Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lucky Names

Hello, readers :)

It's March 17th, which means it's Saint Patrick's Day! Here in the US, this holiday is often used as an excuse to paint everything green and drink a ton of beer - but that's not what this post is about. (For color names or alcohol names, I have other posts). Today, I'll be looking at lucky names!

While there aren't any names I'm aware of that bring luck - unless anyone has a great story they want to share in the comments! - here are some choices that embody that sense of excitement and positive feeling.

Image via Pixabay

My first association with this name is as a pet name - much to my surprise, the name has been used for human baby boys most often in the past two decades! Perhaps its aural similarities to Luke, and the rise in new virtue names like Destiny and Journey, have helped Lucky gain attention.

This adorable botanical name deserves more love than it gets - Clover is sweet and natural without feeling dusty or frilly. With Chloe and Clara topping the charts, it's also a great alternative to more popular names, too - Clover is outside the top 1000.

The Beckhams made waves when they named their daughter Harper Seven, after father David's jersey number. But Seven seems to fit right in with modern bell-tone choices, as well as similar-sounding names like Evan or Kevin. I'm guessing Seven will be the name to watch!

This name is quirky and charm-ing as heck, but lacks the X-factor that turns nouns into names, I think. It's been used sporadically for girls since 1937, with the most usage over the past five years. Individuality above all, I suppose!

Bright and shiny Penny has a lot going for it - its retro sound, simplicity, and femininity lend it modern credibility. Long form Penelope is an option, but short and dynamic Penny stands well on its own. And with Lane as a unisex name, we may be seeing more Beatles homages on birth certificates...

Latin in origin, Fortune was used more often as a name in ancient Rome. Today, it blends well with virtue names like Patience or Faith, but also jumps out as an unconventional pick. I'm joining the other name writers who recommend Fortune as a middle name, probably because of its uniqueness, and the lack of ready nicknames.

It briefly joined the top 200 in the 1990's, but that blip made Chance a well-established choice for later generations. Chance is friendly and energetic, but possibly a little too light (or maybe this is just another dog-name association for me).

I would never have guessed that this country name would get so popular, but then again about 10% of Americans identify as at least partly Irish (I'm one of them!) Ireland is of course noted as a celebrity baby name, but now that that baby (Ireland Basinger Baldwin) is 22, I think Ireland is officially on the table for everyone else.

Other names meaning "luck" or "fortune":
Dalia, Felix, Felicity, Gad, Bonaventure, Otto

Any I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Names from William Blake

Hello, readers!

While researching the name Albion, I came across this interesting set of names from the mythology of William Blake. This eighteenth-century English writer wrote a series of books advocating for his own political and spiritual ideals through the exploration of invented gods and goddesses. While this series sounds a bit too complex for me, the names themselves are fascinating!

According to Wikipedia, many of these names were taken from writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth and John Milton, as well as individuals involved in Blake's 1803 sedition trial. (I wonder if his books included as disclaimer to avoid further legal action?) While I won't delve into the mythology, here are some of the character names!

The Four Zoas and their Emanations:

Tharmas (m) - The name sounds like a combination of Arthur and Thomas, but seems too clinical to have real potential for a modern name. 

Enion (f) - Only one letter off from "onion," so I'm going to pass on reviving this. 

Urthona (m) - Though this character is supposed to represent inspiration, I'm not quite convinced by Urthona...

Enitharmon (f) - Just complex and creative enough to pique my interest. Perhaps Ennis or Enid would be a bit easier to wear daily?

Luvah (m) - The name was supposedly chosen because of its aural similarities to "lover," but Luvah feels a bit excessive. Levi or Love, on the other hand, are fantastic!

Vala (f) - While this name has been recorded regularly since 1921, Vala seems unfinished. I'd recommend alternatives like Vera, Calla, or Valerie

Urizen (m) - Definitely not my favorite. Horizon, on the other hand, feels like an excellent modern choice. 

Ahania (f) - Euphonic names are big right now, and Ahania might fit right in. Somewhere between Hannah, Alana, and Anya?

Sons of Albion:

Hand - Nope. 

Hyle - I suppose if Lyle and Kyle can manage, Hyle's not too different. It was recorded for boys once in 1919. 

Coban - Hello, bell-tone boy's name! I'm genuinely surprised this name hasn't been recorded yet, being it sounds so similar to Colby, Cohen, and Robin

Guantok - This does sound like some Vietnamese or Thai names I've come across, but Guantok doesn't seem quite as accessible as other cross-cultural picks. 

Peachey - As a pet name, I wholeheartedly recommend Peachey, Peach, and Peaches!

Brereton - The extra syllable in the middle doesn't add much. Bretton or Brighton are lovely in and of themselves.

Slayd - This sounds like the name of a superhero! Slade has gotten some attention, but I don't think changing the spelling makes the name any cooler (Slade is inherently cool). 

Hutton - An uncommon surname choice, Hutton comes from Old English for "ridge settlement." With Sutton and Houston gaining fans, Hutton could work well on modern playgrounds. 

Scofield - Another surname pick, but not quite as friendly as Hutton

Kox - Being that this name's homophone could cause some issues, I'd go with Knox

Kotope - Sounds a bit like a scientific instrument. "Pass the kotope, Doctor Scofield!"

Bowen - The first name in this post to rank in the top 1000, Bowen is currently at #478 for boys. Handsome, Celtic in origin, with the cute nickname Bo - what's not to love?

Daughters of Albion:

Gwendolen - A fabulous Welsh name - whose spelling variant Gwendolyn currently ranks in the top 500 - with a ton of nickname possibilities, Gwendolen is positively gorgeous. 

Ragan - Maybe it's Germanic, maybe it's made up - Ragan (I'm reading it as "Ray-gahn") sounds like a spelling alternative for Reagan for parents who like the sound but aren't as fond of the president. 

Sabrina - Audrey Hepburn immediately comes to mind - a definite plus!

Gonorill - This looks a bit like Goneril, King Lear's eldest daughter. Can't say I love the name or the namesakes. 

Mehetabel - Ooooh, a rare and lovely Hebrew name (I'm writing this post while traveling Israel). While it's certainly different, it may be worth the work. And Bella works as a nickname!

Cordella - I can't decide if Cordelia is better, or if Cordella is an entirely new kind of name. Readers, what do you think?

Boadicea - I've come across this one in "name nerd" posts - beautiful rhythm, not really accessible. 

Gwiniverra - I'm a proponent of Gwenivere, but Gwiniverra takes Jennifer just a bit too far. 

Conwenna - It seems that this name was invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It almost feels like a feminization of a surname, which isn't something I've seen before. 

Estrild - Not even once. 

Gwinefrid - Oh boy. 

Ignoge - Again, nope. 

Cambel - A simplification of Campbell, perhaps? Pretty, simple, and sweet. 

Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Names from My Travels - Part 2

Hello, readers!

If you didn't get a chance, here's the first part - Names from My Travels.

TLDR: I'm traveling Asia and collecting name stories!

Since my last update, my boyfriend Ethan and I have visited more of southern China (Chongqing and Chengdu), spent six weeks in Taiwan (Taipei, Hualien, Taitung, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Sun Moon Lake), scootered through Vietnam (Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Hue, Ho Chi Minh City), and are currently hanging out in Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai). I've met some wonderful new friends along the way, and have asked a lot of people nosy questions about their names :)

Ethan and me scootering outside of Hanoi

I've tried to remove anything too personal - FB friends, let me know if I need to edit anything!

Not someone I actually met, but a few Belgian friends told me about the weirdest name they knew; apparently his parents couldn't pick between the two, so they created a compound name. I gotta say, Joe-Thibault is an unusual mix of styles!

Sibset: Camille (f), Justine (f), Auguste (m)
The lovely Camille was named for an associate of Auguste Rodin, one of her parents' favorite artists (hence her brother's name, Auguste). We had a great conversation about names later on (just saying, there's a lot of people out there who keep lists of their favorite names!)

Nadège (f)
The French form of a Slavic name meaning "hope" (from the same family as Nadia). I'm reminded of another French name, Edwige, and I can think of two currently popular names that end in -ge: Paige and Sage

Lannan (Eve)
A friendly Chinese woman told me her name means "very smart" in Mandarin (I couldn't find the right combination of name elements online). She picked her own English name, Eve

Sibset: Itai (m), Dror (m), Naama (f), Sivan (f), Shaked (f), Keshet (f)
When Sivan told me she was one of six children, I asked their names so fast I nearly choked. Her family is Israeli, and they chose each of their children's names based on the Torah reading for the week they were born. Itai is a name of one of King David's warriors, meaning "being." Dror means "freedom," chosen because he was born during Pesach (the Jewish holiday of Passover, celebrating the liberation of the Jews under the leadership of Moses). Naama is a fairly popular name in Israel, meaning "pleasant." Sivan was named for the third month of the Jewish calendar, which comes from a word meaning "season" or "time." Shaked means "almond," as she was born during Tu BiShvat, a Jewish holiday celebrating ecological awareness and the planting of trees. Keshet means "rainbow," referencing the story of Noah

Sibset: Talia (f), Alon (m), Shachar (m), Shani (f)
Another excellent Israeli family name group! Talia is a Hebrew name meaning "dew from heaven" (it's currently fairly popular in the US), Alon is a Hebrew name meaning "oak tree," Shachar is a Hebrew name meaning "dawn," and Shani is a Hebrew name meaning "red."

Special thanks to the incomparable Shachar and Sivan for answering my questions one after another! <3

The third Israeli interviewed on this list, Nathan was named for his grandfather. We talked a bit about "word names" being on the rise in the United States, when they're very popular in other countries already (see Sivan and Shachar's stories above!)

Sibset: Elena Georgina and Isabel Antonia
These gorgeous names reflect Elena's family's roots in Italy and in Puerto Rico. We also both noticed that the middles were feminizations of traditionally male names. 

The fabulous Sigrid was supposed to be named Julia, but her parents felt the choice didn't fit her. They chose her name in part because it sounds like "sie grinst," German for "she smiles."

Sibset: Jack, Grace, Samuel
Jack would have been Kate if he was a girl, but didn't know why his parents chose Jack

Couple: Una and Aga
This warm Taiwanese couple owned and managed a hostel in Hualien. Una is one of my favorite names, and I love how their names sound together. 

Sibset: Erica, Sara, Isaac, John
Erica told me that her parents chose "simple names" for her and her siblings because theirs were more complicated. I hear more about the reverse of that happening: choosing a "unique" name for one's child because one's own name is too popular. 

Arslan (m)
This is a form of Aslan (meaning "lion"), and comes from Arslan's home state of Bashkortostan, a republic in Russia. 

Huong (f)
This is a Vietnamese name meaning "perfume" - similar to Jasmine or Rose, perhaps?

While attending Quest Festival outside of Hanoi, I collected a lot of names, but few stories behind them: Aymen, Atlas, EdithLou and Loup, Jael, Mansour, Naadir, Muti, Trey, Pim, and a ton of Alex's!

Couple: Willi (f) and Willem (m)
This funny couple from Amsterdam had been together for decades, with the matching names Willi and Willem. Willem joked "If I had known her name, I would have walked away!"

Aladdin (m)
I met a real-life Aladdin, from Lyons, France!

Kurn (m)
When he told me he was Welsh, I asked his name, expecting an unusual Welsh choice. Instead, his parents chose a Hebrew name - Kurn, from Koren, meaning "shining" - to honor their Jewish heritage. 

So many names and stories! Thanks everyone for sharing theirs with me :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Common Names for Serial Killers

Hello, readers!

Today's post takes a bit of a turn from previous writing, as I'm incorporating one of my other major interests: serial killers. I'm a huge fan of true crime media, and over the past few months of traveling I've binged crime documentaries, podcasts (My Favorite Murder and Last Podcast on the Left in particular), and dramatizations on the lives and deeds of some of the most deranged murderers in history. Of course, I've been keeping an ear out for name-related trivia as well.

Edmund Emil Kemper III, the "Co-Ed Killer"

Years ago, I read an article online that claimed Wayne was more popular as a middle name among criminals (here's a more recent article on the "Wayne Theory") than in the general population. While there's no real evidence of this phenomenon - the United States doesn't collect or publish data on middle names, as far as I can tell - the idea that one's name might predict later criminal behavior was fascinating to me. Family relationships, class, financial status, race, gender, and environment all factor in to the likelihood of someone becoming a criminal - could names indicate these factors early on?

I'm not going to draw any dramatic conclusions until I can look at real data and sift through the complicated links between predictive factors for criminal behavior, but some theories have come to mind. What if men of a certain personality - hyper-masculine, traditional, intimidating - named their sons after a hero of mid-century cinema, John Wayne? And what if these men were more likely to raise children who would exhibit criminal behaviors?

What else can name data tell us about "deviants"? I decided to look at the data on the first, middle, and adopted names of serial killers in the United States. Using this Wikipedia entry (obviously not complete, but a decent representation) and discarding the names of female killers, I came up with a group of 201 names.

These are men of varying ages, mostly white, with some black and Latino individuals. A majority of these men were active in the twentieth century. Most common first/middle names:

12   - Joseph 
11   - Edward
10* - John 
10* - Richard 
10   - David
10   - Robert
9     - Lee 
8*   - Michael 
8     - Charles
7     - William
6*   - James 
6     - Anthony
6     - Wayne 

* = One name would be added if nicknames were to be included

Of the 13 names listed above, 11 fall into the 25 most popular names for men in the United States over the past century: Joseph, Edward, John, Richard, David, Robert, Michael, Charles, William, James, Anthony. The other two names rank much lower for the general male population versus the serial killer summation: Lee and Wayne.

Wayne! Based on my not-super-scientific data, there may be a correlation between criminals and use of the name. I'm eager to access real data someday and follow this theory.

Lee's popularity over time is directly related to the Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee - many Southern parents chose the name Lee to honor him in the decades after the war. The name has been decreasing in popularity since 1900, and since many of the killers listed were born in the twentieth century, it may indicate that their families had stronger-than-average ties to the South, or the tradition of using honorific names. Which brings me to another interesting finding...

The name community uses the term "honorific name" to refer to the practice of choosing a name for a child that celebrates a relative, friend, or place important to the parents. This could be anything from using Charlotte to honor Uncle Charlie, Ruby to honor Grandma's birthstone, Denali in honor of her parents' honeymoon site, etc. However, I'm going to use the term here to specifically refer to names directly taken from fathers and grandfathers, names that end in Jr., III, IV, etc.

Out of 201 names, 23 of these serial killers have Jr/III/IV at the end of their names. That's over 11% of them! This number seems particularly high, but the only article I found that listed data on the percentage of honorific names in the population referred to studies from the 1940's. At that time, 3% of the general population was named for a father, and that number has been supposedly decreasing over time. But among serial murderers, the tradition of naming a child after the father seems to be alive and well (excuse the terrible joke).

Using honorific names for children is a practice much more common in "honor states," where an emphasis on "traditional family values" is at play (these values include adhering to assigned gender roles, identifying as a Christian, and highlighting nationalism). Often, these communities also exhibit higher rates of patriarchal thought and the elevation of stereotypical masculinity. Honor states mostly include Western and Southern states - another connection to the Southernness of Lee and my John Wayne theory mentioned earlier.

What's the takeaway from this? Well, since it's correlative data and a small sample size, not much. But there's enough here to keep me asking questions... what questions would you want to ask?


Here are some interesting articles I referenced in this post:

The Wayne Theory - Heather Sutfin, Sword and Scale

Deciding on a baby name? Steer clear of these because they’re the most common among MURDERERS - Hannah Ferrett, The Sun

Babies Named After Dads: Which States Have More (And Why) - Stephanie Pappas, Live Science

Junior Status: Sharing dad's name a mixed bag - Melissa Dahl, NBC News

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sesame Street Names

Hello, readers!

"Can you tell me how to get / How to get to Sesame Street?" are lyrics that have rung through many American homes since the groundbreaking children's show debuted in 1969. I myself was an avid fan (as well as a member of the Barney generation) and I got to thinking how many people grew up with the knowledge of these characters in the back of their minds.

Sesame Street is known for including characters of all races, genders, abilities, cultures, etc., making their Muppet names pretty diverse. I'll be including names of the Muppets and not the humans here.

Everyone's favorite grouch was named for a particularly awful waiter that Jim Henson met in Oscar's Tavern in Manhattan - I wonder if his inspiration ever figured it out? This handsome choice is an excellent cross-cultural pick, and it's never been far from the top 200.

Unfortunately, this adorable old-fashioned name has been claimed by the furry red Muppet, one of the most popular characters in the show's history. Elmo ranked on the top 1000 until 1957, but it's barely been recorded for babies during the 1990's and 2000's.

Partially created as a counterpart to Elmo, vivacious Zoe debuted in 1993, during the period where her lovely name was skyrocketing up the charts. Today, both Zoe and Zoey are popular (along with Chloe and Khloe), with no sign of decline.

Rarely seen without his best friend and roommate (below), Ernie is an original Muppet character - with more than a few memorable songs over the seasons. His name, a popular nickname for Ernest, ranks in the top 500 in the UK but has yet to bring its retro charm overseas.

The serious half of the duo, Bert is particularly fond of collecting bottle caps and advocating on behalf of pigeons (something he and I have in common). Though Brett and Brent have had fans over the years, Bert still feels incomplete and a bit awkward.

Friendly and adventurous Grover has been beloved on Sesame Street since his debut in 1970. His name is worth a second look: though it fits in well with popular -er names and occupational picks (like Parker and Cooper), this adorable choice has never achieved the same level of popularity.

A relatively new Muppet, Abby Cadabby is a three-year-old fairy with boundless girly-girl energy. Her name is everywhere these days - Abigail is currently at #8, and Abby ranks at #441 - and the nickname is a sweet mix of classic and modern.

She made headlines with her debut in 2015 - this first Muppet with autism, performed by the parent of an autistic child - very important for disability representation! The name Julia has ranked in the top 100 since 1980, and it's a gorgeous choice with even more lovely namesakes and connections.

Worrying and dramatic, Telly's arrival on Sesame Street in 1979 followed another famous TV Telly - Telly Savalas, from the popular series Kojak. In fact, the actor's name directly inspired a blip of Telly's on the top 1000, though the fad was short-lived.

Bilingual Muppet Rosita was one of the first Spanish speaking puppets to grace Sesame Street, and she loves history, geography, and music. Though Rose and Rosalie have gained fans, Rosita is still flying under the radar - but this melodic Latin choice could appeal to many.

The little sister of Snuffy, Alice Snuffleupagus is a smaller character than her brother (not too difficult) but no less cute. The attractive name has been rising through the ranks, currently at #76 - might it one day join style sisters Abigail and Charlotte in the top 10?

All grown up at seven years old, Prairie Dawn has been on Sesame Street since 1971 - and the name has been recorded in the US since 1973. Windswept and winsome, Prairie is a cool yet underused choice that would fit in well with nature and geographical names today.

Elmo's dad Louie first appeared on the show in 2006, as a stay-at-home parent who later joins the military. While Louis (and its spelling variants) has gotten popular, nickname Louie is at the bottom of the top 1000, and adds a more friendly sound to the handsome name.

Elmo's mother Mae also debuted in 2006, as part of a series of videos about families dealing with military deployment. After a 40 year hiatus, magnificent Mae is now jumping back up the popularity charts, appealing to parents who love its simple, retro sound.

A Muppet that debuted this year - Rudy is Abby Cadabby's mischievous younger stepbrother. Though the name has been on the decline, this unisex pick still has a lot of charm. Rudy could also honor a familial Rudolph or Ruth.

Which characters would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Baby Names Inspired by Birth Control Methods - Yep, There's Enough of Them to Make a List

Hello, readers!

So I've wanted to write this post since I myself got the Skyla IUD. It cracked me up that a birth control option would have a brand name that's also in the top 1000 baby names for girls. And oh boy, what a style!

A baby with the birth control device meant to prevent his existence... 
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past"

Maybe you've found yourself unexpectedly pregnant - why not name this happy accident after the birth control method that failed you?

I cannot figure out how this name was so popular for so long. Of all the virtue names, this seems the cruelest. Also, the misspelling Chasity has ranked for awhile too - how??? If you're name is Chastity/Chasity, please comment with how your life is going so far, I worry about you all a lot.

Using the term "rhythm method" to describe the practice of having sex only on certain days of the month to avoid pregnancy dates from the 1930's, but the name Rhythm only started getting recorded in the year 2000. It's now rising up the ranks for boys and girls!

Though the Yaz birth control pill has been around since 2006, it was only in 2016 that Yaz was first recorded as a name for eight baby girls. This name also has the bonus of being worth 15 points in Scrabble!

When the Yasmin birth control pill debuted in 2001, the name was already near its peak popularity. Possibly thanks in part to the new association with the medication, the name has since dropped to the bottom of the top 1000.

This sounds like a lot of names out there - Marina, Mira, Mariah - so I wasn't too surprised to see it recorded in past statistics. The name has been used sporadically between 2007 and 2014, but the birth control method has been around since 1990.

My buddy, my pal - over 99% effective! It's been around since 2013, but the name has been recorded regularly since 1998. It's a more feminine form of Skylar, to be sure, but it will always remind me of the small plastic anchor in my uterus.

This creative spelling of Errin (or Aaron?) was recorded from 1964 to 2010 for both boys and girls. While this spelling is definitely unusual, I'd stick with either of the two originals for tradition's sake.

Ask and ye shall receive - I had hoped this name would be recorded, and by Jove, dozens of baby Kyleenas have graced this world since 1999. The IUD is pretty new, having been released about a year ago. Not sure why they picked this name, but let's all bask in the glory.

I'm serious - Sir Richard's is one of the more popular condom brands among vegetarians and vegans (The More You Know™). No idea which Richard the company's name refers to, but let's assume that all Richards were named after this brand - life's just more fun that way.

Though Kaia is in the top 400, homophone Caya just hasn't gotten attention. The birth control method it refers to is a diaphragm, and it's one of the only forms of this methods available in this decade.

This name was used between 1918 and 1960, and it's got a sound to prove it (think Laverne or Deborah). This birth control pill seems decently popular, though I've found nothing particularly interesting about it... or about the name itself, for that matter.

It may sound like the name of a Slavic spy in a James Bond knockoff movie, but this name was mostly used in the 1990s, post-Cold War. I'd go with Anastasia or Natalia rather than the name of an oral contraceptive.

Another condom brand on birth certificates! With word names - Grace, King, West - being so in vogue, Crown seems like a natural fit. (And I bet they'd use "natural fit" in their ad campaigns, too).

If you think your birth control method is worthy of a human child's first name, comment below. And seriously, all the Chasity/Chastity's out there, let me know how you're doing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Name Conventions - Japan

Konnichiwa, readers!

I'm currently on an extended trip through East and Southeast Asia, working and traveling for a year with my boyfriend. One of my favorite parts of this experience is the chance to talk to so many different people about their names - how they got them, what their cultures dictate, and what they think about them. In addition to collecting name stories, I'm going to take this opportunity to study first name conventions for each country I visit!

I'm currently in China, but my first stop was two months in Japan, so I'll start there. If you're Japanese and/or you have a Japanese name, please tell me your story in the comments!

The Basics:

Japanese names usually include just a family name and a given name (middle names aren't common). Unlike most Western styles, Japanese names are said as "family name - first name," such as Kurosawa Akira. Unlike current trends in the English-speaking world, very few surnames can become given names, so they're usually easy to differentiate.

As seems to be the global trend, first names in Japan are increasingly unique. Since names are written primarily with kanji - complex characters of Chinese - the same kanji can have different readings depending on the context. This means that the same name can be written a multitude of ways, or that the same character can be read as different names.

Example: The unisex name Ryō (written phonetically in hiragana asりょう) can be written with the following kanji, each with a different meaning.

了: "completion"
涼: "cold"
燎, "to burn", "to illuminate"
椋: Aphananthe aspera (a species of tree)
良: "goodness"
亮: "light"
綾: "silk"
諒: "forgiveness"
龍: "dragon"
遼: "distant, far"

Because so many names can be read in so many different ways, many Japanese individuals also write their name in the katakana phonetic alphabet - Ryō isリョウ - or romanize it (Ryō).

Boys vs. Girls:

As in Western culture, first names are usually male, female, or unisex. Japanese laws currently do not dictate that names match the assigned gender at birth, but they do have a list of approved "name kanji" and "commonly used characters."

Historically, many Japanese boys had names ending with -ro ("son" or "bright") and many Japanese girls had names ending with -ko ("child"), though this is no longer a rule. Within the name, certain elements have historically denoted gender, such as -ichi- and -kazu- for boys, both referring to "first [son]." Boys were often named via a numbering system, with characters meaning "one," "two," and so on included in the written name. Other traditional endings include -ta ("great"), -hiko ("boy" or "prince"), and -suke ("assistant") for boys, and -mi ("beauty"), -ka ("flower"), and -na ("greens") for girls.

A recent trend is for parents to choose names for their daughters written in hiragana (one of the phonetic alphabets) for various reasons, one being that the script has historically been seen as "feminine" and was the only form of writing taught to women for centuries. Even today, few boys' names are written in hiragana.


In the past few decades, traditional forms of naming have been on the decline; for example, the -ko suffix is rarely used for girls today. At the same time, Western names written in kana have been trending: Emirii (for Emily), Merisa (for Melissa), and Kurisu (for Chris).

Another trend is using a traditionally written name with an alternative pronunciation. The boys' name 大翔 was historically pronounced "Hiroto," but pronunciations "Taiga" and "Masato" (among others) have recently appeared. This also allows parents to get around the approved lists by choosing traditional kanji, but pronouncing them in a variety of ways.

A current extreme example of this trend is the "kira-kira" phenomenon. "Kira-kira" is an onomatopoetic word meaning "shiny," and it's a style of naming in which parents choose both an unusual sounding-name and a written kanji form that can't be pronounced without context. One example I've heard multiple times is as follows: "Cheri, pronounced not sherry but cherry and written with two characters, one of which is 'sakura,' or cherry blossom" (Japan Today). This style of naming is debated passionately - many people dislike the difficulties in reading/speaking, but many parents like the idea of unique and inspiring choices.

Another fun name-choosing route is through seimei handan, a "fortune-telling" practice that correlates luck with the number of written strokes in name kanji. While it's no longer a common practice, it is a cool aspect of a written name to consider.

Current Top Five (2016):

My source for this list is Sora News 24, through data collected by Japanese company Tamahiyo. If you know where to find a more accurate (preferably government-issued) data set, please let me know!


  1. Ren (蓮), meaning "lotus"
  2. Hiroto (大翔), meaning "big flight"
  3. Haruto (陽翔), meaning "good flight"
  4. Minato (湊), meaning "harbor"
  5. Yuma (悠真), meaning "calm truth"
  1. Himari (陽葵), meaning "good hollyhock"
  2. Hina (陽菜), meaning "good greens"
  3. Yua (結愛), meaning "connected love"
  4. Sakura (咲良), meaning "blossoming well"
  5. Sakura (さくら), meaning "cherry blossom"
None of these names have ranked in the US top 1000, though feminine Wren has. My personal opinion is that Ren and Yuma could get fans in the States - Ren for its simple sound and unisex appeal, and Yuma for its place-name connection and its similarities to Noah and Ezra

*I read quite a few articles online for this post, and I've listed them below. Please let me know if you see anything amiss! I recognize that the Internet is sadly not completely reliable.*

Behind the Name - Kanji Readings
How do Japanese names work?
Japanese Miscellany
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