In the world of names, style starts at the finish. Trendy name endings made Arlene, Irene and Pauline the shape of the 1920s, Sheri, Kari and Lori the shape of the 1960s, and Tiffany, Stephanie and Bethany the shape of the 1980s. And the name endings setting the standard today? They point toward a new shape, as fluid and sinuous as a stream.
Meet the two hottest name endings for American girls, -lani and -mara. The popularity of names with those endings rose by a combined 130% from 2014 to 2018, and parents’ creativity with the sounds is boundless.
Last year, 134 different names ending in -lani were given to five or more girls. They include traditional Hawaiian names like Mahealani, celebrity names like Kehlani (after the one-named singer), and innovations like Nylani. Top risers include the classic Leilani and the ultra-liquid Alani and Milani.
The rise of the -mara names took place mostly on the contemporary side of the style spectrum. (The longtime -mara leader, Tamara, actually declined in popularity and is now at its lowest point since the 1930s.) The two names making the biggest leaps were Amara and Samara. Amara, which is used in multiple languages and cultures, was boosted by a singer and reality tv star who goes by the stage name “Amara La Negra.” Samara, meanwhile, is the name of the murderous ghost girl at the center of the Ring horror movies. That makes the name the latest addition to the long line of hits inspired by demonic movie kids. (Damien, Adrian, Regan and Gage say “hi.”)
Beyond any individual name, the endings speak to a fashion direction. They are distinctly feminine, in a style more elegant than cute. With their luxuriant flow and vowel endings, names like Noelani and Zamara provide a counterpoint to the compact androgyny of recent hits like Peyton and Taylor.
That is not to say that androgynous names are on their way out. Rather, it’s another sign that name style is gravitating to extremes—any extremes. Extra-long, or extra-short. Ultra-feminine/macho, or strikingly androgynous. The new target is anything that makes an impact; anything but ordinary.