Just like hemlines and hairstyles, baby name trends go in cycles. Thanks to a few decades of near obscurity, these old-school names sound fresh and cool all over again. (Plus, they won’t remind you of that annoying girl from your grade six homeroom.)
The trend: Jazz-era names.
Name popularity tends to run in a 100-year cycle, says Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard. “The names of our parents’ generation seem boring and our grandparents’ names seem old, so it’s usually the names of our great-grandparents that sound different in a good way,” she explains. This means that the names of 1920s starlets like Clara Bow, Josephine Baker and Mae West are currently hot. Clara peaked in popularity at number 18 in 1901 and sunk to 593 in the late 1970s, but today it’s sitting pretty at 99.*
See also: Emmett, Hazel, Lillian and Theodore
*All statistics from American social security records on baby namesYOU’RE PREGNANT!
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The trend: Exotic letters.
“I call these the ‘high-value Scrabble tile names,’” says Wattenberg, meaning names with V, X, Z and even Q. “Everybody wants their kid’s name to stand out, and one way to do that is with an unusual letter. That’s why you see Evelyn and Vivian more than, say, Marianne.” Evelyn hit the top 10 in 1915 and has more recently spiked (from number 150 to 12) since 2000.
See also: Eliza, Hazel, Xavier, Zachary and Zelda
The trend: Variations on the hits.
While Amelia may sound old-fashioned, the name (currently at number 11 for girls) has been in the top 500 since 1900. Its recent spike is at least partly an offshoot of the extreme popularity of the name Emily, which reigned as number one from 1996 to 2007. “Often, parents will think, ‘I like Emily, but it’s a little overdone, so I’m going to use Amelia,’” says Jennifer Moss, founder of BabyNames.com.
See also: Emery, Emile, Jackson, Olive and Vivian
The trend: Old-school nicknames.
“Today, we associate nicknames with the shortening of full names, but, historically, nicknames were often based on characteristics,” says Wattenberg. Duke—often associated with jazz great Duke Ellington—dropped out of the top 1,000 in 1972, re-emerged more than 40 years later in 2013 and now sits at number 557 (an all-time high).
See also: King and Mack
The trend: Nature names.
Currently sitting at number 154, this traditional flower name has doubled in popularity in the past 10 years. Nature names have been big in the last few years, as parents attempt to express their values through baby names.
See also: Daisy, Lark, Linden, Meadow and Wren
The trend: British names.
We’re not talking William or Elizabeth but rather names that instantly evoke a pair of Wellies and a cup of English tea. Matilda was popular as number 161 in 1900 (when the American social security database first started keeping records) and disappeared in the freewheeling 1960s—no surprise there. The recent comeback (it dropped off the list in 1965 but has been rising steadily since 2008) could have something to do with the movie version of the popular Roald Dahl novel, but Moss says that, in general, the growing monoculture has given North American ears greater access to English monikers. “With the Internet and streaming, we can all watch the BBC now,” she says.
See also: Beatrice, Benedict, Clementine, Imogen and Silas
The trend: Month names.
May has been popular for a while now, which may have inspired a more expansive examination of the calendar. June, a standard of the Leave It to Beaver era, dropped out of the top 1,000 in 1986 and returned in 2008, coming in at number 268 in 2016.
See also: August and January
The trend: Ends in the letter O.
“Certain sounds are trendy at certain times, and it’s often just one of those things,” says Wattenberg of the current obsession with names that end in the letter O. Milo dropped out of the top 1,000 in 1966, returned in 2001 and has been climbing ever since (number 248 in 2016). Top 20 baby names in Ontario for 2017
See also: Cleo, Coco, Leo, Marlo and Theo
The trend: Serious girls’ names.
“There’s been a movement away from what might sound like diminutive female names, such as Ashley and Britney—anything that ends in the letters I or Y or the sounds ‘ey’ and ‘ie,’” says Moss, crediting the shift to the women’s movement. Originally huge due to Mrs. Roosevelt, the name Eleanor slumped in the 1980s (when “Valley girl names” reigned supreme) but has made a major comeback in recent years.
See also: Harper, Josephine, Penelope and Winnifred
The trend: Iterations of Henry.
The name has been popular for centuries thanks to British monarchs and is poised to make a major comeback over the next couple of years (thanks to a certain royal ginger snap).
See also: Hank