The name Terra is on my mind this Earth Day.  Terra is the Latin word for “earth,” though as a name it’s more commonly a variant of Tara.  It can also mean “country.”


Terra first appeared in SSA birth data in the early 1940s, but didn’t become popular until the early 70s.  She peaked in 1980, just three years after Tara did.  Terra only remained in the top 1000 until 1996, but a decent number still receive the name every year – indeed, 95 girls were named Terra in 2016 (Tara was given to 262).  Additionally, 22 boys were named Terran, which is sometimes used in sci-fi as another name for humans (the most recent examples I know of are Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1 and “Star Trek: Discovery”).

Besides being an alternative to Tara, Terra could be treated as a modern nickname for Teresa.  You could also use Terra to honor a Terrence, a Terry, or even an Eartha!  It would also be a fun name for the child of someone who works with dirt, i.e, an archaeologist or farmer.

What do you think of Terra?


Poppy is a cheerful-sounding flower name that recently became popular in the United States!  After almost 100 years of sporadic usage here (including a mini-spike in the 70s that was mostly contained to California), it finally debuted in the top 1000 in 2016.  The name has been popular in the U.K. for much longer; the English and Welsh charts only extend back to 1996, but she’s been in their top 100 for most of those 20-odd years.  In 2014, Poppy was the 5th most popular girls’ name there!  Poppy‘s current U.S. rank is #747.

Despite Poppy‘s happy sound, there’s a bittersweet backstory.  The flower has long been associated with war, and especially World War I.  A 1915 poem called “In Flanders Fields” depicts the growth of poppies on the battlefield graves of recently-buried soldiers.  Within a decade after its publishing, the poppy became a symbol for remembrance of service members who’ve died in war.  That connection has stuck – artificial poppies are still passed out around military holidays every year to help fund veterans’ charities.  In my opinion, and despite any potential sadness associated with the flower, I think the name Poppy could be a meaningful choice for families trying to honor a service-member relative. 


A vibrant depiction of a poppy field by artist Robert Vonnoh, c. 1890

There is a much trickier association for the name Poppy, though.  Depending on how the flower’s seeds are harvested or extracted, they can either become safe seasonings for food *or* opiates (which are classified under opioids).  Somehow, I don’t think most parents are making connections between pretty flowers and deadly drugs; indeed, dozens of girls are named Belladonna (poisonous plant) every year.  More than anything, I think it’s surprising that of all the times Poppy could have become a popular baby name, it just had to be in the middle of the Opioid Crisis.

Drug associations aside, the fact is that American parents are choosing this name for their daughters in increasing numbers.  I think its British popularity does influence some anglophiles, but there’s more to it.  Poppy‘s rise here is probably heavily tied to contemporary pop culture.

People Named Poppy:

  • Poppy Montgomery (b. 1972) – Actress, born in Australia.
  • Poppy Harlow (b. 1982) – CNN commentator; Poppy is her nickname.
  • Poppy Delevingne (b. 1986) – British model/actress who recently had a role in Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
  • Poppy (b. 1995) – Singer, uses Poppy as her stage name.

Poppy tends to make the rounds with “celebrity” babies, too.  Notably, the name belongs to one of Chef Jamie Oliver’s daughters, a great-granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush (whose childhood nickname was Poppy), and the daughter of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (of “Nate and Jeremiah by Design” fame, though she was born before the show launched).  Those last two were born in 2015.

Major or Recent Characters named Poppy:

  • Princess Poppy – main character in the movie Trolls (2016)
  • Poppy Adams – villain in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, played by Julianne Moore
  • Poppy Pomfrey – Hogwarts school nurse in Harry Potter series
  • Poppy Meadow – character in the British soap opera EastEnders from 2011 to 2014

California Poppy

It’s also worth mentioning that the California Poppy is that state’s official flower.  In 2016, 379 girls were named Poppy nationally; 52 of those were born in CA, and there were more there than in any other state.  Part of that’s because they have the largest population, the floral association probably helps too.  It’d certainly help explain why the 70s mini-spike was mostly contained there.

What do you think of the name Poppy – would you use it?  Would some of the more negative associations influence your decision, or do the positive associations outweigh them?  Let me know! 

The Many Ways to Spell Tiffany

Tiffany is quite an old name – it’s the medieval form of the Greek name Theophania (feminine for Theophanes, meaning “manifestation of God“), and was traditionally given to girls born on January 6th, or Epiphany.  Much more recently, Tiffany became popular in light of the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  If you’re unfamiliar with the movie or book, the story gets its name from the jewelry shop, not a character. 

As a trendy name becomes trendier, more spellings appear.  From the time Tiffany entered the top 1000 in 1962 to its peak in 1988, and even afterwards, over 50 different ways to spell Tiffany appeared in the Social Security Administration’s birth data.  I’ve tried to find them all.

Definite spellings:

  1. Teffani – debuts 1971 with 5 girls; only appearance.  Might be influenced by variation of Stephanie.
  2. Teffanie – debuts 1969 with 6 girls; only appearance.
  3. Teffany – debuts 1966 with 8 girls, peak in 1977 with 16 girls. Last appearance 1993.
  4. Tephanie – debuts 1968 with 6 girls, peak in 1982 with 14 girls. Last appearance 1988. 
  5. Tifanee – debuts 1980 with 5 girls, peak in 1987 with 9 girls. Last appearance 1991.
  6. Tifani – debuts 1967 with 12 girls, peak in 1981 and 1988 with 39 girls. Last appearance 2010.
  7. Tifanie – debuts 1970 with 8 girls, peak in 1980 with 34 girls. Last appearance 2001.
  8. Tifanny – debuts in 1980 with 7 girls, peak in 2003 and 2007 with 12 girls. Last appearance 2009.
  9. Tifany – debuts in 1966 with 5 girls, peak in 1982 with 66 girls. Last appearance 2013.
  10. Tiffaine – debuts in 1986 with 5 girls; only appearance.
  11. Tiffane – debuts in 1970 with 6 girls, peak in 1981 with 20 girls. Last appearance 1998.
  12. Tiffanee – debuts in 1969 with 8 girls, peak in 1988 with 43 girls. Last appearance 2002.
  13. Tiffaney – debuts in 1965 with 5 girls, peak in 1980 with 142 girls. Last appearance 2009.
  14. Tiffani – debuts in 1962 with 9 girls, peak in 1981 with 643 girls, 15 girls in 2016.
  15. Tiffanie –debuts in 1962 with 6 girls, peak in 1980 with 470. 6 girls in 2016
  16. Tiffannee – debuts in 1978; only appearance.
  17. Tiffanni – debuts in 1971 with 7 girls, peak in 1987 and 1994 with 8 girls. Last appearance 1997.
  18. Tiffannie – debuts in 1971 with 6 girls, peak in 1986 with 15. Last appearance in 1995. 
  19. Tiffanny – debuts in 1968 with 6 girls, peak in 1982 and 1984 with 21 girls. Last appearance 2006.
  20. Tiffany – debuts 1942 with 7 girls. Peak in 1988 with 18364 girls. Entered top 1000 in 1962, peaked 1982 and 1988 (with highest percentage in ’88).  Current rank: #558 with 555 girls. 
  21. Tiffanye – debuts 1972 with 7 girls. Peak in 1980 with 10 girls.  Last appearance 1985.
  22. Tiffeney – debuts in 1970 with 6 girls. Peak in 1982 and 1983 with 7 girls.  Last appearance 1985.
  23. Tiffeny – debuts 1968 with 6 girls. Peak in 1989 with 31 girls.  Last appearance 2003.
  24. Tifffany – debuts 1988 with 6 girls; only appearance.
  25. Tiffiani – debuts 1980 with 5 girls. Peak in 1980 and 1992 with 5 girls.  Last appearance 1992.
  26. Tiffiany – debuts 1966 with 7 girls. Peak in 1982 with 50 girls.  Last appearance 1999.
  27. Tiffinay – debuts 1971 with 5 girls. Peak in 1976 with 8 girls.  Last appearance 1988. 
  28. Tiffine – debuts 1971 with 8 girls, peak in 1984 with 18 girls. Last appearance 1995.
  29. Tiffinee – debuts 1973 with 5 girls, peak in 1988 with 10 girls. Last appearance 1990.
  30. Tiffiney – debuts 1966 with 10 girls, peak in 1981 with 63 girls. Last appearance 2001.
  31. Tiffini – debuts 1964 with 7 girls, peak in 1980 with 71 girls. Last appearance 2007.
  32. Tiffinie – debuts 1967 with 8 girls, peak in 1981 and 1982 with 22 girls. Last appearance 1996.
  33. Tiffiny – debuts 1964 with 10 girls, peak in 1980 with 144 girls. Last appearance 2008.
  34. Tiffnay – debuts 1975 with 6 girls, peak in 1981 with 12 girls. Last appearance 1989.
  35. Tiffney – debuts 1962 with 7 girls, peak in 1980 with 66 girls. Last appearance 2002.
  36. Tiffni – debuts 1970 with 11 girls, peak in 1970 with 11 girls. Last appearance 1971.
  37. Tiffnie – debuts 1970 with 5 girls; only appearance.
  38. Tiffny – debuts 1972 with 7 girls. Peak in 1984 with 12 girls.  Last appearance 1988.
  39. Tiffoni – debuts 1972 with 6 girls; only appearance.
  40. Tiffonie – debuts 1971 with 5 girls. Peak in 1971, 1975, and 1976 with 5 girls.  Last appearance 1976.
  41. Tiffony – debuts 1966 with 5 girls, peak in 1980 with 16 girls. Last appearance 1990.
  42. Tifini – debuts 1967 with 5 girls, peak in 1982 with 12 girls. Last appearance 1995.
  43. Tifinie – debuts 1971 with 5 girls, peak in 1980 with 6 girls. Last appearance 1980.
  44. Tifiny – debuts 1979 with 5 girls, peak in 1980 with 6 girls. Last appearance 1980.
  45. Tifney – debuts 1970 with 7 girls, peak in 1970 and 1977 with 7 girls. Last appearance 1982.
  46. Tifni – debuts 1980 with 5 girls; only appearance.
  47. Tifphanie – debuts 1976 with 6 girls; only appearance.
  48. Tiphanee – debuts 1995 with 5 girls; only appearance.
  49. Tiphani – debuts 1971 with 6 girls, peak in 1988 with 24 girls. Last appearance 2007.
  50. Tiphanie – debuts 1967 with 5 girls, peak in 1988 with 32 girls. Last appearance 2009.
  51. Tiphany – debuts 1968 with 5 girls, peak in 1993 with 15 girls. Last appearance 2001.
  52. Tyfani – debuts 1990 with 7 girls; only appearance.
  53. Tyffani – debuts 1980 with 7 girls, peak in 1987, 1993, and 1995 with 11 girls. Last appearance 2001.
  54. Tyffanie – debuts 1979 with 5 girls, peak in 1985 with 7 girls. Last appearance 1992
  55. Tyffany – debut 1975 with 7 girls, peak in 1989 with 13 girls. Last appearance 2000.

The names in bold are the ones that were still being given to babies in 2016.

Uncertain spellings:

  • Taffani – debuts 1972 with 5 girls, peaks in 1972 and 1992 with 5 girls.  Last appearance 1992.  Sounds more like Daphne.
  • Taffany – debuts 1967 with 6 girls, peaks 1988 with 24 girls.  Last appearance 1994.
  • Taffney – debuts 1970 with 5, peaks 1970 and 1974 with 5 girls.  Last appearance 1974.
  • Tiffancy – debuts 1975 with 5 girls, peak in 1986.  Last appearance 1988.
  • Tiphaine – debuts 1976 with 5 girls; only appearance.
  • Tippany – debuts 1982 with 6 girls; only appearance.

Names Inspired by Tiffany:

  • Latiffany – debuts 1974 with 6 girls, peak in 1987 with 22 girls.  Last appearance 1994.
  • Tiffanique – debuts 1992 with 5 girls, peak in 1993 with 6 girls.  Last appearance 1993.
  • Tiffaniamber – debuts 1993 with 6 girls, peak in 1997 with 9 girls.  Last appearance 1997.
  • Tiffanyamber – debuts 1994 with 8 girls, peak in 1994 and 1998 with 8 girls.  Last appearance 1999.
  • Tiffanyann – debuts in 1981 with 7 girls.
  • Tiffanymarie – debuts 1987 with 5 girls.
  • Tiffay – debuts 1974 with 6 girls, peak in 1987 with 28 girls.  Last appearance 1988.
  • Tiffin – debuts 1966 with 5 girls, peak in 1968, 1977, and 1980 with 7 girls.  Last appearance 1982.
  • Tiffy – debuts 1974 with 5 girls, peak in 1981 with 7 girls.  Last appearance 1981.

Do you have a favorite spelling of Tiffany?  Have you met someone with an unusual spelling of this name, even one that didn’t make this list?  Let me know!


Royalty-Inspired Baby Names

What is up with all the royalty-inspired baby names that are suddenly popular?  For a country without a royal family or inherited aristocracy, you’d think Americans are suddenly obsessed!  Royalty and Reign both debuted in the top 1000 in 2016, and other names like Royal, Prince, and Princess also rose in the charts.

Here is a list of not-so-traditional royal baby names American parents chose in 2016!  Rare names are listed by number of uses, while popular names are listed by rank.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 1 : le roi Édouard le Confesseur

In 2016, King (#152) was a more popular name for baby boys than Edward (#163), a traditional royalty-inspired name.


  • Emperor – 5 boys in 2016, down from 10.
  • Empress – 95 girls, up from 66. 
  • King – #152, up from #163.  This is a common surname and fairly old-fashioned baby name.  Before King‘s 2006 return to the top 1000, the name hadn’t appeared since 1964. 
  • Queen – 197 girls, up from 148.
  • Prince – #343, up from #388.  This name has been rising for several years, but received a large boost from the mononymous singer’s death last year. 
  • Princess – #767, up from #999.  Prince’s death might have caused the boost to Princess too.  I’d also wager that a very few Princesses were named after Leia
  • Duke – #556, up from #602.  Already rising, this is a name that makes people think of college sports, jazz, and John Wayne.
  • Duchess – 14 girls, up from 10 in 2015.
  • Marquis – #943, down from #927.
  • Earl – 109 boys, down from 128.
  • Baron – 134 boys, up from 133.  Another spelling, Barron, rose because of Barron Trump. 

If you lived elsewhere in the English-speaking world, there’s a decent chance that most of these title names would be banned.  Just look at New Zealand.  Strangely, I don’t think the United Kingdom has titled name restrictions; in 2007, the BBC reported that the U.K. only prohibits offensive names.  What’s more, the latest England/Wales data indicates that were 72 girls named Princess, 28 boys named Duke, and 20 boys named King.

Titles in other languages:

  • Kaiser – 202 boys, up from 140.  German word for “emperor,” English word for a royally delicious sandwich roll.  5 girls also received this name in 2016, so I’d like to point out that the German word for “Empress” is “Kaiserin.”  Kaiserin could be a very pretty name, actually.  Would you call her Kai, Erin, or by her full name?  Anyway, Kaiser should have been in the top 1000 but four other boys’ names were used 202 times and three of them preceded Kaiser in alphabetical order.  We usually don’t rank names below the top 1000, but Kaiser currently ranks #1001.
  • Reina – #853, up from #954.  Reina is Spanish for “queen.”  Other variants are Reyna (#666, up from #711), Rayna (#675, up from #722), and Raina (#835, up from #926.  I think Star Wars is at least partly responsible for the gains, since these names look and sound so close to “Rey.”  However, Reyna, Rayna, and Raina also gained between 2014 and 2015 (but not Reina)…
  • Reine – 12 girls (up from 8 in 2015).  French for “queen.”  Other spellings Raine (97 girls and 10 boys) and Rayne (#941, +42 boys), along with the first reappearance of Lareine (6 girls – literally “the queen”) in the birth data since the early 1930s.  Rayne reentered the top 1000 in 2015!  This time, I think both Star Wars and the popularity of the name Reign (see below) are responsible.
  • Rex – #632, up from #681.  Latin word for “king.”
  • Regina – #437, up from #517.  Latin and Italian word for “queen.”  This name is a classic and has never been out of the top 1000, though she’s rebounded in the last few years.  I initially assumed ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” was the reason for the revival, but apparently the name started returning the year before the show started.
  • Rey – #868 (up from #904), 63 girls.  Spanish word for “king.”  Thanks to the popularity of the character from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2016 is the first year on record that Rey has been used as a girls’ name.  It also rose as a boys’ name.
  • Raja – 13 boys, down from 15 boys and 9 girls.  Sanskrit for “king.”
  • Contessa – 16 girls, down from 17.  Italian for “countess.”
  • Sultan – 97 boys, up from 69.  Arabic for “king.”
  • Marquise – 110 boys, down from 136.  Although Marquise is a feminine word in French, the name is strictly masculine.


  • Crown – 6 boys.  Data debut!
  • Tiara – 108 girls, down from 112.
  • Taj – 163 boys and 11 girls, down from 200 and 18.  Taj means “crown” in Arabic.

Palaces or Castles:

  • Kensington – 261 girls and 12 boys.  Kensington ranked #962 in 2015, but surprisingly fell out of the top 1000 in 2016.
  • Windsor – 35 girls and 14 boys, up from 32 girls and 11 boys in 2015.   
  • Versailles – 5 uses; data debut!  As far as we know, this name was never used (i.e., wasn’t a name) before 2016.  The show Versailles might be the influencing factor.


  • Royalty – #532, 39 boys.  Celebrity baby name!  Chris Brown has a daughter Royalty, who was born in 2015.  Later that same year, he named an album after her. 
  • Royal – #460 for boys, #628 for girls.  Royal is a top 100 girls’ name in Washington D.C.   
  • Reign – #829, 158 boys.  Top 1000 debut!  From what I can tell, most of the namesakes coming from celebrity babies are boys!  This includes a Kardashian kid born in late 2014.  When I’ve seen Reign for girls, it always seems to be a middle name.  There’s also a TV show called “Reign” about Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Sovereign – 9 boys (up from 7), 7 girls (reentry).  Sovereign is rightly unisex, since both kings and queens can rule in their own right. 
  • Noble – 140 boys, 15 girls.  Noble was a top 1000 boys’ name until 1954.
  • Jubilee – 223 girls.  A jubilee is a kind of anniversary celebration that usually refers to royalty.  2017 is the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s sapphire jubilee (65 years on the throne). 
  • Castle – 15 boys, down from 27.  Are they named after the TV show?
  • Kingdom – 28 boys, up from 16 in 2015. 
  • Majesty – 136 girls (up from 91) and 44 (up from 33).
  • Yamajesty – 5 boys (in 2016 and 2015).  Not “Your majesty,” but his sarcastic brother.
  • Sirking – 6 boys in 2016. (doesn’t appear in 2015 data).  Between Yamajesty and Sirking, I can tell you this is definitely *not* how you address a royal.

Of course, you can always go with the traditional method of naming after royalty – using their names!  Which style do you prefer?

Ultimately, I don’t think Americans are suddenly royalty-crazy…at least, not anymore than we already are.  I think this “trend” is serendipity; several factors converged in 2015 to give these names some serious appeal for 2016.  The question is: will these names continue to rise in 2017 or is this a curious blip?   What do you think?

Names from Guardians of the Galaxy

Before you proceed: Mild Spoilers Warning!

I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last night.  I absolutely loved the first movie – the pacing, the soundtrack, and OMG did I mention the soundtrack?  This sequel was good too, but it just didn’t have the same charm for me as the first one.  Don’t get me wrong – the soundtrack (Awesome Mix Vol. 2) is fantastic!  Hopefully they’ll release it on vinyl…


Please release Awesome Mix Vol. 2 on vinyl!

When I go to movie theaters now, it’s not just about entertainment.  Collecting character names has become a significant part of my movie-going experience.  So…here’s my post about the influence of Guardians of the Galaxy on baby names!  I’ve checked these names against the most up-to-date birth data from the Social Security Administration.

Both Volumes:

Peter Peter left the top 100 in 1997, but he’s always been popular.  This name stabilized in wake of Guardians Vol. 1, and although rank decreased slightly between 2014 and 2015, raw usage increased.  I can’t see Peter returning to the top 100 any time soon, but he’s not going south, either.  2015 rank: #206, with 1913 uses.  For extra context, the 2013 (pre-GotG) rank was also #206, but with 1849 uses. 

Quill Peter‘s surname shot up from 5 uses in 2014 to 21 uses in 2015. 

Gamora – It honestly surprised me to learn that this hasn’t appeared in the data.   Awesome lady warrior in a major movie with a feminine-sounding name, and nobody thinks to name their daughters after her?  Something’s fishy here.  Then I realized…her name sounds a lot like Gomorrah.  Would that do it? 

Nebula – Only appeared once, in 2011.  Astronomy names are somewhat trendy now, so I think we will see a few more in the near future. 

Rocket – Well we can’t say that this name rocketed upwards after the first movie, but the usage almost doubled between 2014 and 2015.  13 boys and 7 girls were named Rocket in 2014 (the first time that Rocket was used for girls), and 25 boys and 11 girls were named Rocket in 2015. 

Drax – 6 boys in 2015.  Drax is probably my favorite (and a lot of people’s favorite) character in both movies due to his sense of humor.  That, and the “ax” ending give this baby name potential.  I think the surprising thing for me is that the name Drax debuted the year after the movie. 

Groot – No debut yet.  Expecting parents might be too concerned about “I am Groot” jokes to go ahead with this tree name. 

Yondu – Not in the data yet.

Kraglin – Not in the data, but Kraglin sounds fairly name-y. 

Howard – Howard the Duck cameos in both movies. The name Howard left the top 1000 in 2013 and again in 2015.  The best way to describe this name’s current status is “touch-and-go.”

Vol. 1:

Ronan – The popularity of Ronan had been rising for several years already, but an argument could be made that Guardians of the Galaxy accelerated it.  667 boys were named Ronan in 2013 (the year before GotG V.1), up from 593 in 2012.  In 2014, there were 864 male Ronans and 1024 in 2015.  

Korath – Hasn’t appeared in the data.

Nova – Like Ronan, this name was growing more popular at a fairly steady pace but then accelerated after Guardians of the Galaxy.  However, I can’t tell for sure whether GotG is the definite cause or if this name became super trendy for another reason.  I can say that Nova is increasingly popular for boys.  In 2015, 1511 girls and 127 boys were named Nova

Thanos – While Thanos didn’t debut in 2014 or 2015, the movie did return the name to the data and boosted it.  12 boys were named Thanos in 2015, up from 5 in 2014.  You can read more about this name here.

Vol 2:

Mantis – Maybe this sounds a little too much like “Praying Mantis,” but the character was adorable and I could see a few parents using the name. 

Ego – I hope I don’t see any birth announcements for Ego or data debuts.  Let’s just say that the character’s name was apt. 

Meredith – Peter Quill’s mom.  The name Meredith has started to rise again, but I don’t think Meredith Quill is the reason because I don’t remember her first name being mentioned in the first GotG (even though the character appeared).  That said, 507 girls (rank #590) were named Meredith in 2015, up from 475 (#609) in 2014 and 431 (#660) in 2013. 

Brandy – There’s no character named Brandy in the movie, but the 1970s song Brandy was a major motif.  65 girls and 11 boys were named Brandy in 2015, and I wonder if we’ll see the name rise in 2017 and 2018 because of the soundtrack.  However, Brandy is both outdated (peak was 1979) and an alcoholic beverage, probably tempering this name’s ability to make a major comeback at this time. 

Ayesha – 151 girls were named Ayesha in 2015; the name is a variation of the Arabic name Aisha.  

Taserface – Yeah, you probably shouldn’t name your kid Taserface.  They made fun of this one so badly in the movie…and Taserface just thought he was being cool and intimidating. 😦

Stakar – played by Sylvester Stallone.  That was awesome.  To my knowledge, not in the data.

The thing I’ve generally found with these names is that the first movie positively influenced names that already existed, but didn’t really proliferate new names.  Drax is an exception, but his name has a trendy sound. 

What are your favorite names from Guardians of the Galaxy


Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 10.17.18 PMGrayson is what I think of as a balanced name; it sounds both rugged and refined, modern and old.  One of the trendiest boys’ names of this decade, Grayson has been in the American top 1000 since 1984.  Maybe you knew a Grayson in high school (I did), and until now it was the only time you’ve heard this common last name used as a first name.  Over 20-odd years Grayson trickled upwards, slowly permeating the American consciousness until an accelerating spark sent him shooting towards the top.  This ‘spark’ ignited in 2009, and in 2011 he breached the top 100.  In 2015, he reached the top 50, landing at #47.  He’s also brought a variation with him; Greyson ranks #111 and will likely enter the top 100 in the 2016 set.  Other existing spellings include Greysen and the unisex Gracen.

Interestingly, there is precedence for Grayson as a women’s name.  Actress Grayson Hall (1922-1985) played Dr. Julia Hoffman on Dark Shadows in the late 60s and early 70s.  Her real name was Shirley, which was once considered a men’s name.  I’m not suggesting that Grayson will be the next Madison or Ashley; merely, that our gendered perceptions of names can and sometimes do change.  Will parents appropriate Grayson for their daughters?  168 female Graysons were born in 2015, though I won’t personally call it unisex until it hits the top 1000 or 10% of all Graysons born in a year (whichever comes first).

Besides Grayson Hall, there are many other namesakes for a baby Grayson (real and fictional, first-name and surnames).  Here are a few of them: 

  • Sen. William Grayson (1740-1790), an Anti-Federalist from Virginia.  He was the first U.S. Congressman to die in office.
  • Frances Wilson Grayson (1892-1927), an early aviatrix and relative of President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Amanda Grayson, Spock’s mother in Star Trek. 
  • Grayson, a character in a Highlander episode from 1993.  The name Grayson noticeably jumped almost 100 places between 1993 and 1994, though I don’t know if a single episode can affect the charts that strongly.
  • Grayson Kent, a character on the show Drop Dead Diva.  The series began in 2009.
  • Grayson Ellis, a character on the show Cougar Town.  This series also began in 2009.
  • The Grayson family, characters in the ABC series Revenge (2011-2015)

From what I can see, Grayson has a lot of TV connections.  Grayson Kent and Grayson Ellis are leads that may explain why over 1,000 more boys were named Grayson in 2010 than in 2009 (and most years since).  Ultimately, I think Grayson would have grown more popular on its own, but pop culture and timing mean a lot in the baby-naming sphere.

I predict that we’ll find Grayson somewhere in the #30-40 range in the 2016 set.  These days, raw usage for names doesn’t just go up 1,000 babies in a year only to drop that same amount the next year!  Grayson boasts a strong upwards trajectory and if it continues he might soon land in the top 20.  I don’t think Grayson will enter the top 1000 for girls, but you never know!  

Fun fact: In 2015, Grayson appeared on the top 100 list for every state and the District of Columbia except California!  California is one of only two or three states where the population is so large that landing in their top 100 automatically secures a spot in the U.S. top 1000.  What does that tell you?  Anyhow, Grayson ranked highest in Kentucky (where there’s a Grayson County, named after Sen. Grayson) and lowest in New Mexico.

What do you think of Grayson?  Is there another spelling you like more?  And finally, what do you think about Grayson as a girls’ name: does it work either way, or should Grayson stay a men’s name?

*P.S. I’m honestly worried that part of Grayson‘s growing popularity has to do with sounding close to “Fifty Shades of Gray.”  Grayson is subtle enough to provide an alibi…

The ‘Ph’ Treatment

You’ve probably seen traditionally ‘Ph’ names spelled with an ‘F.’  This tends to happen in Romance languages like Italian and Spanish and in phonetic transliterations of Modern Greek.  Filomena, Felipe, and Fotini are fairly well-known cognates of Philomena, Philip, and Photine.  These ‘F’ spellings are perfectly legitimate and well-established; you’d never refer to them as “youneek” or “kre8tyv” spellings!

On the other hand, a few Americans have taken names that traditionally begin with ‘F’ and spelled them instead with ‘Ph.”  These spellings usually do count under “youneek” and “kre8tyv,” though I wonder how many are phonetic rather than intentional.  Some parents may hear a name and love it but not see it written down before they put it on the birth certificate.  On the other hand, I’m cynical and wonder how many parents know and just don’t care.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 1.42.02 PM

“Phrom” the 2015 data:

Farrah becomes Pharrah (16 girls) or Phara (5 girls).  Arabic names like Farrah always have multiple spellings when they enter English.  You simply can’t establish a standard transliteration for a name from another alphabet.

Finley -> Phinley (14 girls).  I wondered if this was influenced by Phineas at all, but so far Phinley has only registered for girls.  To be fair, Finley is a more popular girls’ name than boys’ name, but we may see male Phinley‘s if Finley continues rising for both genders.

Faith -> Phaith (8 girls).  Phaith actually looks kinda pretty, but considering that Faith is a word in every English dictionary…I can’t justify this.  If you want to use a word as a baby name, please check the spelling first. 

Fallon -> Phalynn (5 girls).  Fallon first debuted in the 1980s, bringing with a plethora of both ‘f’ and ‘ph’ variations.  Nothing new here!

Farrell -> Pharrell (14 boys) or Pharell (7 boys).  Whether you spell it with an ‘F’ or a ‘Ph,’ it boasts celebrity associations.  Farrell refers to actor Colin Farrell, and Pharrell to musician Pharrell Williams.

Felix -> Phelix (6 boys).  i.e., The geneticist’s favorite baby name.  Honestly, Phaith looks better than Phelix.  But that’s just me…

Finn -> Phynn (6 boys).

“Phrom” the Past:

Fabian -> PhabianPhabian last appeared in 2013.

Fanta -> Phanta.  1978 only. 

Fantasia -> PhantasiaPhantasia appeared sporadically between 1991 and 2005.

Faramond -> PharamondNot from the data…Pharamond is the Shakespearian spelling of Faramund / Faramond, who was king of the Franks. 

Fatima -> PhatimaLast appeared in 2007.

Fawn -> Phawn 1976 only.

Felicia -> Phelicia.  1960s-1990s.

Felicity -> Phelicity.  A millennial (1999/2000) edition. 

Felony -> Phelony.  Both are too rare for the data (thankfully), but occasionally and unfortunately pop up sometimes.  See Phelony: A Baby Name Rant.

Fiona -> Phiona.  Last appeared in 2014, so maybe again in 2016?

Now “phantasize” about:

To my knowledge, nobody has previously discovered or used these.

Faustine -> Phaustine

Faye -> Phaye

Finnegan -> Phinnegan

Fitzgerald -> Phitzgerald

Flavia -> Phlavia

Fleur / Fleurette -> Phleur, Phleurette

Flora -> Phlora

Florence -> Phlorence

Forrest -> Phorrest

Fox -> Phox

Francis / Frances -> Phrancis / Phrances

Frankie -> Phrankie

Frederick -> Phrederick

Freya -> Phreya

What are your thoughts on the ‘Ph’ treatment of ‘F’ names?  I’m not big on it, but some spellings are admittedly less atrocious than others.  If I can designate a favorite from each category, they’d have to be Pharrell, Phawn, and Phreya.

The data for this post comes from the SSA and the wonderful Nancy’s Baby Names.


The Four Seasons

Today, March 20th, is the vernal equinox.  A happy first day of spring to those of you in the northern hemisphere, and a happy first day of autumn to those of you in the southern hemisphere!   


Have you ever wondered if any of the seasons are also baby names?  They’re more common than you might think.  Currently, 3 out of 4 seasons fall within the American top 1000 (pun unintended).

While only 21 girls were named Spring in 2015, she was briefly popular between 1975 and 1979.  Spring peaked in 1976 with a rank of #624.

Summer has been a top 1000 baby name since 1971.  1671 girls and 8 boys were named Summer in 2015.  Summer‘s popularity has also allowed a few compound names to pop up, including Summerrose (Summer-Rose; 7 uses) and Summerrain (Summer-Rain; 6 uses).  Summer currently ranks #194 in the U.S. and #66 in England and Wales.

Nobody uses Fall as a baby name, but Autumn is the most popular seasonal name!   In the top 1000 since 1969, she currently ranks #67 in the U.S. and #148 in England and Wales. 

Winter was briefly popular in the late 1970s, but left in 1980 and didn’t return until 2012.  Current U.S. rank: #548

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 6.16.34 PM.png

The 2015 popularity of season names represented in a word cloud.  Notice how Spring doesn’t appear?  That’s because she’s extremely rare compared to the other three, which are all in the top 1000.

Extra tidbits:

  • All seasons were concurrently popular baby names in the late 70s. 
  • Winterrose, Summerrose, and Autumnrose are all currently entries in the data, but if Springrose exists as a baby name there have never been enough to make an appearance.
  • Season itself is an extant baby name.  7 girls were named Season in 2015, though her peak was – you guessed it – in the 1970s.  I wonder if any of them were named following the Terry Jacks rendition of “Seasons in the Sun,” considering that both the name and the song came out in ’73.     
  • When Summer was first popular in the 70s, the German word for the season also became popular.  Sommer was a top 1000 baby name between 1976 and 1982, and also in 1984 and 1995.  In 2015, only 35 baby girls were given this variant.
  • Summer is the only season name that lost popularity between 2014 and 2015.  All the others gained. 
Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 6.19.32 PM.png

The 1978 popularity of seasons as baby names.  This was one of the only two years that all four seasons were popular; the other was 1979. 

What’s your favorite season name?  Let me know in the comments!

Is it Paisley? Is it Hazel? Nope, it’s Haisley!

Since 2010, over 200 baby girls have been named Haisley.  In 2015, there were 62; up from 49 in 2014 and 2013, and 24 in 2012.  Following her lead are the spellings Haizley (used 29 times in 2015) and Hazley (15 times)  Haisley‘s trendiness seems to be inspired by similar-sounding Paisley‘s meteoric rise.  Paisley only entered the top 1000 in 2006, when 326 girls were given the name; but in 2015, Paisley was given to 5056 girls in the U.S. alone, ranking #45!

Still, correlation does not equal causation, and if Haisley is taking off there may be other factors.  Old-fashioned Hazel started making her comeback as early as the late Nineties, but she received a substantial boost from the 2014 movie The Fault in Our Stars.  The 2015 data shows that in terms of raw usage, Hazel‘s popularity has basically doubled since 2013 (2051 in 2013, 4270 in 2015).  In terms of rank, she has more than doubled.  Indeed, 2015 is the first year Hazel has fallen within the top 100 since 1936!  I predict she’ll enter the top 50 in 2016. 

Besides Paisley and Hazel, some other names that might influence Haisley‘s rise are Hadley, Eisley, Hayes, Hailey, and Ainsley.  They are stretches, though.  Hadley and Ainsley‘s popularity decreased from 2014 to 2015, whereas Haisley got more popular.  Eisley is trending upwards, but is probably pronounced more like the name Isla than like Hazel or Paisley.  The still-growing popularity of Hayes as a boys’ name makes me wonder if anyone’s treated Haisley as a feminine form, but the “ay” versus “ai” spelling makes me unsure.  Hailey raises an interesting question for me, because she’s still popular enough to be a top 100 name, but she also reached peak popularity a decade ago and has been falling ever since. 

Finally, I’ve been pondering on the qualities that might make Haisley a popular choice among parents, independent of similarities to Paisley or Hazel…other than being a rare alternative to extremely popular names, of course.  Google and Wikipedia are great places to look if I want to get a feel for a name in the real world. 

Based on my internet searches, I’ve found out:

  • Jamaica had an Olympic high jumper named Ernle Haisley, so I guess we can add it to lists of sports-related names?
  • It’s a real surname, not a modern creation by adventurous parents.  A user-submission on Behind the Name indicates that Haisley might be a variation on Hazley, which the submitter defines as meaning “hazel wood.”  Keep in mind that User-submissions aren’t always checked for accuracy, but Behind the Name is generally reliable and that’s the first place I usually to check for definitions.  
  • Michigan has an elementary school called Haisley.

Ultimately this is a very obscure name, but even the rarest names (and especially the rarest names) deserve to have a spotlight shown on them.  I don’t think Haisley will be a top 1000 name in 2016 or 2017, but I don’t think she’ll stop being trendy right away, either.

What do you think of Haisley?



“AND MY AXE!”  These are some of the most famous and meme-ified words from Lord of the Rings, alongside “one does not simply walk into Mordor,” “my precious,” and “they’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”    

But here I am thinking about names and saying “AND MY…Jax?”  Some of the trendiest boys’ baby names this decade contain the sound “ax.”  Jaxon feels like the new Jayden, and Max the new MattJaxson, now a top 100 name, has only appeared in the extended data since 1991 and the top 1000 since 1999.  25 years is incredibly young for a name, though admittedly, notorious Nevaeh is even younger at 19.  However, men’s names also diversify and mature more slowly than women’s names, which basically renders Jaxson a kindergartner and Nevaeh his 3rd-grade sister.

How about we play a fun game?  I dare you to read each of the following names aloud, preceded by “And my…”  For example, “And my Baxter!”  Parents often use this kind of exercise to decide whether their chosen baby name would sound good on a doctor or lawyer.  This evolution of the game simply serves to find a name that sounds good with the meme.  The names you’ll see below were all given to American babies in 2015, according to data from the Social Security Administration.


Jaxon – #44.  A wildly popular variant of Jackson, which ranks #17.  Jaxon is also in the English/Welsh top 100. 

Jaxson – #84.  Another version of Jackson.

Maxwell – #113.  The most popular long-form of Max, and one of the older names in this set.  Popularity was fairly volatile until the 1970s, but usage has been fairly steady in the top 200 for the last 25 years.  One of the most famous associations is the Beatles song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

Max – #118.  Of all the names here, this is the only one that’s been in the top 1000 every year since 1880.

Braxton – #122.  This is actually one of the older names here.  He’s been in the top 1000 since the 1980s, but appears in SSA birth data during most of the 20th century.  It’s no wonder this is a “classic” ‘ax’ name – potential namesake Carter Braxton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

Axel – #123. 

Maximus – #197.  I was surprised to learn that Maximus has only appeared in the extended data since 1997, considering it’s Ancient Roman.  Of course, I’m not surprised that he’s only popular because of Gladiator, which was released in 2000.  There were only 11 boys named Maximus in 1999, but there were close to 200 the next year and almost 900 in 2001.

Jax – #214.

Paxton – #229.

Maximiliano – #302.  This ‘ax’ is a little unwieldy, but can’t you appreciate its six syllables?  Maximiliano is positively melodic!

Daxton – #388.

Maximilian – #437.

Dax -#548.

Axton – #698.

Axl – #761.  I think the growing popularity of Axl corresponds more to the character on ABC’s The Middle than to Guns and Roses.

Maxim – #778.

Maxton – #805.

Maximo – #852.

Maxine – 231 girls. Maxine is the highest ranking ‘ax’ name for girls, but barely misses the cut for the top 1000.  Maxine‘s peak popularity was in the 1920s, and she’s been out of the top 1000 for twenty years.  But, raw usage has nearly doubled from ten years ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she reenters the top 1000 by the next Twenties.  That would be centennial serendipity. 

Baxter – 68 boys. 

Pax – 63 boys, 6 girls.  Pax is the Roman personification/goddess of peace.  As a boys’ name, it’s probably meant as a nickname for Paxton

Saxon – 41 boys, 5 girls. 

Jaxiel – 29 boys.  Yaxiel – 13 boys.  Jaxiel and Yaxiel appear to be inspired by Bible names, but I don’t know if they are Biblical themselves.  If they are, the Bible names that come to mind are Jahziel (29), Jehiel (9), and even Ezekiel (2755/#148).  While there’s very little information on either of these names, a quick Google search suggests that both spellings almost always appear next to Spanish surnames.

Maximino – 28 boys.

Saxton – 28 boys.

Jaxie – 24 girls.  Adorable!

Zaxton – 17 boys.

Ajax – 16 boys.  The image of Gimli presenting a household cleaner as a weapon cracks me up, but Ajax is a rather ancient name.

Axavier – 13 boys. A curious phonetic spelling of Xavier.

Maxima – 13 girls.  Feminine form of Maximus, and the name of Mark Zuckerberg’s daughter.  She’s called “Max” for short. 🙂

Galaxy – 11 girls, 5 boys.  If Gimli had a cell phone…

Axelle – 10 girls. Feminine form of Axel.

Maxfield – 10 boys.

Thaxton – 10 boys.

Axe – 8 boys.  AND MY…wait.  The important question we must ask ourselves: is it Axe like the weapon or the body spray?

Braxley – 8 boys, 7 girls. 

Laxmi – 7 girls. 

Yaxeni – 7 girls. 

Jaxlynn – 6 girls. 

Drax – 6 boys.  The thought of Gimli offering up Drax the Destroyer is kind of hilarious. 

Axiom – 5 boys.  The words “maxim” and “axiom” both refer to some kind of truth.  Both are on this list…twin names?

Baxley – 5 girls.  Baxlee was also given to five girls.

Thoughts?  Feel free to ax me questions in the comments.

Links to general information/data about names: