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A couple of weeks ago as I was checking my stats, I saw that the release of all the 2011 name data had influenced someone to Google me a rather interesting question: What names will be popular in the future? Now if someone had asked me that a year ago, I would have been very much perplexed as how to answer. Even Laura Wattenberg from The Name Wizard suggests that guesswork is pretty much all we have to go on.

However, last October Kay from Nook of Names brought out her Top Ten for 2035, based on the US data. Kay’s method was simple, yet inspired – she looked at where the currently popular names were in 1985, and then found a name which is in a similar position today, in order to extrapolate them to their 2035 position. I thought I’d give her method a go, but also see check to see where each name was a decade previously to see if each name was following a similar trajectory. (I think Kay probably did this too).

I went into it very optimistically, but found it brought me a certain degree of angst, because it’s actually pretty difficult to find two names that follow the exact same path to success. However, I persevered, and found the closest possible matches available. In case you’re wondering why I hit on 2028, it’s because the New South Wales Top 100 goes back to 1995, so I went ahead 17 years from last year’s data. Of course, if you’ve just had a baby, 17 years will see it verging on adulthood – another reason it seemed like a good time period to evaluate.

Now, do I really think this is the New South Wales Top Ten for the year 2028? Well no, that’s just a sensationalist headline designed to grab your attention. Frankly I will be staggered (and slightly scared) if all these names simultaneously turn up in the Top Ten of the same year, let alone in this order! However, based on their current performance, I am tipping most of these names to increase in popularity – in some cases, to dramatically increase.

Current Top Ten

  • Chloe #22 in ’95, and #72 for the 1980s (a steady rise up the Top 100)
  • Ruby #107 for the 1990s, and #560 for the 1980s (a skyrocket from nowhere)
  • Olivia #26 in ’95, and #117 for the 1980s (a steady rise into the Top 100)
  • Isabella #34 in ’95, and #509 for the 1980s (a skyrocket from nowhere)
  • Mia #138 for the 1990s, and #320 for the 1980s (a steep rise)
  • Charlotte #87 in ’95, and #180 for the 1980s (a steady rise into the Top 100)
  • Sophie #25 in ’95, and #74 for the 1980s (a steady rise up the Top 100)
  • Sienna #402 for the 1990s, and barely in use in the 1980s (a new name, climbing exponentially)
  • Ava #466 for the 1990s, and barely in use in the 1980s (a new name, climbing exponentially)
  • Amelia #52 in ’95, and #118 for the 1980s (a steady rise into the Top 100)

FUTURE TOP TEN

1. ABIGAIL

Abigail is currently #27, and ten years ago she was #88. I thought that made her a good match with Chloe. Abigail is already a Top Ten name in the US, and although we’ve been lagging behind, by 2028 I think we’ll be well and truly caught up. I hesitated before nominating Abigail as the #1 name, but it does make sense, because of the rampant popularity of her many short forms.

2. OLIVE

Currently, Olive is probably somewhere in the 120s-130s, and a decade ago she was barely in use. That pattern doesn’t exactly match Ruby’s, but it isn’t too different either. If you’re looking for a meteoric rise to echo that of Ruby, Olive fits the bill better than any other candidate. I also like the idea of Ruby’s replacement being another vintage colour name. Even today, when Ruby is so hugely popular, there are grandparents meeting their new grand-daughter and saying, “But Ruby is an ugly old lady name!”. I predict similar reactions to all the baby Olives who will be born in the future.

3. EVA

Eva is currently #21, and a decade before she was somewhere in the 150s. Her climb has been steeper than Olivia’s, but she’s the best match I could find. That steeper climb may mean she peaks sooner than Olivia, but she’s also a classic name which has never left the charts, which I’m hoping will give her some ballast. She does almost seem like a shorter, snappier form of Olivia.

4. ISLA

Isla is currently #22, and ten years ago she was #445 for the early 2000s. This wasn’t a close enough match to please me, but no matter how I wrestled with the data, Isla was the closest equivalent, and did have a similar zoom up the charts, as well as looking like an updated Isabella. I can’t see any reason why Isla won’t continue to go higher, quite possibly to #1, and both Isabella and Isla have been chosen for royal babies. Of course, a major book and movie series with a main character called Isla wouldn’t hurt either, just for that extra buzz factor.

5. FREYA

Freya is currently around the 130s, and was #269 for the early 2000s. That’s not quite as steep a rise as Mia had, but it’s pretty darn close. Not only do Mia and Freya both have a northern European feel to them, but both are are associated with actresses as well – Mia with Mia Farrow, and Freya with Freya Stafford. I can see Freya doing very well indeed, and can easily picture her going to #1.

6. ELOISE

Eloise is currently #96, and a decade ago she was #140 for the early 2000s. I think that’s a fairly good match with Charlotte, which also went from the 100s into the lower portion of the Top 100 in ten years. Eloise seems a worthy successor to Charlotte, for both are elegant French names which manage to sound both strong and feminine. Eloise isn’t climbing as steeply as Charlotte, so we’ll have to see how far she manages to get in 17 years, but I think she will do well.

7. ZARA

In 2011, Zara was #26, and a decade ago in 2011 she was #83. This seems similar to Sophie’s steady rise from the bottom third of the Top 100 into the Top 20. Both Sophie and Zara have a French origin, with just a touch of the Middle East about them. I’m not sure whether Zara will keep climbing or if she’s peaked already and will begin a gentle decline; however, I have similar doubts about Sophie as well. If you’ve really been paying attention, you will see I could have easily swapped Abigail and Zara around, and after much deliberation, I decided Abigail seemed more likely to go to #1.

8. HAVANA

Now this is the part where my fortune-telling gets really sticky, because in 1995, Sienna was only used about 11 times per year in New South Wales. In other words, she may show up on the data now, but that’s only because of her success – in 1995 she wouldn’t have even been a blip on the radar, and in 1985, she was barely known. That means I had to come up with a name that is still little used, but feels as if it might be going somewhere. I wanted to pick a name similar to Sienna; I wanted a modern name just coming into use, and I hoped to find one that was also a place name. Quite a tall order, but eventually I decided upon Havana. Of course it’s a huge gamble picking a name so far in advance, but Havana seems like a pretty good bet. She’s similar to Heaven, Haven, Ava, Anna, Hannah, Savannah, Vanna and Ivana – in other words, she sound like a whole bunch of familiar words and names while having a very clear identity of her own. She doesn’t look out of place on this hypothetical Top Ten either, as she shares a V sound with Eva and Olive. Sienna only whizzed up the charts after Sienna Miller began her career, but in 17 years, it’s possible that a young model named Havana will be ready to take the world by storm. It could happen.

9. HARLOW

When it came to picking another Ava for the future, although I was looking for a name even rarer than Havana, I really had a much easier time of it. Ava was a name that we gained from America, so I simply went to the US Top 1000 for 1995 and saw where Ava was, then tried to find today’s equivalent. Of course, I was looking for one which was climbing like Ava, and if possible, had a similar feel to it. In 1995, Ava was #737, and ten years earlier, she wasn’t on the Top 1000, but just scraped in the year before. After much internal debate, I decided upon Harlow, which was #621 last year, and not on the Top 1000 in 2001. Although Harlow is climbing far more rapidly than Ava, she seemed the most likely candidate. Like Ava, she is a name redolant of Hollywood glamour, and she has the OH sound found in Eloise, while beginning with H like Havana. She fits on the list. At the moment, Harlow is very little used in Australia, and newspaper articles even discuss the strange unpopularity of Harlow. Like Ava, she may well fly under the radar, until one day we all wake up and suddenly realise Harlow is in the Top 100 and climbing. (Cue parental handwringing).

10. ROSE

Rose is currently #65, and she was #119 for the early 2000s. Not only does this look quite similar to Amelia’s pattern, but both these names are classic, pretty and wholesome. Rose is by no means shooting up the charts, but she is ascending in a calm and ladylike fashion, just like Amelia. Rose doesn’t have all the nickname options that Amelia does, so I’m not sure whether she will be Top 10 by 2028, but I am tipping her to continue rising.

My Tips for Coming Trends

  • OH sounds, as found in Eloise, Harlow and Rose
  • V sounds, as found in Olive, Eva and Havana
  • Short brisk names ending in -A, such as Eva, Isla, Freya and Zara (the new Mias)
  • Stronger influence from the UK than from the US, but with the US influence being far more spectacular in nature (much like today)
  • A nice balance between “old-fashioned names” like Olive and Rose, and modern inventions like Havana and Harlow (just like today).
  • Most popular girl’s names will be definitely feminine, but Harlow may show the potential for unisex names and surname names to break into the Top Ten for girls.

Boys Top Ten for 2028 will be next week!

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