I hesitate to make Top Ten Baby Names 2017 predictions … but I’m doing it anyhow!
A few things about the current US Top Ten:
- Even the #1 name is relatively less popular than ever. Fewer than 1% of all boys born in 2015 were named Noah. Twenty years ago, that percentage of use wouldn’t put a name in the Top Twenty!
- Here’s what hasn’t changed: names in the Top Ten don’t move much. It is purely inconceivable that even fast-rising names, like Ezra and Aurora, could go from the 70s, 80s, or 90s to the Top Ten. Shifts are small. A name rising or falling by 3 or 4 places translates to a big move.
- In 2015, four of the girls’ names stayed in the same place; the same was true for seven of ten boys’ names. That’s not unusual.
In other words, there’s a very good chance that next year’s Top Ten will look exactly like the current Top Ten. As much as I want to imagine a big shake-up, history tells us that almost certainly won’t happen. Popular names become popular because they have wide appeal to a great many parents. While many parents hesitate to use a too-popular name, plenty of others decide to go forward. And so even the Top Ten Baby Names 2017 predictions I’m making are probably far too dramatic to come true.
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: Girls Current List
Here’s the current Top Ten for the year 2015, as reported in May 2016:
- Emma (unchanged from prior year)
- Olivia (unchanged from prior year)
- Sophia (unchanged from prior year)
- Ava (up from #5 in prior year)
- Isabella (down from #4 in prior year)
- Mia (unchanged from prior year)
- Abigail (up from #8 in prior year)
- Emily (down from #7 in prior year)
- Charlotte (up from #10 in prior year)
- Harper (up from #11 in prior year)
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: My New Girls List
- Olivia – Why do I think Olivia might take the top spot? It has serious momentum, something that Emma lacks after so many years in favor. And it only has to climb one place, which is consistent with past moves in the Top Ten.
- Emma – Emma isn’t going anywhere, but I hear less buzz about Emma than ever before. I think it could slip. After all, it actually fell in use in 2015 – even though it remained at the top of the charts.
- Ava – Ava has been a favorite name for years now, but I think it will continue to gain just enough to move up a notch.
- Sophia – Many reports put Sophia at the top of the popularity charts, something that has given at least some parents pause.
- Isabella – While parents love long names for girls, I think several challengers to Isabella have emerged. There are also fresher Spanish-English crossover possibilities.
- Charlotte – Charlotte seems likely to climb a little higher. It made big gains last year, and I think those are likely to continue.
- Mia – I’m calling for Mia to slip slightly, but I’m very much prepared to be wrong. Mini names are still very much in vogue, and Mia continues to be a strong English-Spanish crossover name. It’s still gaining in popularity according to BabyCenter en Español.
- Abigail – Sometimes names don’t fall out of favor as much as other names take their place. I think that’s what happened with Madison and Harper over the last few years. Now I think Abigail might fall out of favor thanks to newer names with the same style profile.
- Harper – There are dozens of names similar to Harper, a surname name with plenty of positive associations. The late author Harper Lee took this name to the top of the charts, and I think will push the name at least a little higher still.
- Amelia – My biggest guess of this list, I’m calling for Amelia to crack the Top Ten. That’s a boost of just two places, so it’s not outlandish. And Amelia has all the buzz required. I think Amelia appeals to the same families who would have used Sophia or Abigail just a few years ago – but will the numbers work out?
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: Notes on Girl Names
As I was mulling over my Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions, a few things stood out:
- I dropped Emily from the Top Ten. The name entered the US Top Ten in 1991. It’s been falling in use for the past few years; leaving the Top Ten seems like a natural step.
- The prediction that gives me the most pause? Mia dropping in the rankings. Based on my model, Mia could still reach the #1 spot in the US.
- Another name I seriously considered was Evelyn. I originally thought it wouldn’t rise so far. But now I think it has a shot. Parents seem to love, love, love this tailored, traditional name. And while alternates, like Evalyn, are in use, they’re not rising as quickly as the dominant spelling. But Evelyn ranked #15 last year – and a five-spot leap? I don’t see it. So let’s call Evelyn a lock to rise, but not quite make the Top Ten – yet.
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: Boys Current List
Let’s start with the current Top Ten for 2015, as reported in May 2016:
- Noah (unchanged from prior year)
- Liam (unchanged from prior year)
- Mason (unchanged from prior year)
- Jacob (unchanged from prior year)
- William (unchanged from prior year)
- Ethan (unchanged from prior year)
- James (up from #9 in prior year)
- Alexander (unchanged from prior year)
- Michael (down from #7 in prior year)
- Benjamin (up from #12 in prior year)
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: My New Boys List
- Noah – After a few years of thinking that Liam or James would leapfrog into the top spot, I’m playing it safe this year. Noah gained slightly in use going into the last set of rankings, so parents haven’t cooled on this popular pick yet.
- Liam – On the other hand, Liam dipped just the tiniest bit last year. So I think Liam might also hold steady for the coming year.
- William – William claims the top spot in several states, so it’s not unreasonable to imagine this name climbing from #4 to #3. Still, I almost moved William in the opposite direction. Why? Nationwide, the name’s use seems to trending down just slightly – while there’s another classic name that seems to be heating up.
- James – Now I’m going to get a little crazy! James gained by two places last year, to #7. I’m thinking it might keep going, the new favorite for parents who prefer their names classic, stealing some of the love from William. But could it really rise by three whole places? That’s about the most any Top Ten name ever moves. We shall see …
- Jacob – Just as Emily’s long reign has ended, Jacob continues to decline – modestly – in use for boys.
- Mason – Parents who love Mason probably prefer their names fresh and new, so they might be more likely to move on to the next big thing, like Grayson, Hudson, or Lincoln. I think it’s likely to fall just a little this year.
- Alexander – Traditional names tend to hang around longer, but I’m really unsure about Alexander at #7. My general sense is that the name has peaked. But because it’s possible for a name to fall in use and still rise in the rankings, I’m putting Alexander one spot higher.
- Benjamin – Ben, on the other hand, is white hot. It entered the US Top Ten the last time around, and I’m guessing it will climb at least two spots this year.
- Ethan – Ethan feels like a modern traditional, a name that will be around in the Top 100 for another generation or more. But it’s easing its way out of the Top Ten.
- Oliver – Now here’s my never-gonna-happen prediction: Oliver for the Top Ten. Why it can’t be so: Oliver ranked #19 in the last data set. Names don’t climb nine places in one year – ever. And yet, Oliver has posted impressive climbs in use for three years straight. Lots of the other Top 20 names – Elijah, Daniel, Logan, Matthew, David – are on the decline. So we could have quite the shake-up, but other names are probably a safer bet.
Top Ten Baby Names 2017 Predictions: Notes on Boy Names
- Which names seem like a safer bet for the #10 spot? Lucas and Jackson. So why did I overlook them? Both still have to climb in a big way – 6 or 7 spots – and neither has serious momentum. Jackson has splintered into multiple spellings, while all of the Luc- names splits the name’s popularity between Lucas, Luke, and a bunch of other appealing options.
- The name I dropped from the boys’ Top Ten to admit Oliver? Michael. It’s been a Top Ten staple since the 1940s, but has declined steadily in use for more than a dozen years. At #9 on the last list, it’s the most likely name to depart.
That’s all for my crystal ball today. Which names do you think are heating up, and which do you think are on the decline?
I didn’t realize that Emily’s been in the top 10 since 1991- that’s a whole generation!
Oliver is number 1 in Australia, riding the same wave as Olivia. Like Emily, I see it everywhere (primary teacher). I think it could take off in the US
Oliver’s US popularity still surprises me. I heard Ollie and Oliver EVERYWHERE while I was in the UK this past summer, but I’ve yet to meet or even hear of an Oliver in the US.