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Tradition-bound Londoners love the vintage names Ottilie and Otis, while parents on the Chicago plains prefer the earthier Cora and Greyson.
In a ground-breaking study of the top city baby names around the English-speaking world, Nameberry analyzed views of our name pages for the past year by visitors from seven cities in four countries on three continents — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, London, and Sydney.
Name popularity lists by city are rare, with only New York among our group offering an official count. And we focused on the English-speaking world to compare the preferences of city dwellers drawing from the same name language, surveying the urban centers with the most Nameberry visitors.
City-dwellers around the world, we found, share cosmopolitan name tastes and favor sophisticated baby names that are often ahead of the general trends. Cora and Atticus, on the top 5 in all seven cities, are just beginning to climb international popularity lists. Urban favorites Jasper and Theodore are other emerging names, while city parents love Charlotte and Olivia just like everyone else.
But Nameberry visitors from each city also have quirky favorite names as divergent as Bondi Beach and a Brooklyn brownstone.
Many of these unique name favorites that reflect their city’s style and population, such as Jack in outgoing Sydney and Helen in buttoned-up Toronto, Maeve in Irish New York and Amara in Latino Dallas. Chicagoans love New American baby names as fresh as the frontier, while Londoners prefer their names as ancient as their castles.
Beyond the top 5, it makes sense that Ophelia is beloved in London and New York, which host the most Shakespeare performances, while Dallas dwellers favor the cowboyish Wyatt and Sydney residents like the beachy Cove.
But many of the cities' name preferences are not so predictable. London and New York have both fallen for Aurelia, for instance, but only London has warmed up to Aurelius. New Yorkers like Maximilian and Dallas residents prefer Maximus, while Torontonians favor quietly quirky baby names that no other cities even register.
Let’s look more closely at the tastes and trends in each city.
London: Quirky traditional
London parents are more likely to use time-honored first names than parents in our other cities, but also more likely to explore obscure sources in search of distinctive choices. Some of the favorite names of Londoners are inspired by the heavens, for instance: Aurora, Astrid, Andromeda. Londoners also are partial to names associated with Ancient Greece and Rome: Cassius, Penelope, Cressida. And they draw from names rooted in other European cultures that urban parents outside Europe largely ignore, such as the German Ottilie and Otis, the Italian Cosmo, the French Elodie, and the Irish Rafferty and Orla.
New York: Literary
New York is the headquarters of the publishing and magazine industries, a place where authors are still stars and people are more likely to read books than to take in a movie or head to the beach. That literary bent shows in New York’s taste in baby names. The most popular boys' name in New York City is Holden, as in "Catcher in the Rye" protagonist Holden Caulfield, which doesn’t pop up in a significant way in any other city. And the extended girls' list is filled with the names of literary characters (Beatrice, Ophelia, Penelope) and authors (Iris, Edith, Lydia).
New York girls:
New York boys:
Many of the names that are big in Sydney bring to mind a warm, cuddly image: teddy-bear Theodore, children's book characters Eloise and Matilda, down-to-earth Jack. The British influence is evident in names such as the Scottish Isla for girls and Hamish and Lachlan, both in the boys’ Top 20. Sydney’s favorite names also include a unique choice that nods to its world-class beach culture: Cove.
Toronto is the city whose favorite names are the most distinct from all the others, with not a single top-five name appearing on any other city’s list. Further, many of the favored names of Canada’s largest city don’t appear on any other popularity lists of any kind. Boys’ favorites Cary and Ellison have not been in the U.S. top 1000 for decades, while Helen and Jocelyn lie outside the top 100 everywhere. But that makes sense for a major city that prides itself on a culture that’s neither American nor British nor even purely Canadian but uniquely Torontonian.
Chicago is the city that comes closest to favoring the New American names so popular outside U.S. urban centers. Greyson, Finn, Declan, and Isla are names that have come into widespread use only in the past 20 years. And looking just below the top 5, we see other newcomers like Kai, Nolan, and Cole on the boys’ side; Aria, Luna, and Kinsley on the girls’ side. As city baby names go, Chicago’s are the least citified.
Los Angeles: Cinematic
If there’s one thing that sets Los Angeles apart, in both its character and its taste in baby names, it’s the world of film and TV. Oscar is one of the top 5 boys’ names and Milo — as in hot actor Ventimiglia of "This Is Us" — ranks higher here than in any other city. Many of the popular girls' names are associated with movie stars past and present: Ava, Sienna, Celeste, Claire. The favorite names of Angelenos also connect to the city’s Latino culture, with Isabella in the top 5, Leo and Elena in the top 10, and Xochitl, an unusual Mexican name which comes from the Nahuatl word for “flower,” in the top 20.
Los Angeles girls:
Los Angeles boys:
Dallas: Bold frontier
Amara, Dallas’s No. 1 name for girls, is a bold multicultural choice largely unknown outside the U.S. (it has roots in Esperanto and Igbo.) The top 5 in the Texas city includes other distinctive choices, such as Rose (as in the Yellow Rose of Texas) and cowboy name Wyatt. Further down the list, Dallas extends its reputation for individuality with New World names like Brecken and Weston for boys and Khaleesi for girls.