The Biggest Baby Name Trends Of 2021 So Far
We can’t predict the future, but here’s what we do know about the popularity of certain baby names this year.
From year to year, seeing how baby names rise and fall through the ranks is extremely interesting. Not even halfway through the year, there are already several baby name trends for 2021 worth keeping an eye on. Even if you’re not currently playing the name game with a new babe on the way, it’s just fun to see which names make their mark on posterity and which ones fall by the wayside.
Will celebrity baby names like Luna and August be more popular than ever? Can traditional names like James and William stand the test of time? Only time will tell how things play out, but here’s a bit about what we know about the current baby name trends so far this year.
Baby Name Trends, Explained
“It remains puzzling, even to researchers, as to why some names stay popular much longer than others,” Deborah J. Cohan, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the author of Welcome to Wherever We Are: A Memoir of Family, Caregiving, and Redemption, tells Romper.
Cohan explains that among names that stand the test of time, names traditionally give to boys tend to endure longer than those for girls (think Michael, William, and James vs. Britney and Janet). “It tends to be the case that parents are willing to be more experimental with girls' names than boys' names, which might be why it's easier to think of a longer list of enduring boys' names than girls' names.” In fact, Cohan explains that there are societal expectations attached to names, and that with female names specifically, people tend to lean into names that are “more fashionable, trendy, and playful.”
“When we pick names for our children, we are often trying to select something unique but not too crazy, different enough to be interesting but where a child will not be picked on, something timeless, something traditional or grounded in family meaning, yet fun,” Cohan tells Romper. “This also explains why we see spelling variations on names to try to mix things up and to be clever.”
When it comes to the biggest trends for 2021, the team at the baby and pregnancy site The Bump surveyed 2,000 parents in January to determine which baby name trends may see a surge in popularity this year. “It's hard to pick just one trend — we're predicting 11 for 2021 — but if we were forced, our vote goes to genderless names,” executive editor Lauren Kay tells Romper. “These names have been on the rise for years, and as we progress to become a more inclusive society, we expect parents to choose unisex names. Think: Hunter, Parker, Taylor. In the same vein, last names are earning top billing as most are genderless.”
Cohan agrees. “In the past few decades we have seen what I think of as four significant trends,” she says, noting the use of last names as first names, androgynous names, using proper nouns as names, and places as first names. Cohan points out however that the use of proper nouns especially tend to trend more female — names of jewels, flowers, and things found in nature, for example — which furthers her point that the “trendy” or “in the moment” names are often reserved for baby girls.
“As a professor, I see the cyclical nature of names every semester when I scan a new roster. There are all the Caitlins and Brittanys in every spelling you can conjure up of those. Am I likely to have a student with my own name of Deborah? Not a chance unless she is a returning student in her 40s or 60s,” Cohan says. “All you have to do is ask a teacher about names and we all have the lists of names with the most positive or negative associations; it's kind of a fun fact of being an educator.”
Recent Changes To Baby Name Trends
The most recent data from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) on baby name trends is from 2019. Now, two years later, things are changing. While we don’t yet have data for 2020 or 2021 from the SSA, the popular parenting website Baby Center has released a list of most popular baby names so far in 2021 according to people who have reported their baby’s names to Baby Center this year.
When you compare the top 10 baby names from the SSA in 2019 to the current list from Baby Center, there are a few notable differences:
- Amelia is more popular now. Ranked seventh most popular in 2019 by the SSA, Amelia is now third on Baby Center’s 2021 list.
- Liam and Noah have swapped spots. While Liam held the top spot for boy names in 2019, per the SSA, Noah has currently pulled ahead per Baby Center’s data.
- Isabella was ranked fifth in 2019 by the SSA, but Baby Center is reporting that the name is in the number seven spot for 2021.
- William was ranked fourth for boy names by the SSA in 2019, but has fallen out of the top 10 to number 17, according to Baby Center’s 2021 reporting.
Although some more traditional names have certainly stuck around so far this year, data collected by the family history platform MyHeritage reported a decline in popularity in some names that have historically stood the test of time. For example, the name James saw a slip in the SSA’s most recent reporting, falling from fourth in 2018 to sixth in 2019, and is ranked eighth on Baby Center’s list of popular baby names for 2021.
While this is by no means conclusive data, it does give us a peek at what we might be able to expect when the SSA does release the data for babies named in 2020 and 2021.
Baby Name Predictions For 2021
With a bit of star power behind some of them and others following trends predicted by researchers, it’s possible that the following baby names will see a boost in popularity through 2021.
- Mila: The Bump reported that this is the top trending baby name for 2021, according to searches on their site. The name, which means “gracious,” was ranked 19th most popular for girls in 2019 by the SSA.
- Arlo: Number three on Nameberry’s list of most-viewed baby names in the U.S. so far this year, the baby name Arlo may see a rise in popularity this year. It’s a gender-neutral choice, too.
- Milo: The baby name Milo was one of the top four baby names among visitors to the website Nameberry so far in 2021, according to a report from site editor Emma Waterhouse. With Mila trending so high for girls, it makes sense that Milo might see a rise in popularity for boys.
- August: Both Princess Eugenie and Mandy Moore had baby boys named August in 2021. The name still isn’t gaining much traction on published lists, but if history is any indication of the future, the star-power behind this name may see it skyrocket in popularity.
- Braxton: The Bump reported that the baby name Braxton is currently the fifth most-searched name on their site. The name was ranked 126th most popular in 2019 by the SSA, but I personally know of both a Braxton and a Brixton born in the past year, so we’ll see what happens with this one.
- Nova: This gender-neutral name is the second most-searched baby name on The Bump so far this year. Baby Center has Nova ranked 25th among the site’s users this year, and the name’s astrology link (similar to the popular baby name Luna) may help this gender-neutral name reach new heights in 2021.
- Archie: Another name with a royal baby connection, after the birth of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s baby in 2020, the baby name Archie jumped from being ranked 672nd on Namberry in 2019 to sitting at 112th currently.
Deborah J. Cohan, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the author of Welcome to Wherever We Are: A Memoir of Family, Caregiving, and Redemption
Lauren Kay, Executive Editor, The Bump