2015 SSA name data released

For the past week or so I’d been seeing the name bloggers eagerly anticipating the release of the 2015 name stats from the Social Security Administration — it’s only because of them that I knew it was going to happen today, because I’m the absolute worst at being in the know and at the right place at the right time and the first one with the breaking news and all — I was actually stressed out at the idea of having to blog about it quickly and though I’d wait until tomorrow to do it. I’m so. weird.

But I took a look at the list this morning, and had a couple things to say so I thought I *would* post about it today after all, as I should, being a name blogger and all, and I’d love to hear your thoughts too!


My first reaction was absolute shock that Harper is now in the top ten for girls. Wow! I had NO idea it was that popular!!

Noah and Emma retained their #1 spots, and I’m feeling surprised by that because the people I discuss names with (mostly all of you) tend to stay away from those names because of past popularity, so all I hear about them is that they’re generally not being used. But they’re great names and pretty “normal” (not like Abcde, for example), so I’m not disappointed that they’re the names on top.

I also took a quick look at the names that increased in popularity from 2014 — Alaia had the biggest increase for girls, jumping up 2012 spots from #2676 in 2014 to #664 in 2015! WOW!! Others that jumped up more than a thousand places are Meilani, Aitana, Aislinn, Taya, and Adeline (I love Aislinn and Adeline).

The boy name with the biggest increase is Riaan, up 1360 spots from #2286 in 2014 to #926 in 2015. No other boy names increased by a thousand or more — the next closest was Huxley, up 392 spots from 1354 to 962.

I didn’t scrutinize the list, but the other name that jumped out at me was Zaylee — #1304 to #990. I can’t imagine that’s influenced by our St. Zelie, since so many of us aren’t even sure how to say it, so I assume it’s a Baylee/Kaylee name … what a weird and interesting convergence of super Catholic and super trendy!

No shock at all was the fact that the girl name Isis took the biggest hit, decreasing 1065 spots from #705 to #1770. Maybe I’m surprised it didn’t fall farther?

That’s all I have to say for the moment, but be sure to check out those who have a better handle on it all than I do — some good analysis in these pieces, and more will be coming in the next few days I’m sure:

Appellation Mountain: Harper and Benjamin Enter the US Top Ten! (Abby had made some great predictions — including that both Harper and Benjamin would enter the top ten! Wow!)

Nameberry: Emma and Noah Top Baby Names List … Again

Baby Name Wizard: The Most Popular Baby Names in America for 2015


86 thoughts on “2015 SSA name data released

    • It’s been in the #1 spot for a few years, but remember that we have a great deal more naming diversity now than we did even 30 years ago. So, there were 19,511 boys named Noah last year in the entire country. Compare that to 1980, when the #1 boys’ name, Michael, garnered nearly 70,000(!) uses. (By 1986, Michael was still the #1 boys’ name, with over 64,000 boys named that, and Christopher in the #2 spot had over 56,000. In fact, ALL of the names in the top 20 for boys in 1986 were used in excess of 21,000 times. That means the 20th most popular name in 1986 was used more times that year than the very most popular name, Noah, was in 2015.)

      So basically, if you name your child Noah, he’s likely to meet other boys named that. He’s not very likely to sit in an entire classroom of other Noahs or be on a sports team filled with “Noah B.”, “Noah M.”, and “Noah S.”

      Liked by 4 people

      • My oldest son has a name that’s always been in the top ten (William), and we’ve yet to meet another William in his age group! (Interestingly, I have nephews named Ethan and Mason, also top ten names.) 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      • Yes! I was surprised to find William there, it feels old school to me (in a good way, I love it) — maybe because I know so many Wills and Liams and forget that they might very well be Williams!

        Liked by 1 person

      • To put this in context, there are 66,700 public elementary schools in the United States. That means that there’s only about a 1-in-3 chance of an elementary school having even a single Noah entering first grade 6 years from now.

        Liked by 3 people

      • JoAnna, yes! I have a son with a top-10 name, too (James), and we also don’t know any other Jameses. I was surprised to learn it was a top-10 name, actually.

        We do know one William, though! He’s 7. 😊

        Liked by 2 people

      • grace—it’s so interesting when you put it that way! It makes it seem so much less popular 😀

        Also, my sister is a first grade teacher and I don’t think she has ever had a repeat name in one of her classes. Maybe in the grade, but never in the class. Lots of similar names though, so that should be kept in mind. With Noah there aren’t many similar names. But a name like Ella (can’t come up with a boy name) has lots of similar names (Bella, Isabella, Stella ect) and is a nickname (Elizabeth, Eleanor) so Ella will seem super popular where as Charlotte might not seem as popular because there aren’t as many similar names.

        PS. JoAnna-William is my favorite name ever 😀 😀 😀

        Liked by 3 people

      • This is all making me think of the movie “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” (1962), where the dad (Jimmy Stewart) approaches a group of teenage boys at the local dance and says, “Hey, Jim!” One boy (played by Fabian of beachy dreamboat fame) turns around and says, “Yes, sir?” and the dad gives Jim $5!to dance with his daughter who’s feeling shy and unsociable. They end up falling for each other, of course. Later, the mom (Maureen O’Hara) asks how he knew the boy, and he said, “I just figured one of them had to be named Jim!”

        James was the most popular name of the 1940’s and 50’s, with almost 800,000 babies named that in the 40’s alone! So different from today! I can’t imagine that father’s trick working today! How would he even know what name to guess?!

        (Incidentally, other than this scene, the movie “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” is NOT very good.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • Quote: He’s not very likely to sit in an entire classroom of other Noahs or be on a sports team filled with “Noah B.”, “Noah M.”, and “Noah S.”

        My son’s baseball team (Catholic high school, both Varsity & JV included) has 5 Joseph’s – so they go by a variety of nicknames. And we all laugh about it in the stands. And in our Catholic homeschool circles Joseph is by far and away the most common name – we joke that you have to have a Joseph to be in our group. It definitely depends on your “peer” group – we are living in one that is definitely biases. In secular life he doesn’t often run into other Josephs.

        Liked by 2 people

      • grace – regarding your James observation from the Jimmy Stewart movie – we can do that with “Joseph” at any homeschool function and get about half a dozen guys who would respond – LOL

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I love that the SSA releases the data around Mother’s Day. I’ve been rapid fire entering all my favorites and my children’s names to see what’s trending. Thought people around here would be interested that Stella has risen from number 66 to 51.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will definitely remember from now on that the data is released around Mother’s Day — I can’t believe I didn’t realize that before!

      Yes I did see that Stella is continuing its popularity arc — very good to know!


  2. I think it’s weird that Emma has cycled back into popularity so quickly. Wasn’t it hugely popular just 15 years ago or so? It was my favorite name as a teenager, lo, these many years ago, but I’d never use it now. Though it’s a traditional name, its in-and-out popularity over the last nearly two decades makes it seem too trendy and too omnipresent.

    Nameberry predicted Charlotte’s rise ages ago when no one else saw it coming, so that feels gratifying to me since I favor Nameberry. 😉

    I was amused to see my nephew’s name (Noah) in the top 10, along with my sister’s dog’s name (Mason)! They are a top-10 kind of family, I guess! Lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma has been rising since the 80s, and it cracked the top 100 in 1993 🙂 It’s been hanging out in and around the top 10 for about 15 years now. The interesting thing is, Emma is the name that dethroned Emily, then it immediately fell to number 2 then 3, then came back to number 1, which is a rather strange trajectory for a name!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think Grace is referring to Emma, which has moved up and down within the top 5 and has previously been in the #1 spot. It does seem unusual for it to have gone up and down, and in and out of #1, which is what I was also referring to.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I had to look up Emma because I thought it had only been on an upward trajectory (not in-and-out) and it has been — since the late seventies/early eighties it’s only increased in popularity each year and has been in the top five every year since 2002! So yes, it was hugely popular 15 years ago, and has only gotten more so!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahahaha!! I love it, and it’s one of my husband’s very favorites, he’s always liked it — Charlotte too — and I’m pretty sure both are because of Jane Austen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • But it’s true about being ahead of the curve, at least if Fiona is any indication. It’s up almost 250 spots over the last 15 years.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know about that, other than the “ahead of the curve” thing. I don’t think my parents have either read a Jane Austen book, ever. I think they would consider Emma to be both “too English” and “too cute” (based on my impression of their opinions of things). I know they liked Maria and Mia as possible girls’ names, and Anthony was supposed to be the next boy’s name if they’d had one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m just constantly amazed that they named you and your sibs the way they did — Emma seems to fit right in, but I’m looking at it with 2016 eyes so maybe it doesn’t fit back then as well as I would think …

        Liked by 1 person

      • I *think* the style they were going for was dark and exotic, maybe gothic? They love Russian and French literature. I think, today, that at least Emma and Grace “match”, but I just can’t see them ever using any name that they construed as either matronly or perky, and I think it’s possible Emma could have had either of those connotations before it became ubiquitous.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love looking at the new lists every year!! The statistics like grace cited earlier in response the Colleen are what makes it so fascinating to me!!

    In terms of my feelings on the popularity of the names I love, I don’t really care. I actually kind of like my names being popular because it means I get to hear them more! And popular names (for the most part) are popular because they’re so great!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Oh! Also I learned in discussion with my local Catholic friends that they all prefer the pronunciation “Zellie” for Zelie, except me. I still don’t think it’s an intuitive pronunciation because the name has only one L. I strongly prefer the “Zaylee” pronunciation because it’s closer to the French and preserves the Azalea connection (Zélie was a nickname for Azélie). I also think it is slightly more intuitive given the spelling (though probably in a vacuum, English speakers would pronounce this word “zee-lee”, right?) But I’m apparently way in the minority!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Grace, like Emma, is also showing amazing staying power. Though it never hit the top 10 it’s not been falling much either. I let it’s popularity scare me off in 2008 and man do I regret that! Though my little girl is a great Katharine!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I am always so fascinated by these lists! So many of the names that are popular are names that I never encounter (on young kids). All of my three boys are between top 28-40 as are several other names we considered. That’s apparently our sweet spot! 😉 I’m surprised to see Sebastian so high and Lucy is not as high as I would have guessed.

    Liked by 3 people

      • This grouping of favorite names around a similar popularity number is fascinating. As you know, I’ve been torn between Peter and Henry for this baby lately. Peter is nearly identical in rank to Paul and Mark (though Paul and Mark have both slipped considerably since we used them) and Henry is hanging out in the same ballpark as Andrew and James (or at least where James was when we used it).

        Liked by 3 people

      • I just love both Peter and Henry! They’re both in my top 10 favorite names. My impression is that Henry is a slightly safer choice than Peter, a bit more ordinary, but so handsome. Peter is more bold, but fantastic!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A friend recently named her daughter Zaylee Louise, obviously after the Martins. She picked that spelling because it would be harder to mispronounce. I much prefer that pronunciation to Zellie, which may or may not be strange, since my own daughter is Ellie (formal name Elizabeth).

    Liked by 3 people

    • It took me a while to warm up to Zelie for our daughter (pronounced like Jelly with a Z), but with little French in us paired with a Hispanic complexion, it would have been weird to correct people for the “Zaylee” version… which in Texas, you can only imagine the latter pronunciation with a southern accent 🙂

      I also tried to vie for “zel-LEE” with the emphasis at the end, but it also had the French pronunciation issue. Alas, my sister is having an Elizabeth 6 weeks after us and they’re going to call her Ellie so I hope these cousins are friends!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Since I’m a name nerd, I took a look at some of the names you’ve been recommending frequently.

    Zelie and variants definitely increased in popularity, probably because the saint was canonized last year.

    2014: 25
    2015: 50

    2014: 9
    2015: 12

    2014: 181
    2015: 270

    2014: 24
    2015: 25

    2014: 6
    2015: 17

    No significant impact on Louis
    2014: 1,212
    2015: 1,201

    or on

    2014: 71
    2015: 63

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I seem to be a top 20 namer for all my sons…Over the past 28 years (when I started naming) all my boy names have been and continue to be in the top 20 (or just barely under) over that whole span of time. Two were named at their peak and have been dropping since, the other wasn’t yet in the top 20 when we named but jumped quickly and was number one for 14 years (any guesses on that one…LOL)

    At the time of the first two, I really paid little attention to the baby name popularity and trends (pre-internet, don’t you know) so we didn’t know what we didn’t know about popular names except for the announcement of top 10 every year in the newspaper.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “But a name like Ella (can’t come up with a boy name) has lots of similar names (Bella, Isabella, Stella ect) and is a nickname (Elizabeth, Eleanor) so Ella will seem super popular…”

    Maybe a boy example is Jack (Jackson, Jaxson, Jaxon, Jax) which has a similar sound to Jake and is a nickname for John. I feel like I hear a ton of these variations.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I am so late to this great conversation! I think what stuck out to me is that I actually do know a lot of babies with some of these top names. Even though statistically it’s not likely, these top names DO feel popular to me. I must live in an area that gravitates towards the Top 20! Liam in particular jumped out… it’s one of the few names my Dh and I agree on, but I know several already, and so we nixed it. I am amazed at how high it ranks. I also know a William or two, and a bunch of Noahs, Olivias, Sophias, and Avas. Charlotte is a family name I almost received (as is Margaret.. my dad pushed hard for a Charlotte and Margaret twin pair… two sister cousins ended up with this pair instead… I guess our family was ahead of that curve). I am not sure how I would have felt with a name that surged 30 years later?

    One trend I always look for are the names who always maintain a high ranking vs. sudden spikes… Mason and Harper, to me, are going to be at risk for having a date-stamp on them in decades to come, I think, whereas a name like Benjamin or Abigail will probably just stay sounding classic. I guess we’ll see! I also always find it so intriguing that girl’s names get so much more movement and how our culture is typically more willing to be creative with female names over males. We fit in that category too… I am willing to risk a little more with the girl names. But both of our kids’ names fell slightly in popularity in 2015 (not surprised at all) with our son’s name going from around 84 the year he was born to 97 and our daughter’s name rose a couple spots to 898 (was 905), but overall, is trending downward from it’s history in the 600’s and 500’s. Um, sorry to spam your blog with 300 comments today? Haha. Can you tell I am sick and stuck surfing online? But I’ve missed following this blog!.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “girl’s names get so much more movement and how our culture is typically more willing to be creative with female names over males” — I know, that always interests me too! I feel like the more “creative” the boy’s name, the more likely it is to be perceived as somewhat feminine and/or to be taken by the girls.

      (I’m delighted to see all your comments today!! So sorry you’re sick!!)


  12. The biggest “name pocket” name I saw in my area was based on the variations thing as you said with Kate. Kate and all varieties of Caitlin/Kaitlin/Katelyn was a popular name in the late 80s. Then there’s the whole New England Irish-Catholic population thing to add in a healthy dose of Kathleens and Katherines…. plus some variations like Kathryn, Cathryn, Catherine etc. and any variation of Kate was BY FAR the most popular name I saw in college…. within a student leader group of about 15-16 students we had two Kathryns (one went by Katy), a Caitlyn and a Kaitlin.

    When I traveled to WYD in Poland our diocesan group of 70 had about 5 Mikes and at least 2 Joes, but no other repeat names.

    Liked by 1 person

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