2021 may have been the second worst year in recent memory, but its baby names herald a brighter future. With babymoons and extravagant gender reveals off the table, parents are devoting more of their time and energy to finding adventurous and meaningful names for their children.
Here, the names that define 2021.
Girl Name Most Likely to Succeed
The Irish goddess name Maeve — she was an intoxicating warrior queen — has taken the world by storm, ranking as the Number 1 girls’ name with Nameberry visitors in Boston and Chicago and in the Top 10 in many English-speaking countries. Simple, sleek, and strong, Maeve is the antidote to all the multi-syllabic vowel-forward girls’ names we’ve been hearing so much of in recent years.
Boy name most likely to succeed
Arlo is one of those names that, like Dexter and Ophelia, owes its popularity to a highly unlikely source: criminal character Arlo Givens in TV’s Justified. The streamlined Arlo started life as a place name, Arlo Hill, in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene in 1590. It’s the Number 1 boys’ name on Nameberry and ranks in the Top 100 in England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand.
Gender-neutral name of the future
Bellamy came of age as a baby name with today’s gender-neutral values. Rather than the old unisex model of girls adopting boyish names (and clothes and activities), Bellamy started life as a girls’ name and has gradually evolved to near-equal use for both genders. That’s true name equality.
Name that’s traveled the farthest
Jupiter is a celestial nature name, it’s a mythological name, and now it’s a gender-neutral name used more than twice as often for girls as for boys.
Most unusual celebrity baby name of 2021
Son of Olympic runner Usain Bolt, Thunder has a twin brother named Saint Leo and a sister named Olympia Lightning.
Oldest name to find new life
Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, was worshiped in the 25th century BC and probably much earlier. And in the current U.S. baby name popularity statistics, Osiris hit the boys’ Top 1000 for the first time.
Name most influenced by pop culture
Mazikeen, the anti-heroine of Lucifer created by Neil Gaiman, is one of the fastest-rising names of the year. Other names popularized by the series are Lilith, Lux, and Lucifer itself.
Name embracing a more fluid gender identity
Biblical patriarch name Noah was the Number 1 boys’ name in the U.S. for three years and still stands at Number 2, but now it’s entered the U.S. Top 1000 for girls. And Noa, which may be an alternate spelling of Noah or a completely separate name of a female figure in the Bible, is rising too, ranking among the Top 100 girl names in Israel, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. Noah and Noa have opposite meanings, rest and motion.
Comfort names of the year
Charlotte and Henry
One way baby namers are tempering the pressures of the current world is via classic names that promise comfort and security. In the most recent U.S. statistics, princess name Charlotte rose into the Top 5 and Henry entered the Top 10 for the first time in more than a century. Both names rank in the Top 100 in a wide range of Anglophone and European countries, as well as in the Top 100 for cats and dogs.
Most surprising royal baby name
Sienna is the most surprising royal baby name since her mother Princess Beatrice’s own name was announced 11 days after her birth in 1988. Sienna, until now most famous as the name of actress Sienna Miller, reflects the Italian heritage of Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the baby’s father.
New name hardest to live up to
Spiritual word names, often referencing Christianity but also extending to other less faith-specific ideals such as True and Zen, are growing in popularity. These range from Amen to Blessing to Creed to place names such as Jericho and Zion. They may inspire a child to good in a way that names like Lucifer and Mazikeen will not.
Most-visited place name of 2021
Aspen, ski resort and tree name, is proving to be an appealing place name for both girls and boys. While its popularity for girls is well-established, the number of boys named Aspen has doubled in the past five years.
Word-turned-hot baby name
Popular word names of recent years have included Justice, Maverick, and now Knowledge, set to break through to the boys’ Top 1000 when the official 2021 US name popularity statistics are announced in May. Also growing in international popularity: Atharv and Veda, Sanskrit names that mean knowledge.
Most popular new name import
This Japanese name, which means second son, was the tenth fastest-rising boys’ name in the official 2020 statistics. Its popularity in the U.S. is inspired by The Food Lab author and chef James Kenji López-Alt, known simply as Kenji.
Newest way to increase a name’s style factor
Add an s to the end
Several high-profile celebrity babies have surname-names that end in "s:" Jessica Alba’s son Hayes, Hilary Duff’s daughter Banks, and Emma Roberts’ son Rhodes, for instance. Adding an "s" to the end of many names adds something new to the sound. Pluralized names of the future: Rivers, Bridges, Oakes and Hollis.
Pamela Redmond is the cocreator of Nameberry, the world’s largest website devoted to baby names.