Baby-naming experts discuss the latest trends in baby names

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Machelle Hall in her classroom at Snow Hill Elementary
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Machelle Hall in her classroom at Snow Hill Elementary

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a seemingly endless list of names you could give your new baby.

Each year, the Social Security Administration releases the most popular baby names in each state. The website compiled the top names of 2022 into one article, so readers could easily compare and contrast the different name trends in different states.

The top names in Tennessee in 2022 were Liam, given to 433 boys, and Olivia, to 392 girls.

Machelle Hall, a kindergarten teacher at Snow Hill Elementary School in Ooltewah, Tennessee, has taught for nearly 35 years, meaning she has had to learn around 700 names in her career.

Hall recalls the shifts in the names of her students throughout the decades. In the '80s, she had several Lindseys, Ashleys, Jareds and Daniels.

In the '90s, she noticed the "pop star" names, such as Britney and Justin.

Now, she does see the occasional Liam or Olivia, but she has noticed several other trends with the names of her students.

"It sort of goes in cycles, where they'll have trendy names for a while, or they'll do weird spellings of names, or they'll pull up some of the old-fashioned names," she explains.

The "weird" spelling of names has become quite popular (think Emmalee, Jazzmyn, Hayleigh, Alysen...).

"I think a lot of times, they'll take a name and try to do something a little different to make their child unique," Hall says.

Colleen Slagen, a baby-name consultant from Boston, Massachusetts, says that this is why the idea of baby naming has become so popular and why her baby-naming hobby has turned into a full-time career.

"People put a lot of stock in what they're naming their child, and I think because there's so much more variety in baby naming, there's a little bit more pressure to pick the perfect name," Slagen says.

She usually tells clients to stick to traditional spellings.

"It's not a way to be unique," she tells parents. "When you write it down, it looks different. But the majority of the time, you're just saying it and hearing the same name."

In the classroom, Hall says vintage names are the ones she sees most often. She has encountered several named Evelyn, Scarlett or Henry, all of which are on many states' most-popular list.

Other "old-timey" names popular in Tennessee are James, Elijah, Hudson and John for boys. For girls: Charlotte, Eleanor and Elizabeth.

"There is a trend towards vintage names making a comeback, and some people subscribe to the 100-year rule, in which names resurface every 100 years," explains Slagen.

She adds that presidential surnames, especially mainstream ones like McKinley and Kennedy, are also popular names these days.

Hall has begun to see students with names that are completely made up. The top 1,000 U.S. baby names list even saw some invented names, such as Aubrielle, Brylee, Dalory, Kyler and Oaklyn, according to one Nameberry article.

"We've got these ultra-vintage names that appeal to some parents, and then we've got ultra-modern names that are really not even names," Slagen says. "These are totally opposing styles, and I think that's what's really cool."

As for the most popular names, Slagen understands the appeal.

"Olivia is a trending style. People like really feminine, longer girl-names ending in 'A.'"

Slagen compared "Liam" to other Celtic names that have become popular in America, such as Aiden and Finn.

"It's short and sweet. It's softer-sounding," she says. "I think it might be No. 1 because some people are using it as a way to honor [the name] William."

In the next few years of baby-naming trends, Slagen sees floral names like Daisy and Poppy on the rise for girls.

"Some people are veering towards very feminine, but we're also seeing more gender-neutral themes — like Scotty, Charlie and Billie," she adds.

She says that some boy names will lean towards a masculine sound, such as "Jet."

"In contrast to that, gentle heartthrob names that have softer sounds [are popular]," Slagen says. "August is so big right now; Silas, Miles have a kind of poetic sound to them."

With so many names of so many students, Hall says it's impossible to recall most of them. It did not take her long, though, to identify the ever-changing trends.

"These days, I can hardly remember [names] from the year before," she shares. "But a few really stay with you."

  photo  Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Names of Machelle Hall's students are displayed on the classroom wall.

Upcoming Events