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What's in a name?
Popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Most modern parents, in fact, are searching for a name that's well-liked, but not overused.
Being No. 1 isn't what it used to be, in other words. In the 1880s, about 40 percent of boys received one of the top 10 most popular names in the United States. As of 2010, fewer than 10 percent of newborn boys get one of the 10 most popular monikers, according to a study published that year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The trend holds even further down the list: Until the mid-1900s, half of girls got one of the 50 most popular names in the United States. Today, only about 25 percent get one of those names.
But something has to top the most-loved list, and a few names have remained perched near the peak for several years running now. Here are their secrets.
JacobSlide 2 of 21
Jacob has been on the rise since the 1960s, according to naming data from the Social Security Administration. This beloved boys' name hit its peak in shear numbers in the 1990s, when 7,403 per every million babies were named Jacob. It ranked No. 5 in popularity back then, but since 2004 has held the No. 1 spot for newborn boys.
Jacob is an Old Testament name that roughly translates to "holder of the heel," as the Biblical character was born holding his twin brother's heel. Today, Jacob may get its popularity from the religious connotation as well as the popular "j" and "k" sounds it contains, according to Laura Wattenberg's "The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby" (Three Rivers Press, 2013).Slide 3 of 21
SophiaSlide 4 of 21
The No. 1 name for girls in 2011 doesn't have Jacob's staying power (yet), but it's been in the top 10 for some time. Sophia ranked all the way down at a lowly 132 in popularity in the 1990s but has since skyrocketed to popularity, busting into the top 10 in 2006 and staying put. In 2010, 5,151 babies per every million were named Sophia. (Alternate spelling Sofia is popular, too, ranking 19th in 2011). The name is Greek in origin and means "wisdom" or "skill."Slide 5 of 21
MasonSlide 6 of 21
Mason is another name that's emerged from near-invisibility to top the charts. At No. 2 in 2011, Mason has jumped faster than Sophia — the name ranked in at No. 12 just the year before.
Mason is a tradesman surname. Originally, it was a last name for bricklayers. Other tradesman surnames are popular boy choices these days, as well. (Think Tanner, Carter and Cooper.) Mason started to make the leap to a first name in large numbers in the 1980s, when it ranked 343rd in popularity.Slide 7 of 21
IsabellaSlide 8 of 21