May 21, 2019

The Rise of the Four-Letter Baby Name

“My friend wrote me the other day to tell me her new baby’s name was Nyla. My first reaction was excitement about the miracle of life. My second reaction was that, of course, her baby had a four-letter name.

American names are shrinking. The two most popular names in the US for baby boys in 2017 were Liam and Noah; for girls, Emma and Ava were two of the three most popular. That’s a dramatic shift from just a few decades ago. In 1990, no name in the top ten had less than five letters—the interminable Michael and Christopher topped the list. No name with fewer than six letters made the top five in 1990—thank you Jessica, Ashley, Brittany, Amanda, and Samantha.

Girls’ and boys’ name lengths both reached their peak in 1989, with girls’ names averaging over 6.4 letters, and boys’ names average about 6. Since then, the average girl’s name fell by 0.4 letters and the average boy’s name by over 0.2 letters. The US government data used for this analysis includes all names given to at least five babies in a given year, which is the vast majority of names.”

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