Some of the most popular baby names of today were actually pretty uncommon just five years ago. While some of the names on this list are newer ones that were never trendy in past eras, others are tried-and-true classics that had fallen out of use for a while before making a comeback. It’s fascinating to see just how much of a difference five years can make. Is your baby’s name on this list?
Eleanor has been a popular name for centuries, but fell out of favor for most of the 20th century. This ancient name can be traced back to at least the 12th century when it was used by the legendary royal Eleanor of Aquitaine. Five years ago, it was ranked 135 but today it has seen a huge surge in popularity coming in at number 41, the highest it has ranked since the Great Depression.
A variation of the slightly more popular Grayson, Greyson started making the leap from last name to first name in the late 20th century. Its earliest ranking was in 1995, when it debuted at number 963. The name has slowly but steadily increased in popularity and is today at an all time high of 96, the first time it has cracked the list of top 100 baby names. It’s slowly closing in on Grayson which is currently ranked 37th.
This name seemingly came out of nowhere. Originally a Scottish last name, Paisley didn’t even turn up on name charts until 2006 when 0.016 percent of baby girls were given the name. Even five years ago, the name had yet to break the top 100, but now it’s ranked number 46. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what has made the name so popular. Prince’s song, "Paisley Park" could be part of the influence or maybe we can thank country sensation Brad Paisley’s fans for helping the name trend. Whatever the reason, Paisley’s popularity as a given name proves that it’s more than just a design pattern.
This is another name that has only become used in recent years — it’s ranking can only be traced back to 1998. It started gaining notable traction as a name shortly after the hit show Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted in the late 90s. The show featured a character named Willow, and it seems people were fans of both the show and the name. Since then, the name has slowly started to climb the charts, although it still remained fairly uncommon for years. Today, though, it has broken into the top 100 names and is now ranked 96th.
Wildly popular in the early 20th century for girls (when it was also uncommonly used as a boy’s name), Clara has long been considered to be old-fashioned. After the Great Depression, the name’s popularity began to plummet and the once-popular name fell into relative obscurity. It has once again begun trending, though, now coming in at number 99. It looks like you just can’t keep a good name down. The name is even more popular in Europe, where it is currently the 8th most popular female baby name in Denmark.
The trend of last names being used as first names has really taken off in recent years. The name Jaxson has only been used since 1999, although the almost identical Jaxon has been around a couple of years longer. Both names come from the last name Jackson, which has become an incredibly popular first name, breaking the top 20 names in recent years.
In fact, all three variations of this name have been trending upward. Five years ago, people were still using the alternate spellings, though they weren’t as common as they are today. In the past few years, Jaxson has finally broken into the top 100, now ranked 82nd.
This name has made huge strides up the ranks in recent years, probably gaining mainstream notoriety thanks to the mega-popularity of actress Mila Kunis. It ranked for the first time since the 19th century in 2006 at number 744, and jumped up hundreds of points over subsequent years. Five years ago, it was ranked 115, and now it’s in the top 50 names at number 48. And it’s not just gaining popularity in the United States, either. Mila is charting all over the world — it’s currently most popular in Belgium where it’s ranked seventh.
A Hebrew name that means "happy" or "blessed," Asher is currently ranked 71st. It didn’t even break the top 1000 names for most of the 20th century, before seeing a small revival in 1992 when 0.006 of baby boys were given the name. Asher has very slowly increased in popularity since then. It’s only in the last couple years that the name broke into the top 100 for the first time, and it looks like it’s going to be there for years to come.
Leo has been in use for centuries, although it has been a long time since it has been as popular as it is today. The name means "lion" in Latin, so it makes sense that generations of parents wanted their babies to have this strong name. It has been the name of more than a dozen popes as well as several emperors and kings. Perhaps because of its long history, the name fell out of favor for decades, but has made an extraordinary comeback and is now ranked 74th.
People today generally think of Vivian as a feminine name, but it actually has a long history as a masculine name, too. Until the 1930s, the name Vivian was used both for boys and for girls before becoming almost exclusively a girl’s name. While it was fairly popular in the early 20th century, Vivian fell out of popular use for both boys and girls for decades. The last couple of years have seen a revival of the moniker, and it is now ranked 95th — which is the most popular the name has been since the 1930s.
This Spanish form of the name Matthew has seen a huge increase in popularity. Just five years ago it was far from the top 100 names, but is now ranked number 59. It’s possible that Mateo’s increased popularity can be attributed to the growing Hispanic population in the United States, which has accounted for half of the country’s population growth in the 21st century. In the next few years, we might even see Mateo overtake Matthew, which is currently ranked in the top 20.
Along with Elena, which is ranked just one spot below at 94, Eliana has only recently become popular — both narrowly breaking the top 100 names for the first time. While the two names sound and look similar, which explains why they are ranked so closely together, they actually have different origins. Eliana is a variation of the French name Éliane, which is ultimately derived from the Roman family name Aelius. Elena comes from the name Helen, which has Greek roots. Both names have become frequently used in recent years, and are now in a head-to-head competition in their rise to popularity.
The name Ezra means "help" in Hebrew and has Biblical roots. It might seem like an old-fashioned name, but if you look at the name rankings, it’s actually trending like crazy. While it has long been used in the English-speaking world, Ezra is currently at number 85 — the most popular it’s ever been, even going back to when name rankings began in the late 19th century. It’s jumped almost a hundred spots in the last five years and looks like it will only continue to move up on the list.
In ancient times, Penelope was best known from Greek mythology as the wife of the hero Odysseus who was memorialized in Homer’s Odyssey. Perhaps because of its old roots, the name was fairly uncommon over the past century.
The name emerged back into the top 1000 in 2001 (for the first time since 1975), but for the first time in recorded history, it showed a steady upward trajectory. Five years ago, the name wasn’t in the top 100, but now it’s the 27th most popular baby name for girls. It’s no coincidence that the name showed notable growth in popularity after Keeping Up with the Kardashians star Kourtney Kardashian named her baby Penelope in 2012.
It was just a few years ago that the name Elias was considered to be a unique name choice for a baby boy. Today, though, it’s number 93, the most popular the name has been in recorded history. If its popularity in other countries is anything to go by, Elias is going to be trending for a long time to come. It is particularly beloved in Nordic countries, where it is ranked consistently in the top 50.
Yet another example of a last name becoming a given name, Sawyer used to be most commonly associated with the character from Mark Twain’s beloved classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It first broke the top 1000 as a first name for boys in 1991, but it’s only in the last couple of years that Sawyer has become popular, making its way into the top 100 for the first time in 2015.
Even more interesting is its growing use as a gender neutral name. While it’s currently ranked as the 97th most popular boy’s name, the percentage of girls with the moniker is growing, and it is currently ranked number 246.