The Decade's Most Popular Names

12.16.09 What kids think about names


What’s in a name? History, meaning, culture, creativity, family, religion and current events all play a part in the important decision about “what to name the baby.” Babies born this time of year stand a good chance of getting a holiday-associated name. Noel and Noelle, Holly, Angel, Chris, Kris and Jesus are all top picks. Ebenezer is not and I’ll bet generations babies are grateful.

The most popular names of this decade include Aidan, Madeleine, Michael, Isabella (spellings vary) Emma, Jacob, Emily, Anthony, Ethan and Sophia. I asked a group of elementary school kids what they thought of those names.

One girl said, “There are three Isabella’s in my class and we have to use our last initial to know who we’re talking about. We’ve got two Sophie’s, four Jacob’s and three Joshua’s. Kids want their own name.” Another girl said,” And those girls named Emma are because of that lady on “Friends” and we’re not even allowed to watch that TV show because it’s not ‘propriate.’” Girl “one” said, “Yeah but girls had that name before TV shows were even invented so that’s a good name.”

One boy said, “They’re good because they’re just regular names and other boys have been named that before.” I asked if that meant they didn’t want unique or unusual names. “No way, kids will make fun of you if your name is weird. Plus, your teacher might say it wrong. Then you’ll feel embarrassed but you aren’t supposed to correct your teacher because that’s called being rude.” The girls echoed this concern. “You have to know how to spell your name exactly when you’re in kindergarten and if it’s really hard because it’s not a regular name, then you get all messed up.”

A third girl chimed in, “When I was in kindergarten, there was a girl whose name sounded like Kay-lee but wasn’t spelled right. On our first day we got to help the teacher write our names on our cubby. The teacher tried real hard to help her spell it right but she got it wrong anyway because the right way had a lot of e’s and I’s and even some g’s, I think. Then that girl’s mom got real mad at the teacher and hollered at her in front of other kids. Then that girl cried a lot and tried to hide behind the coats. She stuck her face in a hood and wouldn’t come out. Her teacher was real nice and they worked real hard on changing her cubby but that girl always got embarrassed about it. I feel bad because now that girl goes to a different school and her mom probably hollered at another teacher and if she spelled her name normal, that girl wouldn’t have to hide in a coat.”

A nine-year-old boy said, “Grown ups never make fun of each others’ names or they’re polite and only say stuff when no one else is listening. Like my dad makes fun of Tiger Woods name now but not only when he’s talking to his brother. Kids make fun of other kids names all the time. I don’t think we can help it.”

I asked what they thought made a good name. An eight-year-old girl said, “I like my name because it was my great-grandmother’s name plus it’s a famous musician.” A fifth-grade boy said, “I’m glad my name is the same as it will be when I’m a man. Some boys say they’ll change their name when they get old because their name is dumb. They’re mad their parents made a name up and it isn’t even a real name.”

What is a real name? “They’re all over the place and maybe someone old has that name,” said a first-grader. A second grader said, “One that doesn’t rhyme and almost spells a bad word. One boy at school is named “Huck.”

What will they name their kids when they grow up? They rattled off a long list of standard names; not a “weird” one in the group. Then, one little boy said, “When I have a wife, we will have a daughter on Christmas day and I will name her “Hope.” Then she can always have her hopes up and will be proud of her name because it means something everyone wants.” And if you have a boy?” I asked. “I won’t. I’ll have a daughter named Hope. I already told you that, lady.”

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

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