What’s In A Name?

voyagerWhen you have a new baby many parents feel that figuring out what the child should be called is very significant. Enter babyname wizard! Recently babyname wizard joined forces with CafeMom, the world’s leading digital media company for mothers, to create an even better baby naming experience.

We talked to babyname wizard co-founder Laura Wattenberg—who’s also a baby name expert and bestselling author—to learn about naming trends, how parents research names in the 21st century, and how her site does all the hard legwork for you.

What makes a baby name popular?

There is no set recipe for baby name popularity. It’s actually kind of mysterious because we each feel our taste is completely personal, it feels like something unique to you that comes from your own family and your own preferences, but then we find out that we all choose the same names as our friends and neighbors. So today, the key ingredient for a great name is that it has to be something we didn’t hear when we were growing up. The names of our generation sound boring and the names of past generations sound old, so some parents will go back four generations to their great-grandparents to find older names that sound fresh again and other parents will create new names entirely, using words or place names or surnames to come up with that fresh feeling. But all parents today what names that stand out a little bit to give their kids a boost and make them unique.

What are some of the latest trends in baby names and researching right now?

Trends today are more about sound. That wasn’t always the case, in the past there might have been a trend towards German names for instance, but today the key is to look for a name with strong vowel sounds. So it could be an A, like Ava and Aiden, or a U sound, like Ruby or Lucas. In terms of how parents research names, the Internet has transformed our ideas of what a name should be. First off, we are used to unique user names, so we have a much higher bar to cross for what we think is unique or unusual. Parents will type a full name into Google to see if it’s taken.

What is something that would surprise parents about baby naming?

One thing that is surprising is that the American public is not so far behind Hollywood when it comes to creative naming. This is an age of creative names. We don’t think so because we look at the top ten list of names, but there is always a number one name. The difference is that the most popular names today are just a fraction as popular as names like John and Mary used to be. The entire country is going farther and farther out on a limb looking for something different.

What are some of the more popular features for names on babyname wizard.com?

We have been known for our Name Voyager, which is a living graph of name history which lets you see not just how popular one name has been, but let’s you type in a first letter or a set of letters to see all that name popularity. Now that we have joined CafeMom.com, we are releasing to the public a whole set of tools that used to be a paid subscription feature for us. That includes an expert version of the Name Voyager that can now search for things like the end of a name. The end of a name carries as much style impact as the beginning. My absolute favorite tool is the Name Matchmaker, a kind of smart name tool, where you can tell it a couple of names you like, a couple of criteria that interests you, and it will lead you step by step to the name that speaks to you.

Visit babynamewizard.com to learn more about name trends and what’s new with Laura!