English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego.
English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2012 is slipping away, and that means a new year of baby names is just around the corner.

This year’s baby name predictions range from some very specific names on the rise to sounds we like to broader changes in how we think about names.

What’s likely to be hot in 2013?  Surprises abound, but I have a few thoughts for you to ponder as you sip champagne and watch the fireworks.

10.  Name most likely to enter the Top 100 for boys … Camden.

Now that London seems to be solidly established for girls, this equally English place name is bounding up the charts for boys.  Appearing in two high profile birth announcements this past summer – Hills alum Kristin Cavallari welcomed Camden Jack and, right after Labor Day, Nick Lachey and his wife named their firstborn Camden John.  Camden was at #160 in the 2011 rankings, but I think we could see a big jump when the 2012 results are announced this Spring.

9.  Unstoppable retro gemstone name on the rise … Pearl.

If the vibrant Ruby was once the brightest jewel in the name ‘verse, today that distinction belongs to the vintage Pearl.  Chosen by Jack Osbourne and Jake Owen in 2012, this could be Pearl’s year.

8.  Variant spelling most likely to surpass the original … Sofia.

Last year, I predicted that Zoey would surpass Zoe – and while both names are still popular, the -y ending did pull ahead last year.  Sofia has a harder road.  Over 21,000 girls received the Sophia spelling in 2011, making her the top name in the US.  Meanwhile just 7,200 – roughly a third as many – were named Sofia.  But the newest Disney princess is the small screen Sofia.  Factor in that she’s the preferred Spanish spelling, a smash hit in Argentina and Chile, and Sofia could soon rival the nation’s #1 name.

7.  Newest -ia ending name on the rise … Cecilia.

Besides Sophia and Sofia, other popular ends-in-ia picks include Olivia, Victoria and Amelia.  It’s a category on the rise, with the musical Aria and Italianate Lucia.  But Cecilia feels like the frontrunner.  Nickname Cece is underused but very on trend.  And Cecilia picks up all of those ls, just like Lily, Lila and company.

6.  Birth announcement most likely to garner endless media attention and inspire at least a few parents …

Royal baby name speculation is already sky high.  When the future king or queen arrives, it will reach a fever pitch, especially if a few days pass before the name reveal.  The family can’t pick anything too surprising – a future monarch has to have a name steeped in history and tradition.  But the upside is that we know the baby will have multiple names, and we can look forward to analyzing each of them.  I’d also guess that any name chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will rise in the rankings in the UK and the US.

As for specific royal baby name predictions?  My money is still on Mary for a girl, and Arthur for a boy.

5.  Boys’ names will be pirate perfect.

Parker, Carter, Carson, Charlie, Arlo, Arthur, Archer … no matter your style, odds are that you like a boys’ name heavy on the arrr sound.  From Jack Sparrow to Jake, Disney has appealing pirates galore.  Is it any wonder that we’re all about this sound for boys’ names?

What other ar-heavy names could find favor in 2013?  I’m most curious about Barrett, Martin, and Ari.  And how ’bout Harvey?  He’s not for everyone, but with evergreen Henry so stylish, perhaps the door is opened for Harvey’s comeback.

4.  For girls, it is all about elo.

Elodie, Eloise, and Elowen are all garnering significant attention, and it could be the year of elo for girls.  Jello without the j, the Cockney way of saying hello.  The sound also appears in the super-stylish Penelope Are there other elo names that could catch on?  I’m stumped by that question.  Cielo, maybe?  Melody?

3.  Super-short boys’ names are on the rise.

Short boys’ names are on the uptick.  The Top 100 contains a few on the more classic side: Luke, Jack, Cole, and Max.  But right behind them are a crop of modern innovations, new to this generation.  Read through the Top 1000 and you’ll find Jace, Gage, Kai, Chance, Drake, Cash and Kash, Royce, Lane, Reid and Reed, Cruz, Jax, Ty, Jett, Cade, Tate, Knox, Nash, Ace, Trace, Kale, Case, Dax, Clay, Bo, Van, Blaze  and plenty of others, along with a few that you might’ve heard in earlier generations, like Jude, Zane, Drew, Rhys, and Zeke.  

The category is led by the tremendously stylish Finn, who is now boosting a similar, swashbuckling name: Flynn.

Expect to hear Dev, Dex, Pax, Lev, Bay, Ash, Rafe, Coy, Croy, Oak, Fife, West, Beau, Jove, Rock, Slate, Keane, Rev, Fox, Ford, Kerr, Kier, Leif, Mac, Penn, Reef, Reeve, West, Thor, Tyce, Rune, Zev, Hart, Hale, Huck, and Quinn.

Another outcome of this trend?  Short names like Gus, Jake, and Tom are going on the birth certificate, instead of August, Jacob, and Thomas.

There are also ends-with-s choices.  Think of Yates, Ames, Jules, Keats, or Gates.

Pop culture gives us two to consider.  Gray and Grey had been catching on quickly with stylish parents, but will 50 Shades of stall his rise?  And The Hunger Games features a handsome figure named Gale.  If Gage and Kale are boys’ names, could Gale gain favor for our sons?

2. We will continue to see increasing volatility in boys’ names.

Look at the Top 5 names for the past 100 years in the US.  Over a century, 43 girls’ names make the list, ranging from Dorothy to Lisa to Madison.  Boys’ names are traditionally more stable, with just 23 appellations making the list.

But consider the more recent charts.

On the girls’ Top Five, all of the names are relative newcomers.  Emma arrived in the Top 5 in 2002, and is still holding on, making her the senior member of the list.

On the boys’ Top Five, there is William – a name that has been in and out of the rankings over the past hundred years.  Jacob has been around since 1995.  But the other three names – Mason, Jayden, and Noah – are new arrivals, each making the Top 5 for two years or less.

There are two possible explanations.  First, it could be that we’re just seeing a new cluster of boys’ names in the ascendancy, and we’ll still be calling our sons Jayden and Mason in 2022.  But something tells me that’s not the case.  Instead, volatility in boys’ names is increasing.

Why?  Fewer families feel obligated to name their sons after relatives, and more parents are willing to choose a novel name for a son.  This makes things interesting.

1. The pool of nature names for girls continues to expand.

Zinnia, Wren, Lake … we’re not tired of nature names, and we’re not running out of fresh possibilities, either.  It’s the best of both worlds – a name that is familiar and easy to spell, but not likely to be shared with other children.  From tree names, like Juniper and Linden, to birds, seasons, and weather, to an endless supply of flowers, we’ll keep hearing more names borrowed from the natural world.

What do you think 2013 is likely to bring?  Will boys’ names be more volatile?  Are we going to be meeting more kids named Sofia, Cecilia, Camden, and Pearl?  How ’bout Arlo, Pax, and Lake?

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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What do you think?


  1. I love that my newest arrival’s name – Florence – is not an up-and-comer. But I’m sad to see her nickname – Flyn – on the list for boys. What makes “Flynn” particularly boy-ish? To me, it’s very feminine. So similar to Lyn, and with the “y” in it, it even looks girly, no?

    One trend I wish would stop? Naming girls any variant of Reece. It’s a masculine name (and my son’s name). And until Ms. Witherspoon showed up, it had ALWAYS been a boys name. It makes me sad to see so many awesome boy names ending up on girls when the girls already have so many to choose from. I hope to see an upswing in more girls being named *feminine* names.

  2. I would love to see Harvey become juuuuust a little more popular, enough such that choosing him for a future son would seem cutting-edge, not strange. Also, I had a great-uncle named Gale and it would be so cool to see it reappear on boys.

  3. Posts like this make me thank God that my subculture runs names 10 years behind. I can have the Pearl I’ve wanted for a very long time and they will all still see it as “me”…

  4. Totally devastated to see one of the names I’ve picked on this list 🙁 🙁 🙁 I PRAY it doesn’t gain popularity!!!

  5. It looks like my daughter’s name is going to fit into that pirate ARRrrr prediction. Arwen is due March 2013. 🙂

  6. Love this. And your predictions from last year were spot on.

    I’ve been noticing the AR sound too, for boys and girls as well. Arlo, Harlow, Marlowe. Definitely the sound of the moment. Funny that your royal predicitions also fit snugly into this trend.

    And loving the nature names.