The likeable names Emma and Ella are both very popular choices for babies right now. Nationally, Emma is ranked 1st and Ella is 16th.
Both can be traced back to Germanic words: Emma to ermen, meaning “entire, whole,” and Ella to ali, meaning “other, foreign.”
Both can also be used as short forms other names, particularly those starting with Em- (e.g., Emerson, Emmeline) or El- (e.g., Eleanor, Ellen).
So let’s say you like these names, but…you’d really prefer to use something a little less common. One thing you could try is moving to the next letter of the alphabet: L, M, N.
Enna isn’t what you’d call a traditional name. And it’s never been in the top 1,000 — though it did come close once, way back in 1894.
That said, the letter string “enna” is popular in longer names (like Jenna, Sienna, Mckenna, Kenna, Vienna, Brenna, Glenna, Gwenna, Zenna, etc.), and Enna as a standalone name has seen seen slightly higher usage lately:
2017: 14 baby girls named Enna
2016: 24 baby girls named Enna (peak usage so far)
2015: 22 baby girls named Enna
2014: 19 baby girls named Enna
2013: 15 baby girls named Enna
2012: 7 baby girls named Enna
What are your thoughts on the baby name Enna? Do you like it as an alternative to Ella and Emma?
If 1 is the loneliest number, then U is definitely the loneliest letter. Because, ever since I started looking at first letter frequency in baby names, U has always been the least-used.
Currently just four U-names are in in the boys’ top 1,000, and exactly zero are in the girls’ top 1,000. And those four boy names — Uriel, Uriah, Ulises, and Urijah — make up a sizable chunk of what little U-usage there happens to be.
Does this anti-U trend signify something about modern society, do you think?
So is this individualism also being reflected in first the letters/sounds we choose? After all, a handful of I-names (Isabella/Isabelle/Isabel, Isla, Isaac, Isaiah) have become prominent lately. So have a pair of “me” names (Mia, Mila).
Meanwhile, the humble U remains at the bottom of the heap. Is it because no one wants to open a name with a letter that reminds them of “you”?
If you’re interested in giving U-names a boost, here are 7 under-the-radar options to consider:
We’re all familiar with Ursula. She’s a sea-witch, a Bond girl, and a Catholic saint. In other words, Ursula has some strong associations.
Not so with Ursa, the word upon which Ursula was based. Ursa doesn’t have any strong human/character associations — just a couple of celestial ones: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Ursa is based on the Latin word ursus, meaning “bear.” (Bear is itself a trendy choice among celebs these days.) And even though four-letter, vowel-bounded girl names (like Emma, Ella, Aria, Isla, Ayla, and Elsa) are trendy right now, Ursa remains rare.
Upton & Upson
Many toponymic surnames — from Milton and Clifton 100 years ago to Easton and Ashton today — have gone on to become popular baby names. But not Upton and Upson, which are uncommon despite their optimistic sound (up!).
The surnames stem from any of several similar place names that, in most cases, can be traced back to a pair of Old English words meaning “upper, above” (in terms of either altitude or status) and “farm, settlement.”
The most famous Upton was muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, whose best-known work, a 1906 exposé of the meatpacking industry called The Jungle, led to the passage of both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act (which, eventually, gave rise to the FDA).
We all know an Amber. Maybe even an Ember. But how many of us know an Umber? Probably not many of us, as the name is so rare that it’s only appeared in the SSA data one time (in 1995, when 5 baby girls were named Umber).
You know how ombre hair color is fashionable right now? The words ombre and umber are related — both can be traced back to the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow.”
Along with Ochre and Sienna, Umber is an “earth pigment” — a naturally occurring mineral used by humans since prehistoric times (i.e., for coloring cave walls, clothing, tools, even skin). The color ranges from brown to reddish-brown. Many famous historical artists, including Caravaggio and Rembrandt, used umber in their paintings.
Uriah is a Biblical name. So are Josiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Obadiah, and many other names with that telltale “-iah” ending. Sounds like Ukiah should be part of this group, right? But it isn’t.
Ukiah is the name of a place in California. It’s based on Yokaya, which comes from Rancho Yokaya — the name of the mid-19th century Mexican land grant that encompassed what is now the Ukiah Valley. The word yokaya means “south valley” in the language of the Pomo people, the original inhabitants of the region.
In 1973, the California-based band The Doobie Brothers released a song about Ukiah.
Though Ukiah has always been rare as a baby name, usage has picked up slightly since the turn of the century.
Unity & Union
Unique is the most self-focused U-name I’m aware of. And now that thousands of people have been named Unique, well, the name just isn’t very unique anymore.
Want to really stand out in the world of baby names today? Choose a name that emphasizes the oneness of the whole as opposed to the oneness of the self.
The names Unity and Union could be seen as opposites of the name Unique. And yet all three are ultimately derived from the same Latin word: unus, meaning “one.”
Unity is given to a couple dozen baby girls per year these days, but Union hasn’t appeared in the SSA data since the 1920s.
Do you like any of the U-names above? What other U-names would you recommend?
I’m anticipating future pushback from readers who, over time, have come to accept and welcome names like ‘Brayden’ and ‘Kaidence’ into their lives. But until that fateful day arrives, I’m sticking to my belief that yoonique names are usually more effective at confusing teachers and government workers than they are at ensuring greatness and instilling confidence in kids.
From the book “A Herman Melville Encyclopedia” by Robert L. Gale:
Melville in a letter to Evert Duyckinck says that he and his wife will probably name their new-born son Stanwix because “this lad’s great grandfather spent his summers [at Fort Stanwix] in the Revolutionary War before Saratoga came into being–I mean Saratoga Springs & Pavilions” (7 November 1851).
(Melville’s baby boy did indeed end up with the name Stanwix. Stanwix’s great-grandfather was Peter Gansevoort, and his siblings were Malcolm, Elizabeth and Frances.)
Celebrity names may also give an insight into public opinion: I enjoyed comparing trends for Jude and Sienna, especially what happens when Jude is exposed as a a CHEATING LOVE RAT in 2005 – the popularity of his name dips sharply, but hers continues to rise.
From a Waltzing More Than Matilda post about our (newly named) galactic supercluster, Laniakea:
The name Laniakea was suggested by Nawa’a Napoleon, associate professor of Hawaiian Language at Kapiolani Community College. The Hawaiian name can be translated in a number of ways, including “open skies”, “wide sky”, or “wide horizons”, but in this case it is understood as “immeasurable heavens”. The name was chosen to honour Polynesian navigators who studied the heavens in order to navigate the Pacific Ocean.
I have a major gripe with the trend of misspelling baby names. On purpose. The parents’ logic runs something like this: “My child is special and unique. Thus, my child deserves a special, uniquely spelled name.”
All across America, parents are mangling names in a misguided mission to trumpet their kid’s individuality. Take the wildly popular name Chase, which is actually not a name at all, but something a dog does to its tail. It was annoying to begin with, but now it gets worse as it slowly mutates from Chase to Chace, and on to Chayce.
Misspelling a child’s name won’t make Junior special, creative or unique. Y’s and I’s are not interchangeable, and apostrophes are not some sort of newfangled confetti to be sprinkled liberally throughout groups of letters. Parents shouldn’t impose cryptic, incoherent or foolish spellings on their own children, nor on society as a whole. And they shouldn’t condemn their children to a lifetime of bleakly repeating that, no, the name in question is spelled “Shaiyahne,” not “Cheyenne.” (And while I’m at it, don’t name your child Cheyenne, either.)
I’ve got a post on the top names in England and Wales scheduled for Monday, but until then here are a couple of “biggest changes” analyses. We’ll do the girl names today and the boy names tomorrow.
The tables below include two versions of each list. On the left are the top raw-number differences, taking all names into account. On the right are the top ranking differences, taking only the top 1,000 names (roughly) into account.
Biggest Increases in Popularity
Raw Numbers (all names)
Rankings (top 1,000)
Sienna, +586 babies
Reeva, +4951 spots
Eleanor “Elea” Nickerson of British Baby Names mentioned the rise of Reeva yesterday on Facebook, attributing it to Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend Oscar Pistorius allegedly murdered. That sounds like a good explanation to me. In fact, the murder early last year (and the ongoing news coverage) might explain why Oscar itself saw such a big increase in 2013.
Can you think of explanations for any of the other names? (Well, besides Khaleesi. I think we all know where that one comes from at this point.)
Biggest Decreases in Popularity
Raw Numbers (all names)
Rankings (top 1,000)
Amelia, -1491 babies
Gemma, -402 spots
Top Debut Name
Fewer than 3 baby girls got the name in 2012, but 21 baby girls were named Everly in 2013. Everley, Everleigh and Everlyn have been on the list before, but never Everly. (I only have the full England and Wales baby name lists going back to 2007, though.)
Ireland’s top baby names of 2013 were announced a few days ago.
According to data from the Central Statistics Office, the most popular baby names are Emily and Jack.
Here are Ireland’s top 100 girl names and top 100 boy names of 2013:
47. Charlotte [tie]
47. Millie [tie]
52. Alice [tie]
52. Eabha [tie]
59. Eve [tie]
59. Zara [tie]
63. Maria [tie]
63. Megan [tie]
84. Aimee [tie]
84. Tara [tie]
86. Hanna [tie]
86. Katelyn [tie]
86. Lilly [tie]
86. Ruth [tie]
90. Alexandra [tie]
90. Poppy [tie]
92. Amber [tie]
92. Mollie [tie]
92. Victoria [tie]
98. Aoibhe [tie]
98. Laoise [tie]
18. Liam [tie]
18. Darragh [tie]
51. Sam [tie]
51. Tadhg [tie]
60. Ronan [tie]
60. Andrew [tie]
68. Benjamin [tie]
68. Cormac [tie]
76. Shay [tie]
76. Alan [tie]
79. Logan [tie]
79. Anthony [tie]
92. Martin [tie]
92. Ruairi [tie]
92. Brian [tie]
96. Danny [tie]
96. Edward [tie]
98. Oran [tie]
98. Sebastian [tie]
98. Hugh [tie]
New to the top 100 are Sadie, Sienna, Fiadh and Poppy for girls and Kai and Kayden for boys.
(Names that were new on the 2012 list but that have since dropped out of the top 100 are Amelie, Evie and Maisie.)
Of all the girl names in the current top 100, these five saw the biggest increases from 2012 to 2013 in terms of rank change:
Fiadh, +64 (146th to 82nd)
Sadie, +62 (139th to 77th)
Poppy, +46 (136th to 90th)
Lexi, +33 (89th to 56th)
Sienna, +32 (112th to 80th)
And these five saw the biggest increases in terms of number of babies:
Anna, +56 (296 babies to 352 babies)
Lexi, +54 (127 babies to 73 babies)
Sofia, +50 (155 babies to 105 babies)
Sadie, +42 (84 babies to 42 babies)
Fiadh, +39 (78 babies to 39 babies)
Of all the boy names in the current top 100, these five saw the biggest increases from 2012 to 2013 in terms of rank change:
Kayden, +44 (135th to 91st)
Shay, +27 (103rd to 76th)
Kai, +24 (109th to 85th)
Leo, +21 (84th to 63rd)
Anthony, +20 (99th to 79th)
And these five saw the biggest increases in terms of number of babies: