What Were the Top Baby Names in 2011?

baby, smiling

Every year the Social Security Administration compiles the most popular names for newborns in the United States. What were the most popular names in 2011?

The top 5 girls names:
Sophia
Isabella
Emma
Olivia
Ava

The top 5 boys names:
Jacob
Mason
William
Jayden
Noah

The big news this year is that Mason made it into the top 5. In the last ten years, Mason has catapulted from 64th place to 2nd. Its popularity might be because Kourtney Kardashian named her son Mason in 2009. Mason is an interesting name because it is also an occupation. Traditionally, a mason is someone who is skilled with stone. Other occupations have also transitions into names, like Archer, Dean, Hunter, and Taylor. However, they have never been the most popular names in America.

Popular names go through very distinct trends. The most popular girls names tend to trend by decade. Emily was number 1 from 1996 to 2006; Jessica and Ashley shared the 1 and 2 spots from 1985 to 1995; Jennifer dominated from 1970 to 1984. Male names do not fluctuate as much as female names. Case in point, Michael was in the one or two spot from 1954 to 1998. Since then, Jacob has been in the number one spot every year.

(Does the popularity of Jacob and Isabella have anything to do with the hit series Twilight? Learn about the connections.)

One interesting statistic that the Social Security Administration gathers is the names that change the most in ranking over the past year. The five girls names that rose most dramatically are: Elise, Mila, Aria, Angelique, and Brielle. The five boys names that rose are: Kamden, Zaiden, Maximilano, Iker, and Brankley. All of these names are still very low in their overall popularity, but they grew by leaps and bounds from 2010 to 2011.

What names fell the most? The girls names that plummeted in popularity are: Kimora, Denise, Desiree, Dana, and Brisa. The falling boys names are: Nickolas, Jaydon, Shaun, Jamarion, and Brett.

Popular names mean less today than they used to. Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, points out that there are a lot more names now than there once were. Fifty years ago, the top 25 most common names accounted for half of all newborns. Today, to account for half of all boys, you must include more than 100 names and for half of all girls, more than 300 names. There are just more and more baby names out there today.

(The name Mohammed is now in the top five baby names in Britain. Read the whole story here.)

Do you think baby name trends reflect cultural shifts? Are your favorite baby names in the top 5?

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