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Wed, Jan. 26

Baby Names: What’s in a name? Traditional, Biblical names make top 10 baby names

photo/Adobe stock/Africa Studio

photo/Adobe stock/Africa Studio

PHOENIX — So what makes parents who grew up with people named Jacob, Anthony and Daniel want to name their newborn boys Liam?

Or choose Olivia for their baby girls even though women of child-bearing age are more likely to be familiar with Ashley, Samantha and Emma?

Sometimes it’s literature or old-fashioned names, particularly for girls.

The names for boys tend to be less volatile from year to year, with a perennial emphasis on those found in the Good Book. Think Old Testament prophets and figures like Daniel and Noah and New Testament disciples and saints like James and Sebastian.

But why are there sudden shifts? Who knows?

This year in Arizona the ninth most popular name for new boys was Ezekiel. That’s according to data compiled by the Arizona Department of Health Services which keeps those records because it gets all birth certificates. Five years ago, it came in at 96; in 2011 it didn’t even crack the top 100.

Or, for girls, Gianna. Five years ago is was at number 80. This year it rose to number 12.

But the bigger shock comes when looking back to when the new parents of today were being named by their parents. Or even when their parents — the current crop of grandparents — were choosing names for them.

Oh, sure, some names withstand the test of time.

Some 45 years ago, more Arizonans chose Michael for their new baby boy than any other. And while its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, it still is in the top 20 this year.

But Liam? How many parents in 1976 were choosing that for a name for a newborn?

Instead, William was in the top 20 as were more “traditional” names like David, Robert, Joseph, Mathew, Richard and Anthony.

Even 20 years later the list of the most popular names had not changed a lot, though there were some less traditional ones starting to sneaking in, like Tyler, Austin and Brandon.

And they didn’t last long, with nary a Tyler, Austin or Brandon anywhere in this year’s top 100.

Instead, after Liam, we get Noah, Mateo, Oliver and Sebastian rounding out the top of the list.

For girls, however, the situation is much different — and much more subject to change.

Let’s start with this year’s crop of new grandparents.

Back in 1976, their parents chose names for them like Jennifer, Melissa, Amy, Michele and Heather.

None of those name even cracked the Top 100 this year in Arizona.

Want to talk more recent? Let’s talk about what happened when all those Jennifers, Melissas and all grew up?

If they were having babies in 1996, they chose names like Ashley, Samantha, Emma, Mia and Emily for their newborn girls.

And now? Of those, only Emma and Mia are still in the top 10. And you won’t find an Ashley in the entire top 100 list.

Anyone want to guess what this year’s crop of newborns will be naming their kids in, say 2041?

Historical most popular baby names in Arizona

Boys Rank / 1976 / 1996 / 2011 / 2016 / 2021

1 / Michael / Michael / Jacob / Liam / Liam

2 / Jason / Jacob / Anthony / Noah / Noah

3 / Christopher / Daniel / Daniel / Daniel / Mateo

4 / David / Jose / Michael / Sebastian / Oliver

5 / Robert / Tyler / Angel / Alexander / Sebastian

6 / James / Joshua / Ethan / Michael / Elijah

7 / Daniel / Matthew / Noah / Julian / Benjamin

8 / John / Christopher / Aiden / Oliver / Santiago

9 / Brian / Anthony / Alexander / Benjamin / Ezekiel

10 / Matthew / David / Mason / Mason / Julian

11 / Joseph / Nicholas / Gabriel / Elijah / Alexander

12 / William / Joseph / Jayden / Jacob / James

13 / Jeremy / Austin / Julian / Aiden / Daniel

14 / Ryan / Brandon / David / Ethan / Ezra

15 / Joshua / Andrew / Benjamin / Mateo / Michael

16 / Richard / Jesus / Joseph / David / William

17 / Steven / Zachary / Liam / Anthony / Angel

18 / Eric / Ryan / Adrian / Gabriel / Elias

19 / Aaron / Christian / Isaac / James / Levi

20 / Anthony / Alexander / Matthew / Matthew / Jesus

Girls rank / 1976 / 1996 / 2011 / 2016 / 2021

1 / Jennifer / Ashley / Sophia / Emma / Olivia

2 / Melissa / Samantha / Isabella / Sophia / Emma

3 / Amy / Alexis / Emma / Olivia / Sophia

4 / Michelle / Taylor / Mia / Mia / Camila

5 / Heather / Emily / Emily / Isabella / Isabella

6 / Jessica / Sarah / Olivia / Ava / Mia

7 / Lisa / Hannah / Abigail / Emily / Charlotte

8 / Angela / Madison / Ava / Sofia / Amelia

9 / Stephanie / Alyssa / Elizabeth / Abigail / Ava

10 / Shannon / Maria / Chloe / Charlotte / Luna

11 / Christina / Elizabeth / Victoria / Amelia / Penelope

12 / Kimberly / Stephanie / Madison / Victoria / Gianna

13 / Rebecca / Amanda / Natalie / Evelyn / Aria

14 / Maria / Kayla / Sofia / Camila / Scarlett

15 / Monica / Brianna / Lily / Aria / Evelyn

16 / Amanda / Megan / Samantha / Scarlett / Emily

17 / Elizabeth / Victoria / Hailey / Harper / Sofia

18 / Veronica / Jennifer / Brooklyn / Penelope / Mila

19 / Andrea / Vanessa / Camila / Elizabeth / Layla

20 / Laura / Nichole / Grace / Avery / Abigail

-- Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

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