Most popular baby names list out for 2012

May 10, 2013 6:56:06 AM PDT
Jacob and Sophia are repeat champions as America's most popular baby names for 2012.

This is the fourteenth year in a row Jacob tops the list for boys and the second year for Sophia. There is a new couple in the top 10 this year--Elizabeth and Liam replace Chloe and Daniel. Elizabeth has been here before, but this is the first time Liam breaks into the top 10. Perhaps Liam's newfound success can be attributed to Liam Neeson's recent major roles in "Battleship" and the popular "Taken," "The Chronicles of Narnia," and "Clash of the Titans" franchises.

Many pop-culture naming trends appear in a popular feature of Social Security's baby names website--the "change in popularity" page. This year's winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 500 are Major and Arya.

. The fastest riser on the girls' list may have been influenced by the popular cable TV series "Game of Thrones." Arya is the daughter of a leader of one of the Seven Kingdoms. She also is an expert sword fighter, so doubt her influence on the popular names list at your own risk.

For the boys, parents may associate Major with the military title. Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said, "I have no doubt Major's rising popularity as a boy's name is in tribute to the brave members of the U.S. military, and maybe we'll see more boys named General in the future." You also might trace Major's increase in popularity to a cable TV show. "Home by Novogratz" is a popular home design show featuring Major Novogratz, the youngest son of designers Robert and Cortney.

The second fastest riser for boys was Gael, and for girls, Perla. Both names most likely are on the rise due to the increase in the Spanish-speaking population in the United States. Perla is the Latinized version of Pearl and is popular among Hispanic-Americans. Gael's popularity could be tied to Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

King and Messiah are also among the fastest-rising baby names for American boys.

After Jacob for boys were Mason, Ethan, Noah and William. Liam cracked the top 10 for the first time, coming in at No. 6. Daniel slipped out of the top 10 for the first time since 1998, to No. 11.

After Sophia were Emma, Isabella, Olivia and Ava.

But what about those rising boys' names?

Typically, says Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard" and founder of, "You don't get a lot of Messiahs. You can have a lot more Majors."

Wattenberg said Americans have long given their children "aggrandizing names." She noted that Noble and General were on the list of popular boys' names for much of the 20th century, though neither ever cracked the top 100.

"We've pretty much run out of presidential names, all the Jeffersons and Jacksons and Madisons, so we're moving on to the aristocracy, I guess, or to the military."

Jennifer Moss, author of "The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book" and founder of, says she discourages parents from giving children "expectation names, like Justice and Chastity."

"We feel that it kind of puts an undue pressure on the child when you use those kinds of grandiose or purity names," Moss said.

Chastity was in the top 1,000 for more than two decades before dropping off the list in 1994. Justice was on the list in 1880 but then fell off for more than 100 years. The name reappeared in 1992 and was No. 518 last year.

Jacob's popularity endures because the name has much of what parents look for in a boy's name, said Moss.

"It's easy to pronounce, and it's easy to spell. It's a solid manly name," she said. "It's a biblical name, and biblical names are always in style."

On the girls' side, Sophia first cracked the top 100 in 1997. Isabella dropped off the list from 1949 to 1990.

Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997, and the agency's website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. Social Security is America's source for most popular baby names because parents supply this information to the agency when applying for a child's Social Security number at the time of the child's birth.

The top baby names in 1880 were John and Mary. John is now No. 28 and Mary has fallen to No. 123 - the lowest for both names.

The list, which also includes top baby names by state, draws millions of viewers. The agency hopes that people go to the website to see the baby names and stay to learn about other services.

The website also shows which names are gaining - and losing - popularity. Among the boys' names that are spiking, Major jumped 505 spots, to No. 483, followed by Gael, Jase, Messiah and Brantley. Messiah gained 246 spots, to No. 387.

Jase Robertson is a character on the reality TV show "Duck Dynasty," about a family that runs a business making duck calls and other duck hunting gear.

Among the other boys' names gaining in popularity: Maverick, Armani and King, which jumped 133 spots, to No. 256.

Among the rising girls' names, Arya jumped 298 spots, to No. 413, followed by Perla, Catalina, Elisa and Raelynn. And Raelyn with one 'n' was eighth.

Among the girls' names that are losing popularity, Dulce dropped the most, 159 spots, to No. 574. Next were Mikaela, Estrella, Danna and Audrina.

Among the boys' names that dropped, Braeden fell 105 spots, to No. 581. Next were Yahir, Kieran, Cullen and Brayan.

The popularity of Cullen was fleeting. In 2010, it was the fastest rising name for boys. Edward Cullen is a vampire in the "Twilight" books and movies.

The list shows that top names for boys have been more stable over the years than names for girls. William, for example, has been a popular boy's name for more than 100 years, never falling out of the top 20. Mason is an exception, entering the top 100 for the first time in 1997.

Today's top names aren't nearly as popular as the top names were a generation ago.

For example, 18,899 babies were named Jacob last year. Two decades ago, that wasn't good enough to crack the top 25. In 1992, Michael was the top name for boys, with more than 54,000 boys getting the name.

"We're seeing a total revolution in terms of the diversity of naming," Wattenberg said. "Parents are really focused on choosing a distinctive name that will make their child stand out."

Top baby names for girls in 2012
1. Sophia
2. Emma
3. Isabella
4. Olivia
5. Ava
6. Emily
7. Abigail
8. Mia
9. Madison
10. Elizabeth

Top baby names for boys
1. Jacob
2. Mason
3. Ethan
4. Noah
5. William
6. Liam
7. Jayden
8. Michael
9. Alexander
10. Aiden

Fastest-rising baby names for girls in 2012
1. Arya
2. Perla
3. Catalina
4. Elisa
5. Raelynn
6. Rosalie
7. Haven
8. Raelyn
9. Briella
10. Marilyn

Fastest-rising names for boys
1. Major
2. Gael
3. Jase
4. Messiah
5. Brantley
6. Iker
7. King
8. Rory
9. Ari
10. Maverick

For all the top baby names of 2012, go to Social Security's website

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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