From Mary To Mia: Popular Baby Names & The Saints


Tonight I was gabbing with my grandmas (who happen to be close friends) about trends in baby names. My mom’s mom brings communion to a hospital and, hence, is plugged into all the latest names, most of which she crinkles her nose at.

My sister-in-law pulled out her laptop and logged onto the Social Security Administration’s comprehensive baby-name index. (Did you know they’ve been chronicling every baby name given in the United States since 1880? You can access them online, searching by name and by state. It’s fascinating and, be warned, quite addicting.)

We looked up the most popular name in the year each Grandma was born: 1933 and 1929, respectively. My dad’s mom accurately predicted the No. 1 girl name: Mary. In fact, Mary was the unswerving favorite for decades, dating way back to 1880, when it was trailed by Minnie and Martha, Bertha and Bessie. (Think of all the Mary Ellens and Mary Sues whose middle names were their distinguishing marks.)

When you consider the purpose of a name, Mary makes a terrific choice, inspiring girls to emulate the Blessed Mother. It’s hard to come up with a better model.

Today it seems less common to encounter babies named after saints, whether you’re witnessing a multi-baby baptism or strolling through a nursery. Top-10 hits for girls include Chloe, Ava, Mia and Madison. Also high on the list: Addison, Alexis, Avery, Zoe, Riley and Brooklyn. For guys, meanwhile, secular names like Jayden (No. 4) and Aiden (No. 9), Logan, Liam and Landon rank high.

There are still a good number of strong Christian options in the top 50 for boys, including strong Biblical names like Noah, Elijah, Isaac, Isaiah, David – the Old Testament seems to provide more inspiration than the New Testament – along with amiable Anthony and Andrew and earnest Joseph and James. Two of the three archangels are in the top 25: Michael (No. 3) and Gabriel (No. 21). Poor Raphael is buried at No. 655, just above Deshawn. Meanwhile, Xavier is enchanting parents at No. 71, and Christopher’s still winning hearts at No. 13.

The top two girl names, Isabella and Sophia, are both saints, though lesser known among some circles. The classic Elizabeth stands rock solid at No. 12. But when you scan the top 50 names for girls, where parents tend to favor the pretty over the traditional, there aren’t a lot of saints to be seen.

There are always a few quirky picks with spiritual undertones, like Angel (No. 42) for boys (really?) and Nevaeh (No. 25) for girls. I doubt I have to tell you this is heaven spelled backwards…which, would that mean hell?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what your name means to you and what it could tell a prospective suitor. What do you make of all the Aidens, Jaydens and Caydens duking it out in diapers? Not to mention the countless Ava Graces whose little foreheads are overtaken by gigantic pink daises. Which letter will be the next post-Aiden break-out? Raiden? Vaiden? Leave your predictions in a comment below.

And for those of you who are parents, tell us how you approached this all-important decision and how you feel about your choice now.


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