How about a fun little exercise? Find out the popularity rank of your first name and middle name(s) in the year you were born. Then, take those numbers and find out what your name could have been in other years. Maybe you’ll stumble upon a new favorite baby name!
You can do this by entering your name on the front page of the Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Names page under the section “Popularity of a Name,” or just look for your birth year’s name stats under “Popular Names By Birth Year.” I recommend choosing the option for Top 1000 popularity (the default is 20; just click on that and scroll down). If you choose the “Popular Names by Birth Year” option, simply ctrl+f the lists to find your names. Once you have the rank # for your names in that year, look at the lists for other years and see what names have those ranks then!
The year I was born, my first name ranked #9 and my middle name ranked #369 in the U.S. Remember, that’s #369 in first names, since the SSA doesn’t publish data on middles. Taking girls’ names ranked #9 and girls’ names ranked #369, here are all the combinations from 1985-2016:
- 2016: Emily Kira. Emily ranked #9 in 2016, and Kira #369.
- 2015: Charlotte Sage
- 2014: Madison Sloane
- 2013: Madison Kelly
- 2012: Madison Tiffany
- 2011: Mia Journey
- 2010: Chloe Bethany
- 2009: Chloe Londyn
- 2008: Elizabeth Tatum
- 2007: Hannah Kiley
- 2006: Sophia Iris
- 2005: Ava Violet
- 2004: Samantha Christine
- 2003: Elizabeth Jayda
- 2002: Samantha Hailee
- 2001: Elizabeth Jaqueline
- 2000: Elizabeth Julissa
- 1999: Jessica Addison
- 1998: Madison Martha
- 1997: Elizabeth Cassie
- 1996: Rachel Kailey
- 1995: Amanda Melody
- 1994: Elizabeth Jane
- 1993: Elizabeth Jane
- 1992: Elizabeth Maya
- 1991: Elizabeth Kaila
- 1990: Elizabeth Alana
- 1989: Lauren Jazmin
- 1988: Nicole Traci
- 1987: Heather Ruby
- 1986: Heather Elena
- 1985: Elizabeth Tanisha
I actually completed this exercise going all the way back to 1880, which is as far back as the SSA’s birth data extends (though it honestly isn’t very accurate before 1937-1940; I did this for fun!). Here are some of my favorite combos from earlier years:
- 1959: Deborah Leigh
- 1946: Judith Ginger
- 1938: Margaret Lottie
- 1934: Helen Virgie
- 1918: Elizabeth Roxie
- 1916: Frances Maudie – adorable!
- 1914: Frances Ramona
- 1908: Alice Philomena
- 1904: Mildred Vada
- 1903: Ethel Rae
- 1887: Florence George
Shirley Margarita (1931) was an interesting combo. It sounds like a cocktail!
Next, I did the boys’ names. Here are all the combinations from 1985-2016:
- 2016: Elijah Solomon
- 2015: Michael Aden
- 2014: James Atticus
- 2013: Jayden Cohen
- 2012: Alexander Knox
- 2011: Aiden Braydon – Ouch. This reminds me of Marcy Darcy from the show “Married With Children,” and also of someone else I recently met whose first name was the same as her married name!
- 2010: Aiden Braylen – Not much better than Aiden Braydon, but at least only the first half of the names rhyme!
- 2009: Noah Colt
- 2008: Christopher Keaton
- 2007: Matthew Nickolas
- 2006: Anthony Hugo
- 2005: Joseph Walker
- 2004: Joseph Carl
- 2003: Christopher Charlie
- 2002: Nicholas Rodney
- 2001: Daniel Roger
- 2000: Daniel Zackery
- 1999: Daniel Malachi
- 1998: Andrew Guillermo
- 1997: Austin Grayson
- 1996: Austin Steve
- 1995: Daniel Marquise
- 1994: Daniel Leonard
- 1993: Jacob Eugene
- 1992: James Alvin
- 1991: Joseph Graham
- 1990: Justin Elliot
- 1989: James Jarred
- 1988: James Elias
- 1987: Justin Tyrell
- 1986: Robert Jamar
- 1985: John Rickey
Favorite combinations from earlier years:
- 1984: Robert Noel
- 1982: Robert Graham
- 1977: Matthew Levi
- 1973: William Blake
- 1956: Thomas Rufus
- 1955: Mark Alfonso
- 1953: Charles Aubrey
- 1933: Joseph Wiley
- 1931: Joseph Randolph
- 1904: Edward Arlie
- 1898: Edward Jennings
- 1895: Henry Archibald – swoon!
- 1894: Henry Dallas
- 1885: Robert Granville
- 1880: Henry Loren
Obligatory snarky comment: the men’s combination for 1954, Gary Royce, sounds like the start to a serial killer’s name. Just add a surname?
What do you think? Some of the first-middle name combinations this exercise generated sound like people’s real first and middle names. And I’d love to hear any interesting combinations that completing this exercise gives you!
These names are gems – literally! Gem-names enjoy mostly feminine usage, but they’re increasingly unisex or even masculine. Let’s take a look at how popular these baby names were in 2016, according to Social Security Administration data!
- Amber – Current rank: #374 and falling. Amber‘s current stint in the top 1000 started after the publication of Forever Amber. From what I understand, that book is the World War II generation’s 50 Shades of Gray.
- Amethyst – 159 girls in 2016, up from 125 in 2015.
- Coral – 199 girls, down from 201.
- Diamond – 226 girls, down from 262; 33 boys, down from 35.
- Emerald – 219 girls, up from 194; 13 boys, up from 6. A couple weeks ago, I watched the original Twin Peaks and got a kick out of the names from the fictional soap opera within. “Invitation to Love” has twin characters named Emerald and Jade.
- Garnet – 15 girls, up from 7; 6 boys (reentry). A couple years ago I was reading something in the paper about a local family, and one of their young sons was named Garnet. Garnet was a mildly popular girls’ name in the early 20th century, though it’s almost always enjoyed use amidst both genders.
- Heliodor / Heliodore – Golden beryl. Although Heliodore is unrecorded in the SSA data, Heliodoro is.
- Jacinth – Not currently in use, but there are male and female Jacinths.
- Jade – #117, up from #126. Even though Madison and Ashley were supposedly way more popular than Jade when I was growing up, I feel like Jade was more popular locally. I knew several.
- Jasper – #209 and still rising. Jasper‘s never been out of the top 1000, though the Twilight series gave him a boost.
- Obsidian – As far as I can tell, Obsidian has only charted once in the SSA stats (5 boys were given the name in 2013). I’m really surprised it isn’t a more popular baby name…it sounds so cool!
- Onyx – Increasingly popular unisex gem name! Onyx was given to 172 boys and 56 girls in 2016, up from 118 boys and 38 girls in 2015. I personally wonder if we’re going to see this in the top 1000 in 2017 or 2018; for a boys’ name to rank, it currently needs at least 202 boys to rank. Onyx isn’t far off that mark!
- Opal – 256 girls, up from 231. Do you think this will return to the top 1000 in 2017? The current usage threshold for girls’ names is in the 260-270 range.
- Pearl – #567, up from #627. Pearl was relatively popular for both genders at the advent of the 20th century, but especially for girls. There was a male writer called Zane Grey (1872-1939) whose first name was Pearl.
- Ruby – #71, and the most popular gem name. Ruby hasn’t been this popular since World War II!
- Sapphire – 165, up from 147.
The name Sapphire is more popular in 2016 than 2015, but still rare.
- Topaz – 6 girls (reentry). Topaz is the name of the stepmom in I Capture the Castle, so there’s some literary prestige here!
- Turquoise – Not currently in use; most of the women named Turquoise were born in the late 70s or in the 80s.
Names with gem meanings or associations:
- Beryl – 9 girls (stable). Beryl is a mineral: emeralds, aquamarine, and heliodor are all considered beryls. As far as namesakes go, I think of the early aviatrix Beryl Markham, who wrote West with the Night.
- Crystal – #572, down from #554. Crystal hit the U.S. top 10 in 1982, but it’s been downwards ever since.
- Esmeralda – #377, down from #370; Spanish for “emerald.” Esmeralda spiked in the two years after Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame came out.
- Gem – 14 girls, up from 8.
- Giada – 178 girls, down from 203. Italian for “Jade”
- Gemma – #247 and rising. Italian name meaning “gem.” Growing up, I actually knew a Gemma. She was born a good while before her name ever cracked the top 1000.
- Jewel – #924, down from #886.
- Margaret – #139 and rising. A classic English name deriving from a Greek name that means “pearl.” I can’t tell you how happy I am that Margaret is making a comeback!
- Sapphira – 50 girls, up from 45. Greek name, Biblical character.
Gems that aren’t already names but probably should be:
Not your stereotypical gems, except for Ruby and Amethyst
- Agate – I could see this as a nickname for Agatha.
- Aquamarine – Aqua is a spunky nickname, though it may lead to spontaneous a capella renditions of “Barbie Girl.” For more subdued nicknames, try Marie or Marina.
- Chrysocolla – might be a little unwieldy without a nickname. “Chris?”
- Lapis – from Lapis Lazuli
- Peridot – Perry or Dot for short? Dottie?
- Quartz – I’m surprised that I can’t find this in the SSA stats. Quartz would work especially well as a boys’ name.
- Zircon / Zirconia – I’m not sure how I’d feel if I were named after a synthetic gem stone, but Zirconia sounds kind of pretty and Zircon sounds cool.
One last note – If you like the idea of a timely, seasonal name, look to the birthstones! Most of these work better for girls, but there are plenty of gem-names that can go either way.
- January – Garnet
- February – Amethyst
- March – Aquamarine / Bloodstone. Jasper also used to be a March stone.
- April – Diamond
- May – Emerald
- June – Pearl / Moonstone / Alexandrite
- July – Ruby
- August – Peridot / Spinel
- September – Sapphire
- October – Opal / Tourmaline
- November – Topaz / Citrine
- December – Turquoise / Zircon / Tanzanite
What is your favorite gem name?