How popular is your baby's name? Check the 2009 list

If you named your baby Cullen or Maliyah (sound familiar?) in 2009, you're part of a trend.

Those were the fastest-rising boy and girl names, respectively, on the Social Security Adminstration's annual list, released Friday.

At the top? Isabella, displacing the two-year reign of Emma; and Jacob, a longtime favorite that is also, like Cullen, a name from the popular "Twilight' series. Jacob has topped the list for 11 straight years.

Cullen moved up 297 spots, to No. 485 on the list. Edward Cullen is the lead character on "Twilight," and his girlfriend is Bella (a form of Isabella).

Maliyah moved up 342 spots, to No. 296. Malia, which is how President Obama's daughter spells it, came in at No. 192, rising 153 spots. Sasha, the name of his other daughter, moved up 101 spots, to No. 261. But Michelle dropped a spot, to No. 104, and Barack was the 1,993rd most popular name for boys, up from No. 2,424 the year before.

As in years past, the top 10 lists are dominated by traditional names. Jayden was the lone exception on the boys' side, rising from 11th to 8th (Aiden and its variants are trendy). And Mia was the only newcomer for the girls' list, moving from 14th to 10th.

Here are the 10 most popular names for each:

Boys:

1.  Jacob (nearly 21,000 babies)

2. Ethan

3. Michael

4. Alexander

5. William

6. Daniel

7. Joshua

8. Jayden

9. Noah

10. Anthony

Girls:

1. Isabella (more than 22,000 babies)

2. Emma

3. Olivia

4. Sophia

5. Ava

6. Emily

7. Madison

8. Abigail

9. Chloe

10. Mia

 

Here's a column I wrote on baby names in January, before the latest list came out:

From Barker to Lily, parents play the name game

Choosing a name for a baby is one of the weightier decisions we parents make.

 Sure that our choice will determine whether our child goes to college or jail, we consult every possible inspiration: baby-name books, Internet sites, newspapers, celebrities, nature, movies, cartoons, etc.

Some of us — let´s be honest — just blow it. How else do you explain “Barker” and “Flick” (see below)?

Over the years we´ve drifted from the “ie” phase of my youth — Barbie, Susie, Debbie, Cindy — through what I call the “J” years — Joshua, Jacob, Jennifer, Jessica — to the last-names-first phenomenon: Madison, Reagan, Taylor, etc.

As we enter a new decade, traditional names continue a resurgence, especially old-fashioned, feminine names like Isabella, Lily and Charlotte.

And by most accounts, there will be a lot of Aidans — or Aidens, Aidyns and Aadens — entering kindergarten in a few years. That name tops several baby lists proliferating on the Internet.

Aidan has been popular for several years, says Jennifer Moss, founder and CEO of BabyNames.com. It beat out the No. 2 boy name, Noah, by a 2-to-1 margin.

Moss thinks parents just like “A” names. Amelia and Ava are No. 1 and 3 on the girls´ top 20 list, which also includes Abigail, Addison and Audrey.

In general, Celtic names — Liam, Landon, Gavin — have been popular for boys in recent years, and biblical names never go out of style, Moss says.

Celebrity is also powerful. Edward, Bella, Jasper and Esme, characters from the popular “Twilight” series, are all in the top 100, she says.

Her Web site doesn´t use names from actual births but tracks favorite-name lists put together by more than 100,000 users, mostly moms-to-be.

Aiden, in all of its creative spellings, also topped the 2009 list on nameyourtune.com, which sells music personalized with your child´s name.

Madeline was the girls´ name chosen most by parents. Jacob and Emma were the most popular names of the decade.

Creator Candace Alper saw more spelling variations this year than ever. Madeline was also Madeleine, Maddelin, and Madalen. Parents like the sound of traditional names bChoosing a name for a baby is one of the weightier decisions we parents make.

Sound-alike variations on Aiden are also a hit — Jaden, Braden, Hayden, Caden — in part because they´re gender-neutral and can be spelled different ways, she says.

The Social Security Administration, which tracks actual birth-names, hasn´t compiled its list for 2009.

Jacob and Emma topped the 2008 list (Alexander and Olivia in Illinois). Aidan didn´t make the top 10, but would if the agency combined similar spellings, Moss says.

Of course, some people buck trends.

The Web site babynamesgarden.com has a list for parents who want “unique” baby names — including some that would doom your child to three years of middle-school torture.

For boys, there´s Barker and Innocent (just to ensure he ends up in juvenile detention). For girls, there´s Flick, Gaia, Happy (I think “Gilmore”), Wilda and Ralphina.

The site also has “unusual” names submitted by readers, some beautiful (Emmaline), some cartoon-inspired (Caillou), some food-related (Cranberry). The list includes Jewella (too close to Cruella), Detroit (there´s not another city you´d rather choose?) and Chardonnay (what was this mom doing during labor?).

If that´s not distinct enough, you can choose unusual spellings: Trinitty, Irelynn, Izaiak and Mic (Mike? Mick?).

Parental creativity can be a challenge for teachers. Sandra Newport, a longtime kindergarten teacher at Bottenfield Elementary School, has to be careful when a child´s name goes against phonics or punctuation rules — extra capital letters or apostrophes in the middle, for example.

She tries to be respectful. She tells them, “Your name is special. But don´t expect that to be in other words.”

Newport understands the desire for individuality. She was one of three girls named Sandy in her class, and ultimately went by Sandy Lu.

When her daughter was born, Newport and her husband combed the newspaper searching for a different name, and came up with Amanda. It turned out two other Amandas were born at Carle that same day, one of whom wound up being her daughter´s friend.

After years of contemporary names like Dakota, Montana and Autumn, Newport has witnessed the return to tradition. This year´s class has a Vivian and a Charlotte.

So does a name define a child? For many teachers, it´s the reverse. As Newport says, “All Joshuas are not alike.”

One “high-energy” child can ruin a name for a lifetime.

“It has nothing to do with the name,” she says, but “you´ve probably said it way more that year than you wanted to. Sometimes you have a teacher who has trouble coming up with a name for their child if they´ve taught too long.”

But she´s also had children who forever endeared her to certain names.

“When I hear them now I instantly imagine that curly-headed bundle of energy who would see things that nobody else would see.”
 

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