Are Names Too Unusual or Too Common? Which Causes More Baby Name Regret?

which types of names cause more baby name regret

Back in 2011, ABC News ran this segment claiming parents regretted picking names for their children that ended up being too common.

Yet that wasn’t the experience of UBN reader, Maddie, who had a case of unusual name regret.

And then this past week, I stumbled upon this article where the writer shares her regret for picking the unusual name Ransom for her son.

Over the past 4 years has the baby name pendulum swung the other way? Have parents gone from seeking unusual names to regretting them?

Or is there another aspect at play here?

After all, not all unusual names are created equal.

Ransom is a perfect example of a name that has other issues beyond being considered unusual. There is the obvious negative meaning of course, but also the similarity of other common words such as “random” and “rancid”.

Lara is an example of a name that might be considered unusual in the sense that its uncommon, and yet its sound is very mainstream and it is easy to spell.

One thing is apparent to me. I have heard conflicting reports in the media mostly based on anecdotal evidence.

I would like to hear from you. Which is more likely to cause more baby name regret, an unusual name or a common name?

Updated for 2013: Top 22 in 2022

Updated for 2013: Top 22 in 2022Predictions are based on assumptions, the big assumption being that trends from the past will continue today.

Someone from the ‘80s making predictions about the top boys’ names for 2014, might assume that boy trends wouldn’t turn over that often because historically up until that point, they hadn’t.

Take a look at the table below and see how long each top boy name since 1880 had held on to the top spot in the past.

In 2012 I wrote the Top 22 in 2022, a list of the 22 boy and girl names I predicted would be among the top 22 U.S. baby names 10 years from the time I made my predictions.

Top U.S. Boy Names from 1880 - 2012

In the Top 22 in 2022: Revised for 2013, I share some updates on which predictions I feel were spot-on and which ones I feel totally missed the mark–as of 2013 that is…

And with eight years being a long time into the future, at least as far as name trends go, I wouldn’t be surprised if predictions that I doubt now based on 2013 numbers start to look good again based on 2021 numbers. The opposite could also be true. Predictions that look good based on 2013 numbers could look bad in 2021.

If you already signed up for the original Top 22 in 2022, you should have already gotten the 2013 version in your email. If you haven’t signed up yet, enter your email below.

In addition to The Top 22 in 2022: Revised for 2013, you will get email updates for UBN and occasionally stuff I don’t share on the blog. Emails are sent every couple of weeks and you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Watch List Names Update & The Newest Watch List

Upswing Baby Names Watch List 2013

The UBN Watch List was born when I found myself mentioning in posts that I was adding certain names to my personal watch list. From there I decided to make my personal watch list public.

Here’s what the UBN Watch List names have in common:

  1. They are mostly outside the U.S. top 300 (most are outside the top 1000)
  2. They all have a special style.

Beyond what these names have in common, there are a three types of Watch List names:

1. Names that are obviously going places.

First Year Example: Atticus

Between 2010 and 2013, the birth numbers for Atticus have grown almost 65% from 442 to 727. Its growth in the past year has slowed down some, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Atticus.

Second Year Example: Hattie

This powerhouse name has seen its birth numbers nearly double in just two years between 2011 and 2013 from 253 to 502.

2. Names that seem like they should be more popular.

First Year Example: Effie

Surprisingly, its birth numbers have remained steady each year since 2010. There have been 145 Effie’s born in total from 2010 to 2013.

Second Year Example: Lachlan

Lachlan is doing better than Effie in terms of birth numbers and has even seen a slight increase in births since being added to the Watch List.

However, Lachlan has a style that suggests it should have Atticus-level success, and its birth numbers don’t even come close. In 2013, there were 199 Lachlan’s born, which places Lachlan in the U.S. top 1000 for the first time at #991.

3. Names that don’t have obvious appeal, but have potential.

In other words, names I like that no one else does. : )

First Year Example: Ferdinand

There were only 87 Ferdinand’s born between 2010 and 2013, and this isn’t surprising. But Ferdinand has historic significance, familiarity, and a cute nickname: Ferdie. All of these qualities combine to make Ferdinand a great choice for a modern baby.

Second Year Example: Geraldine

Yes, Geraldine may seem a bit clunky to some, but underneath that clunky exterior, I see an artsy glamour.

I see Geraldine as an unexpected alternative to fashion-favorite, Josephine. Or even a more subtle alternative to another favorite, Madeline because of the shared a, d, and line-ending. However, I admit, Josephine and Madeline have some cute nicknames while Geraldine does not.

The lack of nicknames may explain why Geraldine’s revisit to the top 1000 in 2011 was short. In 2013 Geraldine saw a decrease in births and left the top 1000. The mainstream may not be ready for Geraldine.

This year there are a whole new list of names, some of them expected, some of them unexpected, and all of them stylish in their own way. For the first time, some Watch List names were submitted by UBN email followers who signed up for the report.

The Third Year Watch List also gives an update on Watch List names for the past, including the examples above.

And here’s another surprising outcome for a First Year Watch List name:

Philippa should have gone places. It was a 2011 “Name of the Year” due to Philippa (Pippa) Middleton, and one of Freakonoimcs predicted top names of 2015 (that list was created in 2005).

Philippa’s birth numbers more than doubled in 2011 but, when there were only 25 births the year before, the increase is hardly significant. After 2012, Philippa’s growth stagnated, and even went down slightly in 2013.

Philippa is an example of how high expectations can backfire or—in this case—lead to a related name’s success.

The real winner is the diminutive, Pippa, which more parents are using as a given name. Here are Pippa’s birth numbers for the past few years:

  • 2010: 16
  • 2011: 69
  • 2012: 105
  • 2013: 78

Pippa’s births multiplied between 2010 and 2012 and then dipped a little in 2013. Perhaps 2013 could signal a decline for Pippa or perhaps the drop is only a temporary retreat. Only time will tell. Either way, Pippa’s birth numbers surpassed Philippa’s in 2013. There were only 43 Philippa’s—just a little over half the number of Pippa’s.

UBN email followers who signed up for the Watch List report get to see which names could be the next Atticus, Hattie, Effie, Lachlan, Ferdinand, Geraldine or Philippa.

If you already signed up for one of the earlier Watch List Reports, you should have already received the Third Year report in your email.

If you aren’t signed up, submit your email address below to get updates, and share some names you are watching. Your personal watch list names could end up in the next Watch List Report. As a Watch List subscriber, you will automatically get future Watch List Reports, unless you unsubscribe.

Happy name watching!

*Update: As Paige pointed out, I misspelled the Little Mermaid’s name, Ariel. It seems I confused it with the font. Oops. Ariel is not one of the Watch List names; it is used as a comparison to one of the names. I have fixed the spelling and slightly revised the conclusion. If you sign up for the report now, you will get the correct spelling. If you signed up earlier, you should have gotten a link with the corrected spelling.

2013 Baby Names: The Other Top 10


The 2013 official top 1000 baby name list from the US Social Security administration has now been made public. The event is almost like a national holiday in the baby name community.

The biggest top baby news: For the first time since 1999 there is a new number one boy name. Noah has surpassed Jacob as number one.

The Social Security list is the official top name list, the last word in a name’s popularity.

But the list is already five months old when it debuts. Because name trends are changing faster than ever before, the official Social Security list is more of a window into the past than the present and future.

For those seeking insight into names that are popular now, there are alternatives. One of my favorite alternative sources for name data is BabyCenter, a parenting site with their own name rankings. And now Google also offers an alternative.

The other day I discovered a tool called Google Trends. The most interesting feature of Google Trends is the “year in review” segment charting the top searches for 2013.

As part of this “year in review” Google Trends provides the top searched baby names for boys and girls. One caveat: not all the names on Google’s top 10 list are necessarily popular because people are considering them for a baby. Some of these names may have made the list due to newsworthy people with the name.

For example, when one digs a little deeper into the top 10 list, one will see that the top boy name, Luke, had a high number of searches mostly due to queries related to country music star, Luke Bryan.

Nevertheless, Google’s top 10 names are important to note. I just had to share them and compare their Google ranking with their official Social Security ranking and their BabyCenter ranking. *Note: the BabyCenter ranking is for the current year at time of writing, 2014, and could change before the year is through.

Every time I discover new name stats, I get giddy. And I don’t think I’m alone. According to Google Trends, the search volume for boy and girl names has gone up in the past year.

Could many of the Google top 10 names end up on the official top 10 at some point? I can’t say for sure, but I’ve included trend information so you can see which way each name seems to be headed.

But wait—there’s more! Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

When applicable, I included the name’s projected 2022 rank in UBN’s Top 22 in 2022 report so you can see which names made my list.

Here is how the Google top 10 fares on the 2013 US Social Security List, BabyCenter, and UBN’s Top 22 in 2022. Included is also where each name is trending.

* About the trend info: Most of the trend indicators are based on how each name is trending on the Social Security list, but if the name isn’t on the Social Security list or there is a big discrepancy, I include how the name trends on BabyCenter.


Name 2013 Social Security Rank 2014 Baby Center Rank Projected 2022 Rank Trend
1.Luke #34 #16 NA Up
2.Austin #65 #50 NA Plateau
3.Jackson #16 #7 #18 Up
4.Adrian #60 #68 NA Plateau
5.Jordan #53 #73 NA Slightly Down
6.Alexander #8 #19 #19 Plateau
7.Carson #90 #92 NA Slightly Down
8.Cameron #59 #42 NA Plateau
9.Christopher #26 #63 NA Slightly Down
10.Cooper #84 #62 NA Slightly Down


Name 2013 Social Security Rank 2014 Baby Center Rank Projected 2022 Rank Trend
1.Fallon NA #189 NA Up (on BabyCenter)
2.Chloe #14 #14 #20 Slightly Down
3.Jaden #980 #191 NA Down (but dramatically Up on BabyCenter)
4.Harper #16 #9 #8 Up
5.Logan #425 #148 NA Plateau (but Up on BabyCenter)
6.Emma #2 #2 #11 Plateau
7.Cadenza NA NA NA Unknown
8.Lily #27 #13 #3 Down
9.Sloane #406 #144 NA Up
10.Mia #6 #6 #14 Slightly Up


Only a few of the Google top 10 also appear on the official US Social Security top 10, and a couple on the girl top 10 didn’t even make the official top 1000.

For example, based on Google’s data, it’s hard to say if Fallon made the top spot because suddenly people like the name or because 2013 was a newsworthy year for Jimmy Fallon. However, sometimes pop culture news influences name choices, either consciously or subconsciously, meaning Fallon is a name to watch either way.

More UBN News: Now that the 2013 top names are available, I’m going to update the Top 22 in 2022 report to track how the names are doing. I’m also creating the newest Watch List Report. If you signed up to receive these reports, you will get the latest versions once they become available.

If you are interested in receiving these reports, regular updates, and other stuff I don’t share on the blog, enter your name and email below.

Readers: Are you surprised by the Google top 10?

Photo Credit: Dyrk.Wyst via Compfight cc. *The photo is a chalkboard background that has been modified.

Names From America’s Last Frontier

The Alaskan Flag

The Alaskan Flag

Jewel, the Folk/pop/country singer, may have a name that seems a bit earthy-crunchy to some people, but her name isn’t off-the-wall by modern standards. To the public, a name like Jewel doesn’t seem any more original than other nature names like Summer and Skye.

This might be largely thanks to the singer. Many may forget that her name seemed unique when she first entered the public eye 20 years ago.

Jewel was one of those names that was never very common, but was surprisingly on the lower end of the popularity chart over a century ago. It peaked in the 200’s from 1898 to 1936 and then declined. By mid-century Jewel fell off the charts completely, leaving the U.S. top 1000.

If not for the famous namesake, the name may have drifted into obscurity, but Jewel did launch her name back into the public consciousness, and as the singer’s career took off in the 1990’s, her name found its way back to the popularity charts.

However, Jewel’s newfound notoriety wasn’t enough to push her name into the same mega-hit status as her songs. As a baby name, Jewel only made the top 200 once—not in the 1990’s—but, back in 1904. The highest the name ranked in the 1990s was at #557 in 1999. The name is still in the top 1000, however, and in 2012 was at #809.

Now that Jewel’s homesteading family in Alaska has their own reality show, the names of her family members, some of which may seem more unusual than Jewel’s, have gotten some publicity.

The singer’s life seems almost mythic with stories about her growing up in Alaska in a cabin without any plumbing. This lifestyle is the focus of the Discovery Channel reality show, Alaska: The Last Frontier.

Jewel’s family continues to live a counterculture lifestyle and they share counterculture names. The main characters are Jewel’s father, the family patriarch, Atz Kilcher, his son Atz Lee, Atz Senior’s brother Otto and his son Eivin (sounds like Ivan).

But names of the main characters aren’t my favorites from the show. Although I admit to having a soft-spot for Otto, the name’s not new to me. Otto is on UBN’s Watch List Report, which you can download here.

Here are the names I feel have promise.

Etienne – is absolutely lovely. He is the 9 year-old son of Atz Lee and his wife Jane. While this name (pronounced ay-TYEN) has a lovely rhythm and sounds nothing like popular U.S. boy names, it has familiar roots. You see, Etienne is nothing more than the French form of mid-century favorite Steven.

Stellavera (Stella+Vera) – is Atz and Otto’s sister. Combo names are once again fashion-forward and Stella is heading into the top 50, at #62 in 2012. Vera is the less popular of the two, but at #500 is climbing quickly. With both names being stylish, why not combine them and double the style? The resulting Stellavera has a rhythm similar to mega-hit Isabella. This is one of my favorite combo names.

Sunrise – is perhaps a bit wacky and beats out Jewel in the hippy department, but there’s just something sweet and alluring about this name. This is another sister of Atz and Otto. I’m not sure I could bring myself to name my child Sunrise, but I like seeing it on someone else, even a middle-aged woman.

This family has lived in Alaska for four generations, starting with Yule Kilcher who set up a subsistence farm in Alaska when he fled Switzerland to escape the Nazis in 1936. Eventually Yule Kilcher became a delegate to the first Alaskan Constitutional Convention.

The Kilcher family is full of unconventional enterprising people with unconventional enterprising names.

Readers: Which Alaskan frontier name is your favorite?

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