1. Resources
  2. /
  3. Parenting
  4. /
  5. Pregnancy & newborns

Your Baby Name Guide

Carol Josel
Sept. 13, 2012

Research the most popular baby names and find one that works the new addition to your family.

Baby name options include everything from grandpa's surname to Shakespearean classics to crazy celebrity concoctions like Blue Ivy (Beyonce and Jay-Z). With so many names, there can be a lot of pressure to pick the right one. But don't worry, there are some great options popping up this year. Look for classics like Scarlett and Daisy, as Bella makes her way out (sorry Kristen Stewart, the mommas are moving on). 

The Social Security Administration keeps track of the trending baby names. In 2011, Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden, and Noah led the way for boys, while Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava were the top choices for girls.

Pamela Redmond Satran, a baby name expert and co-producer of Nameberry, says that this year's elite names will include Charlotte, Seraphina and Olivia for the ladies, along with Henry, Finn and Oliver for the gentlemen.

As it turns out, some of this year's choices have triggered "not-so-positive reactions, particularly trendy names," said Laura Wattenberg, author of the highly regarded "The Baby Name Wizard." She reviewed more than 1,500 names and found the relatively recent concoction Nevaeh--heaven spelled backward--at the top of the list. That was followed by girls named Destiny, Madison, Mackenzie and McKenna, and Jayden, Brayden, Aiden, Kayden and Hunter for boys. Then there are beloved names that used to be but are no longer fashionable, like Jennifer and John.

"Parents want their kids to stand out, so they avoid the names popular in their parents' day," says Wattenberg. "At the same time, they can't help being part of their own generation. For instance, everyone loves Olivia and Isabella. No one used those 30 years ago, and now everybody does."

Before choosing a name, check How Many of Me, a site which tracks how many of the current 313,541,458 Americans bear a particular name (including first and last name combinations). For instance, there are reportedly 4,145,856 Michaels; 1,034,504 Matthews; 1,463,060 Jennifers; 76,921 Olivias and 987 people named James Bond.

So start with these categories, names and meanings our experts say will be a big hit in the coming year. And please--for your unborn child's sake--think twice before considering names like Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf) and Sparrow (Nichole Richie and Joel Madden).

African and Arabic names are lyrical and unusual, gaining popularity as public attention is drawn to the Middle East and Africa. Expect the Swahili names like Shukura (grateful), Adanna (being the father's daughter), Adia (present of God), Anaya (look up to God), Sisi (Sunday born), Jelani (mighty), Ibada (adoration) and Maalik (experience). Arabic names such as Jamila (beautiful), Sara (princess), Aisha (lively), Tarik (conqueror), Nadir (dearly beloved), Hassan (handsome) and Malik (master or sovereign), will grow in popularity this year as well. Click here for popular Indian names.

Anglo-Saxon names based on Old English have been popular for generations. Expect to continue to see Harriet (ruler of an enclosure), Audrey (noble strength), Lois (famous warrior), Ned (wealthy guardian and a popular "Game of Thrones" character), Garrett (mighty with a spear) and Ward (watchman). Consider, too, Aidan, Graham and Avery for boys, and Ainsley, Gwen and Petra for girls, as those remain popular this year, less for meaning and more for their uniquely uncommon-in-America sound.

Biblical Names have literally stood the test of time, chosen by those well versed in the Bible or looking for a religious connection. Take, for example, popular names such as Ruth, Hannah, Rebecca and Leah, along with Aaron, John, Noah and Daniel. Boy names such as Asher, Gabriel and Noah are also back on the rise, as are Delilah and Esther for girls, while Tabitha, Matthew and Mark wane in popularity. Click here for Jewish names.

Color and gem names offer such options as Beryl (a sea green stone), Crystal, Jewel, Sterling, Bruno (for brown) and Stone. Don't be surprised to see a resurgence of Amber and Auburn for girls, and Gray and Jasper for boys. Blame resource scarcity or the green movement, but these names are moving up in the world.

Floral names are perennial girl favorites, evoking thoughts of spring and summer. Among these growing names is Iris, Violet, Daisy, Ginger, Heather, Heath and Aster.

French names are so lyrical and romantic, they never lose their allure, especially as French parenting techniques continue to grow in popularity. This year's most popular include Carol (song of joy), Charlotte (little and womanly), Renee (reborn), Barry (marksman), Leroy (king) and Darrell (darling).

Geographical names are often chosen based on a family's native country or a favored locale, such as Brittany (a former French province), Chelsea (an English city), Jordon (southwest Asia), Dale (valley), Austin (the Texas city) and Troy (the ancient city). Expect to see Essex and Phoenix on the rise for boys and everything from Ghana to Georgia for girls. With Chris Hemsworth naming his daughter India and Kourtney Kardashian giving her daughter the middle name Scotland, celebrities will definitely keep this trend alive.

German names are strong-sounding and hence very popular, including Alicia (truthful), Greta (pearl) and Hilda (battle maid), along with Gary (mighty with a spear), Roger (a famous warrior) and Bernard (brave as a bear). Click here for Celtic baby names.

Historical names are much loved this year, especially by those enamored with Arthurian lore. These include the ever-popular Jennifer (a translation of Guinevere), Vivian, Arthur, Blaise and Tristen. Jackson and Tyler for boys, and Reagan, Kennedy and Madeleine for girls are on the rise as well. And present day movers and shakers are even worming their way onto the list, as names such as Arianna (of Huffington Post fame) begin to inspire future parents. Click here for the top modern baby names.

Italian and Spanish names are musical and often popular for their unique beauty. Plus, the Jersey Shore's Snooki is leading the charge by naming her son Lorenzo. Other popular choices include Gianna (God is gracious), Bianca (white or fair), Gabriela (God is my strength), Georgio (former), Carmine (song) and Marco (warlike). Expect Spanish options, including Valentina and Joaquin, to soon abound in daycares soon too.

Mood names resonate with feeling and charm, and are particularly pleasing for girls names as aggressive feminism loses popularity to the sweeter new-wave feminine attitudes. This explains why a number of young girls are now named Hope, Bliss, Grace and Faith; meanwhile Trust is making headway for boys, as are Chance and Marvel.

Mythological names harken back to the time of the gods and are preferred because of their unusual, whimsical nature. You'll see Avalon, Minerva, Anna, Gunnar, Nester, Tristan and Ajax grow in popularity.

Nature names are gaining traction in these green-thinking times, with such names as Dawn, April, June, Autumn and Misty. For that growing little boy, there's Cliff, Rock, Grove, Jasper and River.

Occupation names have long been associated with last names, such as Smith, Sawyer and Miller, but they're taking hold for first names now, too, such as Scarlett (a person who worked with scarlet cloth), Taylor, Hunter and Marshal.

Polish names are often favored by the approximately 10 million Polish-Americans--and others too--which accounts for such favorites as Ania (grace), Gita (pearl), and Felicia (fortunate), along with Michael (who is like God), Antonin (priceless) and Dominik (belonging to the Lord).

Pop culture names take their cue from popular TV shows, movies, books and music. The entertainment world is currently bringing us names like Rue, Prim and Cato (from The Hunger Games), Grayson (from television's Revenge) and Adele and Cyrus (from these so-popular songstresses). Click here for the top baby names, soon to be found everywhere.

Unisex names continue to gain popularity as contemporary gender roles change. Considered not just trendy but sophisticated, too, names in this category include Addison, Shay, Whitney and Justice. Also expect to see a rise in Hayden, Marley, Shane and Riley.

Click here for 101 boy names.

Click here for 101 girl names.

Carol Josel, a Blue Bell, Pennsylvania resident, is a learning specialist and author of three books. Her work can be found here

Leave a comment

Create a free account with Care.com and join our community today.

Related content

How much should you pay for a babysitter?