When it comes to baby names, we live in a nation divided. There’s the United States of Ava and William (the South), the United States of Olivia and Oliver (the Great Plains) and the United States of Emma, Liam and Noah (most of the rest: coastal population centers, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, Texas).
That’s what the Social Security Administration revealed when they released the 2017 list of the most popular names in each state on May 17. Though Emma and Liam were the most popular baby names in the country, they were the number one names in only 11 states. In the other 39 (plus D.C.), another name took the cake for boys, girls or both. We made maps illustrating the winners in each state.
The maps look fairly close to last year’s maps of the most popular names in each state. The South remains completely devoted to Ava and William. Pennsylvania was a bellweather yet again, while Vermont again marched to the beat of its own drum.
Yet there were also some fascinating differences. Though many believe we’ve already passed Peak Emma, it actually spread its dominance this year, becoming the most popular girls’ name in several big new states, such as New Jersey and California. And Charlotte, confined last year to New Hampshire, spread to two more states in New England; we wouldn’t be surprised if it continued to spread.
On the boys’ side, several of the states that supported Noah switched over to Liam — which makes sense, given that Liam took over from Noah as the most popular boys name of the year. Noah was the most popular name in just five states, down from nine the year before. Oliver, meanwhile, continues to grow. It was the most popular boys’ name in a whopping 12 states, despite being only the ninth most popular boys’ name overall.
Here’s the map showing the results for girls:
And here’s the map showing the results for boys:
What were the most popular names in your state? Does that line up with what you’ve noticed? Tell us in the comments!
Let’s look at the comebacks in the US charts this year. These aren’t names that have returned to the Top 100, or even the Top 1000. I’m talking about names that disappeared completely from the official name data – because they were used for less than 5 boys or girls each year – and reappeared in 2017.
Some of them have been away for a long time. Esper, which was given to 6 girls in 2017, was last recorded for girls in 1912 and for boys in 1926. Addiemae (or Addie–Mae – the data doesn’t record punctuation) hasn’t been seen since 1915, while Rayo and Union last appeared in 1923.
Many of the returners are variant spellings of popular names. They’re not common enough to make it into the charts every year, but odds are that occasionally enough parents will name their kid Ferne, Izabele or Keagyn to put it in the rankings.
By Abby Sandel
When it comes to classic baby names, there are two stories we like to tell. Sometimes it’s that classics have been abandoned. Time to name your baby Chicago, Koala, or True, because nobody would dare call a kid Elizabeth or James in the year 2018.
Neither of these extremes is true.
By Kelli Brady
After seeing the SSA’s 2017 Popular Baby Names list, did you wonder why you aren’t hearing the #1 name as much as a name further down on the list? Do you hear a lot more “Sophia!” on the playground than “Emma!”? One way to try to explain this is the annual Playground Analysis. When you hear a name on the playground, you do not know how it is spelled and since the SSA list is done solely by spelling, it does not give a completely accurate account of name popularity. The Playground Analysis combines the different spellings of names to reveal the true Top 50 names of 2017!
By Esmeralda Rocha
Each year, the Top 1000 names in the US are given to around 78% of boys and 69% of girls (in 2017 2,798,250 babies received a first name that ranked in the Top 1000).
While there is always a little movement in the Top 10 and Top 100, nearly 90 new names appeared in the Top 1000 last year – making that list a fun way to gauge trends and find hidden or underused gems.
Our favorite dozen names from each list are: