Most Popular First Letter-Pairs of U.S. Baby Names

Mathematically speaking, it’s possible to construct 676 pairs of letters from a 26-letter alphabet. In terms of baby names, though, only a portion of these pairs can realistically be used to start a baby name.

If you look at each of the 6,692 names that have ever ranked among the most popular U.S. (1880-2006), you’ll notice that only 233 two-letter combinations have ever been used at the beginning of the names (e.g., “Na-” for Nancy, or “Ev-” for Evan).

So…what’s the most common pair of starting letters?

Ma– is the clear winner. It starts nearly twice as many names as Ja-, the second most common starting letter-pair.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of all the two-letter combinations that have started at least 100 ranked baby names:

  • 331 “Ma-” names (Mark, Mandy, Matthias, Marylouise)
  • 177 “Ja-” names (Jane, Jacob, Jaleesa, Jamarion)
  • 174 “Al-” names (Alf, Alice, Alphonso, Albertina)
  • 167 “De-” names (Dean, Della, Devontae, Demetria)
  • 157 “Ka-” names (Karl, Katie, Kameron, Katharina)
  • 144 “Sh-” names (Shane, Sherman, Shanice, Sheridan)
  • 143 “Ca-” names (Cash, Cadence, Carmella, Casimiro)
  • 139 “Da-” names (Dave, Daisy, Damarcus, Dayanara)
  • 125 “El-” names (Elmo, Elyse, Elijah, Eleanora)
  • 121 “Ro-” names (Ross, Roxie, Roosevelt, Rosalinda)
  • 118 “Br-” names (Bruce, Brenda, Bryson, Brittany)
  • 118 “Ch-” names (Chad, Chantal, Christopher, Christiana)
  • 117 “La-” names (Lane, Laura, Lafayette, Lakeshia)
  • 113 “Le-” names (Les, Leah, Leandra, Leopoldo)
  • 102 “Je-” names (Jeff, Jewel, Jennifer, Jeremiah)
  • 101 “Jo-” names (John, Joanna, Joshua, Josefina)
  • 100 “Ar-” names (Art, Arla, Armani, Araceli)

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