— Emma ousted Emily as America’s favorite name for a baby girl, according to just-released government data, while Jacob held on to the top spot for baby boy names for the 10th year in a row.
But tradition did not completely hold sway: Each gender got a new addition to its Top 10 list. Alexander joined the boys’ club, coming in at No. 6. Chloe arrived at No. 10 in the girls’ rankings.
Emma — the name of a Jane Austen heroine, the daughter of Rachel and Ross on “Friends,” and, for a certain generation, television’s sexiest spy (Mrs. Peel, played by Diana Rigg on “The Avengers”) — shot to the top after coming in at No. 3 the previous year. The name is based on the German word “ermen,” which can mean “strong,” but is usually defined as “whole” or “complete.”
The No. 1 ranking represents something of a comeback for Emma. While very popular in the late 1800s, the name dipped in the 1970s and fell out of the Top 300.
But Emma came roaring back in the past seven years, always finishing in the Top 5. Emily had been the most popular baby girl name since 1996.
Every year the Social Security Administration compiles the rankings based on the names of babies applying for Social Security numbers. (Most children receive their numbers at birth.)
More than 4.2 million births were registered in 2008. The rankings are based strictly on spelling, not how the name sounds. That’s why the names Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelin, Katelyn, Katelynn and Katlyn are considered separate entries. (In 2007, Kaitlin ranked Number 421.)
The latest Top 10 names for baby girls, based on 2008 statistics:
The Top 10 names for baby boys:
The popularity of the name Jacob continues a trend of naming children after Biblical figures: Jacob is the son of Isaac. The name means “heel grabber,” a reference to Jacob’s grabbing the heel of his twin brother Esau at birth. (The Bible notes that God later renamed Jacob, calling him Israel.)
The 2008 list varies significantly from the Social Security data 50 years prior, in 1958. Back then, the Top 10 girls’ names were:
The Top 10 boys’ names in 1958 were:
Among interesting facts unveiled in the 2008 survey: First lady Michelle Obama can count her first name as the 103rd most popular among baby girls last year. The names of first daughters Malia (345) and Sasha (363) were fairly popular, too. The family name Obama, however, did not make the Top 1,000 as a first name for boys or girls.
On the other side of the political spectrum, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin may have had some influence; the name Sarah ranked 20th in baby name popularity last year. But Bristol, her daughter’s name, did not rank in the Top 1,000. (Levi, the name of the father of Bristol’s baby, Tripp, ranked 117th.)
Celebrities who gave their children unusual names did not appear to have too much influence on the baby-naming public, however. Apple, the name of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s daughter, did not make the Top 1,000. Neither did Kal-El, the name Nicolas Cage gave to his baby boy as a tribute to Superman, whose Kryptonian birth name it is.
For the record, those names just making the cut at No. 1,000 were Yurem for boys and Elianna for girls.
The Social Security Administration limits the list to 1,000 names out of a concern for privacy, not wishing to single out children who may be the only ones in the nation with a particular name. Their list of most popular baby names dates back to 1880, even though the agency was not created until 1935. Earlier name rankings are based on the Social Security applications of older people registering for the first time in the 1930s.