A few thoughts on the new name stats from the SSA

If you haven’t already, be sure to read my Mother’s Day post (there’s a giveaway)!

I think one of the things I loved the most about the Social Security Administration releasing the 2016 name stats last Friday was seeing how excited Abby from Appellation Mountain was! That morning on Facebook she revealed how she’d been refreshing the SSA site all morning in hopes they’d finally updated it … then when they did she pretty immediately posted a video of her talking about the results (she mentioned some names I’ve had discussions about recently, like Matteo and Shepherd), and has posted a couple great articles analyzing the results:

Most Popular Baby Names – May 2017 Update (mostly discussion of the new-not-new top ten)
Top 100 Baby Names May 2017 Update

I also really enjoyed these from the Baby Name Wizard:

America’s Fastest-Rising Boys’ Names: Feel the Force
The Fastest-Rising Girls’ Names of The Year

And found this one (also from BNW) really interesting:

Caitlyn at the Crossroads: The Fastest-Falling Baby Names of the Year

Laura starts out by saying, “At first glance, this wholesale retreat from a familiar name may seem to be a rejection of Jenner’s new public identity,” which was exactly what I would assume it to be, but I also appreciated that she pointed out, “The name was sliding out of fashion, and it’s easiest to move the public in a direction it’s already heading.” She also makes the good point that, “The name itself was the story, announced with a flourish in a ‘Call Me Caitlyn’ magazine cover, the choice of name debated and analyzed” — a million percent yes! — but then argues, “The result was inevitable Caitlyn fatigue,” which I strongly disagree with. I would characterize the fact that the name was already “sliding out of fashion” as name fatigue; I would describe what happened in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner (which Laura herself called a “wholesale retreat”) as name train wreck. Take a look at these numbers:

From https://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/rankchange.html

This screenshot is from the newest statistics, and they’re listed in order of greatest amount of decrease to least amount of decrease, so these four names were the four biggest drops of all the girls’ names in use in the U.S. I was amazed to see this! I mean, all four of those variants were well into the top 1000 (except Kaitlynn, which was hovering on the line), and all four dropped out of the top 1000 in one year.

To be fair, I tried to find the decrease stats from last year, to see if this isn’t as big a deal as it looks like to me, and found a post Nancy had done that showed Isis as the biggest loser in 2015, having dropped 1065 spots, but in the top ten biggest decreases were also Annabell (500 spots), Anabel (500 spots), Anabella (333 spots), and Anabelle (272 spots), which I thought were good parallels for the Caitlyn names, since they were also four variants of the same name, and all dropped similar amounts to the Caitlyn names — in fact, not to get all math-y, but I did the math and the four Caitlyn names dropped a cumulative 1787 spots (averaging 446.75 each), while the Annabell names dropped a cumulative 1605 spots (averaging 401.25 each). This might not seem like anything except that Nancy noted, “nearly every single variant of Annabelle was negatively affected by the horror film Annabelle, released in late 2014.” So Caitlyn’s no Isis, but had a similar effect as a horror movie. Oh dear.

(For the record, I still love the name.)

(There are also other variants of both names lower down in the decrease list, I just focused on those in the top ten.)

(Also interesting in light of our Damien discussion is that until now I hadn’t heard a whisper of that horror movie, despite having freely and frequently suggested Annabel(le) to parents on the blog and in private consultations.)

I’m also not sure I agree with this point, which I’ve seen a lot of other people say as well: “Finally, consider that the Caitlyn gazing out of that famous magazine cover was 65 years old. Caitlyn became popular as a fresh, youthful twist on Catherine and Kathleen. The new standard-bearer for the name helped age it in a hurry.” I just don’t see the name Caitlyn as having aged at all, I still see it as a young-ish name that is now worn by a 67 year old, which is as jarring to me as hearing other names that were similar in popularity to the Caitlyn names during the Caitlyn names’ peak (1990s), like Lindsey and Kristen, on a grandmother. Do you agree?

Otherwise, I took a look through the rest of the changes (changes in increase as well as decrease, and those that stayed the same), which I found to be the most interesting part of the statistics, and didn’t find anything as interesting as Aranza and Mon(t)serrat of 2014 except for Mercy for the girls — it’s no. 21 on the list of girls’ names that rose the most, having increased 222 spots from out of the top 1000 to well in it (new no. 731) and all I think is: Jubilee Year of Mercy! 😍 Zaylee also increased 177 spots to no. 813 (which may be due to St. Zelie?), and Regina, Rosemary, Juniper, Clementine, Mabel, Colette, Edith, Siena, Livia, Adelaide, Aurora, Helen, Felicity, and Gianna caught my eye from those names that increased in popularity.

For the boys Augustine went up 87 spots to no. 728, Santiago went up 21 to no. 106 (what? I had NO idea it was that popular!), and Thaddeus, Matthias, Conrad, Fisher, Gilbert, Bennett, George, Oliver, Henry, Jasper, Harold, Oscar, and Roman (which is new to the top 100) all jumped out at me as well.

On the decrease list, Guadalupe, Madeleine, Lola, Catherine and Katherine and Kate, Genevieve, and Mary stood out to me for girls, and Blaise, Mohammed, Damien (though still a top 300 name) and Damian (though still not too far from top 100), Myles, and Jude for boys.

Also Sylvie is up while Sylvia is down, which seems right to me based on where the collective taste seems to be at the moment. Do you agree?

Did any of the rest of you wait on pins and needles for this new info? Did you find anything exciting or disappointing? Any other thoughts/analyses?


Do you have a Zelie born in 2015?

I was just catching up on emails and FB posts and saw that one of you wonderful readers, mama to a Zelie, wondered (in response to my article about Zelie/Zaylee) how many readers welcomed a Zelie/[other spelling] in 2015? There were 50 of them born in America in 2015 and my theory is that many/most of them have some connection to our Sancta Nomina community (either readers of the blog or friends/relatives of readers). Add yourself in the comments if you qualify! 😀

Popularity of Zelie in 2015

Because of Zaylee appearing in the top 1000 in 2015 and the comments (here and here) on my post from this morning regarding Zelie/Zaylee I looked up Zaylee, Zelie, Zellie, and Azelie, and discovered Azaylee as well!, to see how many babies were so named in 2015:

Azaylee: 9
Azelie: 17
Zaylee: 270 (rank #990)
Zelie: 50
Zellie: 12

It was interesting to compare the numbers to 2014:

Azaylee: 7
Azelie: 6
Zaylee: 182
Zelie: 25
Zellie: 9

Azaylee’s making me think (as the other Kate pointed out) that the popularity of Zaylee may indeed be influenced by St. Zelie. Fascinating!

Updated to add the numbers for Azelia, which Andrea included in her comment at the same time I was posting this! There were 24 babies named Azelia in 2014 and 25 in 2015. (She also included info for Therese and Louis, if you’re interested — there was no significant impact on either one.) Thanks Andrea!

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

Most popular names (et al.) of 2014 announced today

So the name world has been holding its breath in gleeful, frantic anticipation of the release by the Social Security Administration of 2014’s most popular names — and this morning it happened! (Which you probably all know already anyway, because the first to know and share I am not and likely never will be.)

Of note:

  • Emma and Noah are the #1’s
  • Charlotte entered the top ten — in the year before the princess was born. It’s been hot hot hot for a while
  • The three fastest rising girl names are Aranza, Montserrat, and Monserrat (from telenovelas)
  • The fastest rising boy name is Bode (like Olympian Bode Miller)
  • The fastest falling names included Miley, Britney, and Rihanna; Carmelo and Channing

I’m not a number cruncher or a trend spotter (like Abby: here and here), so I have no further analysis than my bullets above (which were spelled out in the article), but I will say: Mother Mary did pretty darn well for herself.

Consider that Mia and Ava are both in the top ten — neither necessarily Marian, but they could be, with Mia having traditional use as a nickname for Maria (see Mia Farrow, born the gorgeously reverent Maria de Lourdes) and Ava being a variant of Eve (like how Mary’s the New Eve). I’ve also seen Ava paired with Maria in Catholic families because of Ava Maria’s similarity to Ave Maria (Hail Mary in Latin).

And those fastest rising girls’ names are not actually “rooted in Latin soap operas” as was asserted in the article — certainly I get that their use in the telenovelas is what made them spike in popularity here, but their roots are Marian — Aranza is a diminutive of Aran(t)zazu, from a Basque word meaning “thornbush,” stemming from an apparition of Our Lady on a thornbush in Spain; Montserrat and its alternate spelling Monserrat are also used to honor Our Lady, as there’s a Marian shrine in Montserrat and the associated title Our Lady of Montserrat. (Weirdly enough, I did a consultation recently for a mama who asked for unusual Catholic names, and Arantxa was one I gave her, which is also a diminutive of Arantzazu. Never in a trillion years did I think Arantxa’s sister Aranza would be in the list of top 1000 girls’ names in the U.S.!)

So that’s what this Catholic baby name lover gets out of the new SSA stats! My final word: Mother Mary for the win! 😉 ❤