These 36 names are either debuting in the US Top 1000 or returning to the rankings after an absence. Data was released by the US Social Security Administration on May 8, 2022. It represents births between January 1st and December 31st of the year 2021.
How does that compare to past years?
- In calendar year 2020, 47 names debuted or returned.
- The 2019 list included 40 new names.
- For calendar year 2018, the new data revealed 50 newcomers.
- Names chosen in 2017 gave us 43 new girl names.
- In 2016, 45 girls’ names ranked in the US Top 1000 that did not appear in the prior year.
- The list from calendar year 2015 included 47 new names
- The update for the year 2014 set the number at 38.
- And for 2013, it stood at 45.
That makes calendar year 2021 the quietest since I’ve been tracking, rivaled only by the 38 new girl names that returned or debuted in calendar year 2014.
Still, 36 names is a solid list, a mix of vintage gems and modern innovations.
ALL THE NEW GIRL NAMES DEBUTING or RETURNING
Aarna debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2021.
At first glance, it could be a cousin to many a Germanic name related to Arnold, derived from the element arn, meaning eagle. But what would trigger fresh interest in that name today? It seems far more likely that Aarna is from Sanskrit, a name associated with water and the goddess Lakshmi.
Aiyana last appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2018.
Ayanna and Ayana come from Amharic. It’s a lovely name meaning flower. It’s also a separate Japanese given name, with the exact meaning changing based on the characters used to spell it. Either way, Aiyana is simply another spelling option. Though neither Ayana or Ayanna rank in the current US Top 1000.
Angelique last appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2017.
The French form of Angelica, Angelique returns to the US Top 1000 even as Angelica falls in the rankings. One possible reason the name is rising? A Japanese game series released the the newest installment in 2021, known as Angelique Luminarise. Or maybe actor Angelique Cabral, most recently seen in Amazon Prime’s Undone?
Arleth appeared in the US Top 1000 once before, in the year 2005.
Both Arleth and Arlette are among the new girl names 2022. If only Arlette had debuted, it would be a little harder to figure out what’s behind the name’s rise. But Arleth’s -th ending offers a clue. It signals that the name is used in Latin American Spanish.
Arlette previously appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2018 and 2019.
The story of Arlette is fascinating, a name on the fringes in English, but one that threads through the Norman Conquest of England to Belle Époque France and beyond. But given the concurrent appearance of Arleth in the data, chances are that there’s a Spanish tie-in. Maybe it’s Mexican actor Arleth Terán, a veteran of multiple telenovelas – though her most recent role, in La reina soy yo, ended in 2019.
Austyn previously appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2018 and 2019.
Trading another vowel for a y is a time-tested way to visually feminize a name. Just ask so many girls named Jordyn, Camryn, Addisyn, and Paityn. Austyn has hovered on the edges of the Top 1000 in recent years, leaving in 2020 but returning in 2021.
Azaria last appeared in the US Top 1000 in 2018.
Some names hover on the edges of the rankings for years, falling out and climbing in year after year. Azaria’s numbers look a little bit like that. The Old Testament gives us several characters named Azariah, a name with Hebrew origins meaning “God has helped.” Azariah-with-an-h is rising for both boys and girls, while Azaria tends to be feminine.
Baylor debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
A Texas university named for a Baptist preacher, Baylor University alumni might’ve given its name a jumpstart. Or maybe it’s the success of Taylor and our love of surname names. What’s certain is that Baylor debuted in the boys’ Top 1000 in back in 2014. Now Baylor is also among the new girl names 2022. It’s fresher than Taylor, with cool nature name Bay built right in.
Billie last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1997.
For years, Billie routinely ranked in the US Top 1000, a feminine take on evergreen William. In fact, Billie ranked in the Top 100 from 1928 through 1934. Born Eleanora Fagan, legendary singer Billie Holiday makes the name immortal, though her success in the 1930s and 40s came as the name was falling in use. Double name Billie Jean was a hit, too – as in the 1960s and 70s tennis legend, the 1983 song, and the 1985 movie – all unrelated. Now it’s trending again, for two reasons. First, it picks up on our love of vintage nickname names like Millie, as well as borrowed-from-the-boys Charlie, Stevie, and Frankie. But more importantly, there’s another singer to consider – Billie Eilish.
Birdie last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1948.
Like Billie, Birdie owes something to our love of vintage nickname names. Birdie also soars on the wings of so many nature names we’ve embraced. Bird names, especially, have enjoyed a moment. Raven and Wren are both rising quickly for our daughters. Birdie blends both trends. In the past, it’s rarely ranked much higher than #250, but it’s also served as a nickname for Elizabeth, as well as B names like Bernadette and Bertha, so perhaps more of us have Birdie in our family trees than is obvious at first glance.
Clover debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
This is among the new girl names 2022 with multiple reasons for catching on. Clover might appeal to parents looking for an unconventional Irish heritage pick. Or it might signal luck, making Clover – as in the four-leaf variety – something of a subtle virtue name. Some might see Clover as a borrowing from the natural world, and, of course, it’s also an -r ending choice in the key of Harper.
Dalia last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2014.
This name looks a little like ecovintage flower power pick Dahlia. Except Dalia is actually a surprisingly international choice. It has Hebrew roots, but also belongs to a goddess of childbirth in Baltic mythology. And, to bring it back to the blooms, it’s the Spanish spelling of Dahlia – the national flower of Mexico. And that’s just the beginning.
Eleanora last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1939.
Elaborate Eleanora is just one letter longer than Eleanor, but the style feels different. It’s a little bit like Isabel versus Isabella – same name, but that extra syllable adds flounce! It might also be the more logical formal name for parents hoping to shorten their daughter’s name to Nora. Or maybe it just appeals to parents who love girl names with all the syllables.
Elia last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1897.
There’s more than one explanation for Elia’s origins. It might be the Italian form of Elijah – a masculine name. It could certainly be a logical shortening of popular girl names like Eliana. And Ella, Alaia, and so many names ending with -lia. Or it could be influenced by Elia Martell, a Game of Thrones character from the books – but not the television series.
Emberlynn debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Nature name Ember, inspired by former favorite Amber and our love of Em- names, has become a fast-rising favorite. Surname-style Emberly followed. And now Emberlynn is also in the US Top 1000. With names like Oaklynn rising, it’s no surprise to find more inventive twists on nature names on the charts.
Goldie last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1958.
Goldie sounds retro and modern. It’s color name like Navy, but a sweetly vintage nickname, too. The Yiddish word for gold led to Golda becoming a traditional name for Jewish families. It’s Tevye’s wife in Fiddler on the Roof, and Golda Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel. But Goldie isn’t necessarily reserved for Jewish families. Celebrated actor Goldie Hawn likely inspires plenty of parents, too, or maybe it’s just a logical successor to Ruby.
Guinevere debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
We all know the name Guinevere. It’s immortal, thanks to the queen of Camelot. With Welsh roots, Guinevere became Gwenhwyfar in Cornish and Jennifer in English. And then it raced to the top of the popularity charts. But Guinevere, while always recognizable, has remained rare. With that middle V and potential nickname Gwen, it’s easy to imagine the name fitting right in.
India last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
It’s tempting to think about India as a modern place name choice, akin to Brooklyn or London. But that’s not the case. India – which takes its name from the Indus River – has been used as a given name for generations. It’s sometimes tied to the British occupation of the country, which makes this feel problematic. Except that it’s every bit as possible that the name is a modern destination choice, given out of admiration, just like Paris. The sound is clearly name-like, and logical nickname Indie has been climbing up the popularity charts, too.
Indigo debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Speaking of Indie, Indigo is another name that shortens to the sparky nickname. A color choice, Indigo owes a little something to traditional Violet and even more to modern favorites like Navy. We attach so much meaning to colors, and Indigo is no exception. While the word sounds a little less name-like than some choices, there’s no question that it’s quite wearable.
Jaylani debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Names ending with -lani have been a big story in recent years. Originally a Hawaiian suffix, usually meaning heavenly, -lani is now filtering into general use. Jaylani doesn’t seem to have any possible Hawaiian origins. However, it blends that popular ending with the sounds of so many stylish Jay names.
Jaylene last appeared girls’ US Top 1000 in 2018.
Speaking of Jay names, Jaylene is a product of the late 1990s and early 2000s. That makes it a cousin to Jayden and Jaylee, Kylene and Jayla.
Kahlani debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Back to the -lani names. Kehlani, Kailani, Kaylani, and Kalani all rank in the US Top 1000. This Hawaiian-ish twist on the popular name feels like an obvious addition to the list. The spellings potentially change the meanings. Kailani might refer to the ocean, while Kalani almost always means “the heavens.”
Kathleen last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
It’s surprising to see Kathleen on this list, if only because it’s hard to imagine the name not ranking in the US Top 1000. A long-time Top 100 choice, the Irish version of Katherine has a long history of use. It was eclipsed by Caitlin and then Kaitlyn, as we gravitated towards Kate names and away from Kathy. But any name so classic will inevitably return, and so Kathleen is back.
Loyalty debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Word name Loyal has a long history for boys, and it returned to the US Top 1000 in 2021. So no surprise that Loyalty is the feminine version currently catching on. After all, Royal is more popular for boys and Royalty for girls. But while Royal/ty feels flashy and grand, Loyalty seems like a more substantial virtue of a name.
Micah last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
An Old Testament name, Micah long appeared in the boys’ Top 1000 as a Michael alternative. But it also sometimes served as a feminine form. In fact, the original form – Micaiah – was given to men and women in the Bible. After so many years of girls named Makayla in many spellings, Micah seems like a perfectly reasonable choice for a daughter, a sound or two away from Mia and Mila.
Nyra debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
There’s something about Nyra that seems like it ought to have a backstory, even though it’s plausible that Nyra was created from popular sounds like Nyla and Kyra. A few options: it might be a Sanskrit name or a Maori one; it could be borrowed from an indigenous language in South America. And other spellings connect it to Japanese or even Hebrew. Let’s call it global, a compact name with a distinctive sound and at home nearly anywhere.
Ocean debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
One year after Ocean debuted in the boys’ Top 1000, it’s also ranking for our daughters. And why not? River continues to catch on for both genders, a nature name that feels straightforward and meaningful.
Ryder debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
A long-time Top 1000 favorite for our sons, Ryder now ranks for girls, too. One possible reason: a new generation discovering Winona Ryder through Netflix sensation Stranger Things. Or maybe it’s just that we’ve already embraced Riley and Ryan and Rylan for our daughters, so why not Ryder? With Harper in the girls’ Top Ten, nearly any ends-with-R surname feels feminine enough, and Parker and Hunter also climbed for our daughters in 2021.
Salma last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
Actor Salma Hayek put her distinctive name on parents’ radar back in the late 1990s, when she moved from Mexican telenovelas to Hollywood blockbusters. Her name is Arabic, and means safe. It’s possible the meaning resonated with parents in 2021. Then again, Hayek’s career has continued to thrive. She starred in The Eternals in 2021. And merely on sound, Salma appeals, a slightly different alternative to Layla, a similar sound to the fast-gaining Alma.
Sandra last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
File Sandra next to Kathleen. A former Top Ten favorite, Sandra is short for Alexandra. But while Sandy is forever dating Danny Zucco in Grease, Sandra might be ready for cautious reconsideration. It’s a pan-European possibility. Sandra Bullock lends it some strength. Though chances are that Sandra is simply teetering on the edge of the Top 1000 right now, and might dip in and out for future years, too. Since the name peaked in the 1940s, it’s probably just the tiniest bit too soon to imagine Sandra as a rising revival name.
Soleil debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
The French word for sun, Soleil has a confusing spelling for English speakers, but a straightforward pronunciation: so-lay. We know the name for lots of reasons. Former child star Soleil Moon Frye is the most obvious reason. She rose to fame as the star of Punky Brewster in the 1980s. In 2021, Peacock rebooted the series for a single season, likely explaining the name’s rise in the rankings.
Soraya debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
The Persian spelling of an Arabic name, Soraya refers to the Pleiades. The cluster of seven stars is found in the constellation Taurus. It’s said they were sisters pursued by Orion, at least in Greek myth. A large number of world mythologies also make them sisters – or hens or sometimes orphans. But we tend to think of them as the Seven Sisters in the West. Soraya succeeds both on sound and our love of night sky names like Luna and Stella.
Tatiana last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2019.
Pretty and elaborate, this Slavic name has been used in the US since the 1980s. Like Sandra and Kathleen, it balances on the edge of the Top 1000 – in this year, but out last. It’s too soon to say what will happen next. Tatiana was one of the doomed Russian princesses, a daughter of the last Tsar and older sister to Anastasia. When interest rises in the Romanov family, chances are that Tatiana will also see some increased use. One other possible explanation for Tatiana’s 2021 increase? The song “Thotiana,” which no – it’s not a lullaby. Or even PG. But the rapper Blueface released it in 2018, with a Cardi B remix following in 2019. It sounds an awful lot like Tatiana.
Taytum debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
Irish surname name Tatum has been quietly climbing for years, boosted by celebrity child-turned-actor Tatum O’Neal and a character in 1996’s Scream. The Taytum spelling looks a little bit like Payton and so many other ‘ay’ names for our children in recent years.
Vida last appeared in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 1946.
The Spanish word for life, Vida could be a modern word name. It appears in song titles and the brand Pura Vida. But it’s actually been modestly popular in the past, perhaps because Vida is also a Slavic name – again, with the same meaning and origin, from the Latin vita, meaning life. Like so many vintage names, it’s both new and old, appealing for different reasons to a new generation.
Zayla debuted in the girls’ US Top 1000 in 2021.
With that zippy Z, Zayla is a cousin to Zayden and Zaylee, an invented Z name that feels current and energetic. But it’s also potentially a cousin to Azalea and Azelie, just like 2015 debut Zaylee.