New Names Showdown 2021: Girls Opening RoundTime for the girls’ opening round in the 2021 New Names Showdown!

Wondering what that could possibly be?

On (usually) the Friday before Mother’s Day, the US Social Security Administration releases the new names popularity data, based on births in the prior calendar year.

It’s a fascinating list, and we dissect and review it for all sorts of information.

One of the most interesting parts? The returns and debuts. They’re the names that failed to rank in the prior year, but now claim their space in the Top 1000.

Sometimes they’ve teetered on the edge for a few years. Other times, the name’s return to the rankings comes after years of absence. Debuts, too, range from those that have slowly gained over a decade or more, to those sensations that no one saw coming even a few years earlier.

A couple dozen names fit into this broad category. Every year, I narrow the list down to just eight of the best new names for girls.

And then you vote until just one final name remains – the champion!


  • We chose Arden in 2016. At present, the name has left the US Top 1000.
  • Sylvie, our 2017 champ, has steadily gained traction, reaching #776 as of 2020.
  • Meanwhile Marlowe, the 2018 girls’ winner, left the Top 1000 after winning. At the time, I wrote “I have a hunch that this name will be back.” Sure enough, Marlowe currently ranks #921.
  • In 2019, we picked Zora as the winner, and the name presently ranks #877.
  • Our 2020 winner, Elodie, now stands at #701.

So we have a mixed record. A few of our past champions seem to be marching up the popularity charts, while others remain relatively underused.

How should you cast your votes?

Some readers prefer to vote for the name they think is most likely to catch on, and that’s fine. But I say just plain vote for your favorite – the one you’d love to hear on more children in the coming years – maybe even a child of your own.


These eight names will face off for the 2021 title. They’re listed in alphabetical order below, but for the Showdown, their popularity ranking will equate to their tournament seed.

  • Artemis #960 – A goddess name, instantly familiar and tied to the moon and the hunt.
  • Etta #927 – Sparky and retro, Etta seems poised to follow Ella and Emma. Legendary singer Etta James is a plus.
  • Jovie #922 –  Holiday movie Elf has become a modern classic, featuring invented name Jovie – likely borrowed from the word jovial, meaning happy.
  • Loretta #948 – Legendary country singer Loretta Lynn makes this name feel down home, but elaborate Loretta offers a little bit of glam, too.
  • Marceline #973 – A feminine form of Mark via ancient Marcellus, but also Walt Disney’s hometown, Angelina Jolie’s mom, and an animated cartoon vampire queen.
  • Mazikeen #998 – The next Khaleesi, a name borrowed from a demon companion to Lucifer on the television series. Is it the best of 2021? Erm … let’s say it’s certainly the most intriguing.
  • Raya #937 – Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon was delayed to 2021, but the movie generated plenty of buzz in 2020. Raya rhymes with Maya, and it’s the name of a heroine on an epic quest – a winning combination.
  • Zoya #919 – A Slavic spin on Zoe, Zoya has been trending in the UK for a few years. It’s a newcomer in the US, though, a short and sweet name that benefits from that appealing letter Z.


ZOYA #919 v MAZIKEEN #998




ETTA #927 v RAYA #937




Thanks for voting! Polls will remain open through Wednesday, July 14th. Check back next Saturday to see which names advance, and, of course, to vote in the next round!

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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1 Comment

  1. Go, Raya! I love it pronounced Rye-ah or rhymes with the month of May. I have always just voted for the name I like most!