I have a long-standing fascination with name families.
With what, you ask?
Name families: clusters of names that share a common root, or maybe a sound.
Look at name data long enough, and name families leap out of the lists. But they don’t all behave the same way.
- Sometimes names in a single family rise and fall in succession. Elena replaces Ellen and Elaine, both of which eclipsed former Top Ten name Helen.
- At other times, they all rise together, like Luke, Lucas, Luca, Lucy, and so on.
- Occasionally, the boys’ part of the family catches on first, but then fades as we embrace the feminine equivalents. Or the opposite happens, with Alexandra falling as Alexander catches on.
- Or maybe the names function in a messy sort of in-between – some stay at the top longer, while others come and go.
I realized that while I think about this often, I realized that I’ve never talked about it. Here are ten name families that always catch my eye when I look at the Top 100.
Why do they matter?
- They can help to reinvent family names, honoring Grandpa Chuck with a granddaughter Caroline.
- They can help us find names that are just a little bit different than our favorites, like Emmeline instead of Emily.
- They can signal names that might feel more popular than they actually are in pure numbers, like all of the boys with a Luke/Lucas/Luca name.
Name Families: The Will-Liams
It’s impossible to ignore this name family for two reasons.
First, both Liam and William rank in the current US Top Five. Evergreen William and upbeat, Irish Liam might appeal to different parents, but there’s no question that they’re nearly the same name.
On the girls’ side, Willow comes in at #111. Strictly speaking, the nature name isn’t related to William and company. But it works as a feminine twist on Will- names, and because actor Will Smith named his daughter Willow, the connection is even stronger. Willa, currently charting at #481, is a more conventional member of the clan.
Other Will-Liam names for boys in the current Top 1000 includes Wilson (#620, and the middle name Ginnifer Goodwin chose for new son Hugo Wilson), Willie (#775), and just Will (#834).
For the most part, the Will-Liams appear to have risen in sequence, with William pulling up Liam, Willow, and the others.
Name Families: The Alexes
I keep the Alexes close to my heart. We chose Alexander for our son’s name, inspired by his grandfather. Long before I’d met my husband, Alexander and Alexandra struck me as classic, nickname-rich options that would wear well.
Of course, I’m not alone. Alexander currently ranks #8 in the US, and has been popular for years. I’ve even brainstormed creative nicknames in case you’re an Alexander feeling like one in the crowd!
Other members of the family include:
- Just Alex, at #134
- Imported Alexis, at #343
- Respelled Alexzander, at #808
- And just Xander at #207, also spelled Zander, at #249
As I mentioned above, the male members of the Alexes family have caught on even as the feminine forms have faded slightly. At present, the most popular on the girls’ side is #32, Alexa, followed by Alexis at #86. Alexandra – godmother to elaborate 2016 choices like Olivia and Isabella – has fallen to #101. Alexandria stands at #213 and Alexia at #318. Nicknames Lexi and Lexie come in at #308 and #713, respectively.
Name Families: The Charlies
I think this might be the hottest of the name families right now.
Credit the regal and sophisticated Charlotte, currently the #9 name for girls in the US. Or maybe Charlie, friendly and approachable, and currently popular for boys (#229) and girls (#207). And we can’t leave out evergreen Charles, still standing at #50, or Caroline, via the Latin form of Charles, Carolus, ranked #82.
Other Charlie spellings for girls in the current Top 1000 include Charlee (#282), Charley (#517), Charleigh (#528), and Charli (#553). There’s also Hollywood-inspired Charlize at #978.
On the boys’ side, the Spanish Carlos (#117) and Italian Giancarlo (#842) also chart.
Name Families: The Evs
Are the Evs really a name family, or just a coincidence based on our love for the letter V?
I can’t decide, and yet, I also can’t deny that names starting with Ev are having a good run.
Evan might be the granddaddy. It entered the US Top 100 way back in 1983, and remains at #67 today.
- Tailored, vintage Evelyn, at #15 for girls, and also spelled Evelynn (#441) and Evalyn (#870)
- Mini name Eva, ranked #75, as well as Eve, ranked #476
- Rising surname name Everett, at #135 for boys
- The sensational Everly, a name that skyrocketed from obscurity to #138 for girls, as well as Everleigh, at #613
- Lacy, romantic, and #261 Evangeline
- Nickname name Evie, at #513
Additional Ev name possibilities abound, especially for girls. There’s no question in my mind that Ev names are having a moment, and whether you prefer the more restrained Evelyn or the exuberant Everleigh, it’s part of the same trend.
Name Families: The Luk-Lucs
I’ve already mentioned the Luk-Lucs, and the many forms of Luke that qualify.
In this case, traditional Luke – bolstered by the 1977 introduction of Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker – was clearly the name that came first. And it’s still on top, at #28 and rising as of 2015.
As for the rest of the family:
- Lucas is even more popular now, ranking #16
- Foreign language forms Luca (#157), Luka (#522), and Luciano (#538) all rose last year
- Lukas (#253), Lucian (#634), and Lucca (#754) fell in 2015, but remain in the US Top 1000
- On the girls’ side, #55 Lucy is the most popular, followed by romance language Lucia at #225, buttoned-up Lucille at #283, and elaborate Luciana at #468
Between Lucas, Luke, and Lucy, this name family might be even more familiar than the Will-Liams.
Name Families: The Lily-Lilas
I’ve had my eye on the Lily-Lilas for a while. Depending on how many distant cousins you include, this name family could be the feminine equivalent of the -aidens. But let’s keep it simple, and just talk about Lily and Lila, two unrelated names that are so close it’s tough to not see them as linked.
For the most part, this is a name family that’s falling in use, but the sheer number of Lil- names in the current US Top 100 – and Top 1000 – make it hard to ignore.
Here’s the list of all the Lily-Lilas as of 2015:
- Lily, #25
- Lillian, #26
- Liliana, #127
- Lilly, #139
- Lyla, #142
- Lila, #199
- Lilliana, #270
- Lilah, #314
- Lilian, #500
- Lilyana, #574
- Lillie, #579
- Lilith, #588
- Lyla, #632
- Lilianna, #714
- Lillianna, #798
- Lilia, #957
- Lilyanna, #969
That’s without counting Delilah, Lola, or any of the Laylas. Simply put: the l-l sound remains a powerful force in naming girls today.
Name Families: The Jame-Jakes
Many people wouldn’t blink if they met brothers named Jacob (#4) and James (#7). But onomasts know that they’re close cousins, both ultimately derived from the Greek Iacobus. (Which became Iacomus in Late Latin and … well, there’s a lot there.)
So while I hesitate to call them part of the same family, there’s no denying the shared DNA.
There’s something else the names have in common: by 2016 standards, they’re both rock solid boy names.
They make the name families list because they represent 1/5th of the Top Ten. Other related names include:
- Surname Jameson, at #144 and alt spelling Jamison, at #447
- Nickname-free Jake, at #205
- Jakob-with-a-k, at #523
- Surname Jacoby, at #655
- On the girls’ side, Jamie comes in at #498; it’s #821 for boys
- Another entry on the girls’ side is #258 Jacqueline – even though American parents likely associate it with Jack, it’s actually from the French Jacques, a form of Jacob and James
Name Families: The Juls
I came thisclose to giving this spot to John, which still might be the most influential name in the US.
But at the last minute, I switched John out for the Juls. Because while we tend to think of John as popular and influential, the Juls names are more of a surprise.
The trend is unmistakable. The current US Top 100 includes Julian at #45, plus Julia at #89. They’re steady, stylish, and yet slightly under the radar.
The rest of the Top 1000 includes more members of the Juls family:
- For the boys, Julius ranks #312, Julio comes in at #456, and Julien ranks #627
- Juliana comes in at #168, and Julianna at #191
- Just Julie lands at #453
- Romantic Juliette at #226 and Juliet at #240, with Julieta at a much more distant #804
- There’s also Julissa, #548 and Julianne, #898
Add it up, and the Juls are hiding in plain sight.
Name Families: The Ems
If the Evs make the list, why not the Ems?
You can argue that Emma (#1) and Emily (#8) aren’t related. Strictly speaking, they’re not. But it’s difficult to think of them as completely separate when they’ve shared the Top Ten together for so many years. (Since 2002 if you’re counting.)
No surprise, then, that other Em- names have followed:
- Surname Emery is at #134 for girls and #752 for boys; Emory comes in at #626 for girls and #829 for boys, and Emerie ranks only for girls, at #790
- Speaking of surnames, on the boys’ side, Emmett comes in at #139, with Emmitt at #481, and Emmet at #852
- Lastly, Emerson ranks #180 for girls and #301 for boys, with Emersyn at #393 for girls
- Emma joins forces with Amelia to raise Emilia to #145 and Emelia to #592
- Fiery Ember is at #366
- Former top name Emily has inspired several alternate spellings, including #432 Emely, #581 Emilee, #867 Emilie, and #970 Emmalee
- Romance language Emiliano stands at #231, with Emilio at #304
- Simplified Emmy is at #616
- Then there’s Emmalyn at #457 and Emmalynn at #697, plus Emmeline at #809 and Emmaline at #900
That’s quite the powerful name family.
Name Families: The -aidens
And now we come to the -aidens. It’s a trend that drives some parents batty. And yet, at the same time, it appeals to a great many parents, too.
As Kelli’s analysis for Nameberry demonstrates, peak -aidens is almost certainly in the past. (She puts the year of Peak Aiden at 2008.)
A total of 31 rhymes-with-aiden names appear in the current US Top 1000, including:
- Aaden #783, Adan #395, Aden #369, Aydan #961, Ayden #87, Aydin #802, Aidan #185, and Aiden #13
- Braden #414, Braeden #795, Braiden #897, Braydon #572, and Brayden #61
- Caden #192, Caiden #285, Cayden #212, Kaden #179, Kaeden #969, Kaiden #140, and Kayden #95
- Hayden #151 and Haiden #984
- Jaden #201, Jadon #923, Jaiden #268, Jayden #20, and Jaydon #999
- Raiden #468 and Rayden #671
- Zaiden #372 and Zayden #193
Love ’em or hate ’em, the -aidens are the sound of the early 2000s.
Which name families are your favorites?
Are name families only for the beginning sounds of names? If not, the line, leine ending is definitely a thing!
Sarah G says
How all of the Rider/Ryker/Stryker/Strider variations. I always end up stuttering trying to remember which one to say.
Oooh … definitely a thing, Sarah G. Like the -axtons.
My favorite name on this list is Lilia (or its Latvian spelling Lilija). I also like Alexandra, Caroline (nickname Callie), Eve/Evie, Lucia, Julia/Juliana, and Amelia/Emilia for girls and William/Will, Alexander, Luca/Luka, and Julian for boys. I really want to use Lilia/Lilija Genevieve for a daughter. 🙂
I’m stumped on names for future siblings for Lilia/Lilija though, especially boys. http://www.babynames.com/namelist/9757448 These are some of the names I have so far. Which ones fit best? The boys’ names Eamon and Rhys used to be my favorites but they just don’t feel right to me anymore. Eamon sounds a little too close to the -aiden names and with Rhys, the problem is that the Reese spelling is getting so popular for girls.
Suggestions for both boys and girls are appreciated. I prefer something not trendy or in the top 200 (Thea is getting there, so I’m hesitant). I also don’t usually like girls’ names with the -oh or -oo sounds in them, so Oona, Orla, Harlow, and Shiloh are out and for boys I am not a fan of new age names like Knox, Maddox, and Cruz. My last name starts with Mc and has 3 syllables.