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About the Namerology Name Age Calculator

The Name Age Calculator estimates the typical age of an American based solely on their first name. It’s meant to represent the mental models we all have in our heads, models that come from a lifetime of social experience. A Barbara sounds older to us than a Brianna, because the typical Brianna we’ve met or heard of is college-aged, while the typical Barbara is in retirement. While no single number can fully capture the social reality of “name age” (especially for names that experienced multiple population waves generations apart), I think the ages in the Calculator are good summaries.

Nate Silver and Allison McCann of posed a related name-age topic several years ago: “How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name.” Their approach was about practical, accurate estimation, including actuarial tables of life expectancy. My target is a more psychological one: how old does your name sound? What impression does it make? I therefore measured a little differently. I took a weighted average of name frequency over time, underweighting but still including older data back as far as 1900. The huge wave of girls named Florence circa 1900 may be gone today, but they still influence our mental models of the name. Similarly, I weighed relative frequency of names within a year more heavily than total births.

The calculator includes every name occurring in reasonably large numbers in U.S. Social Security Administration data from 1900-2018, about 8,000 names in total. Note that you’ll find some surprising entries, including odd spellings like Joesph and unlikely gender crossovers like female Clydes. These may be influenced by data-entry errors, especially in earlier years of the sample. But in some cases, they just represent forgotten trends.

– Laura Wattenberg,

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