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5 Ways to Tell If Your Baby Name is Too Popular


How popular is too popular for a baby name? Here are 5 handy tips that will help you decide

1. Look at Current Data, and Not Just the Rankings

Do you remember growing up in the 80’s with a zillion people named Jessica, Jennifer, and Michael? Or did you grow up in the 90’s with a zillion people named Ashley, Emily, and Christopher? The natural reaction is to think how common some names were and avoid anything in the top 100 names. Who wants their kid to have the same name as 5 other kids in their kindergarten class?

But here’s something most people don’t realize. There’s been a lot of fragmentation in baby name selection since the 80’s and 90’s. In other words, more parents are choosing less common names, while fewer are choosing out of the top 10. So the most popular names now are dramatically less popular than those of 20 and 30 years ago.

How much less popular? Let’s take a look. The #1 girl name of 1982 was Jennifer. 3.15% of girls born that year were named Jennifer. Meanwhile, the #1 boy name was Michael, clocking in at 3.62% of boys born that year. Compare that with 2012 when the #1 girl name, Sophia, only got 1.15%. The #1 boy name of 2012, Jacob, only got 0.94%.┬áSo don’t just look at the ranks, look at the percentages.

You can go to any name page on Baby Namester and see the name’s current popularity in terms of babies per 1,000. For example, 11.5 baby girls per 1,000 girls born in 2012 were named Sophia. That’s slightly more than 1 out of 100.

Also, don’t rely on your instincts about which names are popular and which names are not. Jennifer, Michelle, and Stephanie are all less popular than Nevaeh, Harper, and Brooklyn. Adam, Richard, and Brian are all less popular than Liam, Carter, and Brayden. Check the current popularity of any name you consider.

2. Consider Local Naming Preferences

National data is easiest to get, but it also is less accurate for your local area. If you live in the U.S., make sure to track down name data for your state as well. Baby Namester has data for every state and the District of Columbia.

For example, maybe you live in Michigan and are considering the name Carter for your baby boy. You check the national data and see that it is ranked at #36 for boys, with 4.6 boys named Carter per 1,000 born. That seems popular but not too popular. But then you check the Michigan data on Baby Namester and see that Carter ranks at #5 in your state and is 85% more common in Michigan than in the United States as a whole.

Is that too popular? That’s for you to decide, why not base your decision on the best information available?

3. Consider Alternate Spellings

If you forget alternate spellings and versions of the name, you might think the name you’re considering is less common than it really is. For example, Jackson is ranked at #22 with a percentage of 0.61%. That would be a fairly common but not top ten name. But combined with Jaxon (#66, 0.31%) we get a combined total of 0.92%, which would almost identical to the #2 boy name Mason (0.93%). That’s a huge difference!

4. Look at Trends

Imagine parents who considered naming their daughter Aubrey in 2010, looking at 2009 data. (The Social Security Agency releases baby name data every spring for the year before.) They could see it was ranked at #41 for girls with 0.27% of girls born given that name. A mere two years later in 2012, it was #15 for girl names with a 0.42% share (nearly double) and continues to become more popular. Parents seeking a name that isn’t too popular can be ambushed by trends like this.

But trends can be detected before they become huge. Aubrey started to really shoot up the ranks in 2005, and kept climbing year over year at an impressive rate. In 2010, with 2009 data available, this trend was extremely visible if you knew where to look. The ranks for Aubrey from 2004 to 2009 were #190, #153, #93, #69, #42, #41. It doesn’t take a name expert to see that name was on the rise!

Baby Namester has nifty historical popularity charts at the bottom of every name page to help you spot the trends. It also has the trend rundown for each year for which we have data.

5. Know Your Tipping Point

Different people draw the “too popular” line in different places. Some people don’t even care, “Matthew or Sophia are just fine, that’s why we have last names”. Others want their child to be the only one on planet earth to answer to that series of sounds as their first name. Most of us fall somewhere in between. Try to figure out where you are on this sliding scale. After you have a sense of this, you can use the above tips to see how any given name measures up. Eliminate any names that are obviously way over “the line”. But if there’s a name that you really, really like that is just slightly too popular, I say go for it. After all, popularity should only be one factor among many.