When it comes to popularity, there’s a sharp divide.
A name either ranks in the US Top 1000 most popular baby names, as reported annually by the US Social Security Administration, or (obviously) it does not.
We tend to focus our energy on the baby names at the tippy-top of the charts. Olivia and Amelia and Charlotte, the most popular baby girl names of our moment.
But the really interesting part is often what happens on the fringes.
Because once a name debuts in – or returns to – the US Top 1000, it’s often the beginning of a slow, steady climb … that might lead to the Top Ten in another two dozen years or so.
Nevertheless, in order for parents to consider a name, they have to hear it. Inspiration can come from so many places, of course – television shows, popular songs, athletes and other public figures. But sometimes names just catch on thanks to style and sound, working their way into the rankings.
And names that crack the US Top 1000 are more likely to be heard.
So these are my guesses for future Top 1000 girl names. I’m looking for names like Layla and Nova, Freya and Juniper. Once-rare possibilities that now feel right at home on nearly any playground.
FUTURE TOP 1000 GIRL NAMES
Some of these are appearing on the future Top 1000 girl names for the very first time. Others are making an encore appearance.
We love Aurora, a night sky name currently ranked in the US Top 50. Aura is a little different. Also Latin by way of Greek, Aura comes from a word meaning breeze. But we associate it with a kind of energy. An aura is almost a vibe, except some people say they can see them – and those auras indicate another person’s state of being. That makes this name spiritual, not so different from Bodhi or Eden. One drawback: it’s also a medical term, referring to the phenomenon signalling that a migraine is about to start. Still, in our age of Luna and Ava, Maya and Ayla, Emma and Cora, Aura works.
Yes, I’ve been betting on Betty for ages. After all, Betty White was the nation’s grandmother, and we still mourn her 2021 passing. Since we lost her at the very end of 2021, it’s possible that 2022 was a little too soon to see an impact on the name’s popularity. But also: Taylor Swift worked the Blake Lively-Ryan Reynolds’ girls names – at least their first three – into her lyrics for a recent(ish) album. Swift released “Betty” on Folklore in 2020, and she’s only gotten more famous since then. Millions scored tickets to see The Eras Tour, and millions more watched the movie version in theaters. Plus, Riverdale gave us Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper. And it fits! Billie back. So why not Betty? One possible hitch: classic, royal Elizabeth might be nicknamed Betty, without causing Betty itself to rise in use.
If Betty White’s name makes this list, then surely Dolly Parton ought to put her vintage nickname name on the list, too. Ms. Parton’s given name is Dolly, but it’s traditionally short for Dorothy – a classic favorite on the upswing. Millie and Molly, Lily and Ellie are all popular names with a middle L sound and an EE ending. Darling Dolly belongs. Of course, it’s among the cutest – maybe even cutesiest – of the nickname names. In an earlier generation, that might’ve given parents pause. But those casual choices are favorites now. And Parton’s powerhouse status makes it easier than ever to take Dolly seriously.
Elena ranks in the US Top 100, and has since 2016. Plenty of other spellings of this name rank, too: Elaina, Alaina, Alayna. Alina, Elina and Alena, plus Eliana, again with multiple spellings, are only a little different. Eleni is the modern Greek form of Helen. That makes it accessible. Though, of course, we’re in the era of Greek mythology names. If Athena and Persephone are popular, then Eleni isn’t a stretch. And we are wild about El- names, with Elodie, Elowyn, Elodie, Eloise, Elora, Elisa, and Elsie all gaining in use. Eleni might appeal to parents looking for an update to names like Avery and Wrenlee, Eliza, Natalie, and Chloe, too – a very broad range of styles.
Typically, a respelling of name doesn’t make it on to thie list. But somehow Esmae feels like more than just a reboot of Esme. Why? First, strictly speaking, the original is spelled Esmé, with the diacritical mark clarifying pronunciation. But American English doesn’t use those signifiers and we’re so used to names like Penelope and Zoe that we’re quite likely to pronounce this one EsMEE. Esmae simples that up. Another factor: Esme ranks solidly in the England & Wales Top 100, and Esmae waits just beyond. While Americans don’t always follow the British lead, it’s something to consider.
Georgia is a fast-rising favorite, part-classic choice and part-place name. Now Georgina ranks in the US Top 1000, too, and Georgie fits right in, a little like Julie and Julia from another generation. But more than our love of feminine forms of George, it’s worth noting that several feminine forms of baby boy names have become rising favorites of late. Some are gender-neutral names, like Charlie. Others might be called gender neutral, but truly are used in significantly bigger numbers for girls, like Stevie and Frankie. Scottie debuted in the girls’ Top 1000 last year, so Georgie? Feels inevitable.
Not so long ago, we dismissed names like Evelyn and Hazel as horribly old-fashioned. Sophia? She was the oldest of The Golden Girls. But we are forever rediscovering vintage gems. And Harriet is one that feels overdue for revival. Nicknames Hattie and Hallie are already rocketing up the popularity charts. With names like Charlotte and Juliet in favor, and classic Margaret on the rise, Harriet’s comeback is surely imminent. It returned to the US rankings briefly in 2019 – for the first time since 1970 – but left again in 2020. Still, with Abigail falling, it feels like there’s a space for a buttoned-up formal name with sparky short forms. Harriet could play that role beautifully.
As a generation of children answering to word names like Ivy and Aria grows up, a name like Honey doesn’t sound so outlandish. It’s been a Top 200 pick in England & Wales in recent years, and British celebs like Jamie Oliver and Kate Winslet famously chose the name for their daughters. It’s quadrupled in use in the US since 2017. That’s well after reality sensation Here Comes Honey Boo Boo left television – another reason to think the name’s rise isn’t a pop culture fluke.
Ava and Mia are long-time Top Ten picks in the US. Isla and Mila have been recent favorites. Ida marries those mini names and the “eye” sound with a more vintage energy. It’s easy to imagine Ida as a sister for Frances or Ruth. There’s something substantial about Ida, even though it’s quite brief. A Top Ten favorite in the nineteenth century and a Top 100 pick until the 1930s, the 100 Year Rule suggests that Ida is more than ready for a comeback.
Influencer Hannah Neeleman of Ballerina Farm fame has made life in rural Utah look impossibly wholesome and stylish. She and husband Daniel have also welcomed seven – soon to be eight – beautifully named children. The boys are Henry, Charles, and George; and the girls are Frances, Lois, Martha, and Mabel. There’s no question that Martha and Mabel are gaining in use, possibly with some credit to Hannah. Or maybe, as with her gorgeously curated social media presence, she might just have a knack for tapping into current trends. While on paper Lois is stuck in style limbo, I think it’s still worth watching, a borrowed-from-the Bible name might substitute for popular picks like Lydia or conventional classics like Sarah.
Word names have gone from out-there picks to perfectly ordinary choices. File Maven midway between modern nature names like Meadow and old school virtue choices like Grace. Plus, it shares the middle V and appealing sound of fellow word name Haven, a choice that continues to rise. And speaking of rising, Maeve and Maisie climbed quite a bit in 2022. There’s room for another May name. Lastly, Maven isn’t a common surname or place name, but we’re used to girls’ names like Brooklyn and London, Harper and Peyton. Maven sounds right at home.
Remy and Remi have become twenty-first century staples with gender neutral appeal. Romy, originally a nickname for Rosemary and Rosemarie, sounds like a logical successor. It’s a little bit Ruby, a little bit Reagan, and R name that has double in use over the last five years. Romy also feels ever so slightly European, thanks to German-French screen legend Romy Schneider. The Prix Romy Schneider is presented annually to an up-and-coming French actress.
It’s a mini name and a nature name, two qualities that might pique parents’ interest on their own. Another factor: Rue is an appealing character in The Hunger Games, a YA sci fi series back in the spotlight thanks to prequel movie The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. And, of course, Zendaya plays Ruby “Rue” Bennett on Euphoria, a critically acclaimed series and a role for which she has won an Emmy. Rue falls midway between serious Ruth and sparkly Ruby, as brief as Jade or Sloane, and feels like something more than just an appealing sound.
Solano is a Spanish surname meaning “a place in the sun.” St. Francis Solanus – or Francisco Solano – served as a missionary to South America at the turn of the seventeenth century. Solana is the logical feminine form; both names are sometimes given in his honor. But Solana’s inclusion on this list isn’t about religion. Instead, several of the most popular names combine romance language roots with the word Sol – sun in Spanish. Sol, Soleil, and Marisol are all rising in use at the moment. Solana feels nicely feminine, too, a little more like Sierra or Cecilia – or possibly even a Spanish classic like Catalina – than a modern nature name.
If names that point to the sun are having a moment, then Sunday has potential. Nicole Kidman named her daughter Sunday way back in 2008, inspired by an Australian patron of the arts. Mike Myers chose the same name in 2014. Nickname Sunny is a plus, and several influencers have recently mentioned – or used – the name, too. It might be a reference to a day of worship, a less obvious choice than Angel or Heaven. While it’s a stretch for Sunday to reach the US Top 1000 based on current numbers, it’s worth noting that the name has more than quadrupled in use in less than a decade. The mix of word name, possible allusions to sunshine and/or spirituality, and the sense that it’s just a little different could be the perfect mix.
Long names like Isabella, Gabriella, and Savannah have been Top 100 favorites for years. Factor in our love of Lu- names (Luna, Lucy, Lucia) and the appeal of names with strong L sounds (Ella, Lyla), and Tallulah checks a lot of boxes. But despite celebrity birth announcements and vintage Hollywood charm, this name has yet to catch on. That could be changing – the numbers put Tallulah right outside of the current US Top 1000.
Tilly works for many of the reasons Dolly makes this list. It’s casual and breezy, but with plenty of history, too. Most Tillys are probably short for a longer name, like Matilda. Though it might work for anything with a strong T and L sound. Natalia, maybe? Tilly recently left England’s Top 100, but in the US, it’s been climbing steadily over the last decade or more. As for the spelling, Tilly-with-a-Y might be more familiar thanks to the chain store located in many suburban shopping malls. Originally named The World of Jeans and Tops, it was re-named Tillys after co-founder Tilly Levine.
It’s not as if Wednesday Addams is a new character. But Netflix’s recent series Wednesday puts the eldest Addams child front and center, detailing her life at Nevermore Academy. We learn more about Morticia and Gomez, and Wedesnday, too, of course. Played to perfection by Jenna Ortega, it’s easy to fall in love with her character – and her name. While inspiration probably came from the old nursery rhyme – “Wedensday’s child is full of woe” – the character is intelligent, loyal, and capable – if, yes, a little dark. The numbers don’t quite add up for Wednesday to make the US Top 1000 just yet, but the potential is there.
Another vintage name due for a comeback, Winifred nickname Winnie returned to the rankings four years ago. It’s a big, substantial name, the kind of choice we associate with 1800s-era heiresses and sufragettes. Think Adelaide or Emmeline, but even less expected. But that’s exactly the point. After peaking in the 1910s and leaving the rankings entirely during the 1960s, Winifred has had a long rest and is ready for a comeback.
File this manga name somewhere between Emery and Winifred, sound-wise. Winry Rockbell is a character in Full Metal Alchemist, a teenage mechanic who helps two brothers on their quest. The name’s origins aren’t explained, but it sounds like a name – a little bit like Marie/Mary/Maria, and a lot like Winnie, too. As the story – and associated adaptations, including a video game – has caught on in the US, so has the name.
LAST YEAR’S PREDICTIONS
ARAYA (debuted at #895)
A Thai name meaning righteous as well as a Spanish surname borrowed from the map, Araya is a name that spans the globe. (Possible meanings are also found in Amharic as well as Japanese.) It’s also sometimes a surname or a masculine name, but sound gives this one to the girls in the US. It’s steadily risen in use over the last two decades, and seems poised to reach the Top 1000.
BETTY (did not rank)
Back in the day, Betty ranked a sky-high #2, behind only Mary. (And well ahead of Elizabeth, the formal name from which Betty derives.) But those days are long past – Betty left the US Top Ten in 1944 and the Top 1000 in 1996. More proof of the name’s vintage? It brings to mind the late comedy icon Betty White, born in 1922, as the US neared peak-Betty. The name feels ready for revival, a sister for Sadie. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds named a daughter Betty – and Taylor Swift announced it in her song lyrics – so clearly, style-conscious parents are taking notice.
ELOWYN (debuted at #877)
Novel nature names aren’t only for English. The Cornish name Elowen refers to an elm tree, and it’s trending in the UK. But the spelling Elowyn is slightly more popular in the US. Why? Maybe because we often choose a Y spelling for an import – think Gwendolyn or Brynn. Or maybe it’s thanks to Elowyn Greenbriar, a character in The Folk of the Air, a bestselling YA fantasy series. Either way, it’s Elowyn with a Y that sits just outside of the US Top 1000 and could easily rank.
HARRIET (did not rank)
Antique Harriet fits right in with so many traditional favorites, but the -et ending also brings to mind newer chart-toppers, like Scarlett and Juliette. A feminine form of boys’ favorite Henry, Harriet could be a sister for Josephine, a substitute for Eleanor. It’s been just slightly outside of the Top 1000 for the past three years.
LAKELYNN (debuted at #968)
Lake is a straight-up nature name with plenty of appeal, but it remains rare. Lakelynn picks up on modern innovations like Oaklynn and Emberlynn that have gained dramatically in recent years. For parents looking for something new, it blends nature names with mix-and-match choices, in the key of Wrenley or Oakleigh. It’s a recipe for success.
LOTTIE (debuted at #950)
Sweetly vintage Lottie can be a nickname for Top Ten Charlotte. (It’s said to be one of Princess Charlotte’s nicknames.) American parents have long favored Charlie instead. But we also love Sadie and Ellie and Millie, which makes Lottie a logical next choice. A nineteenth century Top 100 favorite, Lottie hasn’t ranked in the US since the 1950s – but that might just meant his name is prime for revival.
LOVE (debuted at #754)
Word names have always had their place. While some, like Grace, feel traditional, others seem far more modern. Love has always been given – in small numbers – to our daughters and our sons. But lately, it’s spiked in use dramatically for girls. That’s almost certainly thanks to Netflix’s dark psychological thriller You, starring Penn Badgley as Joe. Love Quinn is introduced in the second season, remains a central figure in the third, and appears as a guest during the fourth. Season five is coming in 2024, and while the character isn’t at the heart of the story, parents watching the show will continue to discover Love as a given name.
MARIGOLD (debuted at #833)
Downton Abbey took Marigold from rare to familiar; the numbers have just taken a while to catch up. The flower name fits right in with Violet and Rose – also Downton names – but also modern choices like Willow and Azalea. The character was introduced in 2014; it has risen dramatically in use since then and now sits just outside the official Top 1000. If Iris is elegant and Daisy is sweet, Marigold splits the difference.
SERAPHINA (did not rank)
Fiery and elaborate, Seraphina sounds like it ought to rank somewhere between Isabella and Valentina, or at least Francesca and Aurelia. So far that hasn’t come to pass – even though Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck welcomed their daughter Seraphina way back in 2009. (Plenty of other pop culture references exist, too.) Maybe it’s just taken more than a decade for this long and lovely name to make it to the top of parents’ shortlists in big numbers.
TALLULAH (did not rank)
Tallulah has never ranked in the US Top 1000, but it still feels like a sparky, vintage choice. Credit goes to early Broadway and Hollywood star Tallulah Bankhead. It’s trending now because we love so many l-l names, like Delilah and Liliana. Plus, Luna, Lucy, and Louise all share that lovely lou sound. Tallulah just plain fits, and the numbers suggest that this could be Tallulah’s year.
TRUE (did not rank, but Tru debuted at #948 for girls in 2022)
Tru – hold the E – rocketed in the boys’ Top 1000 in 2017 and continues to climb. There’s a Kardashian granddaughter named True, though, and plenty of examples to make this name solidly unisex. Just like fellow word names River and Reign, there’s every reason to guess that True will gain in use for girls. And while there’s no obvious explanation, Tru – hold the E – is more popular for boys at the moment, while the four-letter True is slightly more successful for girls.
WENDY (did not rank)
At first glance, Wendy isn’t anywhere near ready for a comeback. It was a 1960s favorite, meaning there are plenty of grandma Wendys right about now. And yet, pop culture has recently given us Peter Pan and Wendy. While the movie is a 2023 release, it’s been under development – and much discussed – for years now. Any Disney-loving family probably knows that a fresh take on Wendy Darling has been headed their way for a while, re-casting her as braver and more adventurous than some earlier tellings. The numbers suggest Wendy is still stuck in style limbo, but this feels like a possible name that could break all the rules. It’s also in the key of Wednesday, a name poised to rocket next, thanks to another classic character reinvented on a streamer.
Here are the girls’ names I’ve previously predicted would enter the rankings – and their current standing:
- ANTONELLA (ranks #434 as of the 2022 data)
- BELLAMY (ranks #717 as of the 2022 data)
- BILLIE (ranks #949 as of the 2022 data)
- BIRDIE (ranks #803 as of the 2022 data)
- BRIAR (ranks #533 as of the 2022 data)
- CLEMENTINE (ranks #558 as of the 2022 data)
- CLEO (ranks #664 as of the 2022 data)
- CLOVER (ranks #755 as of the 2022 data)
- ELODIE (ranks #690 as of the 2022 data)
- EMERALD (ranks #768 as of the 2022 data)
- EMILIANA (ranks #995 as of the 2022 data)
- FLORA (ranks #726 as of the 2022 data)
- FLORENCE (ranks #622 as of the 2022 data)
- FRANKIE (ranks #545 as of the 2022 data)
- GOLDIE (ranks #813 as of the 2022 data)
- INDIE (ranks #553 as of the 2022 data)
- INAYA (ranks #966 as of the 2022 data)
- JOVIE (ranks #733 as of the 2022 data)
- LAKELYN (ranked #983 as of the 2022 data)
- LOTTIE (ranks #950 as of the 2022 data)
- LOUISE (ranks #638 as of the 2022 data)
- LUELLA (ranks #996 as of the 2022 data)
- MARIGOLD (ranks #833 as of the 2022 data)
- MARLOWE (ranks #781 as of the 2022 data)
- MAVIS (ranks #680 as of the 2022 data)
- MAXINE (ranks #614 as of the 2022 data)
- NOA (ranks #298 as of the 2022 data)
- OCEAN (ranks #759 as of the 2022 data)
- OCTAVIA (ranks #249 as of the 2022 data)
- OPAL (ranks #525 as of the 2022 data)
- OPHELIA (ranks #272 as of the 2022 data)
- PALMER (ranks #294 as of the 2022 data)
- PERSEPHONE (ranks #689 as of the 2022 data)
- POPPY (ranks #338 as of the 2022 data)
- PROMISE (ranks #782 as of the 2022 data)
- RAMONA (ranks #794 as of the 2022 data)
- SALEM (ranks #453 as of the 2022 data)
- SCOUT (ranks #693 as of the 2022 data)
- SYLVIE (ranks #436 as of the 2022 data)
- WINNIE (ranks #592 as of the 2022 data)
- ZELDA (ranks #669 as of the 2022 data)
- ZORA (ranks #846 as of the 2022 data)