What goes up must come down—but not necessarily the same way. Most fast-rising names are pop-culture-launched, fresh ideas with specific inspirations behind them. Their routes back to earth are a different story.
Occasionally, a name like Alexa may run into a cultural buzz saw and generate headlines. But the adage that any publicity is good publicity mostly holds true, and reports of negative press killing off names are greatly exaggerated. Even a name like Brandon, which was co-opted into a coarse political insult starting in late 2021, barely veered from its usage trajectory and still ranks #211 among US boys’ names.
What does cause a name to decline, then? Some fast-falling names are post-fame phenomena, brief spikes that disappeared once their cultural sparks faded from view. But more are just part of the natural baby name life cycle. A trendy name hits the inevitable downslope of its popularity curve, and the descent accelerates as parents sense that the name no longer feels cutting-edge.
The Fastest Fallers of 2022
This year’s fastest-falling popular names send clear messages about the direction of fashion change. The two top falling girls’ names of the year were Ava and Aviana. The letter V surrounded by vowels has been a powerhouse sound for 21st-century girls, in names as traditional as Olivia and as modern as Everleigh. It’s still well-loved; Olivia, Ava and Evelyn all remain in the top 10. But as the fast-fallers show, the trend is now receding. Overall, Av- and Ev- names were down by 7% last year.
For boys, the fastest fallers were Lincoln and Logan, followed by Jaxon and Jackson. Names ending in -n have been dominant for boys in the past generation and continue to be hugely popular. For instance, four of the top ten rising boys’ names this year end in n. But the -n rate is now back down to where it was at the turn of the millennium. One more sign of the -n times: Colter is one of the hottest rising boys names, while Colton is one of the fastest falling.
Other Notable Declines:
- Kobe and Gianna were the fastest-rising names of the year 2020, in memorial tribute to basketball star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. In 2022 both ranked among the fastest declining names, yet they remained far more popular than before the Bryants’ untimely deaths. The naming tribute has proved to be an enduring one.
- Three names disappeared completely from the name data for the first time ever. Jannie, Berta and Thurman had appeared in US national statistics every year since 1880.
- The name Jamal, which is still commonly used in written materials to signal African-American identity, fell out of the boys’ top 1000 list for the first time since 1967.
And the most significant decline was in popularity itself. The four names at the top of the girls’ rankings—Olivia, Emma, Charlotte and Amelia—were unchanged, but their usage shrank by 5%. The percentage of babies receiving a top-1000 name, already historically low, declined at an accelerated rate. Individual names continue to rise and fall, but “popular” means less than ever before.