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?

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.

2012 Baby Names: Boy Top 1000 Newcomers

Neymar_celebrating_(cropped)Earlier this week, we covered which girl names were new to the top 1000 in 2012, and now the focus is on the boys.

Just like with the girl’s list, not all names new to the top 1000 are included in this list. For example, names that were too similar to already popular names, such as variant spellings, were excluded. The purpose of this exercise is to glean upcoming trends.

Before we get to 2012’s top 1000 newcomers, here is how 2011’s newcomers did:

2011 2012 Trend
Arlo #915 #818 Up
Benton #939 #879 Up
Brecken #964 #860 Up
Cristiano #978 Unranked Down
Crosby #739 #670 Up
Enoch #995 #935 Up
Maksim #967 Unranked Down
Maxton #949 #884 Up
Miller #932 Unranked Down
Otto #931 #784 Up
Zeke #976 #868 Up

Wow! The boy’s outshone the girl’s this time, with 70% of 2011’s newcomers ranking higher in 2012. One of the big winners was Otto. Crosby continues to soar.

A little side-note: Last year I speculated that I was unsure if Cristiano would soar or fizzle. The name appears to bridge an old trend (the Chris family, being the Portuguese cousin of Christian) with a new trend (o-ending names), and I wasn’t sure which trend would win out. For a moment, there was some discussion in the blogosphere that Christian would become more popular due to the Fifty Shades of Grey series. (See the links under “Sources” after this post.*)

I had my doubts. The idea of moms naming their sons after a sadomasochist seemed far-fetched regardless of the book’s popularity. Also, no matter how successful the novel, a novel isn’t enough to revive any name past its fashion-peak. While Christian is less dated than other Chris names, it peaked a little over five years ago. The Chris trend appears to be on the way out after a couple of strong decades.

Based on the 2012 baby name numbers, I was right.** Christian’s popularity doesn’t seem affected by the books. Christian continues its gentle fall, ranking at #33 in 2012, down from #30 in 2011. In the end, trends usually win. As Christian declines, the o-ending wasn’t enough to keep Cristiano in the top 1000 for another year.

Now on to the 2012 newcomers:

Apollo – Debuted at #993. First time charter. Ancient mythological names are coming into style for girls, clear by the growing popularity of Athena (#247) Daphne (#420) and Penelope (#125). Now these names might be catching on with the boys too. Apollo is one of two Greek mythology names on this list.

Jionni – Debuted at #870. First time charter. “Never underestimate the impact of reality TV,” I keep telling myself. Frankly, I don’t understand it, but apparently many parents are influenced by reality TV when it comes time to pick a name. Jionni LaValle is reality TV star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s fiance.

Neymar – Debuted at #699. Anytime I see a name hit the top 1000 for the first time, and the debut rank is higher than #750, I take notice. Like baby name phenomenon Iker, Neymar most likely reached notoriety thanks to a foreign football (or as Americans call it soccer) star. Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is a Brazilian football star, known mostly by his first name.

If Neymar repeats the baby name success of Iker, it could be in the top 300-350 within three years. Iker hit the chart in 2010 at #646 and continues to be one of the fastest rising boy names. In 2012 it ranked at #230.

Oakley – Debuted at #880. Last charted in 1920. This name spent some time at the bottom of the top 1000 over a century ago, and seems like a good revival candidate. This surname may be most familiar from Annie Oakley. Oakley is also a place-name and a manufacturer of sunglasses. Perhaps Americans were inspired by the British. In the U.K. Oakley was close to the top 200 at #222 in 2011.

Thiago – Debuted at #862. First time charter. This Portuguese name fits the o-ending trend, but also might hint at an emerging trend: the TH beginning. The TH beginning is found in fashionable Theodore (#197), and Thaddeus which has held steady in the 900s (a #903), but I feel is a name to watch. But the biggest influence could be international football (or soccer in America). Thiago Silva is a Brazilian football player.

Titan – Debuted at #961. First time charter. This is yet another ancient mythological name on the newcomer list. This name’s first-time chart presence could be linked to the growing popularity of Titus, which ranked at #360.

Last year’s list represented some established trends: n-ending names, o-ending names, surnames, and the Max family. This year this list is a little different. The boy newcomers seem inspired by pop culture events such as Brazilian football (soccer). A new trend for boys, Greek mythology is also represented on the boy’s list. In time, we will know which of these names will climb and which ones are one-shot deals.

Readers: Which new top 1000 boy name do you like best?


** While I may have been right about Christian’s popularity, I could be wrong about the ‘Fifty Shades’ influence on baby names. The protagonist’s last name, Grey, has gained some attention as a by name. Grey is still outside the top 1000, but has increased a little on BabyCenter. This growing popularity, of course, is probably not entirely attributed to the character, but also the growing popularity of Grayson and Greyson, which were at #85 and #174, and trending upwards.

Photo credit: By Fotos Gov/Ba (Neymar) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

2012 Baby Names: Girl Top 1000 Newcomers

baby-girl-foot-in-mouthLast week, the Social Security Administration released the top baby names for 2012. Today I will share some names that are either completely new to the top 1000 (since 1880, the earliest year data is available) or are returning after being absent for decades.

Not every top 1000 newcomer was included in the list, only names that seem promising. Alternative spellings of more popular names are not included. Promising newcomers are similar to fashionable names, excluding names that are too similar (such as Aubriana, which is grouped into the Aubrey family).

Before we list the 2012 newcomers, here is how the 2011 newcomers did:

2011 # 2012 # Trend
Amalia #988 Unranked Down
Avianna / Aviana #832 / #764 #933 / #856 Down
Elliot (on a girl) #872 #861 Slightly Up / Plateau
Geraldine #961 #989 Slightly Down / Plateau
Hattie #993 #709 Up
Juniper #951 #883 Up
Liv #950 Unranked Down
Nova #883 #624 Up
Temperance #937 #841 Up


Overall, 2011’s top newcomers are doing pretty well. The big success stories are Hattie and Nova. Juniper and Temperance are doing respectably well. On last year’s poll (which is still open) Hattie and Juniper are the clear winners (at time of writing).

Now on to the 2012 newcomers:

Adley – Debuted at #731. First time charter. With a debut this high, I suspected there must be a pop culture connection, and I was right. Adley was the name of a female contestant on The Voice last year. With the high debut accompanying a pop culture reference, Adley exhibits a big sign of a fad name.

Nameberry lists Adley in their database as masculine, but considering its similarity to Hadley (#130 and rapidly rising), and loose similarity to Adele (#536 and rapidly rising) Adley makes sense as a feminine name.

Annalee – Debuted at #920. First time charter. This combo of Anna + Lee represents compound names which are beginning to get some attention. For this reason, this name seemed significant despite being similar to the conventional hit, Anna (#35).

The sound is very modern and lively. Annalee is perfect for expectant parents with clashing tastes since it could be a compromise between modern and traditional. But I’m not completely convinced Annalee has long-term potential only because Avianna / Aviana from last year’s list, another “anna-name”, wasn’t one of the top performers.

Coraline – Debuted at #823. First time charter. This is one I could have easily imagined on last year’s newcomer list. Just like Juniper from last year’s list, Coraline got some love on name blogs over the past couple of years. Coraline is familiar to many Americans from the 2009 animated horror/fantasy film based on the 2002 book. There are also names very similar to Coraline that are popular.

The similar Cora has soared in recent years, ranking at #155 in 2012, a 169 place increase from its 2008 rank, #324. The similar Caroline is about 10 years past-peak, but still ranked in the top 100 at #79 in 2012.

Emmalynn – Debuted at #910. First time charter. “Wait –” some of you might be thinking, “isn’t this just another variation of Emmeline or Emmaline* which are very similar to Emma?”

That is a possibility, but more likely Emmalynn is a combination of Emma + Lynn, which further supports the emergent compound name trend. BTW — Emmeline is still outside the top 1000 and Emmaline just re-entered the chart at #890 after being absent since 1915 when it ranked at #990.

*Emmaline – was almost left off because it is very similar to Emmalynn and is yet another “emma-name”. (Emma rose slightly to #2 in 2012). However, Emmaline deserves some mention because it is another example of how some trends (in this case emma-names) endure.

Emory – Debuted at #881. This is a first time charter for girls, but was in the boy’s top 1000 as recently as 1974. This name re-entered the top 1000 for boys as well. I wondered why this name charted in 2012 on both genders. My research didn’t turn up any cultural significance for Emory in 2012. The reason Emory hit the top 1000 is a mystery to me, perhaps the sound is en vogue or Emory has personal significance for people. Emory is a place-name, being the name of several towns, geographical landmarks, and a university in Georgia.

Estella / Estelle – Debuted at #882 (hit #1000 in 2010) and #950. Last charted in the 1960s (Estelle) and 1970s (Estella). These names are in the same family as vintage hit Stella (#62), which means “star”. For this reason, Estella / Estelle almost didn’t make the cut, because names that are in the same family as already popular names didn’t always make the cut.

But the vowel beginning seems to distinguish Estella / Estelle enough. And I feel Estelle, which is more removed from Stella, is the real one to watch. Estella ranks higher and seems to have more short-term potential, but I wouldn’t discount Estelle. While super popular ella-ending names may still have a few years at the top, when people finally tire of these names, the more sparse elle-ending names may see new life.

Everly – Debuted #906. First time charter. This modern take on Beverly is another path to fashionable Eva (#86) or Eve (#558) and has an energetic feel.

Jessa – Debuted at #998. This is one of those surprises. The surprise is not that Jessa is in the top 1000, the question is, what took Jessa so long?

If the huge popularity of Jessica didn’t inspire Jessa’s arrival 15-20 years ago, one would think the moderate popularity of Tessa (which has been in the bottom top 250 for about 20 years) would have spawned enough Jessa’s to push the name into the chart  5-10 years ago, but that never happened. The future for Jessa is uncertain, but one thing is for sure: Jessa has conventional style.

Milena – Debuted at #962. This is new to the U.S. charts but has seen some success in other countries, most recently Poland where it ranked at #20 in 2012 and has been gradually climbing their chart. The lovely smooth sound is popular among U.S. parents.

Winter – Debuted at #769. This spent some brief time in the top 1000 between 1978 and 1979 and then disappeared from the ranks until last year. Now that seasonal / calendar inspired names such as Autumn #68 and June #435 have become stylish again, parents are seeking less conventional representations of this genre, such as January and September. Winter has a good chance of sticking around a little longer this time.

Zahra – Debuted at #952. This is an Arabic name with the trendy Z that has seen some moderate success in France where it ranked #372 in 2010.

This list represents a good mix of modern and old-fashioned. At least three of the names have styles that seem to tie the past to the present: Annalee, Everly, and Jessa. And the two compound names suggest an emerging trend. The big letter seems to be E, a vowel that has always been prominent in many names, but could be getting more popular as a starting letter.

Within a week, the boy’s top 1000 newcomers will be unveiled.

Readers: Which new top 1000 girl name do you like best?

Photo credit

2012 Baby Names Are Here & How Our 2013 Rising Stars Did

newborn-babyThe 2012 names from the Social Security Administration are here!

The 2012 names were released yesterday afternoon. Seriously, the day should be a national holiday. Okay. I’m not really serious, but Name Day would make a great holiday for the growing society of name people.

And I just realized, the morning after “Name Day”, I still don’t know the new top 10 names. I just completely overlooked them. I must be recovering from the morning after the festivities!

For me, the real story is what is happening lower in the ranks, and which names are climbing and falling. I could tell you the top ten fastest climbers. I do have to check the top 10. I wonder how 2011 big climber Mason did?

But before I get to that, I will share my routine every year for the day the newest top names are released. First I check my kids’ names. Then I check the top fastest climbing names. Then I check on some names I’m watching.

One of the big names I’ve been watching is Harper (on a girl). Harper is a name I believe will eventually hit the girls’ top 10. This is one of my predictions from Upswing Baby Names Top 22 in 2022.

Harper looks like it’s headed there even quicker than I thought. Harper is now in the girls’ top 25 at #24. By 2022 Harper may have already been in the top 10 and may have begun its decline. We shall see.

Hipster favorites Adelaide and Matilda continue to climb, but not dramatically. Adelaide is at #343 and Matilda is at #658.

Now to check some other name’s I’ve been watching, the 2013 rising stars. These are names I felt had the best chance to make the 2012 top 1000 for girls and boys.


  • Cecily – Still Not There!
  • Lavinia – Still Not There!
  • Louisa – Still Not There!
  • Mabel – Still Not There!
  • Ophelia – Still Not There!
  • Persephone – Still Not There!
  • Sylvie – Still Not There!
  • Viola – Still Not There!

Score: 0 of 8.

This does not bum me out. Do you know why I like doing these predictions?

Because I will always be pleased one way or the other. If my predictions were right I could have celebrated my awesome forecasting skills, but since my predictions were all wrong I’m celebrating that these lovely names are still underused! Hooray!

I am very surprised, shocked even, that Louisa and Sylvie are still not in the top 1000. I even brought up the entire list of the top 1000 and searched and re-checked again this morning to make sure there was no mistake. But as Martha Stewart says, “It’s a good thing.”


  • Alistair – Still Not There!
  • Ephraim – Still Not There!
  • Ewan – Still Not There!
  • Lachlan – Still Not There!
  • Linus – Still Not There!
  • Magnus – Still Not There!
  • Roscoe – Still Not There!
  • Thatcher – Still Not There!

Score: 0 of 8

Missed them all again! But that has hardly ruined my day. For parents seeking outside the top 1000 names, these are still some great choices. But I’m very surprised that Lachlan and Ewan have still not hit the top 1000.

Since none of these names are in the top 1000, which names are new to those ranks? That topic is for next week.

And… big drum roll… I will begin work on the next Watch List Report with more names I am watching.

Anyone who’s on that subscriber list will automatically get the newest report once its available. And, of course, if you are not on the list, invitations will get sent out to sign-up for your copy once its available.

BTW, here’s the scoop on my kids’ names:

  • Fiona climbed (56 places ugh) and is now close to the top 200.
  • Paul continues its gentle fall.

I’m not surprised with either finding. As early as 2013 my kids’ names could cross paths while Fiona’s on its way up and Paul’s on its way down.

No matter how my kids (or their names) do, I’ve learned to be at peace and will be their champion along the way.

Readers: Do you do anything special for “Name Day”? Did you find anything fascinating about the top 2012 baby names?

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