Friday, May 7, 2010
Isabella top name for girls; Jacob No. 1 for boys
WASHINGTON – Scoot over, Emma. Isabella is the new top baby name for girls.
Jacob is the most popular baby name for boys, continuing an 11-year run at the top, the Social Security Administration said Friday. Emma's reign was much shorter, lasting just a year before slipping to No. 2.
Pop culture appeared to influence many of the most popular names in 2009. Barack still didn't crack the top 1,000 for boys, but a version of the president's daughter's name, Malia, was the fastest riser for girls.
"Anything can influence baby names, from pop culture to literature, to music and celebrities," said Jennifer Moss, author of "The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book" and founder of Babynames.com.
Many of the top names — and the fastest risers — came straight from the popular "Twilight" series of books and movies, a collection of stories about teen romance and vampires. If that sounds hokey, don't bother naming your son Cullen.
Edward Cullen is one of the lead characters in the "Twilight" books and movies. Edward moved up only 11 spots, to No. 137 on the list. But Cullen was the biggest riser among boys' names, moving up 297 spots, to No. 485.
Edward Cullen is, of course, a vampire. His girlfriend? Bella, a common nickname for Isabella.
Jacob is another character in the stories, but Jacob's reign at the top started well before the first "Twilight" book was published in 2005. Isabella has been in the top 10 since 2004.
"People seem to be a little bit more creative, inventive and flexible with their daughters' names," said Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue. "With boys, I think we tend to be a little bit more consistent. The names don't change quite as much."
Astrue said he named his daughter, Caitlin, after the wife of writer Dylan Thomas. He said he named his son, James, after his late father.
A little more than 22,000 girls born in 2009 were named Isabella, followed by Emma, Olivia, Sophia and Ava. Nearly 21,000 boys were named Jacob, followed by Ethan, Michael, Alexander and William.
Mia was the only newcomer to the top 10 for girls, rising from 14th to 10th. Among the boys, Jayden moved up from 11th to 8th, and Noah moved up from 15th to 9th.
The Social Security Administration started compiling name lists in 1997. The agency offers lists of baby names dating to 1880.
Baby names often become popular because of celebrities. For example, Emma debuted in the top 10 in 2002, the same year that Jennifer Aniston's character on "Friends" gave the name to her TV show baby.
"Make sure the name can grow with your child and make sure they can live with it," Moss said. "Don't make it too cutesy because think, can it work in the board room? Can they be a CEO?"
"Don't make the name a burden on your child," she added.
King made the third biggest jump in the rankings among boys in 2009, moving up 248 spots, to No. 462. Elvis came in at No. 858, down from No. 713 the year before. Presley, however, came in at No. 268 for girls.
Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backward, was the 34th most popular baby name for girls. Heaven came in at No. 275.
Maliyah made the biggest jump among girls' names, moving up 342 spots, to No. 296. Malia, which is how Obama's daughter spells it, came in at No. 192, rising 153 spots. Sasha, the name of Obama's other daughter, moved up 101 spots, to No. 261.
Michelle dropped a spot, to No. 104.
Some 69 boys born in 2009 were named Barack, making it the 1,993rd most popular name for boys. That's up from No. 2,424 the year before.
"Before the president came on the scene, Barack was at the absolute bottom of the list, and it does take a while usually to move up," Astrue said. "Most politicians will take an increase however they get it."