Fireworks by bayasaa via Flickr

Back in 2008, I made a raft of prognostications for the coming year. Overall, I’d rate my crystal-ball gazing a B-. It isn’t that they didn’t come true – at least in part – it is that they were so vague that I could declare victory no matter what happened.

Part of the puzzle is this: baby name trends ooze. The following names were still in the girls’ Top 100 in 2010: Ashley, Sydney, Lauren, Jessica. For the boys? Jason, Eric, Kevin. For every parent searching for something new, there are plenty that prefer the familiar.

And yet I cannot resist. To make my predictions more trackable, I’m listing plenty of specific baby names this year – so there’s no weaseling out in December 2012!

12. The boys’ name likely to enter the Top Ten and stay for a spell … Mason. He’s a surname, he has that long a sound, he ends in n – all hallmarks of current trendy favorites like Jayden. But M is a faithful stand-by for boys, from Michael and Matthew to Mark and Max. And that M is all that’s separating him from former Top Ten staple Jason is that letter. He’s a style favorite with celebrities, from Laura San Giacomo to Melissa Joan Hart to Kourtney Kardashian. Of course Mason was already #12 in 2010, so predicting he’ll tip into the Top Ten isn’t a stretch.

11. The elements most likely to repeat … El and Ev. Sounds catch on, maybe more than names do. Madigan is a great, distinctive choice – but it is also terribly close to the wildly popular Madison and many spellings of Madeline. And no one really needs to talk about the -aidens.

Two elements on the upswing? El for boys, as evidenced by Elijah (#18) and Eli (#65), but also Elias and Elliott (plus Elliot and Eliot). Also spotted? The literary Ellis and the jazzy Ellington, though both can read unisex.

On the girls’ side, Ev feels unstoppable, even if she’s sometimes buried in names. In the Top 100 there’s Evelyn (#39) and Eva (#91), plus Genevieve (#279) and Evangeline (#333). Is Evie the next Maddie? Or does that distinction belong to Lily – because if a girl’s name doesn’t contain the letter v, it almost surely boasts a l or two.

10. Two classics likely to have a good year … Charlotte and Henry. Neither name could ever be dismissed as trendy, but even the most evergreen appellations rise and fall.

My heart belongs to Caroline, but Charlotte’s trajectory has been impressive. At #45 in 2010, parents seem to think of her like Elizabeth – even if there’s one on your block, she’s still so enduring that your daughter’s name isn’t diminished because it is shared.

Henry has been a favorite with Hollywood parents and, at #67 and climbing in 2010, feels like he could be headed back for the US Top Ten, a place he spent three decades.

9. Name that should resurface in the Top 1000 … Hattie. Liam and Stella were already stylish when Tori Spelling gave the names to her first two children. But baby #3 could be a trendsetter!

Before the Spelling-McDermotts chose the name, one of the four babes profiled in the 2010 documentary Babies was San Fransisco resident Hattie, a name that appeared on movie posters with fellow tots Ponijao, Mari, and Bayar.

Hattie was last ranked in the US Top 1000 in 1968, and Harriet disappeared after 1970. Hattie is a possible successor name to the popular Sadie, too, just as likely to be given independently, even if she started out as a diminutive.

8. The next unexpected retro revival to anticipate … Edith. It sounds like a long shot, but then, Sophia was once a fading old lady name, too. From Ava to Isabella to Olivia, vowel names are big. With possible nickname Edie, Edith shakes off her fusty image and feels just right on a little girl. The literary appeal of Edith Wharton gives this one some extra oomph. Taste-maker tee shirt label Edith A. Miller takes the name in another direction.

7. Unconventional middle name on the upswing … Shalom. If two moms as different as reality TV star Michelle Duggar and rock star blogger Rebecca Woolf can give this middle name to daughters, then Shalom – a Hebrew word of greeting that translates to peace – could be one to watch.

6. The unstoppable variant spelling … Zoey. One of the reasons I’ve found myself defending variant spellings is that there are so many cases where the more historically authentic spelling has taken a back seat to the version we know and love today. Thanks to the mounds of data we can access, it is now possible to see it happening in real time. Kaitlyn eclipsed Caitlin as we all watched; ditto Aiden and Aidan. Khloe is gaining on Chloe, and with Disney introducing a pint-sized princess called Sofia, perhaps Sophia is vulnerable, too. But my pick for new dominant spelling is Zoe-with-a-y.

Zoey got a big boost from Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101, but I also suspect she’s an intuitive spelling for many of us. Who doesn’t know a guy or two who answers to Joey? In 2000, Zoey ranked just #409 while Zoe entered the Top 100 at #98. Today Zoey is #47, not far behind #31 Zoe.

5. The next big ends-in-e name for girls … Penelope. Ends-in-e feels like a big category for girls right now, from Zoe and Chloe to Daphne and Phoebe. But Penelope was one celebrity birth announcement away from exploding – and the witty Tina Fey just gave the name to her second daughter a few months ago.

Another candidate in this category could be Esme. Though some dismiss her as a Twilight-inspired vampire matriarch – and a rather minor character, to boot – the name had been quietly catching on for years, at least since Michael J. Fox and Tracey Pollan used the name for one of their daughters.

4. Gender neutral name most likely to stay gender neutral … Rowan. Conventional wisdom has long held that once a name “goes girl” parents will simply dismiss it for sons. Except that’s not quite what happens in many cases, and in our era, some names do seem to begin truly gender neutral – and stay that way. File nature name Rowan in this category. It continues to surface for boys and girls at a steady pace. Call Rowan the new Payton.

3. Place name that’s going places … London. When Disney’s Suite Life With Zack and Cody debuted in 2005, London ranked just #536 for girls, and read as a riff on Paris Hilton – like Ms. Hilton, London’s daddy owned a hotel. But something happened, and London is the new Brooklyn – a name that appeals regardless of whether the parents have an actual affinity for the place. At #108 in 2010, London has gone mainstream – and that’s more than a year before the Olympics arrive in the United Kingdom’s capital next summer.

2. Nature name to watch … Echo. She’s kind of out there, a name that darted into the Top 1000 just twice in the 1980s, but this could be her moment. She shares sounds with mega-hit Chloe, and feels like an option for parents disappointed to discover that Willow is worn by so many girls. She’s a smidge less trendy than Harlow, but edgier than Margot. She recently surfaced in a Nameberry thread on fierce names.

1. Boy’s name you’ll be surprised that your son shares … Asher. What’s not to love about Asher? He’s Biblical like Joshua and Noah, nickname-proof like Ethan and Logan, and masculine without being too aggressive, a brother for Gabriel or Landon. The trouble is that lots of parents like those same qualities. Add in that powerful ends-in-r construction, and Asher is a great name, but he’s the worst kept secret in baby naming.

And so a Happy New Year to all, and stay tuned … whether I’m right or wrong, following baby name trends is a blast!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. Wane made our top ten girls list. I love it, but I love Agatha and Imogen more. Lol.
    I have noticed an upswing in the use of the name Asher, and from people who don’t know or care about its biblical connection. It is one of those cool guy named that will probably take off in popularity. Hopefully not as trendy as Aiden.
    I met a little one named Poem Alexandra the other day. Poem sounds so sweet and soft on a little girl. It was a surprise to hear it.

    1. Poem? Really lovely, though totally unexpected. I like Poet, too. Is it crazy that Poet feels more masculine to me, while Poem strikes me as feminine?