The top baby names of 2017 are official, and they're heavy on the M sounds: Liam for boys, and Emma for girls.
Emma is a returning champ in the No. 1 slot, but Liam rose to the top of the list for boys for the first time, knocking down long-running favorite Noah (which now sits at No. 2 for boys). William, James, Logan, Benjamin, Mason, Elijah, Oliver and Jacob rounded out the top 10 boys' names. For the first time since World War II, Michael is out of the top 10, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), which maintains the list.
Oliver's counterpart, Olivia, ranks No. 2 for girls, followed by Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Mia, Charlotte, Amelia, Evelyn and Abigail. Amelia and Evelyn are new to the girls top 10 this year. Last year's No. 10 girls' name, Harper, is now ranked at 11. [See the Top 50 Most Popular Baby Names of 2017]
According to BabyNameWizard.com, a website that tracks trends in baby naming, Liam first squeaked into the top 1,000 baby names in the 1970s. It began to pick up in popularity in the 1990s but really took off after the turn of the century. Between 2000 and 2008, Liam gradually climbed the ladder from the 140th-most-popular baby name to the 75th. It then leapt to No. 49 in 2009 and jumped into the top 10 in 2012. It was the second-most-popular boys' name from 2014 to 2016.
In that same time frame of 2000 on, the classic Michael maintained an enviable ranking at No. 2 and No. 3 for boys' names for a decade straight. In 2011, it wavered, dropping from the third spot on the list to the sixth. This year, Michael ranked 12th in popularity for boys.
The fastest change on the boys list occurred much farther down in the rankings. According to the SSA, Wells leapt from 1,419th to 915th.
"The fastest-rising boys' names are all over the place," said Laura Wattenberg, the founder of BabyNameWizard.com and author of the book "The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby" (Harmony, 2013). "It's really, really interesting. There is no pattern, although there are a lot of meaning-based place names like Cairo."
For the fourth year in a row, Emma topped the name charts for girls; the name also hit the No. 1 spot in 2008, before spending a few years at No. 2 and No. 3. According to the SSA, Evelyn last saw the top 10 in 1915, and Amelia has never made it that high in popularity before. The second-most-popular name for girls, Olivia, has been in the top 10 since 2001 and has held the No. 2 spot since 2014. Sophia, which held the top spot from 2011 to 2013, is now No. 5 on the list of girls' names.
The biggest ladder-climber for girls was Ensley, which moved from 2,436th last year all the way to 965th this year, according to the SSA. It's not clear what drove the jump, though one of the stars of the TV show "Teen Mom 2" named her daughter Ensley in January 2017. [Sophia's Secret: The 10 Most Popular Baby Names]
"I never cease to be amazed at the power of 'Teen Mom,'" Wattenberg said. The show consistently spawns new "hot" names, Wattenberg said. Pop culture tends to generate niche names that rise from year to year but rarely crack the top 10, she said.
One trend in girl names is a subset of mix-and-match names built from various prefixes and suffixes, Wattenberg said. For example, names like "Oaklynn" and "Camreigh" combine portions of common names in new ways.
"They all end up with a really similar feeling, which is that we're inventing new names with a place name or surname feeling, even if you've never heard of that place before," Wattenberg said. Old English naming patterns used a similar mix-and-match approach to arrive at names like Ethelred, she said.
Another trend evident in this year's data, according to Wattenberg's Twitter feed, is that Americans are steering clear of political names for their babies. They will, however, take inspiration from political families, Wattenberg tweeted. While the name Donald continued its long-running fall from grace last year, Barron, Ivanka and Melania all became more popular.
Original article on Live Science.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.