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TODAY contributor
updated 5/7/2010 10:35:43 AM ET 2010-05-07T14:35:43

Call it the “Twilight” effect: Names from Stephenie Meyer’s series of vampire novels and their hit film spin-offs sank their teeth into the list of most popular baby names this year, with Jacob and Isabella (the long form of Bella, Meyer’s heroine) topping the respective lists for boys and girls, and Cullen rising faster than any other boy’s name.

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While Jacob held sway for the 11th consecutive year as the most popular baby boy name in the U.S., Isabella edged out last year’s most popular girl name, Emma, in the list compiled annually by the Social Security Administration.

The list, released Friday, showed some movement from the 2008 list: Jayden and Noah climbed into the Top 10 for boy names, while Mia made a bow in the girl Top 10 list.

Slideshow: ‘Twilight’ stars light up Hollywood It’s not unlikely that young mothers who loved Stephenie Meyer’s series of “Twilight” books, and the subsequent film franchise, also fell in love with the names of the characters — and likely convinced dads to go along with them in naming their babies. “Twilight” features female protagonist Bella — a variation of Isabella — and the teen-to-wolf character Jacob. And perhaps not coincidentally, the fastest-rising baby boy name in 2009 is Cullen, the surname of “Twilight” vampire Edward Cullen.

While Isabella was a name most often associated with royalty in the 15th and 16th centuries, it fell out of favor for centuries. As recently as 1990, it barely cracked the Top 1,000 among baby names in the U.S. But it surprisingly re-emerged as a favored baby girl name last decade, entering the Top 10 list in 2004.

Since then, Isabella has made a steady ascent up the popularity list — Isabella ranked as the second most popular name for baby girls in 2007 and 2008.

The worst baby names of all timeEmma slid down one spot to No. 2, but it marks the eighth year in a row the name has landed in the Top 4 among baby girl names.

Everything’s Jake
And as for the babies named Jacob, it’s likely they will shake hands with plenty of namesakes as they grow up. Jacob ranked in the Top 100 a century ago, and has remained popular since — although the name did take a dip into the 300s during the 1960s. Jacob has been one of the U.S.’s Top 100 baby boy names for the past 36 years, and has been in the Top 10 since 1993.

The SSA clearly has fun with its annual list, compiled from the names of babies applying for Social Security numbers, which is customary these days. It reports that Baby Jacob and Baby Isabella issued a joint statement thanking parents for “their support and good taste.”

Slideshow: Sleeping beauties While it’s a given that baby boy name popularity tends to hold over time — Daniel and Michael continue to rank in the Top 10 — the popularity of girls’ names tends to ebb and flow. For example, Danielle was a solid Top 20 finisher from 1984 to 1994, but only ranks 170 in 2009.

Famous folks might even be able to track their own popularity by how many parents choose to name their children after them. Malia, the name of President Barack Obama’s eldest daughter, made the biggest year-to-year jump for girls, from 345th-most popular girl baby name in 2008 to 192 in 2009. But Miley Cyrus may have something to worry about — her name fell from 128 in 2008 to 189 in 2009. Interestingly, the name on Miley’s birth certificate, Destiny, ranked higher on the list — 57 in 2009.

Celebrity baby namesAmong the hottest new boy names, Cullen (no doubt inspired by brooding vampire Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” books and movies) was the fastest riser, leaping from 782 to 485 in the past year.

For the record, only 69 Americans chose to name their baby boys Barack, while the First Dog fared better: There are 782 baby Bo’s crawling around the country.

Strangely, the girl name Heaven ranked No. 275, but Neveah — a variation on “heaven” spelled backward — ranked a lofty No. 34.

The Top 10 names for girls, based on the 2009 SSA statistics:

  1. Isabella
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Sophia
  5. Ava
  6. Emily
  7. Madison
  8. Abigail
  9. Chloe
  10. Mia

The Top 10 names for boys:

  1. Jacob
  2. Ethan
  3. Michael
  4. Alexander
  5. William
  6. Joshua
  7. Daniel
  8. Jayden
  9. Noah
  10. Anthony

The Social Security Administration limits the list to 1,000 names out of a concern for privacy, not wishing to single out children who may be the only ones in the nation with a particular name. Their list of most popular baby names dates back to 1880, even though the agency was not created until 1935. Earlier name rankings are based on the Social Security applications of older people registering for the first time in the 1930s.

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Explainer: The most popular baby names of the last century

  • Deciding whether to give your unborn child a traditional or unique name? Wondering if your favorite name is becoming more or less popular?

    Giving a child a name is one of the most memorable and important parenting moments — a name can help nurture a child’s personality and help them identify with a culture, an icon, or a loved one who has passed away.

    TODAY highlights the hottest names from 1900 to the present, lists the strangest celebrity picks, looks at popular politicians' names and takes a look at TODAY hosts' names.

  • Most popular names by year

    If you're debating naming your next tyke "Apple" or "Obama," check out the latest statistics. TODAY lists the hottest names from 1900 to the present — find out if yours made it into the top 10 list of each decade.

  • 2009

    Female names
    1. Isabella
    2. Emma
    3. Olivia
    4. Sophia
    5. Ava
    6. Emily
    7. Madison
    8. Abigail
    9. Chloe
    10. Mia

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Ethan
    3. Michael
    4. Alexander
    5. William
    6. Joshua
    7. Daniel
    8. Jayden
    9. Noah
    10. Anthony

  • 2008

    Female names
    1. Emma
    2. Isabella
    3. Emily
    4. Madison
    5. Ava
    6. Olivia
    7. Sophia
    8. Abigail
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Chloe

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Ethan
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. Alexander
    7. Anthony
    8. William
    9. Christopher
    10. Matthew

  • 2007

    Female names
    1. Emily
    2. Isabella
    3. Emma
    4. Ava
    5. Madison
    6. Sophia
    7. Olivia
    8. Abigail
    9. Hannah
    10. Elizabeth

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Ethan
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. Christopher
    7. Anthony
    8. William
    9. Matthew
    10. Andrew

  • 2000

    Female names
    1. Emily
    2. Hannah
    3. Madison
    4. Ashley
    5. Sarah
    6. Alexis
    7. Samantha
    8. Jessica
    9. Taylor
    10. Elizabeth

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Matthew
    4. Joshua
    5. Christopher
    6. Nicholas
    7. Andrew
    8. Joseph
    9. Daniel
    10. Tyler

  • 1990

    Female names
    1. Jessica
    2. Ashley
    3. Brittany
    4. Amanda
    5. Samantha
    6. Sarah
    7. Stephanie
    8. Jennifer
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Lauren

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. Christopher
    3. Matthew
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. David
    7. Andrew
    8. James
    9. Justin
    10. Joseph

  • 1980

    Female names
    1. Jennifer
    2. Amanda
    3. Jessica
    4. Melissa
    5. Sarah
    6. Heather
    7. Nicole
    8. Amy
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Michelle

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. Christopher
    3. Jason
    4. David
    5. James
    6. Matthew
    7. Joshua
    8. John
    9. Robert
    10. Joseph

  • 1970

    Female names
    1. Jennifer
    2. Lisa
    3. Kimberly
    4. Michelle
    5. Amy
    6. Angela
    7. Melissa
    8. Tammy
    9. Mary
    10. Tracy

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. James
    3. David
    4. John
    5. Robert
    6. Christopher
    7. William
    8. Brian
    9. Mark
    10. Richard

  • 1960

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Susan
    3. Linda
    4. Karen
    5. Donna
    6. Lisa
    7. Patricia
    8. Debra
    9. Cynthia
    10. Deborah

    Male names
    1. David
    2. Michael
    3. James
    4. John
    5. Robert
    6. Mark
    7. William
    8. Richard
    9. Thomas
    10. Steven

  • 1950

    Female names
    1. Linda
    2. Mary
    3. Patricia
    4. Barbara
    5. Susan
    6. Nancy
    7. Deborah
    8. Sandra
    9. Carol
    10. Kathleen

    Male names
    1. James
    2. Robert
    3. John
    4. Michael
    5. David
    6. William
    7. Richard
    8. Thomas
    9. Charles
    10. Gary

  • 1940

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Barbara
    3. Patricia
    4. Judith
    5. Betty
    6. Carol
    7. Nancy
    8. Linda
    9. Shirley
    10. Sandra

    Male names
    1. James
    2. Robert
    3. John
    4. William
    5. Richard
    6. Charles
    7. David
    8. Thomas
    9. Donald
    10. Ronald

  • 1930

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Betty
    3. Dorothy
    4. Helen
    5. Margaret
    6. Barbara
    7. Patricia
    8. Joan
    9. Doris
    10. Ruth

    Male names
    1. Robert
    2. James
    3. John
    4. William
    5. Richard
    6. Charles
    7. Donald
    8. George
    9. Joseph
    10. Edward

  • 1920

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Dorothy
    3. Helen
    4. Margaret
    5. Ruth
    6. Mildred
    7. Virginia
    8. Elizabeth
    9. Frances
    10. Anna

    Male names
    1. John
    2. William
    3. Robert
    4. James
    5. Charles
    6. George
    7. Joseph
    8. Edward
    9. Frank
    10. Richard

  • 1910

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Helen
    3. Margaret
    4. Dorothy
    5. Ruth
    6. Anna
    7. Elizabeth
    8. Mildred
    9. Marie
    10. Alice

    Male names
    1. John
    2. James
    3. William
    4. Robert
    5. George
    6. Joseph
    7. Charles
    8. Frank
    9. Edward
    10. Henry

  • 1900

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Helen
    3. Anna
    4. Margaret
    5. Ruth
    6. Elizabeth
    7. Florence
    8. Ethel
    9. Marie
    10. Lillian

    Male names
    1. John
    2. William
    3. James
    4. George
    5. Charles
    6. Robert
    7. Joseph
    8. Frank
    9. Edward
    10. Henry

  • Ranking political names

  • Names of politicians, their kids

    Image: Malia, left, and Sasha Obama
    Larry Downing  /  Reuters file
    First Lady Michelle Obama can count her first name as the 103rd most popular among baby girls last year and her daughters’ names were fairly popular, too. The family name Obama, however, did not make the Top Thousand as a first name for boys or girls.

    As for former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin – her name ranked 20th in baby name popularity last year. However Bristol, her daughter’s name, did not rank in the Top Thousand.

    Obama
    Rank: Not in the Top 1,000

    Sasha
    Rank: #363

    Malia
    Rank: #345

    Michelle
    Rank: #103

    Sarah
    Rank: #20

    Bristol
    Rank: Not in the Top 1,000

    Levi
    Rank: #117

  • Ranking TODAY names

    Find out whether TODAY Show hosts’ names rank:

  • Anchors' names

    Image: TODAY anchors

    Matt (Matthew)
    Meaning: A gift of god (Hebrew origin)
    Rank: #5

    Meredith
    Meaning: Guardian of the sea (Celtic/Welsh origin)
    Rank: #310

    Ann
    Meaning: Grace and mercy (Hebrew/Greek origin)
    Rank: #731

    Al (Albert)
    Meaning: Brilliant, noble (Saxon origin)
    Rank: #354

    Natalie
    Meaning: Born on Christmas; to be born (Latin/French origin)
    Rank: #16

    Hoda
    Meaning: Praise, confession, enlightenment (Iranian/Hebrew origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

  • TODAY other talents' names

    Willard
    Meaning: Courageous (Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    Giada:
    Meaning: Jade (Italian origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    Tiki
    Meaning: Spirit, god (Hawaiian/Polynesian origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    For more name meanings, visit the iVillage Baby Name Finder

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