10 Popular Baby Names Defined


Unconventional names like North and Lincoln may have dominated the headlines, but time-tested classics dominate the top spots in the Social Security Administration’s roundup of the most popular names of 2013. The number one name given to girls in the US in 2013 was Sophia. This name comes from the Greek word sophos meaning “wise.” It is related to –sophy, a combining form meaning “science of” found in words such as philosophy and theosophy. Sophia has been the top name for baby girls in the US for three years straight.


The second most popular name given to girls in 2013 was Emma. This name is a variant on the name Erma, which is derived from the Germanic word ermen meaning “whole; universal.” This appellation has long been a favorite name of Jane Austen devotees, thanks to the spirited title character of her novel Emma, first published in 1815.


The third most popular baby name for girls in 2013 was Olivia. Shakespeare is credited with coining this name for the love-struck countess in his tale of mistaken identities Twelfth Night. He may have conceived of it as a feminine form of Oliver. This name has been in the top five names for girls in the US since 2008.


The fourth most popular name for baby girls in 2013, Isabella, can be traced to the name Elizabeth, which comes from a Hebrew word meaning “oath of God.” Isabella has been a favored name among royalty for centuries.


The fifth most popular name for girls in 2013 was Ava. It is of Germanic origin, and its meaning is uncertain. The name jumped dramatically in popularity in 1998, up 268 spots from the year prior. It cracked the top ten in 2005, and has held a spot in the top five since 2006.


The most popular name given to boys in 2013 was Noah. The origin of this name is uncertain, but one theory holds that it comes from the Hebrew word nahum meaning “to comfort.” The word noah is also Australian slang for “shark.” Noah has been in the top 100 most popular names for boys in the US since 1995.


Liam was the second most popular name given to boys last year. This name is a shortening of the name Uilliam, which is the Irish equivalent of William, the sixth most popular male name given in 2012.


The third most popular name for boys, Jacob, means “supplanter” and ultimately comes from the Hebrew akev meaning “heel.” In the book of Genesis, the second son of Isaac and Rebekah, named Jacob, was born grasping the heel of his older brother, Esau. Later Jacob obtains his elder brother’s birthright by deceptive measures. To supplant means “to take the place of another, as through force, scheming, strategy or the like.”


This word first appeared as an occupational name for a person who builds with stone. It comes the Frankish makjon meaning “maker.” It dipped in popularity in the 1950s, but has maintained relative popularity since 1880, holding a spot in the top 100 names for boys since 1997. Another mason that has enjoyed popularity in recent years is the Mason jar, founded by John L. Mason, who, as a tinmaker and inventor, lived up to the industrious spirit of the name.


This perennially popular name comes from the Germanic words wil meaning “will; desire” and helm meaning “helmet; protection.” Thus, the name William translates roughly to “resolute protector.” Although it has never held the #1 spot in baby names in the US, William has demonstrated more staying power than any of the other names mentioned here, having never dropped below the top 20 in the 133 years on record with the Social Security Administration.

For a look at how the top 10 baby names of 2013 have shifted in popularity since 1880, check out our blog post.

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