With baby naming becoming more competitive than ever, many parents are digging into the past to turn former faves into modern hits. Here’s a list of previously hot monikers expected to hit it big in 2019. (Don’t call it a comeback—they’ve been here for years.)
Post-Meghan-and-Harry mania, the tendency to “go royal” in the baby naming department is stronger than ever. But as names like James, William, Elizabeth and Anne start to seem too obvious, parents are delving into the history of the English monarchy and coming up with names that are less obvious (like Otto, which is back in the top 1,000 after dropping off in the early 1970s, and Eleanor, which hasn’t been this popular since the 1930s), or just sound bloody English (Benedict, Harriette). “People always like what they think of as royal names that denote class,” says Duana Taha, Canadian baby naming expert and author of The Name Therapist, “and now they’re going deeper.”
Perhaps as a nod to the more distinguished days of yore, the names of American forefathers have flourished of late with both last names (Hamilton, Ford, Kennedy) and first (Theodore, Warren) popping up on birth certificates. “Don’t underestimate the influence of a massive cultural event like the Hamilton musical,” says Jennifer Moss, host of The Baby Names podcast. This trend is largely happening among boys, but girls are inching in with old faithfuls like Madison, as well as new-for-girls names like Kennedy and Lincoln.
For a while now, Sophia, Isabella and Emma have formed the holy trinity of top-ranking female names, thanks in large part to a generational allergy to ends-in-y names like Tiffany and Courtney. Now, new parents want the same romantic, feminized ending, with a fresh spin. Nova cracked the top 100 in 2017 after being absent from the top 1,000 for more than 50 years. Other examples of the trend include Amelia (#8 in 2017), Nora (#28), Sylvia (#488) and Clara (#96).
In the past, popularity has run in a 100-year cycle, meaning trendy names tend to be those of our great and great, great grandparents. But thanks to the current obsession with originality, says Taha, “that cycle is closing in on itself, and names are coming up before their time.” Which means a premature peak for no-nonsense female names like Gladis, Jean, Mary, Lois and Ruth—the women who rolled up their sleeves and took over for the boys during WWII. “They’re what I call ‘Rosie the Riveter’ names—shorter, less decorative,” says Taha. (Rosie is back too, at #684 in 2017).
The Spice Girls are touring, overalls are in again and names from the not-so-distant past may soon be making a comeback, according to a report from Mumsnet. Part of that may be the resurgence of all things ’90s, but the popularity of “normcore names” may also be a reaction to the crazy baby naming trend spearheaded by celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow. See: George Clooney’s twins named Ella and Alexander, which felt equal parts meh and subversive. “When you get enough Declans and Liams,” says Moss, names like Ryan and Nicholas suddenly start to feel unusual.
This trend has been burning for a while now, with Maggie and Molly nearly as popular as Margaret, and Charlie steadily gaining on Charles. In these increasingly chill times, “people don’t feel like they have to use the full name if they prefer the short version,” says Taha. (See also: Kit over Christopher, and Nate instead of Nathanial.) Still, she warns parents to make peace with any and all potential short forms for any name they choose or find another name. “If there’s a nickname and you don’t like it, your kid is going to get it.”
Mining other cultures for lesser-known monikers is one way to land an unexpected baby name, says Taha, noting that for North American parents, French feels exotic but still familiar. And yet, she says, the recent uptick in bébé names may be more of a coincidence. “Camilla (#308 in 2017) may be more about the search for next-level A names, and names like Josephine and Clementine have that classic but fresh feel that a lot of parents are looking for.”
A new premium on keeping things short and sweet has parents borrowing from names across many time periods: Leo was big at the turn of the 20th century, whereas Ava enjoyed popularity in the '50s and Kai only cracked the top 1,000 in ’79. Now, they’re all climbing the charts. “With boys, there is an association between short names and strength,” says Moss. Another explanation could be the uptick in longer last names (both with hyphenation and globalization). If you’ve got a five-syllable surname, keeping it short up top just makes sense.
In fashion, the ugly shoe trend has been hot for a few years, and now the same spirit of jolie-laide (pretty-ugly) has hit baby names. Think, Maude, Gertrude, Clyde and Alfred. As with fashion and music, what initially sounds harsh or “ugly” starts to creep into the subconscious, then eventually sounds fresh and chic.
The quintessentially ’80s name peaked in 1985 and held strong through the early 2000s before dropping out of the top 100 six years back. Enter a certain American Duchess who has influenced everything from hair trends to Prince Harry’s eating and drinking habits. Per an article in The Express, “Meghan” has already seen a “drastic increase” in the UK. Given her American roots, a similar spike on this side of pond seems like a safe prediction.