Baby name trends to watch in 2020

Baby name guru Laura Wattenberg reveals the significant letters, styles and pop culture references that will be inspiring baby names in 2020.

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What will be the most popular baby names we’ll see in 2020? Baby name trends don’t have the same impact they once did because we’re seeing more and more names in rotation, says Laura Wattenberg, baby name expert and author of The Baby Name Wizard.

Even the names at the top of the annual trend lists are given to fewer children in total than names like Jennifer and Michael, which held strong in the top five into the 1980s.

“The thing for parents to keep in mind is that rankings matter a lot less than they used to,” she says. If a name you love is in the top 10, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will be one of four kids named Emma or Liam in their kindergarten class in a few years. 

That said, there are still recognizable baby name trends that can be identified, says Wattenberg. Some of the trends for 2020 are newly emerging, while others are ones we’ve seen for a few years now and continue to be going strong.

Old-man baby names

Old-lady names are well into their return to popularity—think names like Hazel, Evelyn, Lucy and Stella. Now, traditionally male names are getting their turn thanks to the increasing popularity of names like Emmett, Wyatt, Arthur and Eli, which were all in the top 100 for Canada on BabyCenter’s list last year.

S endings

“We always notice when certain initials go up and down, but the end of names is where a whole lot of the style is,” says Wattenberg. Given that, trends emerge for name endings as well as beginnings, and boys’ names ending in S are ones to watch in 2020. This fits names like Charles and James, of course, but also surname-style names like Brooks, Hayes, Reeves and the increasingly popular Atticus. Several ancient names, like Achilles and Icarus, also fit this trend. “That’s a way to have a name that’s creative and unexpected but people can tell it comes from somewhere,” says Wattenberg. Names like Iris, Artemis and Oasis fit the trend for girls, as do some of the surname-style choices.

W endings

As with those ending in S, names ending in W are also emerging thanks in part to the recent popularity of the name Willow, says Wattenberg. That name entered the top 100 for girls on last year’s list. While a W ending is uncommon, it shows up in a variety of names, including Bartholomew, Woodrow, Snow, Arrow and, of course, the enduring classic, Matthew. Along with Snow and Arrow, other word names with W endings, like Rainbow, Crew, and Shadow, are emerging, she says.

Unisex or androgynous names

Celebrities have already broken ground on gender-neutral naming—consider Jessica Simpson’s daughter, Maxwell, and Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s daughter, James. A newly released book, The Best Gender-Neutral Baby Name Book, is full of choices designed to work for both boys and girls. There was actually a trend toward androgynous names for girls in the 1920s and 1930s, says Wattenberg, which included names like Billie, Georgie and Charlie. 

Diversity in baby names

As Canada becomes increasingly diverse, the names we see being given to babies are following suit. A 2011 map of Toronto from OpenFile showed that popular names varied by neighbourhood: Muhammad, Gurleen and Fatima were tops in some area codes, while Tenzin was popular in another. 

Place names

Names inspired by places continue to be popular for boys and girls. In the baby name lists from various provinces, Mason and Hudson showed up for boys and Brooklyn and Madison appeared for girls. More elaborate examples of these names are starting to emerge, too, especially for boys—think Lexington and Hutchinson. 

Surnames 

As with place names, the trend for first names that sound like surnames is holding strong and becoming more complex, says Wattenberg. This trend is showing up for both boys and girls, though it appears to be stronger for boys. Lincoln, Bennett and Copper showed up in provincial top 100 lists for boys last year, as did Harper and Kinsley for girls. This trend also ties in with the popularity of -son endings for boys—think Carson, Jackson and Grayson.

Short names for girls

Of the top 25 names for girls across Canada last year, 14 of them had just three letters. Names like Ava, Zoe and Mia have been among the top in the country for several years now and don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Emerging options like Ida, Mel, Ori, Bri and Ena entered the top 100 for Canada on BabyCenter’s list last year.

Pop culture baby names

Popular culture still influences name choices, says Wattenberg, but the influence now has more to do with the style of a name than the person attached to it. “A reality TV personality can have 10 times the influence of Madonna,” she says. Think of the name Nevaeh: It shot up in popularity after the singer of the band P.O.D., whose daughter has the name, appeared on an episode of MTV Cribs. The names of attractive young women with supernatural powers also tend to take off across generations, she says, including Samantha from Bewitched, Elsa from Frozen and Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even video games are influencing names now: Wattenberg points to interest in the name Atreus, a character in the game God of War.

Cute baby names

England has embraced cute names for some time now, says Wattenberg, with the ongoing popularity of choices like Poppy, Alfie and Gemma. The baby name trend is taking off in North America and will be strong in 2020, she says, beginning with names like Ruby and Max (thanks to the Canadian cartoon rabbit siblings, one wonders?) and continuing with choices like Archie, Kylie and Lexi.

Read more:
100 years of the top baby names
15 unique baby names you’ll adore

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