The winners in the New Names Showdown 2021 are …
ETTA and LEIF
Let’s look back at the contest over the last few weeks and see how we got here.
Every year, the US Social Security Administration published the Top 1000 names given to boys and girls – 2000 names total – typically on the Friday before Mother’s Day. That list always includes some newcomers, as well as some names returning. The returned names might be back after a long absence, or they might have wobbled off the year prior only to claw their way back in this time around.
In 2020, it took 210 births to make the boys’ list and 253 to rank for girls.
NOTE: Strictly speaking, Ephraim ranked #1000, with 209 births – but 209 boys were also named Jerome, Karim, Meir, and Yahya. Alphabetical order means that only Ephraim clinched a spot. For girls, Belle and Kadence made it with 252 births, but not Kiera.
Technicalities aside, what that means is that every year, plenty of gems qualify as new names, a mix of debuts and returns. In May 2021, the lists looked list this:
- 47 girls’ names appeared in the data that were not there during the prior year.
- And 38 names for boys were also considered fresh – new or returned to the rankings.
We started out with eight contenders:
- 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.
After voting our way through the month, Etta won out over Zoya with over 75% of vote. That might be one of the most resounding victories of any year to date!
That means Etta joins past winners:
- 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.
Once again, eight names started out the race:
- Adler #920 – Stylish surname name with strong meaning: eagle.
- Davian #981 – David meets Julian in this handsome invented name.
- Everest #982 – A name from the natural world that signal achievement, and nods to the Top 100 Everett.
- Jones #946 – Effortlessly cool – and surprisingly overlooked – surname name.
- Leif #917 – A Scandi cool name that hits somewhere between Viking and the natural world.
- McCoy #926 – Makenna and Mackenzie were big for girls, but McCoy is the real deal for our sons.
- Rio #783 – Take our love of River and the appeal of o-enders like Milo and Leo, and Rio seems inevitable.
- Zev #921 – A high-value Scrabble name borrowed from Hebrew, with a fierce meaning: wolf.
In a much closer contest, Leif won over Everest by a more slender margin, bringing in just over 53.5% of the vote.
That puts Leif in the same category as past victors:
- In 2016, we picked Wilder. The name has climbed from #963 to #431.
- Shepherd took the title in 2017. From #851, Shepherd has now reached #605.
- 2018’s winner, Wells, debuted at #915. It’s now at #545.
- And for 2019, we selected Archie. It went from #988 to #466!
- Callahan, the 2020 victor, rocketed from #896 to #798.
Will Leif also shoot up the popularity charts? It’s much too soon to say, but our track record? It’s pretty good!
Thanks to everyone who voted, shared, and cheered on their favorite names!