For the 'different, not weird' baby namer

It’s that time of year! The SSA name rankings are here!

on May 12, 2018

April showers bring May flowers, the Social Security Administration baby name popularity list, and apparently, more showers. That’s right…the SSA has released the 2017 U.S. name rankings, and it’s a good thing it’s pouring rain outside, as I’ll be spending the day poring over this list with a cozy blanket and a hot tea.  While there will most certainly be more posts to come on this topic, I wanted to share my initial reaction by highlighting some newcomers to the top 1000!

-Personally, I’m super excited to see Simeon and Magdalena return to the list.  I think they’re both super attractive, accessible yet unusual choices.

-On the girls’ side, “Oak-” names had an epic showing, with Oaklyn, Oaklynn, and Oaklee all joining Oakley in the Top 1000 for the first time.  Oaklyn soared 742 places to debut at a startling #676, and Oaklynn was the second fastest rising girls’ name, ascending a whopping 1072 spots to #886.  Does anyone have an idea of where this trend originated?

-Speaking of “Oak-” names, “O-” names have generally been fairly rare, with the exception of Olivia, who was at one point the sole “O-” name in the entire top 1000 until Olive returned after her 56-year hiatus.  There certainly seems to be an “O-” trend, though, as Opal (#859) and Octavia (up 435 spots to #593!!!) both rejoined the list in 2017, on the heels of Ophelia, who made her comeback in 2015.

-We also see a couple new place names on the girls’ list, with Egypt making her debut and India returning after a three-year hiatus.  And while Cairo has been making the boys’ list since 2015, Kairo joined him for the first time in 2017.

-For boys, it’s no surprise to see more surnames join the list (or should these two be in the word names category?), with Wells and Ledger both making their Top 1000 debut.  Both of these are clearly fashionable, with trendy endings, celebrity ties, and a surname-y style.

-Wacky “word” names: 2017 brought some…interesting…spelling variations: Kyng for boys and Paisleigh for girls made their top 1000 debuts.

Juelz (more likely a variant of Jules) for boys and Jurnee for girls also returned this year.

Other new word names on the girls’ side include:

Dream– making her Top 1000 debut at #828

Sunny– returning to the list for the first time since 1985

Emerald– returning for the first time since 2002

Legacy– debuting at #945

Treasure– has only made the top 1000 in one other year (2004)

The boys’ side included some surprising gender-bending word names:

Nova soared up 323 spots to debut at #918 on the boys’ list.  Nova has consistently ranked for girls since 2011, and lands at #95 in 2017.

Briar has been making the girls’ list since 2015, but joins the boys’ list for the first time this year at a very respectable #880.

Reign debuted for girls in 2016 and rose to #704 last year.  It’s close behind on the boys’ side though, debuting on the boys’ list at #961.

**It was remarkable to find Nova, Briar, and Reign on the boys’ list since they all have stronger histories on the girls’ side.  Gender neutral names overwhelmingly tend to migrate in the other direction (Kelsey, Ashley, Riley, McKenzie, etc).  And, ultimately, names that make the switch will often become exclusively used for girls (think Meredith and Hillary).  It is therefore refreshing to see names moving the other way, and perhaps reflects the broader movement in our society toward blurring the lines between expectations for boys and girls.

-On that note, Frankie is another really interesting gender neutral pick.  Frankie took only a brief hiatus from the boys’ Top 1000 in 2016, but had been fading for awhile,  ranking #994 in 2015.  He makes a strong comeback in 2017 at #898 on the heels of the girls’ Frankie, who rose to #844 in 2017 from #956 the previous year.

-I was personally surprised to see Melania make the Top 1000 for the first time ever, given the controversy swirling around this one, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

-Surprising comebacks:  I thought these names still sounded a bit dated and would be on the downswing for awhile, but they’re back!

Tara only the left the Top 1000 for one year, but had previously been plummeting for several years.

Renee left the Top 1000 after 2014, but returned in 2017 at #966, albeit a far cry from her #62 peak in 1967.

Jenny– while she only left the Top 1000 for a year, Jenny doesn’t exactly make a strong comeback, ranking only #996.

Miley– I honestly thought we were over Miley when she very abruptly dropped off the list after 2014, as it seemed she was inextricably associated with Miley Cyrus.  Apparently I was wrong; Miley’s back at #923.

-The Top 1000 contained a few surprises (for me at least), but many of the newcomers were very much on-trend, and have been on the upswing for quite a while:

Florence– The U.S. tends to trail behind Britain with regard to naming trends (think Elle, Olive, Liam, Oliver…) and I’ve been waiting several years now for Florence to make her comeback.  She makes her triumphant return to the Top 1000 for the first time since 1981 at #980, and I’d bet this is just the beginning of her ascent.  Florence has been trending in the UK for many years, ranking #20 there in 2016.

Luella– L-heavy names have been exploding for awhile, but Luella hadn’t made the top 1000 since 1955!

Marlowe– Marlowe makes her debut at #981, but has been on a painstakingly slow but steady climb for many years, just barely missing the top 1000 in 2016 with 256 girls receiving this cute moniker.  Marlowe ticks so many trendy boxes, I’d bet she’ll be here for a while.

Koa– Koa weds the hipster vibe of Kai with the biblical Noah, a top 10 name since 2009, so it’s no surprise to see him finally join the Top 1000.

Caspian– Chic Caspian has been on a steady ascent for a decade or so, but only made the Top 1000 for the first time in 2017.  With a familiar but still off-the-grid sound, and with both geographical and literary ties, I foresee this name continuing to rise in the coming years.

So there you have my first thoughts on the names of 2017…what do you think of the Top 1000 newcomers?  Check out the list at



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