Analysis of Baby Name Data shows Remarkably Distinct Naming Trends of Generation Alpha
Reference website, Listophile has collected data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) from the year 2010 to today and analyzed trends in Generation Alpha baby names. The result is a dataset that reveals remarkably distinct naming trends for Generation Alpha babies. The study also investigates the possible reasons behind parents’ naming choices.
- Study shows an unprecedented growth of unique baby names – with 14 distinct baby naming trends.
- The growth of unique baby names for girls is far more amplified than the growth of unique baby names for boys.
- Parents are using unique baby names as a vehicle of self-expression, and to signify their child’s individualism.
- Generation Alpha baby names are bolder, fresher, and more daring compared to any other generation in history.
- The uniqueness and creativity of baby names will likely act as a cultural marker of Generation Alpha.
- The top 5 baby names that have increased most in popularity with Alpha Generation parents are Oaklyn, Ainhoa, Marceline, Sevyn, and Zhuri for girls and Niklaus, Kyro, Jaxtyn, Amias, and Kiaan for boys.
- Names that have decreased most in popularity with Alpha Generation parents are baby names that were predominantly popular in the latter half of the 20th century, including Crystal, Brittany, Megan, Natasha, and Tiffany for girls and Trent, Brett, Randy, Brendan, and Larry for boys.
- Names that have changed least in popularity with Alpha Generation parents include traditional baby names that have been popular for generations, including Emma, Sophia, Elizabeth, Victoria, and Claire for girls and William, Alexander, John, Simon, and Adrian for boys.
What is Generation Alpha?
The year 2010 marked the beginning of a new generation – Generation Alpha, or simply ‘Gen Alpha.’ This is the demographic that follows Generation Z and includes those born from 2010 to 2025. Therefore, the oldest are twelve years old, the youngest have yet to be born.
This new cohort is important with regards to baby names because of the generation’s sheer size and growth. Roughly 2.8 million Generation Alpha babies are born around the world each week. Within the next 3-4 years, this generation is projected to outnumber baby boomers. By 2025, when all Generation Alpha babies have been born, they will be the largest generation in the history of the world, numbering nearly 2 billion across the globe.
The Alpha generation has grown up in a digital world and have been completely immersed in technology since birth. Coincidentally, their appearance in 2010 coincides with the year the first iPad was released. They have been raised in a world where technology is not just integrated into everyday life, but integrated into everyday items. Mark McCrindle, a social researcher in Australia coined the phrase ‘Generation Alpha.’ He describes them as the “most digital, global and visual on the planet.”
While many analysts have spoken of the importance of Generation Alpha, few have examined Generation Alpha baby name trends or investigated the possible parental reasoning behind naming choices.
Generation Alpha Baby Name Study
Using SSA data from 2010 to the latest set of data published, the team at Listophile analyzed more than 36.2 million instances of baby names. Our goal was to identify:
- Naming styles and trends of Generation Alpha
- Names that increased the most in popularity
- Names decreased the most in popularity
- Names that had about the same popularity
- The possible reasons behind parents’ naming choices.
Names Increasingly in Popularity
Our data analysis shows 14 remarkably distinct trends of Generation Alpha baby names. While some naming styles begun during previous generations, these trends have picked up steam and have become the fastest-growing trends within this generation.
The following names all feature in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States. Growth rates are shown according to SSA ranking since 2010.
1. Unisex Names
Unisex names have risen in popularity by 53.29% with Generation Alpha parents. Unisex baby names became increasingly popular with Millennials, and are one of the fastest-growing baby name trends of Generation Alpha. While very few gender-neutral names have broken into the top 100 baby name lists, they are featured heavily in the broader rankings for both boys and girls.
The fastest rising unisex names for girls are Sevyn, Palmer and Royal. The fastest rising unisex names for boys are Everest, Khari and Legacy.
The following unisex names have risen the fastest since 2010.
2. Last Names as First Names
Using last names as first names started in England in the 15th century. At that time, it was popular for parents to choose surnames of nobility as first names for their children.
Our analysis shows ‘last names as first names’ have increased immensely in popularity with Generation Alpha parents, especially for their daughters.
The rise of last names as first names for girls could be due to the fact that these names could be perceived as ‘strong’ names for females. In our study on the rise of unisex baby names, we saw a growing cultural trend of parents choosing strong names for their daughters. Studies have shown that women who have a name that leans a little masculine or less feminine gives them an edge, especially in the workplace.
3. Names with Creative Spellings
A common theme among Generation Alpha parents is to change the spelling of a common name to make it more creative. Something as simple as changing or adding a letter can add individuality and uniqueness to a name.
Occasionally parents are doing this to transliterate foreign names into English, but more often than not, this practice is a modern naming trend.
The chart below exhibits the fastest growing baby names with creative spellings for boys and girls.
Replacing Vowels with Y’s
We have also seen that a common practice to generate a creative spelling of a name is to substitute vowels with y’s, for example Jordan to Jordyn, and Aiden to Ayden.
Replacing C’s with K’s
Another popular trend is to substitute C’s with K’s, for example Carter to Karter, and Cairo to Kairo.
4. Abbreviated and Diminutive Names
In past generations, it was usual to give a child a traditional name, such as Winifred or Theodore. Close friends and family could then shorten the name into a cuter, more familiar nickname.
However, those traditions are now frequently being bypassed by Generation Alpha parents. Babies are instead frequently being given a ‘nickname’-style name from birth. So, for example, Winifred and Theodore are now simply being registered as Winnie and Theo.
These abbreviated names usually end in a vowel and are frequently diminutives of longer and more formal traditional names.
5. Cottagecore Names
Cottagecore is a fashion aesthetic celebrating an idealized rural life. Although cottagecore has been around for many years, the term was only officially coined in 2018. It gained huge popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic amid lockdowns, when people longed to move out of the city for a rural way of life.
Cottagecore has been popularized by teenagers and young adults and has become a subculture of Millennials and Generation Z. The aesthetic centers on traditional rural clothing, interior design, and crafts such as foraging, baking, and pottery.
Cottagecore baby names have also become fashionable with parents of Generation Alpha. These baby names have a rural, homespun vibe. They feature a wide range of nature, old-fashioned, botanical and gemstone-inspired baby names, such as Juniper, River, Winnie, Willow, Sage and Ruby.
6. Geographical Names
Another naming trend we identified is the huge increase in geographical baby names, also known as city or place names.
Geographical baby names range from edgy inner-city names, such as Harlem and Brixton, exotic-sounding names like Florence and Caspian, to homespun names including Savannah and Memphis, to creative spellings of more common geographical names, such as Londyn and Aspyn.
7. Nature Names
Nature-inspired names have also seen a huge surge among Generation Alpha parents. The girl name ‘Stormi’ has risen exponentially in popularity since model and TV star Kylie Jenner gave the name to her daughter in 2018. Nature names for boys are also increasing in popularity, with Nova, Onyx, and Bear rising the fastest.
Nature names are also not new. They rose in popularity with hippies during the 60’s and 70’s. The trend was not widespread but it was popular in the subculture to give children nature names such as Rain, Sky, Summer, and River.
8. Virtue Names
A choice once popular with Puritans, virtue names are being rediscovered by Generation Alpha parents. Virtue names symbolize the values of the very words themselves, and have become modern and trendy choices.
Modern spellings of virtue names are also on the rise, including Harmoni, Serenitie, and Justus.
9. Word Names
Word names taken from the English language have also risen exponentially in popularity with Generation Alpha parents. Word names are unique and meaningful, and the power of the name lies within the meaning of the word itself.
Names that have a clear and often common usage in everyday vernacular are repurposed as names that retain associations of strength, clarity, or positivity. These associations are clear in names like Reign, Promise, and Legend.
10. Vintage Names
Just as vintage fashion has grown in popularity with Millennial and Generation Z consumers, vintage baby names are also coming back in style. The trend is so popular that there has even been ‘100-year rule‘ dubbed. This rule simply means that names that were popular about 100 years ago are now the ones coming back into style. These include names like Harriet, Benedict, and Otto.
11. Short Names
Generation Alpha parents are moving away from long, heavier names which were typical of previous generations. They are instead opting for shorter names that require no fuss and have strong, forceful sounds.
Our analysis shows that 18.3% of boy names in the top 1,000 in 2020 were comprised of names that were 4 or fewer letters in length, compared to only 15.5% of boy names in 2010. Similarly, 14% of girl names in the top 1,000 in 2020 were comprised of names that were 4 or fewer letters in length, compared to only 12.2% of girl names in 2010. This shows a moderate trend of popular baby names becoming shorter. Examples include Ari, Elon, and Dior.
12. Names Ending in Popular Suffixes
Certain endings of baby names have seen a huge rise in popularity. For example, names ending in IE, LEE, LYN and LYNN have become popular with girls; and names ending in O, SON, TON and ER have become popular with boys.
This phenomenon has become so popular, parents have combined their favorite endings to create new spellings of common baby names. Variations rising in popularity include, for example, Brinley to Brynlee, and Paisley to Paislee.
This theme is much less prevalent in boy names; however, examples include, Cole to Coleson and Kash to Kashton.
13. Names that Start with Z
Generation Alpha has also seen an increase in popularity with names that start with Z. The one thing that Z names have in common is their rarity. Since Z is such an uncommon letter, people with a Z-name are going to stand out from the crowd, which is exactly what Generation Alpha parents are hoping to achieve.
Below are the fastest rising boy and girl names that start with Z.
14. Boy Names Containing X
While our researchers did not find a positive correlation in the popularity of boy names starting with X, they did find a large upswing in the increase of boy names containing X.
The letter X produces a strong sound that overpowers any other letter in a name. It creates an attention-grabbing name that will be remembered, which again is what Generation Alpha are seeking.
Below are the fastest rising boy names containing X.
Names Increasing the Most in Popularity
The following table lists the top 25 boy and girl names that have risen most in popularity with Alpha Generation parents. As you will see, there is a varied mix of names comprising the most popular naming trends we described above.
The following names all feature in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States and show growth rates by ranking since 2010, according to the SSA.
|Girl Name||Change in Popularity|
|Boy Name||Change in Popularity|
Names Decreasing in Popularity
Our study found that Generation Alpha parents are veering away from heavy, outdated classic names that were predominantly popular in the latter half of the 20th century.
Girl names such as Jillian, Guadalupe, Crystal, Brittany, Megan, Paola, Natasha, and Tiffany have all declined in popularity. Similarly, for boys, Trent, Brett, Randy, Brendan, Larry, Terry, Dane and Maurice have fallen out of favor since 2010.
Another interesting discovery is that some creative spellings of more common names have become less popular. This goes to show that creative spellings of common names really do go in and out of style and are particularly vulnerable to fashion swings.
Creative spellings of girl names that are in decline include Addyson, Katelyn, Kyleigh, Kaylie, Haylee, Jazmine, Nataly, Addisyn and Jaelynn. Boy names include Jakob, Tristen, Jacoby, Xzavier, Terrance and Landen.
Unsurprisingly, following recent current events, the names Karen and Jeffrey have tanked in popularity over the last few years. Karen has become associated with the meme-based mockery of middle-aged women who make unreasonable demands and display brazen entitlement. Jeffrey has associations with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender whose trial and its aftermath has grabbed headlines for years. The number of girls named Karen decreased 74.75% since 2010, and the number of boys named Jeffery decreased by 52.47%.
The following list shows boy and girl names that have decreased the most in popularity with Alpha Generation parents. These names however, still feature in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States, albeit in the bottom of the rankings. The names are ordered by change in popularity ranking since 2010, according to the SSA.
|Girl Name||Change in Popularity|
|Boy Name||Change in Popularity|
Names having about the same Popularity
From our study we saw a decline in many classic names that were popular during the latter half of the 20th century. This was not the case for traditional names, however. Traditional names that have been at the top of popular baby name lists for generations have also been popular with Generation Alpha parents.
Girl names such as Emma, Sophia, Elizabeth, Victoria, and Claire have seen the least change over since 2010. Tradition also runs deep with boy names. Boy names that have seen the least change since 2010 include for example, William, Alexander, John, Simon, and Adrian.
Traditional names have stood the test of time because they are well-liked, safe, and familiar. Our study echoes these types of names never really in or out of style.
The average rank of girl names that have seen the least change in popularity is 99.76 while the average rank of boy names is 239.96. This tells us that the girl names holding the very top spots are more deep-rooted and established, compared to boy names that have been generated from a much wider pool.
The following list shows the boy and girl names that have had the least change in popularity with Alpha Generation parents. These names only saw changes in popularity between +4 and -4 positions from 2010 and 2020.
|Girl Name||Change in Popularity|
|Average SSA Rank:||99.76|
|Boy Name||Change in Popularity|
|Average SSA Rank:||239.96|
Generation Alpha Baby Name Trends
Just like the generations before them, Generation Alpha parents have continued the long-running trend of favoring traditional names. These names at top of the most popular baby name lists have held strong for hundreds of years.
Therefore, to identify names that are most distinctive to this cohort, we had to look beyond the most popular names to the broader rankings. Here we found names that were most distinctive to Generation Alpha.
Through our analysis we identified 14 remarkably distinct naming trends. From an exponential rise in unisex names, to passing trends such as creative spellings of more popular names, names that are coming back into style, such as nature, vintage, virtue and last names, to relatively new trends such as cottagecore, word and diminutive names.
While each trend may not seem connected, we found one common thread among Generation Alpha parents: the unprecedented desire to give their children unique names.
Regardless of the naming trend, Generation Alpha parents have shown us their desire to innovate. Whether the trend is new or coming back in style, parents are seeking novel names. Like no generation before them, they have an intense focus to seek out new names that are rarely heard in the present day.
Parents are opting for Unique Baby Names
So, the question is, why are increasing numbers of parents opting for unique baby names?
Long before Generation Alpha, it was the Baby Boomers who were the first to give unique names to their children. Baby Boomers slowly started to move away from familiar naming conventions rooted in religious and familial traditions. Generation X continued this trend, and — with the advancement of the internet — Millennial and Generation Z parents accelerated this movement. Generation Alpha parents, however, have had the advantage of having greater access to information (and most importantly, baby name lists) compared to any other generation in history.
Research shows the rising popularity of unique baby names is most prominent in individualistic societies, such as the United States. Within individualistic societies, as opposed to collectivist societies, parents put a high value on unique names. This is because within these cultures baby names are a vehicle of self-expression. Through a name, parents are able to develop a personal brand for their children that can set their child apart from their peers. Parents want their children to stand out rather than ‘fit in.’ In other words, parents are using unique baby names as a tool to signify their child’s individualism and non-conformism.
Amplified Growth of Unique Names for Girls
What’s interesting, though, is that we found the growth of unique baby names for girls is far more amplified than the growth of unique baby names for boys.
In almost all cases of the 14 distinct naming trends we identified, the growth of unique names for girls was far more extreme.
Moreover, our study found twice as many girl names than boy names in the top 1,000 that hadn’t been registered with the SSA prior to 2010. The top 1,000 baby names that hadn’t been registered with the SSA prior to 2010 include 10 girl names: Kehlani, Daleyza, Cataleya, Khaleesi, Kataleya, Wrenley, Dalary, Zendaya, Zhuri, and Mazikeen; and only 5 boy names, Kylo, Ermias, Bellamy, Atreus and Kiaan.
These factors show, in a subtle way, there is a greater desire for Generation Alpha parents to give their daughters unique names compared to their sons.
While every parent has different reasons to give their children unique names, one of the reasons unique names are more popular for girls, whether consciously or subliminally, could be the desire for parents to empower their daughters. Many parents give their children names in the hope they will embody the characteristics, style, and value of their name. Unique names have shown to give children a sense of pride in their individualism and boost their self-definition. Experts also suggest unique names may encourage unique and creative personalities. People with unique names are seen as confident and powerful, and a unique name could be especially important for girls, supporting them in their journey in a sometimes-inequitable world.
Our study highlights that Generation Alpha parents have become more adventurous with baby names, especially for their daughters.
Today, baby names are bolder, fresher, and more daring than any generation before them. While previous generations might describe Generation Alpha baby names as unusual, they themselves might describe them as modern, cool, and different.
While the desire for unique baby names has been evident for nearly three-quarters of a century, the trend towards novel names has become significantly more established since 2010.
We have seen an increasing cultural desire for individualism, which has resulted in unique baby names become more popular. This has caused a snowball effect where the cultural pressure to stick with hyper-traditional names has diminished, the pool of non-traditional names has widened, and unique baby names have become even more widespread.
Generation Alpha parents have been forced to continually innovate in order to find new and novel names. This has resulted in increasingly unique and creative baby names that are prevalent today. It is this growing uniqueness of Generation Alpha baby names that will likely act as a cultural marker of their generation.
1. Listophile’s report is based on the collection of given names as recorded by the SSA. This report collected datasets between the years 2010-2020 from 36,215,446 instances of baby names. The names were then ranked in order of the largest percentage change to discover the baby names that changed the most popularity. This sizable dataset gave us a unique insight into popular styles and distinct naming trends of Generation Alpha babies. We have provided this dataset and analysis here.
2. For the purposes of the analysis, if a name increased in popularity by 5 or more positions, it was considered to rise in popularity. If a name decreased in popularity by 5 or more positions, it was considered to fall in popularity. If a name increased or decreased in popularity by 4 or fewer positions, it was considered to stay about the same in popularity. Generally, the less popular a name is, the greater the change in popularity.
3. We have only reported on boy and girl names in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States. We used this threshold because it is the threshold used by the SSA when analyzing changes in the popularity of baby names, year over year. This allowed us to collect only the most relevant names and analyze the most pertinent trends. For the sake of brevity, we have mostly only included the top 20 baby names for each trend in the report.
4. We did not include names that had not been registered with the SSA on or prior to 2010. (To safeguard privacy, the SSA exclude names with fewer than 5 occurrences in any geographic area). With no starting point, it would be impossible to quantify an exact growth rate for these names, and hence they were not included.