Modern Baby Names

Newborn baby in hat
Origins of Modern Baby Names. Photo © Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Baby names used to be limited to a very small pool of names. You had your Biblical names. You had baby names based on virtues. Other than that, you had names that described your job, location or status. This meant that there was a great likelihood that someone, or a lot of someones, shared your name.

As we moved into a different era, as more people lived in proximity to one another, you started to see a bit more creativity with baby naming. Perhaps you took a name like Elizabeth and used a German version of Elise. A simple word like a flower, when said in French, is Fleur, that certainly sounds more exotic. So began the change and how we thought about names and moved into a modern baby name era.

Today we are in an anything-goes era when it comes to choosing a moniker for your child. Moms and dads are finding their inspiration from music, movies, books, the dictionary and lots of other locations that you may not have expected.

The Weirder the Better

Certainly, there is a whole section of names that fall into the weird or odd category. This might sound like a slight, but honestly, it’s something that most parents will readily admit that they really like the name they’ve chosen for their baby. The whole point was to be unique. The first example that I can think of is Moon Unit Zappa, daughter of rocker, Frank Zappa.

While he took a lot of heat for choosing this name, and that of her brother, Dweezel, he is no longer alone. With celebrity baby names like Pilot Inspektor, Blue, Apple and others, the average person has felt more freedom to choose names that are a little out there. Though truly, everyone defines out there differently. What one person considers normal, is someone’s out there. The truth is, there are very few names that really raise eyebrows anymore.

Gender Neutral Names

The gender-neutral names are very popular right now. When you look at names like Taylor and Jordan, you no longer know if they are girls or boys. The same is true for Keegan, Avery and many others. While older names, like Robin, Kelly, Ashley, and Leslie have become more female-only names in the United States, this does not necessarily hold true everywhere. There are plenty of girls who sport historically boy names, though the opposite is not always true. Names who go from boy to girl, don’t seem to make their way back across the aisle. Will this ever change?

Old is New Again

Older names are becoming more popular. While some names may never make a comeback, there are others who are coming back quickly. Look at the top 100 names for either boys or girls and you’ll find a lot of names on both lists that were in the top 25 from a century ago. Names like Ezra, Clara, Lilah, and Jeremiah are all types of names gaining popularity. So if this is your style, look back through the popular names of yesteryear.


There are always going to be people who like the more “traditional” names. These show up in the top ten names of girls and boys, along with briefly lived, but wildly popular names. Many parents actually really like to use a more traditional sounded middle name as a middle name. They rationalize that it will be a fallback, should the child grow up hating their first name. Some parents are a bit more conservative and use a traditional name for the first name, but give a wilder middle name, using the middle name on a daily basis.

Last Names First

There is also a trend of last names being used as first names. While this is not strictly a new thing, there are more and more names that used to be at the end of the birth certificate. Think names like Thompson, Kensington, Tinsley. This can sometimes be to honor the mother’s family by using her maiden name or a family name as a first name. Though sometimes it’s simply because the parents really, really like a name even if there is no historical connection to it.

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