Reasons to Use Popular Baby NamesIt’s no secret that I love unusual names. Having grown up sharing my name with thousands of girls my age, I longed to be Hepzibah. Or Elodie.

And yet more popular picks can make for great choices, too. Friends of ours just called their darling daughter Emma, and it got me thinking.

So here are Ten Good Reasons to call your baby Ethan or Emma, Liam or Jack.

Popular names tend to be great names with universal appeal.

I might like her lots, but Hephzibah is probably never going to make the Top Ten. Read through any list of popular names, though, and surely you’ll find many that appeal. How often have you heard – or said – something like this: “I love the name Olivia. Too bad it’s so popular!”

They’re easy to spell.

Unless you decide to name your daughter Emmalie, one advantage of a common name is rarely having to correct others. Plenty of us wear cumbersome last names. If you’re constantly spelling Niedalkowski, maybe having a first name like Ava is a good idea. And if you’re crossing cultures, sticking with a simple pick might be wise, too.

Repetition is rarely necessary.

Try this exercise. Call your daughter Clio. Introduce her to someone new. Hear new person say, “Hi, Chloe.” Politely say, “Actually, she’s Clio.” Repeat a bajillion times.

This probably wouldn’t happen with Charlotte or Mason – we expect to meet children with those names. Yes, everyone will eventually remember that your son is called Eben, not Evan or Ethan or Benjamin. But be prepared to smile lots until that happens.

Even a #1 name is less popular than it ever was in prior generations.

There is not a single girl called Harper enrolled at my daughter’s elementary school. There are no boys named Noah.

In 1908, over 5% of boys were John and more than 5% of girls were Mary. In 1978, nearly 4% of boys were named Michael, and over 3.5% of girls were called Jennifer. Today, a mere 1% of all children born each year receive the most popular name, and the percentage will probably continue to drop.

Some of the most popular names might still sound novel.

Name your daughter Jennifer today, and odds are good she’ll be the only Jenny in her class. “But,” you protest, “I knew so many Jennys growing up! I want something unusual. Like Scarlett.”

As it happens, Scarlett is a chart-topper. But today’s parents certainly didn’t grow up with a Scarlett, and that might be all that matters.

Some of the most popular names might be truly enduring.

If you love the classics, why not use Elizabeth and James for your children? Sure, they’ll know others with their name. But they could hop in a time machine and probably meet another James or Elizabeth throughout much of history.

It’s hard to argue that Grace or Henry is trendy, even if they’ve recently been popular.

Some trendy names endure.

Madison will, inevitably, fade from use, and all of those Jaydens? Some day their names will scream thirty-something and, eventually, octogenarian.

But other names age gracefully. Amanda and Martin are far from their heyday, but remain perfectly reasonable – even sensible – picks for a child.

Some kids embrace being one of many.

I once met a Kate who grew up with a best friend called Katie. They loved having the same name, even mashing it together to call themselves the Katie-Kates. There must be similar stories on every playground in America.

Just because I hated growing up with a Top Ten name doesn’t mean your child would mind being Jack T.

There are no guarantees that an uncommon name will stay that way.

The year is 2007. You choose the stunning, unusual Aria for your daughter.

Fast forward to today, and every time you call your teenage daughter’s name at the mall, preschoolers’ heads turn. (Your teenager, of course, does not answer, because you’re embarrassing her.)

Today’s fashionable, but obscure choice – think Elora, Antonella, or Wren – could be just one celebrity birth announcement away from the Top 100.

Your favorite name might have meaning.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to name your daughter Emma, after your favorite book. Or maybe William was your beloved grandfather’s name. If that’s the case, their popularity doesn’t matter one bit. The name will always feel just right.

What do you think? Would – or did – a name’s ranking in the Top Ten stop you from using it?

reasons to choose popular names reasons to choose popular names

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 would love to share this on another page if you’re interested. It isn’t mine but the page owners may be ok with it, if you are. I see so many people trying so hard to avoid to the top 10, 20, or 100 (for me it was 500). I honestly believe it could bring a lot of relief to some very anxious moms-to-be out there.

    If only I had had the internet at the time my were being named. But alas, I love my Hayden. No matter how much his name will always date him. You have no idea how much grief I fought through from relatives who had never heard it or thought it was an “old man” name. “What of it? Some old men are adorable.” On and on.

    1. Hi Allison – Feel free to link to it! We really do turn ourselves into pretzels over this issue, don’t we? I have one kid with a Top 20 name and one with a name that’s never been in the Top 1000 … and it’s totally fine, either way!

  2. We have a daughter Emmanuelle and more often than not I introduce her as Emma (that’s what we and everyone call her), without even clarifying her full name. It’s just easier. Depends tho on who the introduction is to/for… I find that interesting because I absolutely adore her full name Emmanuelle but don’t use it as often as I thought I would.
    I like the fact the she can be “Emma” (for now) but that she has Emmanuelle to fall back on if she chooses it later. And if she loves Emma for the duration of her life and Emmanuelle is only on her passport and birth very then so be it!

  3. I avoid the top 100 names in New Zealand because not that many babies are born each year here – it only takes 3 or 4 babies to make it to #80-#100 on the list and a name that is in the top here is one you hear a lot of the time. However I love Julia , Caroline , Gabriella , Reagan and Naomi for girls and Evan , Jace , Easton and Carson for boys from the US top 100

  4. I’m a Katie (short for Katherine), my best friend when I was young was also a Katie. My worst enemy was a Kate. I work with a Katy, Kate, Katelyn and Kathryn. I’ve never been the only Katie, ever. I feel your pain!

    My current BFF is named Elisa. My middle name is Elise. Coincidence? I think not!

  5. Hi. I just wanted to say that I love your choice of names and that coincidence is the craziest thing on the planet!

    I hope that all is wonderful with your family and that Master Dash goes on to have at least as much fun in this life as I am having.

    Positives flowing your way..


  6. My husband and I chose the name Isabella for our first born and sometimes I regret it, but at the time, it’s what I wanted and needed. We never looked at name lists or popularity charts, we just talked in the evenings before we would fall asleep about names we liked. Neither of us knew any people named Isabella to taint the name for us, and we liked that everyone can pronounce it and that it’s a traditional spelling. At La Leche League I met another mom with a daughter named Ysabella and I thought that was pretty also. I’ve met some Izzy’s also.

    We call her Bella and it’s fitting for her. She’s a happy-go-lucky girl who makes friends easily and is generally pleasant to be around. We are expecting our fourth now. I am unsure of the gender (only 13 weeks) but if it’s a girl I loved the name Elizabeth with the nickname Betsy. I think that it would be cute to have two girls with longer more formal (and popular) names who have the nicknames Bella and Betsy.

    When growing up I LOVED super unique names and I thought that people who chose common names were boring and old. I’m the ripe old age of 28 now and I can appreciate the reasons you listed to having a common name myself. One of my best friends was also Amy growing up and teachers called us “A squared” and we thought that was cool. When I read people’s birth announcements on FB or church bulletins, etc, I always think about why they chose that name. I know some people that had really unique names are drawn to more common names.

    I am really enjoying your site! I’m trying to not just lurk and post some things! *smiles*

    1. Congratulations on baby #4! And Bella and Betsy appeal to me, too – I’m a sucker for alliteration.

    2. I love the nicknames Bella and Betsy as well, and both full names are beautiful. But aren’t they essentially the same name? I think that Isabella is a Spanish or Italian variant of Elizabeth, but you may already know this. It’s a bit like having a pair of sons named John and Gianni.

      1. Naming the girls Elizabeth and Isabella (Bella and Betsy) is no different than how families historically named their daughters. Look back through history and you see families with many variations of essentially the same name, ie Mary, Margaret, Mamie, Marilyn, Maisie, Polly, Molly, etc..

  7. Depends on how much I love the name. Classics like Elizabeth or James that might be in the top 10 I will use no matter because as you’ve said, they’ve always been popular. If Sarai (not likely but let’s go with it) became super popular I might hesitate, not sure, just because now it is a unique choice so that part of naming my child that is ruined once it becomes super popular. Though for the most part, I don’t care about popularity much.

  8. My name was the #1 name the year I was born, and though I hated being one of many, my name was “tease proof” because there were plenty of alpha-girls who shared my name, and it is politically unwise to tease an alpha-girl.

  9. When I was growing up in the 80’s/90’s, I hated that I was the only Joanna in my school. (Actually, the year I graduated there was another one in Grade 8.) Even now when I meet another one, we’re both shocked, cuz there’s not many of us out there! Fast forward 30 years and my kids are named London (3year old boy) and Teaghan (18month old girl). We picked unusual names because their dad’s last name is Brown and I didn’t want my son to be one of two or three Ethan Browns in his class. (LOL) Their dad picked London because he wanted something that honoured his British heritage. And I picked Teaghan because… well, honestly I just went through the name book until I found something that was unusual, meant something pretty and we both agreed on. The year London was born, there were 6 other Aiden/Aidan/Aidyn’s born (both boys and girls) that I knew of. And this year there is a veritable explosion of Isabella/Isabel/Isabelles. But, going back to my school years, I always envied the 3 Heathers in my class. I guess I’ve sentenced my kids to being the only one of their name in their schools too. I hope they don’t hate me too much as they grow up. What Im hoping is that they appreciate their unique monikers and grow to fit them.