Who is the biggest critic of new parents’ baby name choices? You better believe that it’s Grandma! According to a study cited by the baby name database, Nameberry, nearly half of new parents who received unfavorable comments about their newborn’s name said that the criticism came from their own mom. Does this come as a surprise? It shouldn’t. The way parents chose their babies’ names thirty years ago or more is completely different than those today.
Now, even the most popular girl and boy names are given to just 1% of babies. And very rare appellations, those outside the top 1000 entirely, make up almost a third of all names in use. This means that the diversity of names parents are choosing today is much, much greater than it was a generation ago. Nameberry found that many of the most popular names today were virtually unused a few decades ago and represent a new crop of names that are most likely to get a comment similar to “You named her what!?” from grandparents. Discover the appellations that most grandmas are not going to like below.
Popular Names for Girls That Grandma Won’t Be a Fan Of
Phoenix is a unisex name that symbolizes rebirth. The name is of Greek origin and means “dark red.” The name went virtually unused for baby girls until it landed in the US top 1000 most popular names for girls in 2003. It’s been climbing for girls ever since, ranking in the top 500 today. Mel B AKA Scary Spice chose the name for her daughter in 1999 and we likely have her to thank for the rise of this appellation.
Milani is a new invention, likely an elaboration of Milan or a trendy variation of Melanie. If we take the name to be a form of Milan, that of course makes the meaning “from Milan, Italy.” Chances are that grandma won’t enjoy this modern coinage considering the name only entered the top 1000 in 2014. Despite protests from grandparents, this name has seriously been climbing in recent years. It’s now a top 500 popular name, just slightly more prevalent than Phoenix.
Harlow is a trendy English surname-turned-given-name with a root that means “army hill” or “rock hill.” It’s a gender-neutral option (which is increasingly appealing to new parents). Harlow was not used as a given name widely in the US until 2009. It’s been popular in New Zealand and Australia for much longer. Today, the appellation is a top 250 popular name in the US.
Oaklynn is another one of the invented names, this one only occurring frequently in the US. Technically, the name is unisex but it’s going to far more girls than boys. The name took off in 2017 and it’s been climbing ever since. It sits just outside of the top 200 most popular names for girls today.
A spelling variation of the Hawaiian Kailani or Kalani, this modern spelling was completely unheard of until 2015, when singer Kehlani introduced the appellation to the masses. It now ranks at 150 and you better believe it will only improve that rank in the coming years. The Hawaiian root of this name means “sea and sky.”
Adalynn is a spelling variation of the French name Adeline which means “noble.” The appellation went unused until 2008 when it emerged as a popular spelling. It’s just outside of the top 100 names for girls today. Adeline is more popular and if you’re looking to please your mom, you might consider going with it instead of Adalynn.
Everly has been one of the fastest-rising girl names of the past decade, entering the top 1000 in 2011 and climbing to 50th last year. The Everleigh spelling is now at 100th. Just 30 years ago, this name and its spellings were completely unheard of. My, how things change! This name means “wild boar’s clearing.”
Cataleya is a bit of a mouthful. The name belongs to a genus of orchids so it’s a unique flower name. It means “Cattley’s flower,” referring to the person who discovered the genus. It was not used as a given name until 2011. Why? Nameberry believes that the name was introduced to Americans via Zoe Saldana‘s character in Colombiana. It’s firmly within the top 500 names for girls today.
In contrast to Finley’s native Scotland, the name has been more popular for girls than boys in the US since the mid-2000s, when it was used for a bunch of celebrity daughters. It’s rare for a name to undergo such a dramatic gender swap! This means that grandma might expect this name for a boy instead of a girl. The root of this name means “fair-haired hero.” The name is just outside of the top 200 for girls.
The name Journey was only given to about a dozen boys and girls in the 1990s. So, it’s staggering to believe that the alternative spelling, Journee, has really taken off. Parents see the double “E” ending as a way to feminize the name. Somehow, this name is a top 200 name for girls today.
Emersyn is similar to the previous name as it is a feminized form of an established name. Emerson is the root name and is of English origin, meaning “son of Emerson.” Emersyn is now the most popular spelling of the name for girls. Just 30 years ago, Emerson was considered a name for only boys. That has clearly changed! The name ranks as the 148th most popular name for girls today.
Here’s a name that we just don’t get. It’s Heaven, spelled backward. Sonny Sandoval chose it for his daughter in 2000 which caused the name to become popular for baby girls. It peaked as the 31st most popular name for girls in 2001. Today, it’s 86th. A real success story for a name no one knew just three decades ago.
Zara went virtually unused in the US until the 2000s. The name can be from Arabic, meaning “blooming flower.” The name is also used in Hebrew naming traditions as a name that means “God remembers.” Zara climbed with a quickness up the charts from 2005 until today. It’s just outside of the top 200 most popular names for girls.
Sutton is an English surname that means “from the southern home.” Most grandmas are going to consider this only a surname or a name for a boy at best. But, new parents have other plans for this name. It emerged as a favored option in 2013 and has climbed into the top 250 most popular names today. This name is only popular as a given name in the US. We likely have the extremely talented Sutton Foster to think for the rise of this appellation.
Londyn is now a more popular name than the original London for girls. Parents feel that varying the spelling nudges the name away from the association with the British capital. London is a much more popular spelling than Londyn for boys. The normal spelling only emerged as a popular option for girls in the 1990s so this name has really come a long way.
Popular Names for Boys Grandma Won’t Like
Kingston was unheard of as a given name just thirty years ago. We have Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale to thank for popularizing this appellation. It was only after they chose it for their baby that the name picked up steam in the US. The name first landed in the top 1000 most popular names for boys in 2006. It’s just outside of the top 100 today. Grandma likely won’t be a big fan.
Beckett is an English and Irish name that means “bee cottage.” Before the 2000s, this name was only heard as a surname in the US. Today, Beckett has been slowly climbing the charts to reach the top 200.
Jett is a mineral name that means “excellence.” Chances are grandma won’t love this name that sounds like an aircraft. Jett did not reach wide popularity until 1999 when it landed in the top 1000 for the very first time. It’s in the top 250 today.
Ace is a Latin word that means “one.” It became a popular name for boys after 2006. It shot up the charts after and it now ranks as the 154th most popular name for boys in the US. Most folks from an older generation are going to see this as only a nickname.
Kobe ascended from obscurity to become one of the highest-rising names of 1996-97 when Bryant exploded onto the mainstream stage as the youngest-ever NBA starter. The name is of Swahili origin and means “tortoise.” The name has slipped in recent years probably due to the association with the athlete’s tragic death. It’s still a top 300 popular name today.
Hendrix is a musical icon name that feels like an edgier take on classic Henry. In fact, it is a Dutch and German form of the name and means “estate ruler.” The name was resurrected by the present generation of parents from a historic low thirty years ago. The sits just outside the top 250 today.
Maximus is such a big name that it was unheard of just a few decades ago. Maximus is a name of Latin origin and means “greatest.” We have the film Gladiator to thank for introducing many parents to the name. It landed in the top 1000 for the first time in 2000 and is just outside of the top 250 most popular names today.
If you have not picked up on it yet, names with “X’s” are hugely popular among boys today. Jax would be considered a nickname for Jackson to most grandparents. It’s a top 250 name today but it was unheard of before the 2000s. This name is an invention, but if it is a form of Jack/Jackson, it means “God is gracious” or “son of Jack.”
“What is a Zayden?” Grandma might ask. Zayden is a completely modern invention that is Aiden with a “Z.” The name first landed in the top 1000 most popular names for boys in 2006. It ranks as 204th now.
A name from Greek mythology that used to be associated with maps prior to the name taking off as a given name for boys. Before 2013, Atlas went virtually unused. Today, it’s a popular name in the top 150. Due to its association with Greek mythology, the name is taken to mean “bearer of the heavens.”
Zayn is the new Zane. Grandparents will not understand this flip. Zayn is a name of Arabic origin that means “beautiful.” A member of One Direction helped popularize this name among American parents. Zayn is a top 300 popular name for boys today.
Not just a name for a team that works on a ship, Crew has emerged as a popular name for boys. Totally unheard of a few decades ago, Crew is now the 267th most popular name for boys. It’s been climbing ever since 2010. What a curious one to gain such traction.
Parents really like misspelling things for names. Kairo is yet another example of new parents taking liberties with a place name. Cairo was extremely rare prior to the 1990s so it’s a wonder that Kairo has taken off. Kairo is now even more popular than the original, given to over 1300 baby boys last year.
Yes, David Beckham is to blame for this appellation gaining favor in the US. Beckham is an English surname that means “home by the stream.” Unheard of in the 1990s, the name burst onto the scene in 2008. It’s a top 250 name today.
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Parents began following in Angelina Jolie‘s footsteps after she chose the unusual name for her son in 2002. The following year, the name landed in the top 1000 most popular names for boys. Maddox is a Welsh surname that means “son of Madoc.” Today, it is the 174th most popular name for boys.
Now you know the popular names that grandma is not going to be a fan of. Does this change the name you have picked out for your little one? If you would like to learn more about how different generations have named their children, keep reading. We’ve got the most popular baby names from previous generations to share with you.
Check Out the Generation Names and Years Below Along with Some Interesting Facts for Each:
Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha (2013 – 2025)
Gen Alpha is a distinction which can be summed-up as the children born to millennials. These children were born with the ubiquity mobile device use, smartphones, and access to the internet. The oldest children in the Alpha generation are not yet 10 years old, so we will need to put a pin in this generation to learn even more about them as adults.
Characteristics of Gen Alpha
In a piece for The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker writes that we should expect Gen Alpha’s to be the wealthiest and most educated among us after they finish their education and join a profession.
Most Popular Generation Names from (2013 – 2025)
Well, we’ve got the data from the Social Security Administration to inform what names parents are picking for the Generation Alpha babies. Here are the three most popular:
- Olivia – a perennial favorite that comes from Latin and means “olive tree”
- Emma – another classic, but from German, meaning “universal”
- Liam – An English diminutive form of William, Liam means “resolute protector”
Gen Z or iGen (1995 – 2012)
According to ScaryMommy, a majority of members of Gen Z are the children of Gen X and elder Millennials or Xennials. Most in this generation are computer and social media literate. It’s likely the first generation that has roundly had to deal with cyberbullying.
More About Gen Z
Members of Gen Z range in age from the youngest, 9 (in 2021), to the oldest who is 25. This means that these babies were born after the 9/11 attacks and have never known the USA to be not at war.
Popular Generation Names for Gen Z Babies
What generation names are most popular among those in the Gen Z generation?
- Jacob – a name from Hebrew origin, meaning “supplanter”
- Michael – another name from Hebrew, meaning “who is like God?”
- Emily – A name of Greek origin that means “rival”
Millennials or Gen Next or Gen Y (1980 – 1994)
Millennial has emerged as the most popular generation names for babies born in the 1880s and early 1990s. The distinction for this generation is that they are the first generation to reach young adulthood in the 21st century.
Even More About Millennials
Gen Y and Millennials likely remember where they were on 9/11. They also inherited a poor job market after finishing college thanks to their (mostly) boomer parents whose basements they had to live in until they found steady work. The youngest Millennials are upwards of 25 today and some “Elder Millennials” are pushing 40.
Popular Generation Names for Baby Millennials
What are the most popular baby names for Millennials? It turns out Michael was popular for both Gen Z and Millenial babies. It was the most popular name for boys in both generations. Let’s take a look at some other names they might have gotten.
- Christopher – the second most popular name for Millenials was for boys, Christopher, a Greek name that means “bearer of Christ”
- Jessica – After Michael and Christopher, Jessica was the third most popular Generation name for Millennials, meaning, “He sees,” from Hebrew origin
- Matthew – Another name from Hebrew, Matthew means “gift of Yahweh”
Xennials (1975 – 1985)
The Xennial Generation is a micro-generation that consists of young Gen X members and Elder Millennials. These individuals share a mix of traits found among both groups. The one thing most in this Generation likely played? The Oregon Trail and thus is often referred to as “The Oregon Trail Generation.”
More About Xennials
If you’re too young to remember Voltron but too old for Power Rangers, you are likely a Xennial. Were flip phones the hottest tech when you were coming of age? You’re in this category.
Most Popular Generation Names at the Time
Xennials range in age from about mid-thirties to mid-forties, so what were the hottest generation names from the late 1970s and early 1980s?
- Jennifer – becoming a mega-hit name in the 1970s, Jennifer comes from Cornish and Welsh origins, meaning “white wave”
- Ashley – an English habitational name, meaning “from the ash tree meadow”
- Jason – a classic name from Greek, meaning “healer”
Generation X (1965 – 1979)
Generation X or Gen X are the Generation names used for those born in the late 1960s through the 1970s. These would be the “latchkey kids” who found both their parents working, leaving them with little supervision and plenty of independence.
More About Gen X or the ‘MTV Generation’
When folks were trying to make a term stick for this Generation, the “MTV Generation” as they were sulking teens who loved MTV when it first arrived. They’ve come a long way, in fact. It’s time for them to seriously make sure they’ve got a retirement plan put in place as they are likely well into the forties to fifties.
Most Popular Generation Names for Gen X-ers?
Michael and Jennifer were the biggest names at the time but you will also find some new arrivals to the top of list for X Generation names from this time, most popular in the late 1960s.
- David – a name from Hebrew, meaning “beloved”
- James – an English name from Hebrew, meaning “supplanter”
- Lisa – another name from English and Hebrew, meaning “God’s promise”
Baby Boomers or ‘Boomers’ (1946 – 1964)
Baby Boomers are so-called because their Generation is a result of a boom in the American economy following WWII which produced a huge tide of new babies. This means that there are a whole lot of “Boomers” among us.
How Old Are Baby Boomers Today?
Boomers vary in age more so than other generations with most (not all, of course) in retirement today. The youngest Baby Boomers are in their mid-fifties to mid-seventies today.
‘Boomer’ Generation Names
What are the most popular Generation names for Baby Boomers?
- Robert – a name from German, meaning “bright fame”
- Mary – a name from Aramaic, meaning “bitter”
- John – a name from Hebrew, meaning “graced by God”
The Silent Generation (1925 – 1945)
The Generation with the fewest born into it was the “Silent Generation.” Those born between 1925-1945 were born into The Great Depression and then WWII.
More About The Silent Generation
Today, those born at this time are between about 76 and 96. They lived through the McCarthy Era which is why they are partly considered “silent” as they knew that voicing an opinion could prove dangerous.
The Silent Generation Names
The most popular names of the Silent Generation babies are James, Michael, Robert, John, and Mary. Let’s look at some other still-popular options from the time:
- Linda – a name from Spanish and German, meaning “pretty”
- Patricia – from a Latin family name, meaning “noble”
- William – an English name from German, meaning “resolute protector”
- Ronald – from Old Norse and Old English, meaning “decisive ruler”
The Interbellum Generation (1901 – 1913)
The Interbellum Generation describes those born between the two World Wars. They were too young to serve in active duty for WWI and too old for the front lines in WWII.
More About the Interbellum Generation
The Interbellum Generation got to experience the Jazz Age in youth. Further, many were members of the movement for Women’s Suffrage. Those born to the Interbellum Generation were born between 108 and 120 years ago!
Interbellum Generation Names
What were the popular Generation names over a century ago?
- Helen – from Greek, meaning “shining light”
- Margaret – from Old French and ultimately Hebrew, meaning “pearl”
- George – a classic appellation from Greek, meaning “gardener”
- Edward – from Old English, meaning “wealthy guard”
The Lost Generation (1890 – 1900)
The Lost Generation refers to those who were given some of the direst circumstances to survive in American history. They returned from war only to be met with depression. Food insecurity, homelessness, and many other hardships were faced.
More About the Lost Generation
Revered novelists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot all came from this Generation. Folks born during this time were birthed some 121 to 131 years ago!
Lost Generation Names
What were the most popular names at the turn of the 20th century? Aside from John, William, Mary, and Margaret:
- Anna – from Hebrew, meaning “grace”
- Charles – from French and English, meaning “French man” or “free man”
- Elizabeth – from Hebrew, meaning “pledged to God”
- Ruth – from Hebrew, meaning “friend”
There you go! We hope you learned more about the Generation names and years that go with each along with some popular baby names born within each Generation. It’s interesting how world events, emerging technologies, and new ways of living influence how each Generation sees the world. We can’t wait to find out what’s next for these Gen Alpha kiddos!
- 1 Popular Names for Girls That Grandma Won’t Be a Fan Of
- 2 Popular Names for Boys Grandma Won’t Like
- 3 Check Out the Generation Names and Years Below Along with Some Interesting Facts for Each:
- 3.1 Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha (2013 – 2025)
- 3.2 Characteristics of Gen Alpha
- 3.3 Most Popular Generation Names from (2013 – 2025)
- 3.4 Gen Z or iGen (1995 – 2012)
- 3.5 More About Gen Z
- 3.6 Popular Generation Names for Gen Z Babies
- 3.7 Millennials or Gen Next or Gen Y (1980 – 1994)
- 3.8 Even More About Millennials
- 3.9 Popular Generation Names for Baby Millennials
- 3.10 Xennials (1975 – 1985)
- 3.11 More About Xennials
- 3.12 Most Popular Generation Names at the Time
- 3.13 Generation X (1965 – 1979)
- 3.14 More About Gen X or the ‘MTV Generation’
- 3.15 Most Popular Generation Names for Gen X-ers?
- 3.16 Baby Boomers or ‘Boomers’ (1946 – 1964)
- 3.17 How Old Are Baby Boomers Today?
- 3.18 ‘Boomer’ Generation Names
- 3.19 The Silent Generation (1925 – 1945)
- 3.20 More About The Silent Generation
- 3.21 The Silent Generation Names
- 3.22 The Interbellum Generation (1901 – 1913)
- 3.23 More About the Interbellum Generation
- 3.24 Interbellum Generation Names
- 3.25 The Lost Generation (1890 – 1900)
- 3.26 More About the Lost Generation
- 3.27 Lost Generation Names
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