The Social Security Administration has just released the most popular baby names from 2014—but they aren't the baby names we Google. Here's what they are and why.
One big part of naming your baby? Deciding whether you want to use a popular name that everybody currently likes, like certain royal parents did for a royal baby, or opting for a more unusual moniker, like Blake Lively did for her baby girl, James.
More often than not, it's hard to know where to begin. Good thing we have the trusty Social Security Administration to show us how our choices in baby names fare against the rest of the country. And its 2014 list of most popular baby names has just been revealed.
Taking into account almost 4 million births, here are the names that babies were given most frequently.
BOYS Noah Liam Mason Jacob William Ethan Michael Alexander James Daniel
GIRLS Emma Olivia Sophia Isabella Ava Mia Emily Abigail Madison Charlotte
Looking at the list, one might assume that Americans are really into traditional, familiar names that have stood the test of time. But Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard and founder of BabyNameWizard.com, isn't convinced.
"The parents who like traditional names have a small pool to choose from," she says. "Parents who like new, inventive names make up everything under the sun. The majority of American babies get a name that is uncommon."
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Within the top ten lists, however, Wattenberg sees a hint of trend. There are a lot of what she calls "raindrop" names that are perfectly smooth, like Noah, Emma, Liam, and Mia. "We're in an age that seems to love vowels," she adds.
Alongside the SSA's lists, Google also has released a pair of maps below displaying the most frequently searched names (March 2014-March 2015) by state. At the top are Michael, James, and Avery, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Emma. There's some overlap between the maps and what's on the SSA's lists, but not as much as you might expect. For instance, Ethan is the sixth most-used boys' name and was searched the most frequently in Illinois, New Jersey, and New York, while Michael is #7 nationally and the most searched in California, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As far as girls go, the #2 name, Olivia was the most heavily Googled moniker in Kansas, Colorado, and Wisconsin, while the #5 name, Ava, was most searched in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts. But the majority of most-searched names by state are nowhere to be found on the SSA's most popular list.
In fact, there's a ton of variety with the girls names, and unique options like Malachi, Ramia, and Risley pop up in various states with no indication as to why these names are getting so many hits. On the whole though, the country does seem to lean towards tradition when it's wondering about tried-and-true choices like Jonathan, David, and Elizabeth.
Still, Wattenberg believes that the names that are searched don't actually correspond to their popularity, noting that people will key in things like "Voldemort" or even look up their own name out of curiosity. She uses Bruce in Mississippi as an example. "There's no chance that's the hot, up-and-coming name," she says. "It could have been from a local news story." And baby names tend to show regional patterns, which are completely missing from the pair of maps.
What's more, Jennifer Moss, founder and CEO of BabyNames.com, thinks that many parents intend to avoid a name on the top ten list. The easy access they have to naming stats helps them steer clear of trendy choices and towards unique names instead. "They may be searching a name to find its popularity, and then when they see Emma or Charlotte has now hit the top ten, they will not choose it," she says.
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