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Best Baby Names to Give Your Baby a Good Start

Updated on September 27, 2015

Best Baby Names

Naming your baby could be one of the most important decisions of your life, and it could be the most important decision for your child's life, too. Babies don't get much say, so you are going to have to do your best to give your baby the perfect name.

Half of the work of naming a baby is creativity, half is wisdom, and the other half is personal taste. Oh wait–that's three halves. Johnny Cash sang a song called A Boy Named Sue about a dad who knew he wouldn't be around to make his son tough so he gave him a name that would get him into fights. When considering names, maybe you've thought about how each one will be modified on the playground at recess. Hopefully, you are not as cruel as the dad in Cash's song, but you'll still want to consider many options and scenarios when choosing the name.

You aren't reading this to choose an awful name, you want the best for your kid: although the relative quality of a baby name is totally subjective, all parents benefit from knowing how to choose the best name for their baby, a name that will give your child a good start, one that exemplifies positive qualities. Maybe you want the hottest baby name or perhaps you're looking for one that isn't too trendy. Whatever you are looking for in your baby's name, good research and a little creativity can point you in the right direction.

The Science of Naming Your Baby

Depending on what you are going for, you can use data trends to help make a good decision. I found some interesting baby-naming data and discussion in an unlikely book, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (2005) by economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen Dubner. The words "baby" and "names" aren't even in the title but in its last chapter, the authors explore the data of California's birth records to investigate how people choose names. Levitt and Dubner pose the question, "does the name you give your child affect his life? Or is it your life reflected in his name?...and most importantly, does it really matter?"

The authors did not write the book to help you name your baby, and I am not going to report everything they say about the socioeconomic patterns of naming children, but it is part of the research I used to write this article providing options to guide your-baby naming decision.

Below, you'll find sections of options that allow you to make the best baby name combo to fit your needs.

Funny Baby Name Fines

Rich Baby Names vs. Poor Baby Names

Levitt and Dubner found that rich parents name their children differently than poor parents. Interestingly, they concluded that it seems the most popular names are far less popular for the upper class, who also tend to have more education. "There is a clear pattern at play: it starts working its way down the socioeconomic ladder."

So if you want to name your baby a low income name, simply give them a name that reflects a hot trend that has run its course. If you want to give your baby an upper income name, you will have to be a little more original. We'll get to predicting that later.

Five Most Common White Girl Names (Levitt, 2005):

  1. Amber
  2. Heather
  3. Kayla
  4. Stephanie
  5. Alyssa

Ten Most Popular Girl Names of 2013:

  1. Sophia
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Isabella
  5. Mia
  6. Ava
  7. Lily
  8. Zoe
  9. Emily
  10. Chloe

Ten Most Popular Girl Names of 2014 (so far):

  1. Imogen
  2. Charlotte
  3. Isla
  4. Cora
  5. Penelope
  6. Violet
  7. Amelia
  8. Eleanor
  9. Harper
  10. Claire

Five Most Common White Boy Names (Levitt, 2005):

  1. Cody
  2. Brandon
  3. Anthony
  4. Justin
  5. Robert

Ten Most Popular Boys Names for 2013:

  1. Jackson
  2. Aiden
  3. Liam
  4. Lucas
  5. Noah
  6. Mason
  7. Jayden
  8. Ethan
  9. Jacob
  10. Jack

Ten Most Popular Boys' Names of 2014 (so far):

  1. Asher
  2. Declan
  3. Atticus
  4. Finn
  5. Oliver
  6. Henry
  7. Silas
  8. Jasper
  9. Milo
  10. Jude

(Scroll down to see more lists of popular names.)


Popular Baby Names vs. Unpopular Baby Names

Although a name's popularity is always changing to some degree, there seems to be some recycling of names. Levitt and Dubner explain that people expect that pop stars influence baby naming, but this isn't the case. Their example is that "Britney" was popular before Britney Spears reached stardom, which makes her a result of the trend, not its cause.

So while fame does not seem to be a factor, there does seem to be correlation between income and education in naming. There are similar naming trends among people who have less income and education, just as there are similarities between naming trends amongst the rich and well-educated.

Most people reading this are probably going to go for either the latest trend or something totally unique. If you are looking to catch the latest trend, the one that hasn't been recorded yet, you simply need to look at your neighbors who have a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. If you use a name they use, then you will have a trendy name for your baby. It will probably become popular in a few years.

Baby Naming Suggestions

If you live in the nicer house in the nicer neighborhood, then it is up to you to set the trend. Or maybe you aren't upper class, but want something original. You might be a trend-setter, too. Here are some simple suggestions to get you on your way:

  1. Use a last name as your baby's first. Levitt (2005) predicted the most popular names of 2015. It included the last name of yours truly. Yep, "Flannery" was a predicted most popular girl name for 2015. (My name is Irish, by the way.) If you want more proof that the last-name-as-first thing works, think of all the little Madisons running around now. Why not use all the founders' names: Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, etc. Other last-names-as-first-names mentioned were Quinn, Anderson, Jackson, McGregor, Cooper, Finnegan, and Bennett.
  2. Use names that were popular when your grandparents or great-grandparents were born. For example, Levitt predicts the reemergence of Max, Oliver, and Ansel. Mabel, Helen, and Maude might be ready for a comeback. And if you use your own great or great-grandparent's name, it is a great way to honor your elders by keeping their name alive.
  3. Look for less popular names from the Bible. Peter, Matthew, James, John, David, and Methuselah are all popular names from the Holy book. O.K. so Methuselah still isn't popular. That doesn't mean it won't be in the future. How about Ahab, Gilead, Jude, Joanna, Kezia, or Mahali? Here's a list of names from the Bible.

Whatever you decide to name your baby, the name probably has more to say about you than your baby. Most people don't wait to ask their kid what they want to be named when they can talk, thank goodness; otherwise, we would have a bunch of kids named after Disney characters. Anyway, you name them and then they live with you for 1/3 of their life, so give them the best start you can. The naming is probably the easiest part.

Creative New Baby Names: Baby Naming Trend Setting

If you don't like any of the names that have been around for centuries, then it is always an option for you to name your baby creatively. Just make up a name. This will probably become more of a trend as the computer age has caused people to make up aliases and avatars with interesting names. It's easy and simple. Here are some examples:

  • Jimnitike
  • Hurntow
  • Worshwash
  • Gipu
  • Hacklue
  • Whinathon

Or use words as names:

  • Laud
  • Fey
  • Persimmon
  • Keen
  • Hawk
  • Gamine

Or look to maps, literature, stars, unabridged dictionaries, or obscure encyclopedia for ideas.

What's the best way to name a baby?

How will you choose a name for your baby?

See results

Baby Names: Popular or Not?

Would you choose a popular, trendy name for your baby?

See results

Most Popular Baby Names of 2000s

This is Baby Center's lists of top 5 baby names of the decade of 2000-2009. If you have or will name your baby one of these names, then you are following, rather than setting, the trend.

Top girls' names of the decade:
1. Emma
2. Emily
3. Madison
4. Isabella
5. Ava

Top boys' names of the decade:
1. Aiden
2. Jacob
3. Ethan
4. Matthew
5. Nicholas

Most Popular Baby Names of 2011

Notice that girl names that end in the "ah" sound are trending. You may want to steer clear of these if you don't want your girl's name to sound like other popular names.


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    • profile image

      killaxin 3 years ago

      I'm all for thinking outside the box when giving your precious child a name they will be happy going through life with. To comment on concerns above about getting jobs and finding personalized swag; parents should definitely be considered about their children's future careers, but at the same time, if an employer decides not to hire the most qualified candidate based on their name, the candidate would be better off not working for that employer. Working for a discriminatory a-hole like that would most likely shave years off your kid's life; I'd quote a study that supports my thought, but I have no interest in doing the research at this time… sounds about right though. Not finding personalized swag got you down? If you live in the same century as I do, we've come a long way from needing to buy mass produced bullshit from oversees sweatshops and are moving toward needing custom-everything. My biggest concern as a parent with 2 kids under 5 and a 3rd coming in 2015, is to ensure they go to schools that allow them to explore themselves and let their imaginations run wild through art, science and technology…and of course, give them access to a 3D printer so they can make their own personalized swag. Wow, I just got bored typing this post. Be happy; stay classy!

    • Lissa Clason profile image

      Lissa Clason 3 years ago from Fayetteville, North Carolina

      It's interesting to see all of the older names that are popular again, like Mabel and Abner and some others I've heard shouted in the grocery store. Some of the creative names I've seen are a bit out there, and it makes you wonder if they will have difficulty getting jobs when they are adults. I guess I'm more of a traditional name person. 3 out of 4 of my sisters have extremely popular names (Sophia, Emma, and Madison). Ashlyn's name is not all that popular, we've only seen another one maybe twice, and she always used to get mad that there were no personalized things with her name on it, until one year I got her a custom-made "Ashlyn's Room" sign for Christmas. Now she likes her first name, but wants to change her last name because she thinks she's Grandma's child lol. I don't think I'd name my kid something too popular, since my name, Melissa, is very common and a lot of the time I go by Lissa to avoid confusion, or having to be Melissa C.

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 4 years ago from United States


      It may take an objective view to appreciate what economists do. These guys took aggregate data and looked for trends, so I doubt that they were interested in meeting your two boys specifically.

      They did, however, decide to include a story about two brothers who were named "Winner" and "Loser" by their parents. The results was that "Winner" ended up in prison, and "Lou" (Loser) ended up a police officer. I think they included the story so that people like you would not get offended.

      Also, if you've read the book, you would also know that Levitt and Dubner concluded that who you are as parents is the most important factor in your child's life. So, I wouldn't be too stressed about your kids' names. There are many other ways parents mess up their kids, such as abuse and neglect. This was written with a light-hearted purpose, which is why I opened up with a little Johnny Cash reference.

    • profile image

      Katherine Taylor2 4 years ago

      I take offense to your calling names "rich" ones or "poor" ones. It's simply not true and sounds awful. You also neglected to list the names that the book says "best signifies low-education parents". The ones you brought up were simply more common either among educated/wealthier families or less educated/less wealthy families in CALIFORNIA IN THE 1990S. Doesn't mean they weren't used at all by the other group. Both of my sons names are reflected in different categories. The two of them are bright, personable and kind. My husband and I are giving both our boys the best possible chance to succeed in life - please don't suggest we're giving one a bad start based on his name.

    • profile image

      bella sweet 6 years ago

      a good boy name is ...... Clatton and Ventcent

      a good girl name is ...... Ludon ,Nal'La,Saenaea,Hayili and lyric or lyrical

    • profile image

      Mom 6 years ago

      Heather is a horrible name! It's so low class!

    • moneycop profile image

      moneycop 6 years ago from JABALPUR

      there is a tradition while naming in India...known as naam sanskaar...So i appreciate your effort. Yes this science will work definitely. there is a strong effect of names on the child character

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      I was named after my grandmother on my mother's side. It was a popular name among her generation and she had an aunt named Flora as well. Ironically, there is a British character actress who died in 1984 who had the same name as I do but for 1 letter: Dame Flora Robson.

    • rdmegan profile image

      Rachelle Megan 7 years ago from Edmonton, Alberta Canada

      This is a really interesting hub. I had never considered the socioeconomic ramifications of baby-naming. However, I think you might have a point. I wonder if having a "low socioeconomic background" name would have a negative impact on a person's life? I read a study that showed that a disproportionate number of dentists are called "Dennis" -- showing that the name seems to have some sort of subliminal impact on a person's choice of profession. Or does it? That is what the study I read thought at any rate.

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 7 years ago from United States


      You are right, the meaning of the name may be as important as how "cool" it is, especially if most people know the meaning.

    • kaltopsyd profile image

      kaltopsyd 7 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

      I helped my godmother find names for her baby boy. What an adventure that was! The most important component for me was the meaning behind the name. Some names sound pretty but the meaning... not so much. I also utilize baby names "directories" for my fiction writing. Anyway, great Hub!

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 7 years ago from United States


      If you want an opinion, I like grace the best of your three choices.

    • profile image

      Bethany 7 years ago

      i really like the name Heather for a girl, its unique and pretty i also like grace and sarah but im not so sure i am going to use Heather for my baby.

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Your name fits with your computer nerd/neanderthal bionic face described in your latest Hub, Blake Flannery. The dark and light side of you. The funny, yet grounded person we readers are discovering. Keep up the good, consistent work. You have defined your voice, albeit unconsciously. Fascinating!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Hmmmm Blake-- this is an interesting hub. I was thinking about biblical names and noting that nobody ever names a baby Bathsheeba or Onan for obvious reasonsLOL  and then I thought in the vein of last names as first names that something like Finnegan O'Neil would be a little too much for even the most passionate Irishman. I'm sitting here playing with all the possibilities and having a lot of fun, though my days of naming babies are long over:-) Now let's see--old fashioned names are upscale eh? How about Matilda,Abagail,Bertha, Augustus,......see??? I'm going over the edge. But a big thumbs up for you. I loved reading this.

      and storyteller--I don't think Barbara is old fashioned and outdated. I like Barbara and I too am a wacko Aquarian with mystical tendencies-- so I guess I should wish us both a happy birthday, Barbara:-)


    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 9 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Wow, now I feel bad. I named my son Robert after my beloved father and I guess I doomed him to be labeled "poor"? My daughters are Cassandra and Alexandra. What did I do to them? LOL. Names are so subjective. Cassie means "worthy of love" and Alexandra... well, it's appropriate because she is such a total dancer. She is interested in Dance Therapy as a college major. So what the heck! How does Blake play out? Barbara is simply outdated and old fashioned despite me being a wacko Aquarian with mystical tendencies. Who knew?

    • Blake Flannery profile image

      Blake Flannery 9 years ago from United States

      I had not heard of this. I feel sorry for the kids. Hopefully they will be able to rise above the challenges they will face.

    • VioletSun profile image

      VioletSun 9 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      The parents in New Jersey who gave names with Nazi connotations to their three children are totally irresponsible, the poor child named Adolf Hiltler is already being rejected because of his name and he is only 3.

      Interesting hub on names!