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America’s 100 Steadiest Names

February 6, 2020 laurawattenberg 2 Comments

America’s 100 Steadiest Names

February 6, 2020 LauraWattenberg 2 Comments
Historical popularity graphs of the names Antonia and Manuel

Are you looking for the steadiest possible baby name? A name that weathers all fashion storms and maintains its popularity level across the generations? Then I have the name for you. Manuel is America’s steadiest name, by a good margin. For girls, Antonia is #1.

This conclusion comes from a comprehensive screen of over 100,000 names given to American children since the year 1900. I first winnowed the list to names that appeared in the national name statistics every year, meaning a minimum of 5 boys or girls receiving the name each year. I then calculated a “steadiness score” (for all you stats mavens, a coefficient of variation based on normalized usage frequency). Setting a cutoff score of .5 and eliminating a handful of rare spelling variants of more common names, I identified exactly 100 timeless, steady names.

A quick roundup of what the steadiest names reveal:

  • Real steadiness is an elusive target. Even the #1 steadiest name, Manuel, had a maximum popularity level 2½ times its minimum. Names are in a constant state of flux.
  • Male names are steadier than female names. Only 30 of the 101 names that made the cut were female, and only 1 of the top 10. Almost two thirds of the steadiest female names end in the timeless female marker -a.
  • Spanish names are steadier than English names. Three names stand clearly above all others in steadiness, and all are popular in Spanish: Manuel, Victor and Alfonso. The trend holds throughout the list, for male and female names alike. Notably, the Mexican saintly name Guadalupe makes the list twice, for males and females.
  • Steadiness is a style. In particular, a style I’ll call “understated gentleman” emerges from the male names. Subjectively, these names come across as formal, even courtly, but quiet rather than showy—the kind of names that would wear sports coats and open doors for others. A sampling: Clayton, Noel, Vincent, Conrad, Stewart, Victor, Marshall, Lionel, Clark. This leaves an intriguing chicken-or-egg question: are names of this style more likely to be steady in popularity, or does their steady history shape the impression they make?

See what you take away from the full list of all names that passed the steadiness test. I’ve organized them by average popularity level, because maintaining a steady level of 50 babies per million means something different from maintaining a steady 5000 per million. I think you’ll find that the popularity groups feel different. And if you’re looking for a baby name with a steady future, it’s worth noting that a rare but steady name is more vulnerable to sudden bursts than a perennially popular name. If I had run this same statistical screen in the year 2000, then-unusual names like Lincoln, Delilah, Aurora and Elliott would have made the cut. Today, they’re all youthful hits.

Thank you to reader Sabrina for suggesting this topic.

VERY POPULAR NAMES
NAMEM/FAVERAGEMINIMUMMAXIMUMSTEADINESS RANKING
JosephM7481253112722#9
ThomasM6305171612831#94
ElizabethF494222559496#40
AnthonyM34988466046#80
SamuelM197611013652#36
KatherineF17927062857#25
PeterM15364592704#62
MariaF13796272548#56
KathrynF13021832251#53
JesseM10945402861#86
MODERATELY POPULAR NAMES
NAMEM/FAVERAGEMINIMUMMAXIMUMSTEADINESS RANKING
PhilipM9491731750#89
VincentM9043541519#6
MartinM8453301498#30
VictorM8384571415#2
AllenM7421941380#78
CurtisM6841111349#90
CarolineF6231671230#75
OscarM5792451173#70
WesleyM5593331282#14
CalvinM5412591995#83
ManuelM502286718#1
MODERATELY UNCOMMON NAMES
NAMEM/FAVERAGEMINIMUMMAXIMUMSTEADINESS RANKING
MauriceM40899849#73
NinaF391167893#65
CarmenF363182651#23
ClaytonM344195628#19
PriscillaF320141832#57
CeciliaF285151580#32
RubenM27486440#55
MarshallM259154390#5
IrisF234107559#61
NelsonM22299356#7
PedroM21992424#85
AngeloM21856435#66
RossM21640500#63
AndyM21484462#100
ByronM21385337#16
FelixM199127434#26
RamonM19681339#35
WadeM18071381#60
MalcolmM17461364#33
GuadalupeF16574360#64
CamilleF16458339#98
DallasM15975362#72
VERY UNCOMMON NAMES
NAMEM/FAVERAGEMINIMUMMAXIMUMSTEADINESS RANKING
CorinneF14776341#67
JohannaF14456322#47
CarltonM13917249#84
ClarkM12549225#49
NoelM12238225#20
RudyM12213219#77
AlonzoM11780242#4
MosesM11544244#39
SalvadorM11515225#97
AlfonsoM10854163#3
MargaritaF10728158#13
ConradM10351268#96
SheldonM9811216#91
AntoniaF9648171#10
ClayM9235213#71
StewartM888154#87
LionelM8730156#37
SterlingM8656206#18
LamarM8615180#54
VanM7620173#74
WinstonM7527217#93
TomasM7129131#44
JeanM6931140#38
VanceM6831155#12
GuadalupeM6713145#48
ThaddeusM6520146#51
JeffersonM5827110#21
VaughnM5322105#11
UlyssesM512885#22
JuanaF5123104#24
SusannaF5124111#29
RARE NAMES
NAMEM/FAVERAGEMINIMUMMAXIMUMSTEADINESS RANKING
MagdalenaF4822100#28
MartinaF462287#27
ShelbyM468126#88
HoustonM451184#81
LibbyF441785#31
SantosM431070#8
DenverM431597#58
MariannaF431297#95
GeorginaF422185#17
SonnyM427106#101
HansM391176#41
JosefinaF391589#45
TheronM371778#46
AugustineM371985#59
JudsonM341467#34
AngelitaF33759#50
SheltonM32754#15
LuisaF321062#69
ChaunceyM26956#52
BentonM261170#76
CoralF26954#82
IvoryM26455#92
LinneaF24444#43
ImeldaF21447#68
MurphyM21644#99
ElviaF20740#42
LauraWattenberg
LauraWattenberg

Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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2 Comments

  • LikeToPivotPivot
    LikeToPivotPivot February 8, 2020 at 3:23 am

    Thank you for this article! Lots of sites will let you sort by when a name was trendy, but I’ve always wanted to know what names have never been trendy.

  • Sabrina February 12, 2020 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for these! I really like a lot of these. Good choices for parents who don’t want a trendy or time-stamped name. (I just saw someone commenting, re: the NH election returns, that “Amy and Pete” sound like the DJs of a high school radio station. That person must have been in high school a long time ago!)

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