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.

Name To Watch: Wilhelmina

Supermodel Wilhelmina Cooper

Supermodel Wilhelmina Cooper

Wilhelmina may seem impractical. For one thing, it is impossible to spell.

Could a name like Wilhelmina zoom up the baby name charts?

Maybe five years ago I would have scoffed at that possibility.

But the baby name tide may be turning.

The top baby girl names in America are very different from Wilhelmina.

Look at these names in the top 100 and see if you can spot what they have in common:

  • #3 Isabella
  • #4 Olivia
  • #23 Amelia
  • #49 Arianna / #74 Ariana
  • #73 Gianna
  • #91 Aria

Besides all ending in A, they are all heavy on vowels and mostly stem from Romance language such as Spanish or Italian. (Although Amelia is actually a variation of the German Amalia and German isn’t a Romance language, it’s a Germanic language.)

Names from consonant-heavy Germanic languages, the most widely spoken being English and German, were seen as fusty and frumpy by Americans for the past few decades.

Wilhelmina is considered a German name making it very different from names that were sought after in recent decades.

In recent decades, the sought after names were the lovely, lyrical, liquid sounding names from Romance language, especially for girls. Names like in the above list.

This wasn’t always the case. At one point Germanic names were fashionable among Americans. Some Germanic names that were popular during the Victorian era include Bertha (which peaked at #7 in the 1880s) and Gertrude (peaked at #22 in 1906).

American parents may be ready to welcome these names back into nurseries and pre-schools.

But I don’t think Bertha and Gertrude will be among the newest wave of Germanic names to hit the top 1000 within the next decade.

Well… OK… Gertrude may have potential with cute nicknames, Gertie and Tudy.

Cute nicknames aside, I believe the newest hot Germanic names will include Greta (one of UBN’s first Watch List Names), Otto (another Watch List Name) and now:


Wilhelmina is the feminine form of Wilhelm, a German variation of William.

While overlooked for many years, dismissed as being perhaps too consonant-heavy, from 1880 (the earliest year baby name stats are available) until around 1900, Wilhelmina ranked in the 200’s. The name declined through the early 20th century, left the top 1000 in 1953, and has yet to return.

But I feel the name has a shot to re-enter the top 1000 within the next few years.

There are two reasons I believe this.

  1. Within the past year, Wilhelmina became a minor celebrity baby name, the youngest daughter of 90’s teen idol Taylor Hanson and his wife Natalie.

    The Hanson’s other daughter was given super-breakout name Penelope, which has come back in a big way, rising almost 300 places in a five-year span from #409 in 2007 to #125 in 2012. This indicates that the family knows name fashion.

  2. Wilhelmina is gaining popularity on parenting site BabyCenter.

BabyCenter has its own baby name rankings separate from the official US Social Security rankings, and if a name ranks higher with BabyCenter, that is a good sign it could climb the Social Security list within the next year or two.

On BabyCenter, Wilhelmina ranks at #393 for 2013, and has risen the past couple of years.

Wilhelmina’s birth numbers in the US show a promising upward trend the past four years. But considering that the birth number had been stagnant until recently, these birth numbers don’t suggest that Wilhelmina will likely hit the top 1000 next year.

Year # of Newborn Girls
2002 21
2003 18
2004 14
2005 19
2006 15
2007 31
2008 23
2009 28
2010 41
2011 54
2012 63


Generally a girl name must have about 250 births—give or take—in any given year to make the 1000th place on the Social Security list. That means Wilhelmina’s birth numbers would have to almost quadruple to put it in the top 1000 next year.

Nevertheless, Wilhelmina has the makings of a fashion star. First there are the wide choices of nicknames: Wilma, Willa, Willy, and Mina.

Then there is Wilhelmina’s four syllables, something it has in common with mega-hit name Isabella, and rising-star Cecilia.

Wilhelmina has earned a place on the UBN Watch List Report, a list of names I add to yearly and track every year.

To get the latest Watch List Report (and get on the list to receive the next Watch List Report, the one which will have Wilhelmina) become an UBN email follower by submitting your name below.

As an UBN email follower, you will also get updates on names ahead of the curve and other stuff I don’t share on the UBN blog.


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Name To Watch: Katniss


Jennifer Lawrence who portrays Katniss Everdeen in ‘The Hunger Games’

Recently I celebrated my last birthday in my 30s. And I was reminded of somethings I read in an article about 40 Effed Up Things About Turning 40. In my case these two things are sadly true*:

20. Other than the Kardashians, I don’t recognize anyone in the tabloids. Who are these people and why are they famous?


36. I say things like, “What’s the name of that actor, you know, he was in that thing?”

And that’s what I was thinking when I suddenly started hearing about this actress who is supposedly this wonderful role model, Jennifer Lawrence.

First I heard about her on a local radio station, and then I heard about her in this Babble article.

And I asked myself, “Who’s she? Why is she famous?”

And then I remembered, she played Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Katniss stood out as #13 on Nameberry’s Most Popular Girl’s Names of 2013 list.

This top 100 list is very different from the official top 100 baby names from the U.S. Social Security Administration. Nameberry is a popular baby name blog known for their extensive database of about 50,000 baby names. Their readers are way ahead of the baby name fashion curve. Nameberry readers appreciate names a couple of years before the mainstream. Nameberry’s list is made of the top 100 most viewed names on their site.

Katniss is in the top 15 on Nameberry (or at least as of October 2013), but doesn’t even make the top 1000 on the Social Security list.

Considering that Katniss is a unique name from pop culture, that was previously unknown, don’t be surprised to see it make the top 1000 on the Social Security list within the next year or two.
This places Katniss with Blythe and Clover, other names on the UBN Watch List report. All three names are outside the top 1000, but due to pop culture could easily rise in ranks to make the top 1000 for 2013.

However, Katniss’ birth numbers don’t look all that promising yet. In the table below are the number of babies named Katniss in the U.S. each year. Please note, for privacy reasons, the Social Security Administration doesn’t count a name in its database if it is given to fewer than five babies in any given year.

Year # Newborn Girls
2002 fewer than 5 if any
2003 fewer than 5 if any
2004 fewer than 5 if any
2005 fewer than 5 if any
2006 fewer than 5 if any
2007 fewer than 5 if any
2008 fewer than 5 if any
2009 fewer than 5 if any
2010 fewer than 5 if any
2011 fewer than 5 if any
2012 12


I wasn’t surprised that there were fewer than 5 Katniss’ born in the entire U.S. before 2008, the year The Hunger Games novel was published. But I expected to see the name creep into the data in 2008 or 2009.

Katniss did make it’s first appearance in the data in 2012, however, and might just start to climb quickly.

To get some more insight, I checked out how Katniss ranks on BabyCenter, a popular parenting website that has their own ranking system for baby names. I have found that often a name’s popularity on BabyCenter  is different from its popularity on the U.S. Social Security list.

BabyCenter doesn’t show a ranking for Katniss, but shows that Katniss has gone up sharply between 2012 and 2013.

The name has also been mentioned by other baby name experts dating back to 2010:

That settles it! Katniss is going on our next Watch List Report, a list of names that I am watching. I add to the list every year and continually track each names’ birth numbers every year.
To get the latest copy of the Watch List Report, and other email updates from UBN, enter your email address below.

Katniss is not on the latest Watch List Report, but will be on the next Watch List Report which will come out after the newest U.S. Social Security list is released to the public sometime in May.
If you sign up for the current Watch List Report, you will automatically get the next Watch List Report, as long as you don’t unsubscribe before May.

Katniss might be a long shot for 2013, but is still going on the list as a long-term prospect, just like Wallis from the 2011-2012 Watch List report.

Readers: Do you feel Katniss has mainstream potential?

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* The other things mentioned in the article about turning 40, like Bengay on the nightstand and an aching back, are definitely not true for me. I swear the author talks like she is turning 60, not 40.
Call me in denial, but I don’t feel that much differently than I did at 29.

Could Anne Be A Name To Watch?

Anne-of-Green-Gables“Really, Anne? Are you serious?” you might be thinking.

For years Anne was dismissed as nothing more than a boring middle name. Now that one syllable names are becoming stylish, this seemingly classic choice could experience a revival.

Passed over in recent years for its frillier counterpart, Anna, the sparse Anne had languished. Until recently that is.

Anne came up twice in our series exploring whether Pottery Barn predicts the next popular baby names.

While the results of our research suggest that Pottery Barn more likely follows the trends then sets them, there were a few names to watch that appeared in the Pottery Barn catalogs.

One of those names was Blythe and another one was Anne.

Now is a good time to admit I was inconsistent in my judgement in the Pottery Barn Series. In part 3 which focused on 2012, I categorized Anne as “up-and-coming,” (meaning it was ahead of trends) and in part 4 (2013), I categorized Anne as “down-market” (meaning it was past-peak).

The inconsistency resulted from an inner conflict between what my gut told me and what the numbers told me. When I examined the 2012 catalog my gut said Anne had reached bottom and was destined to turned around.

A couple of days later when I examined the 2013 catalog, I was in a “by the numbers” frame of mind, and would only classify a name as “up-and-coming” if I saw a steep incline on the trend graph indicating the name was rising sharply.

Beyond the numbers, my instincts tell me that Anne is about to turn around for a couple of reasons.

While Anna has gently declined the past decade from its most recent* peak at #19 in 2001 to #35 in 2012, Annie and Anne have slowly climbed the chart.

  • Annie climbed to #377 in 2012 from its most recent low of #420 in 2007 (it has never left the top 450).
  • Anne climbed to #561 from its lowest rank ever at #606 in 2010.

*Anna’s highest rank ever was #2 from 1880 – 1899.

Anna is still a lot more popular than both of its sisters, but as the naming landscape changes, Anna will naturally retreat from the top ranks. Fashion-forward parents who like the idea of Anna could rediscover less frilly alternatives. The prime alternatives are Annie and Anne.

I predict the swinging popularity of Anne vs. Anna to mimic the swinging popularity of Alice vs. Allison.

For years Alice was the favorite and then parents got tired of Alice. It was seen as too “old-fashioned”. Allison became the fresh! modern! exciting! alternative and began to surpass Alice.

Then suddenly, while Allison was still respected as a new classic, Allison started to go through a natural decline and many parents rediscovered the vintage Alice, which is once again on the upswing.

This analogy is not perfect because, while Alice was once more popular than Allison, Anna has been consistently more popular than Anne. But I use the Alice vs. Allison comparison to show how a small change can make a big impact and that the mainstream preference can switch on a dime. I can see this on-the-dime switch happening with Anne and Anna.

Perhaps spawned by the growing nickname-as-given-name trend Annie is more popular than Anne at the moment, but for parents who like Annie but want a formal version, Anne is the natural choice.

And for those who worry that Annie may seem too childish and unprofessional as a child reaches adulthood, Anne is undeniably professional, perhaps one of the most professional names around.

I also foresee a growing trend with “smoosh” names that could propel Anne to a higher rank.

Anne works well in many smoosh names such as Anne-Marie, Lee-Anne, and Lou-Anne. Some parents may like the idea of Anne-Marie or Anne-Sophie, and end up omitting the hyphen while keeping the space between the two names on the Social Security card application and birth certificate.

Lastly, Anne has classic children’s literature credibility. The single syllable and appearance in Pottery Barn catalogs isn’t the only things Anne has in common with Blythe. Both are character names in Anne of Green Gables.

There seems to be an interest in names from literature, even among parents who aren’t that literary. To Kill a Mockingbird has been credited for the rise of Atticus (a character name) and Harper (the author’s name). The Madeline and Eloise book series have also been credited with popularizing those names.

What’s amazing about Anne is that it feels like a former top 10 name but it never made the top 10. Most likely this is due to the combined popularity of the two common spellings: Anne and Ann.

Anne peaked in 1915 at #52 and Ann peaked in 1936 at #28.

Anne is one of those names that, until recently, I dismissed as boring. Lately I find myself appreciating Anne more and more, and I suspect more people will soon share my sentiments.

Readers: Which name is your favorite?

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Name To Watch: Blythe

Blythe-original-croppedSometimes a name starts appearing in pop culture and I feel it is going places despite low birth numbers. Such is the case with Blythe. Not only do I feel Blythe is a solid up-and-coming name, I feel Blythe is a modern classic in the making.

This may seem like a hefty hypothesis, which I will attempt to support here, but of course I can never really prove since predictions are always a crapshoot. But I’m going to attempt to support this prediction and then wait and see…

Blythe’s Appearances

First let’s start with some qualitative data. Blythe has appeared in a few places both outside and inside the baby name blogosphere.

I’m going to start outside the world of name blogs, because I feel this is where the name gets its long-term potential, especially since one association is familiar to the next generation of baby namers.

The children’s show Littlest Pet Shop may suggest the name could appear on future grandchildren. Blythe Baxter is the name of the main character, a little girl who lives in an apartment above a pet shop. Blythe is the only one who can understand what the pets are saying.

Another lesser known association related to The Littlest Pet Shop are Blythe dolls. These are dolls from Japan with over-sized heads and eyes that change color with a pull of a string. Blythe dolls were created in 1972 and only sold in the U.S. for a year by a company that was later purchased by Hasbro.

In 2004 Hasbro introduced Blythe dolls as part of The Littlest Pet Shop toy line, which inspired the name of the main character in the animated TV series.

But I also feel Blythe is appealing to current baby namers. There are a couple of other strong associations. One is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, Blythe Danner and another is Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables.

Perhaps Blythe is a future “generational crossover” name that could be fashionable for at least two generations. Some examples are:

  • Deborah which seems imaginable on both Baby Boomers (ages 45-65) and Gen Xers (ages 30-45) and
  • Allison, imaginable on Gen Xers, Millennials (age 18-30) and present day children (under 18).

Perhaps this is some gutsy forecasting for a name that isn’t even in the top 1000, has never been in the top 1000, and was only given to 162 newborn girls last year.

But I have heard the name everywhere–so much so that I feel we are going to hear Blythe on baby name lists long before contemporary kids start having babies.

The name is already getting attention in the baby name blog world.

Blythe gets an impressive 4500+ keyword search results on popular baby name site Nameberry (at time of writing). In fact it’s getting close to 5000 search results. (These search results bring up how many times a name has been mentioned on Nameberry’s forums, members’ name lists, and blog, and are constantly changing as Nameberry bloggers and readers add more submissions.)

The name also appeared on Swistle Baby Names a few months ago–twice. Once when she mentioned it is as a name to consider and again when the blogger’s mom had asked about Blythe’s pronunciation. Apparently there are questions as to whether the TH is unvoiced like Ruth or voiced like Heather. With a one syllable name like Blythe, I find the difference between the voiced/unvoiced TH very subtle, and if the name continues to become more popular, I don’t think it will be much of an issue.

Blythe By The Numbers

Let’s look at a quantifiable measure, the name’s birth numbers for the past decade. FYI – Swistle took a sample of birth numbers from every 10 years going back to 1880, and I’m taking a sample from every year since 2002 to be consistent with the protocol I initiated with another recent name to watch, Clover. *Note these are real numbers of baby girls named Blythe each year, not Blythe’s rank.

Year # Newborn Girls
2002 74
2003 72
2004 75
2005 79
2006 65
2007 64
2008 77
2009 87
2010 85
2011 105
2012 162


The above table shows that the birth numbers for Blythe were at a plateau for most of the 2000s and even dipped slightly in 2006-7. The real jump happened just within the past couple of years.

If you check out Swistle’s table you will note a gradual increase in Blythe’s born since the early 20th century.

Prior to the 1920s-30s, Blythe did not have enough birth numbers each year to appear in the Social Security data, meaning there were fewer than 5 Blythes born each year.

The steadily rising birth numbers suggest the 2010 decade may be the decade for Blythe. Blythe very well may hit the top 1000 in the late 2010s. And I feel once Blythe hits the top 1000, it will stay there for decades due to the many strong associations–both old and new.

Blythe is going on the UBN Watch List report for next year. This report lists names that I’m watching, and is updated with each Watch List name’s birth numbers every year once the Social Security Administration releases the newest top 1000 baby names. New names are added to the report every year. The report just keeps getting better every year. 🙂

To receive this report, and other UBN updates, submit your email address below. *Blythe isn’t in the current Watch List report, which you will receive immediately once your subscription is confirmed, but it will be in the next report, which you will automatically receive once it comes out next year (unless you choose to unsubscribe before then).

And I’m curious if you agree with me that Blythe is a future hit name. Share your thoughts in the poll and comments.

Readers: Do you feel Blythe has potential to become a top baby name?

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