With just hours left in 2008, here are the official ApMtn baby name predictions for 2009.

Boys’ names will be longer and shorter, but two-syllable tyranny is coming to an end. Yes, plenty of parents are still going to call their sons (and daughters) Aiden, Braeden, Caidhen, Haydon and Jayden. And yes, some parents will attempt to mash together two syllables to create “unique” names for their sons – think Jaylon and Cayson.

But a growing number of parents are favoring softer names for their sons, including Biblical choices and ancient names. Sebastian, Julian, Jeremiah and Oliver are already mainstream. Others are keeping it short and strong. Starbabies Knox Jolie-Pitt and Bronx Wentz are part of the trend. Choices like Cole, Gage, Cash, Beau and Cade gaining, as well as nicknames like Jack, Jake and Max remaining popular. A few other choices are brief, but not quite so tough guy – Finn, Quinn and Kai all continue to do well.

French names for girls will be on the rise. Celeb trendsetters Brangelina are responsible for some of the trend. But this one was already brewing before Vivienne Marcheline’s birth. A few that could pop? Noemi/Noemie, Elodie and Esmé.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the names in favor will be popular in Paris, or even authentically French. In fact, the biggest influence may be the rise of creative, franglais-style names. Expect to see Scarlette along with Violette and Juliette.

Homespun, even humble names will continue to be popular. There’s nothing flashy about Emma or Hannah. In 2009, Olive will sound fresher than Olivia, Frances more appealing than Francesca. Choices like Nora and Clara could have a good year for girls; for boys, Gus seems unstoppable. (Though with August, Angus and plenty of other names leading to Gus as a nickname, it will be tough to see in the statistics.) Biblical boys’ names will continue to gain, following Elijah, Isaac and Isaiah up the charts. And yes, we think we’ll meet more girls called Honor, as well as plenty of little Graces, Hopes and Charitys.

There could also be an uptick in the number of boys receiving names that once seemed perpetually out of fashion. Choices like Walter, Raymond and Calvin have all received positive feedback. It suggests that either they’re turning the corner from clunky to cool … or maybe that in 2009, clunky will be cool.

Creative spellings will continue. Some parents will continue to favor extreme spellings like Caidhon and Peightynn. But variant spellings have taken their place in the mainstream. Which is correct: Isobel, Isabel or Isabelle? In some cases, the most popular version isn’t the most authentic. Kaitlyn ranks #44; Katelyn comes in at #75 and Caitlin’s parents find themselves defending their “unusual” spelling.

Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but it seems like fewer parents are tossing in random letters to come up with Brieyannah and more are seeking out lesser used appellations, like Bryony. (Which, of course, can also be spelled Briony …)

Emily really won’t be the most popular name for girls. Based on our recalculation of the SSA rankings back in May, we reported that Emily was slipping in favor of Isabella and Sophia. Parents.com recently put Isabella at the top of their 2008 list, with Ava in second place and Emily demoted to third. They base their rankings on website traffic.

That said, Em names for girls will remain very popular. Emily might slip, but Em- names are still hot. There’s Emma, of course. And with starbabies Emme (JLo’s daughter) and Emery (Angie Harmon’s daughter) we imagine more parents will opt for an Emily variant in 2009. Among the contenders: Emerson (likely to be respelled Emersyn), the anique Emilia, the Welsh masculine Emlyn, the medieval Emmeline and Emmaline, Embeth (as in the actress Embeth Davidtz) and, of course, Emme and Emery.

And the final prediction?

Baby names will continue to obsess some of us. Pushing a $900 stroller might be out; kitting your kiddo in consignment store finds might be in. But choosing a thoughtful, meaningful and inventive name for a child is always au courant.

Thanks for being part of the ApMtn family in 2008, and keep reading in 2009!

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. Happy New year everyone. I’d be delighted if people stopped using those really bizarre spellings… spelling variation is fine, like Isobel/Isabelle/Isabel, but Peightynn, etc. just makes people look illiterate and makes your child have to spell and pronounce their name for people all their life.
    Kind of tired of the Em- names. I do like Emma though would not use because there are so many. As for Emme, I have never heard Jennifer Lopez say it, so I don’t know – is it Em, Emmy, Emmay, or Emma? Calvin – I like that, I don’t love clunky names in general, but Calvin sounds good and I like Cal for a nn. Of the aiden group, I do like Aidan and Hayden (I liked them when they were more obscure) but can do without the rest. It’s always interesting to observe name trends so let’s see what happens.

  2. I thought you might be interested to know (if you don’t already) that the UK top 100 baby names 2008 list was published last week. There was no change for the boys with Jack remaining in the top spot for the 14th year running, while Olivia pipped Grace to the post for the girls.

    Ohter notable movers and shakers in 2008 were Ava – who jumped 15 places to the 19th spot, I’m guessing she will continue to rise to the heights of popularity which she has already attained across the pond (strange how we’re behind you guys on this one). Summer is also hightailing it up the charts, having jumped from 44th to 11th place with Isla coming in just behind her moving 15 places to 35th. Inspired by a footballer, Theo has dodged his way up from 70th to 58th whilst Liam and Dylan have cracked the top 20 for the first time.

    Looking at the list I was struck by how similar all the names sounded, my brother (looking over my shoulder) also commented on just how many names seem to be inspired by celebrity culture.

    Thank you for your name insights thoughout the year Verity, I always enjoy reading through them and Happy (if slightly belated) New Year greetings!

  3. I doubt Bristol Palin was “high on acid” when she named her son. Tripp isn’t John or Robert, but it isn’t Jaydhinn or Caedihyn either.

    Verity, I agree with your insights.

    Happy New Year!

  4. Funny about Walter – I was thinking of him the other day, wondering where he had gone. I have actually grown to like Walter quite a bit. I know a lot of Ramons, some of whom go by Raymond or Ray, so he’s always been around for me. As for Calvin, he’s actually seeming handsome and masculine, and a heck of a lot better than the Jayden fest we have going on! Bring on Clunky Cool!

  5. Great post! I totally agree with your predictions, especially with the creative spellings one. It just drives me nuts that people have to change the spellings to make the names more “unique” when in reality, they’re just causing confusion and it’s really stupid. Peightynn is a mess. Payton is how I’d spell it if I had to use it, since one of my cousins spells her name that way. I really hope the creative spellings stop. It’s out of control!

    I also hope Sarah Palin’s new grandson’s name doesn’t get in the top 1000 if it isn’t already. Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston is horrid. I wonder if her daughter was high on acid when she had the baby because it seems that way. It’s just as bad as Mrs. Palin’s sons’ names (Track and Trig). I feel so bad for those kids who have to grow up with those names. Little Tripp is gonna be getting the crap kicked out of him when he’s older.

  6. So interesting!

    I hope some of these predictions are so… especially the creative spellings getting less popular.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Very neat, Verity! Funny about Isabella, Those Nameberry ladies think the -bellas are going to jump the shark in 2009.
    I’m tired of Em – in all forms. Emmeline charmed me for a little bit this year but ultimately fell off my lists. My vote for boys goes for “Clunky IS cool” But then, I’ve always thought square was cooler than not. *shrug*.
    You’d think all those Danielle/Michelle girls of the 70’s would forego the “franglais” names and do a bit of research finding actual French names. There are so many lovely ones! I really dig the creaky ones over there that still sound exotic to Yank ears: Ghislaine, for starters!

    Thank you for having us here! As long as the welcome mat stays out, I know I’ll be here! 😀 Happy Holidays to You & Yours from me & mine!