News & Politics

Babies: Popular Baby Names

Sarah Is a Popular Baby Name, But So Are Aaliyah, Rain, and Heaven.

What’s in a Name?

WHEN SCOTTYE HEILMAN'S PARENTS WERE debating baby names, they settled on Scott. Then they had a girl.

"Everyone always asks what it stands for," says Heilman, 26. "They can't believe it's my real name."

These days, a girl with a boyish name isn't hard to find. Taylor, Sydney, Mackenzie, Morgan, Jordan–all ranked among the top 50 on the Social Security Administration's recent list of baby names.

"Twenty-five years from now there will be quite a few weddings where Jordan marries Jordan," says Cleveland Evans, author of The Ultimate Baby Name Book. It's number 46 for girls; 37 for boys.

"Parents always say, 'I want something different but not too different,' " says Evans. So they're choosing names like Madison–originally a boys name–which became popular for girls after the 1984 hit movie Splash. (The mermaid took her name from a street sign).

Few women now having children are named Madison, Evans says, "so parents think it's new and fresh. Everybody else is thinking it at the same time."

At Prince George's Hospital Center, there was a burst of Aaliyahs–it's number 63 on the national list–after the R&B artist died in August 2001.

"Some parents are using months and seasons–like Summer and Rain–and cities where they conceived," says Amy Goodwin, public-relations director at Virginia Hospital Center-Arlington. At Holy Cross Hospital, where 600 to 700 babies are delivered monthly, popular names include Heaven and Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards). Elizabeth, Christina, and Alex are common among Hispanic newborns.

"For Hispanic girls in the past 20 years, an awful lot of the most common names were not traditionally Spanish names," says Evans. He says giving Hispanic boys non-Spanish names is a "more recent phenomenon."

Traditional favorites like Joseph, Sarah, and Michael are still in the national top ten, but not by a landslide. In 1991, more than 62,000 newborns were named Michael; last year, the number of Michaels was half that.

Evans says some names go in and out of style. He expects Hazel and Mabel–popular in the early 1900s–to make a comeback around 2010. "If it's your grandmother's name, you associate it with wrinkles," he says. "If it's your great-grandmother's name, it can start to sound good again."


District of Columbia

Boys Girls
1. Michael 1. Kayla
2. William 2. Olivia
3. James 3. Katherine
4. John 4. Taylor
5. Alexander 5. Lauren


Boys Girls
1. Michael 1. Madison
2. Jacob 2. Emily
3. Matthew 3. Kayla
4. Joshua 4. Hannah
5. Christopher 5. Sarah


Boys Girls
1. Jacob 1. Madison
2. Michael 2. Emily
3. William 3. Hannah
4. Joshua 4. Sarah
5. Ethan 5. Abigail