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Before You Choose Emily, Think What Happened To Lisa

No doubt Emily is a hot name these days. It’s been number one on the girl’s list of top names since 1996. But before you finally decide on Emily, remember what happened to Lisa. And to Amanda, Heather and Brittany.

Lisa was the top girl’s name during most of the Sixties, just like Emily has been for the past decade. Lisa stayed in the top three until 1972. But since then, Lisa  has lost ground every year, hitting a new low in 2005 when it fell to number 493. What was once America’s hottest name is now ignored by almost everyone.

What happened? Names, like fashions, come and go. And of all the reasons for a name to plummet in popularity, over-exposure is surely the biggest. Emily, hot as it is today, is probably due for a fall. Perhaps a big one. To take another example, Amanda was a very popular name in the Eighties. Today, it is number 80.  Heather, which was very popular in the 1970s, is around number 300 in the latest statistics. Brittany, the darling of the early Nineties, is now number 278,  and her freefall shows no sign of slowing down.

As you can see,  sooner or later, names that have risen to the top can experience an equally dizzying fall.

Boys’ names also come and go according to popular tastes, although the change from year to year is less noticeable than for girls’ names. Boys names are more traditional. Robert was a hugely popular name from just after World War II until the 1980s. Today, it is around number 40. Brian, which was usually in the top ten in the 1970s, is now around number 60. You can look at our page about The Top Names of the 20th Century for more examples of this.

Whether you’re naming a boy or a girl, don’t be swayed by the popularity of a name today. As you can see, it might change dramatically by the time your child reaches high school. When you are choosing a name, you should try to include more reasons for your selection than simple popularity. You can also give weight to such things as the name’s meaning; how it sounds with sibling names; whether it may lead to a nickname, and to your own gut feeling, to name but a few considerations. Name popularity is one factor you can consider, but only one. And don’t forget, if you choose a wildly popular name today, your child will go through life with a fairly “common” name. But if you pick a name wisely that is unpopular today, it will be very distinct and unique in the future.


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