Amara and Milo are shaking up this most popular baby names list.
Parents may finally be growing out of picking the same-old baby names.
Emma remains the most popular girls’ name for the fourth year in a row, according to the Social Security Administration’s recent report for 2017’s favorite names, while Liam took the top boys’ spot from Noah. Both Liam and Noah have been one and two on the list for the past few years.
But Nameberry’s mid-year report of the most commonly searched monikers for 2018 finds that the most popular names are getting more unique. For girls, Amara jumped from ninth place to second in attracting the most activity on the site over the past year. It has Italian, Greek and African roots, generally meaning “grace” or “bitter.” Amara also means “immortal” in Sanskrit, and “peaceful” in Mongolian. It’s popular as a modern blend of Amanda and Mary.
Milo is the No. 2 name for boys on Nameberry’s list, up from sixth place last year. Its German roots translate into meaning “soldier or merciful,” and it’s also renowned as the name of an ancient Greek Olympic wrestler. And much of its popularity can likely be traced to “This Is Us” star Milo Ventimiglia, who plays beloved dad Jack Pearson.
Names.org also took a crack at predicting the top infant names for 2018 based on its own visitor search data and previous Social Security trends. And this site suggested that Noah and Liam will remain the top two boys’ names for the fifth year in a row (simply inverting what the Social Security Administration has found), while accurately predicting that Olivia and Emma would swap first and second place.
But there’s also been a rash of gender-neutral baby names such as Royal, Charlie, Salem, Skyler, Justice and Oakley popping up in more playgroups, according to the Social Security Administration.
“There’s no question there are more names without a gender association,” Laura Wattenberg, author of the Baby Name Wizard, told Moneyish. “There’s a total revolution in American naming; everybody is pushing to be more and more creative, and that means creating more names by turning words and places into names.”
Though gender-neutral names first saw an uptick in the 60s for the sense of gender neutrality, by the 80s, people wanted their daughters to have names that didn’t give away their gender, or that gave them a leg up in business. Pamela Redmond Satran, co-founder of Nameberry, told Moneyish that, “Surnames that sounded business-appropriate like Parker, Carter, Morgan and Jordan became popular, but the thinking today has evolved in a positive way, which is that boys and girls both benefit [from fluid names].”
And some darker monikers have also been drumming up a lot of interest. Take Kylo, as in the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” villain played by “Girls” star Adam Driver. Kylo’s popularity went into hyperdrive over the past couple of years since he appeared in “Jedi’s” predecessor “The Force Awakens,” jumping 1,467 spaces since that film’s December 2015 release date.
“The rise of Kylo is really fascinating, but it’s a case where this is not a straight villain name, but the name of an intriguing character played by a hot new actor, and also a new spin on a familiar name, Kyle, with a trendy ‘O’ ending,” said Redmond Satran. “If neither of these things had been true — if the character were just a mysterious figure in a black mask and his name was totally unfamiliar — you wouldn’t have seen this kind of interest in the name. You didn’t see babies named Darth or Vader, for instance.”
Then again, Wattenberg told Moneyish that moms have been christening their kids after the demonic children from “The Omen” (Damien), “The Exorcist” (Regan) and “Pet Sematary” (Gage) for decades. “There’s a sort of elegant darkness in these names that the screenwriters chose that just appealed to parents,” she said.
But parents may want to take a pregnant pause before giving their kid an evil or aggressive label for the rest of their lives, since research shows that names can influence how much you make and how likely you are to get hired.
A 2011 New York University study (subtitled “Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun”) found that people with names that were easier to pronounce and to spell often had better jobs. And a Marquette University study reported people with more common names are more likely to be hired than those with rare names – so the current crop of Emmas, Noahs and Liams are in luck.
There are also racial biases and socioeconomic prejudices at play, as a 2004 study found that white-sounding job candidates named Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50% more callbacks than Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones.
You also don’t want to make a kid’s name too long. Online job matching site TheLadders found that shorter names earned more money, with names five letters or less like Tom, Rob, Dale, Doug, Wayne, Lynn, Cathy and Dana among the richest. The data revealed each “extra” letter cost $3,600 apiece in annual salary.
This article was originally published on May 2017 and has been updated.
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