is probably in the very low 100s.
7. Michelle: Has charted since the 1940s, and was Top 100 from the 1950s to the 2000s. Currently stable in the mid-100s.
8. Kate: Ranked in the 1900s, but dropped off the charts from the 1930s to the 1950s. Was Top 100 from the 1970s until the very end of the 2000s. Currently stable in the low 100s; however I believe this name is not finished, and may rejoin the Top 100.
9. Emma: Almost continuously in the rankings, only dropping off in the 1940s. Has been Top 100 since the 1970s. Currently #17 and on a slight rise.
10. Lisa: Has charted since the 1940s, and was Top 100 from the 1960s to the 2000s. Currently declining in the mid-500s.
1. Michael: Solid classic that’s never left the Top 100, and was Top 10 from 1940 to the 2000s. Currently stable at #35.
2. Mathew: Classic name that has never left the rankings, and has been Top 100 since the 1950s. Currently gently declining at #32.
3. Andrew: Solid classic that’s never left the Top 100, and was Top 10 from the 1960s to the 1990s. Currently stable at #70.
4. David: Solid classic that’s never left the Top 100, and was Top 10 from the 1940s to the 1990s. Currently stable at #78.
5. Daniel: Solid classic that’s never left the Top 100, and was Top 10 from the 1970s to the late 2000s. Currently gently declining at #24.
6. Christopher: Classic name that has never left the rankings. It was Top 100 in the 1900s, and returned to it in the 1940s. Currently stable at #84.
7. Benjamin: Classic name that has never left the rankings, and has been Top 100 since the 1970s. Currently on a decline at #11.
8. James: Solid, enduring classic that has never left the Top 20. It was Top 10 from the 1900s to the 1940s, and then again from the 1980s to the late 2000s. Currently on a slight decline at #12.
9. Mark: Classic name that has never left the rankings, and was Top 100 from the 1940s to the late 2000s. Currently stable in the low 200s.
10. Luke: Has charted since the 1940s, and been Top 100 since the 1970s. Currently declining at #33.
From the girls’ list, three of them are still in the Top 100, and from the boys’ list nine of them are still Top 100. Of the names that have left the Top 100, most of them are stable, rather than becoming ever less popular. Michelle and Nicole may not sound the freshest, but the 100s and 200s are not the dim backwoods of the popularity charts (they are where where Mary and Clara live). Melissa and Lisa are probably the most dated-sounding of the names, but they are on the charts, which means that parents are still using them. Based on the data above, I think that’s pretty much a BUSTED.
However, another theory I’ve seen on baby name forums is that the names of thirty years ago have become so firmly entrenched that they now seem a little … well, boring. This idea does have some merit, because although names such as Emma and Andrew are absolutely great, and nobody will criticise you for using them, nobody is going to say, “Oh what a stunningly beautiful and unusual name; I’m sure there’s a fascinating story behind your choice of it,” either. Which is fine, not everyone wants their child’s name to be a constant source of comments and questions. But I’d be edging towards a PLAUSIBLE on that one.
So where will our current Top 10 be in thirty years? Some would say it’s foolish to speculate, but on the basis that the best predictor of the future is the past, I’ll have a stab at it. That’s how I do my footy tipping anyway.
The average time that a popular girl’s name spent in the Top 100 was 46 years, which means about half the girls’ names from the current Top 10 are contenders for staying in the Top 100 until 2042. Of the names from 1982 which have lasted, Sarah and Emma had a long history of being on the charts, while Jessica was still gaining in popularity. Based on that, I’d say classics Charlotte and Amelia have the best chance for being stayers, while another Shakespearean coinage, Olivia, could keep going and going.
Chloe, Isabella and Sophie seem as if they will at the very least remain relatively stable in the 100s, like Rebecca, Michelle and Lauren. I’m picking Ava to be the Nicole of our times (200s), and Sienna to be another Melissa (300s). Because Lisa was the least successful name, and a cute nickname form of a longer name, perhaps Mia will also not fare so well long term. Ruby and Kate are retro names that have gone in and out of fashion, and I think both are quite unpredictable.
As far as the boys names go, chances are that 90% of them will still be in the Top 100 by 2042. I’m picking Joshua to be the name that doesn’t go the distance, as it is currently in the same decline that Mark was in 1982. Two of the names from 1982, Benjamin and James, are barely outside the Top 10 today, and I would back Ethan and Lucas as the most likely to mimic that success.
Results are unscientific and for entertainment purposes only. Baby Name Mythbusters is not affiliated with the television show, “Mythbusters”.
Pingback: Waltzing with … Olivia « Waltzing More Than Matilda
Pingback: The Top Ten Boys Names of 2028 « Waltzing More Than Matilda
Pingback: Popular Names for Girls « Waltzing More Than Matilda
But Emma is the best
I also love love love Rebecca
My little sis wants to name a child Lauren and Melissa is quite pretty
There you go, the younger generation likes these names of 30 years ago! Watch for Melissa to make a comeback in 20 years time.
se is 10 now
It all depends on how you define dated. A dated name to me is a name that goes from not being used much or at all to very popular FAST. Also, all the names you mentioned from 82 are classic names and most might have even been on the very first top 1000 popularity chart. Emma might have fallen out of favor and in more popular than ever now (at least in the US), but it doesn’t qualify as dated to me. It’s a solid classic. Invented names such as the -aiden and -lee names in their various spellings and names such as Nevaeh, Addison for a girl etc. are the ones that are bound to sound dated. Neveah was unheard of before the early 2000’s so when you meet a Nevaeh, you can pretty much figure that she isn’t legally an adult yet. Emma on the other hand, could be an old lady, a little girl or a woman in her 30’s who was named for grandma Emma.
But then again different names are considered dated for different people. The only Whitney’s I know, for example, are ten and six months. Many consider Whitney an 80’s name, but in the end the listing on the popularity charts is nothing more than a number.
Well, all I was testing was the theory that the Top 10 names of 30 years ago would be dated by now. Mostly they’re not – as you say, the names that get to be Top 10 are usually classic names with a long history of use. In fact, the very OPPOSITE of what the articles said. Names such as Neveah probably don’t get into the Top 10 very often.
As a Sarah born in 1983….it is just depressing to walk into a classroom and KNOW that there will be at least two other Sarahs in there.
People are always going to use top 10 names, they appeal, that’s why they are top 10.
But as someone who dealt with being Sarah (last name), well I would never do that to my child.
Oh well that’s a different myth … the percentage of children with a Top 10 name now is very small though, compared to 30 years ago. It’s really unlikely there will be ten Siennas or six Rubys in a classroom nowadays.
I have a wee one with a less common name (in the 400s), and she does share a classroom with another of her name, so it’s a difficult situation to avoid, unless you go REALLY rare.
Your insights are spot on. Even if a name sounds a little dated, that doesn’t make it embarrassing, which may be the point you made when you said mature 30-year old’s don’t really care if their names are cool,
Thinking about names from my generation in the U.S., some of the popular names seem enduring, like Amy, Sarah, Lisa, and Michelle. Others that may not even have been in the 1970s top 10, but were in the top 100 do sound dated, like Jamie (for a girl, probably inspired by Jamie Lee Curtis), Misty, and April.
At one time Jamie, Misty, and April probably seemed fresh and exciting. Which might suggest that picking a name that currently seems fresh and exciting is more of a predictor of a name becoming dated or stale than a top 10 ranking.
If you want to avoid a name becoming dated, top 10 may be the way to go. That could be oversimplified thinking too.
I think that’s generally true – if you want a name to stay popular, or at least be an “established” name, the Top 10 remains a very safe bet. Although Melissa and Lisa aren’t fashionable names, neither are they names that will create a sensation or make people stare in astonishment either. And I don’t think of someone named Lisa today being “old and frumpy”. It’s still a cute name.
It would be interesting to take a look at the names which first joined the charts in 1982, but I can’t think of how to do that.
Wow I absolutely LOVED this post and I bet it took you a loooong time to research it. So thank you very much!
Thank you so much Margot! 🙂 The Baby Name Explorer made research pretty easy though. I must go back and give it a better review than I did initially.