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Baby names gaining popularity in the 21st century

Written by:
May 4, 2023
KDdesign_photo_video // Shutterstock

Baby names gaining popularity in the 21st century

With the rise of social media and the increased necessity of having a major online presence, many feel the growing need to develop a personal brand to set themselves apart. For expectant parents, this often translates into major anxiety over picking the perfect baby name. After all, the base of any personal brand, online or not, really starts there. Ethnic, religious, political, or specifically gendered names signal a lot about a person—intentional or not.

The impact a name has, and the angst parents feel over choosing the right one, is nothing new. The Wall Street Journal reported more than a decade ago that parents were facing unprecedented stress over choosing a name and going to untold—and expensive—lengths to find the perfect moniker. Expectant parents are hiring consultants, employing numerologists' services, and even taking polls among their friends and family to help them narrow down the near-infinite list of possibilities.

Stances on the use of popular names for a newborn have always varied. Some parents appreciate the relative neutrality of a popular name, knowing their child won't be singled out. Others prefer something more unique to set their child apart.

To assist you in your baby name search, Stacker found the baby names that have risen the most in popularity during the 21st century using data from the Social Security Administration. Girl and boy names were ranked by popularity for the years 1980-1999 and for the years 2000-2021 based on the number of babies given that name at birth during those periods.

The 100 most popular girl and boy names for 2000-2021 were then sorted by subtracting each name's rank from its 1980-1999 rank to find the change. The names with the most positions gained in the 21st century when compared to the last two decades of the 20th century made this list. Overall, the growth of names for baby girls appears much more drastic than the growth of names for baby boys.

Read on to find out which names are poised to be some of the most popular over the next century.

Editor's note: The Social Security Administration collects data on baby names with a binary understanding of sex and gender. Stacker understands that names aren't inherently gendered and will continue to look for opportunities in our coverage to demonstrate that.

Additional writing by Madison Troyer.

#25. Boy: Nolan

- 2000-2021 rank: #98 (86,892 newborns named Benjamin)
- 1980-1999 rank: #399 (2,117 newborns)
- Positions gained: 201

The name Nolan has Irish roots, meaning "champion." The name has steadily increased in popularity since the 1990s. Notable Nolans? Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan carries the name well.

#25. Girl: Sophie

- 2000-2021 rank: #91 (70,935 newborns named Sophie)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,229 (535 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,138

A variation of the name Sophia, derived from the Greek word for "wisdom." In Greek mythology, it was allegedly the name of a mythical saint who grieved the tragic deaths of her daughters. As legends around her grew, so did the association with the phrase "Hagia Sophia," meaning "holy wisdom."

#24. Boy: Xavier

- 2000-2021 rank: #77 (108,664 newborns named Xavier)
- 1980-1999 rank: #400 (2,116 newborns)
- Positions gained: 323

Xavier is a name of Basque origin, a rough translation of the word "etxeberria," meaning "the new house." Though you probably never heard of the Jesuit priest Saint Francis Xavier, there's another man who may come to mind: Dr. Charles Xavier, otherwise known as Marvel's Professor X.

#24. Girl: Ava

- 2000-2021 rank: #7 (286,136 newborns named Ava)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,148 (597 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,141

A Latin name meaning "life," Ava has become incredibly popular among the Hollywood set in recent years. For example, Reese Witherspoon named her daughter Ava, and filmmaker Ava DuVernay has dominated the big screen for the better half of the last decade. That said, Ava is far from a new name: Eighth-century King Pepin also chose the moniker for his own daughter, who later became a saint.

#23. Boy: Isaiah

- 2000-2021 rank: #42 (180,587 newborns named Isaiah)
- 1980-1999 rank: #366 (2,470 newborns)
- Positions gained: 324

A biblical name of Hebrew origin deriving from the word "Yahweh," Isaiah means "to save." In the Bible, Isaiah is one of the four original prophets of the Old Testament, and the name has been around for millennia. Former basketball player Isaiah Thomas, Isaiah Washington of "Grey's Anatomy" fame, and rapper Isaiah Rashad each share this historical name.

#23. Girl: Scarlett

- 2000-2021 rank: #77 (79,910 newborns named Scarlett)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,224 (537 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,147

The name Scarlett is an English surname for someone who sold or made clothes from scarlet cloth. The most famous rendition of this name is Scarlett O'Hara, the principal character in Margaret Mitchell's novel-turned-film, "Gone with the Wind." Even so, the name itself didn't see a surge in popularity until actress Scarlett Johansson's rise to fame in the early 2000s.

#22. Boy: Oliver

- 2000-2021 rank: #64 (147,838 newborns named Oliver)
- 1980-1999 rank: #407 (2,082 newborns)
- Positions gained: 343

From the Old French word Olivier, taken from the Latin "olivarius" associated with "olive tree." Originally a popular name during medieval times, it was later well-known especially because of Charles Dickens' classic "Oliver Twist."

#22. Girl: Layla

- 2000-2021 rank: #50 (101,825 newborns named Layla)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,206 (550 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,156

Layla, a name with Arabic origins, means "night." The name first gained popularity thanks to a seventh-century Arabic poem called "Qays and Layla."

#21. Boy: Josiah

- 2000-2021 rank: #78 (108,391 newborns named Josiah)
- 1980-1999 rank: #444 (1,782 newborns)
- Positions gained: 366

Another biblical name of Hebrew origin, Josiah is taken from the word "Yoshiyahu," meaning "Yahweh supports." It is a name that perhaps got its beginnings with the ancient King Josiah of Judah, who was known for his love and devotion to his religious faith.

#21. Girl: Kaylee

- 2000-2021 rank: #46 (105,255 newborns named Kaylee)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,505 (389 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,459

Kaylee is a British name meaning both "laurel" and "crown," originally thought of as a mix of the names "Kay" and "Lee." The name, however, has origins in other languages, meaning "beloved" in Arabic and "slender" in Irish.

#20. Boy: Owen

- 2000-2021 rank: #50 (170,270 newborns named Owen)
- 1980-1999 rank: #436 (1,865 newborns)
- Positions gained: 386

Anglicized from the Welsh name Owain meaning "young warrior" or "well-born," Owen is also a variation of Eugene. These days, a famous Owen that comes to mind will probably be Owen Wilson, known to many as the voice of Lightning McQueen in the successful Cars film franchise.

#20. Girl: Ellie

- 2000-2021 rank: #89 (71,627 newborns named Ellie)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,612 (355 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,523

Interestingly, Ellie is a popular nickname for other names like Elizabeth, Helen, Ellen, and so on. But did you know the name itself comes from the Greek word for "light"? It also holds weight in a beautiful Greek mythology story with the derived name Helle.

#19. Boy: Hunter

- 2000-2021 rank: #45 (178,545 newborns named Hunter)
- 1980-1999 rank: #470 (1,643 newborns)
- Positions gained: 425

Hunter is a name as straightforward as it sounds. A name of British origin meaning "the one who hunts," this name is certainly occupational. In more modern days, Hunter was also the name of a famed journalist who challenged ideas of objectivity in the field: Hunter S. Thompson.

#19. Girl: Madelyn

- 2000-2021 rank: #81 (78,734 newborns named Madelyn)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,609 (356 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,528

Madelyn means "high tower" in Hebrew and certainly exists in many other versions such as Madeleine in French and even Magdalene. Catholics and Jews might associate this name more with Mary Magdalene, a follower of Christ often thought to have washed his feet. But parents might be thinking more of the sweet, shell-shaped French treat before veering into the name's religious overtones.

#18. Boy: Diego

- 2000-2021 rank: #93 (95,201 newborns named Diego)
- 1980-1999 rank: #536 (1,258 newborns)
- Positions gained: 443

A possible shortened version of the Spanish name Santiago (meaning "Saint James"), Diego could also mean "to teach," following Franciscan Saint Didacus of 15th-century Spain. Famed Diegos include the late Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and legendary football player Diego Maradona.

#18. Girl: Brooklyn

- 2000-2021 rank: #47 (104,608 newborns named Brooklyn)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,695 (331 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,648

Known for being the most populous borough of New York City, Brooklyn is one often associated with creativity. Anglicized from the Dutch "Breukelen" meaning "broken land," Brooklyn also has associations that mean "water" or "small stream."

#17. Boy: Mason

- 2000-2021 rank: #21 (267,313 newborns named Mason)
- 1980-1999 rank: #490 (1,496 newborns)
- Positions gained: 469

This name saw a surge in the 2010s after reality star Kourtney Kardashian welcomed her first child, Mason Disick, with former boyfriend Scott Disick. Meaning "stone worker," the name takes from the Old French "masson."

#17. Girl: Avery

- 2000-2021 rank: #29 (138,055 newborns named Avery)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,772 (312 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,743

Did you think of elves when reading this name? Probably not. But Avery has English and French origins meaning "ruler of the elves." There's a great "Lord of the Rings" reference there waiting to happen with this magical name.

#16. Boy: Jackson

- 2000-2021 rank: #32 (228,895 newborns named Jackson)
- 1980-1999 rank: #507 (1,402 newborns)
- Positions gained: 475

Jack, meaning "son of Jack," is an old English surname equally as popular as a first name. Some notable Jacksons? Artist Jackson Pollock, master of the drip technique, and late King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

#16. Girl: Gianna

- 2000-2021 rank: #83 (77,790 newborns named Gianna)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,888 (284 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,805

"Ciao, Bella!" The name Gianna comes from the Italian phrase "God is gracious." A version of the name Giovanna, it has a masculine form of Gianni, which many will associate with fashion designer Gianni Versace.

#15. Boy: Wyatt

- 2000-2021 rank: #61 (155,147 newborns named Wyatt)
- 1980-1999 rank: #578 (1,075 newborns)
- Positions gained: 517

Wyatt is a modern version of the medieval English name Wyard. It is also a broken version of the name Wigheard, meaning "battle" (wig) and "hardy" (heard). This name evokes images of the Wild West and its legendary gunslinger Wyatt Earp.

#15. Girl: Genesis

- 2000-2021 rank: #94 (68,907 newborns named Genesis)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,903 (281 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,809

Named for the first book of the Bible, Genesis literally means "origin" or "birth." Having origins in both Hebrew and Greek, featuring many stories, from "Noah's Ark" to "Adam and Eve."

#14. Boy: Sebastian

- 2000-2021 rank: #57 (158,309 newborns named Sebastian)
- 1980-1999 rank: #605 (998 newborns)
- Positions gained: 548

Many people may immediately think of the crustacean companion to Disney's mermaid Ariel, but Sebastian is a name of Greek origin, meaning "revered." Despite living centuries before, Johann Sebastian Bach continues to dominate classical music playlists and concert halls today.

#14. Girl: Aria

- 2000-2021 rank: #95 (68,836 newborns named Aria)
- 1980-1999 rank: #2,258 (218 newborns)
- Positions gained: 2,163

Italian for "lioness," Aria is short, yet mighty. From a literal translation, the name also means "air," "noble," and "honorable" in its native roots. While not spelled the same way, this name has experienced growing popularity, especially because of the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," which features a courageous character willing to break out of the feminine mold: Arya Stark.

#13. Boy: Carson

- 2000-2021 rank: #85 (100,522 newborns named Carson)
- 1980-1999 rank: #640 (913 newborns)
- Positions gained: 555

Scottish for "son of the marsh-dwellers," Carson has a splash of Western charm thanks to famed American pioneer Kit Carson. Though outlasting generations, Carson still maintains that modern feel.

#13. Girl: Isabella

- 2000-2021 rank: #4 (343,238 newborns named Isabella)
- 1980-1999 rank: #2,637 (177 newborns)
- Positions gained: 2,633

Looking for a classic yet loving name? Say hello to Isabella, an Italian girl's name that means "devoted to God" and has remained consistently popular for centuries. Plus, the word "bella" also means beautiful. The name's popularity has certainly risen ever since Bella Swan of the Twilight book series (and film franchise) rose to fame.

#12. Boy: Parker

- 2000-2021 rank: #94 (92,541 newborns named Parker)
- 1980-1999 rank: #652 (877 newborns)
- Positions gained: 558

Traditionally, Parker has been more commonly used as a boy's name than for girls, but with gender-neutral names on the rise, we're seeing more and more girls with the name. The name has been traditionally used as a last name to identify the bearer by their occupation as a "keeper of the park."

#12. Girl: Aaliyah

- 2000-2021 rank: #63 (90,154 newborns named Aaliyah)
- 1980-1999 rank: #3,145 (136 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,082

Previously uncommon until the late R&B singer and actress Aaliyah, the name is Arabic for "highly exalted one," making this both a powerful and spiritual name for a child.

#11. Boy: Liam

- 2000-2021 rank: #23 (258,778 newborns named Liam)
- 1980-1999 rank: #741 (685 newborns)
- Positions gained: 718

Historically used as a nickname for William, Liam is rooted in the Irish, meaning "helmet of will." Safe to say that Liam Neeson didn't star in "Taken" or "Schindler's List" for no reason.

#11. Girl: Makayla

- 2000-2021 rank: #71 (84,618 newborns named Makayla)
- 1980-1999 rank: #3,156 (135 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,085

A feminine variation of the name Michael, Makayla means "who resembles God" in Hebrew. The name's use in many forms, such as Micaela or Kayla, has helped bolster its popularity throughout the years.

#10. Boy: Connor

- 2000-2021 rank: #55 (162,344 newborns named Connor)
- 1980-1999 rank: #837 (560 newborns)
- Positions gained: 782

Bringing in an extra pitter-patter of feet into your pet-loving home? Perhaps consider the name Connor, Irish for "lover of hounds." According to Irish lore, dogs are highly regarded as a symbol of loyalty and good luck.

#10. Girl: Riley

- 2000-2021 rank: #39 (112,112 newborns named Riley)
- 1980-1999 rank: #3,135 (137 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,096

First cultivated thousands of years ago, rye was known as a grain that thrives in the most difficult of conditions. It's no mistake that Riley means "rye clearing" and could perhaps encourage the child to never be afraid of whatever life throws at them.

#9. Boy: Carter

- 2000-2021 rank: #56 (162,162 newborns named Carter)
- 1980-1999 rank: #840 (554 newborns)
- Positions gained: 784

A literal translation of the English surname is "one who uses a cart." Famous Carters include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and rappers Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter Jr.

#9. Girl: Peyton

- 2000-2021 rank: #88 (72,456 newborns named Peyton)
- 1980-1999 rank: #3,962 (97 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,874

This name was uncommon until the 1990s, but today sports fans would probably best know this name because of the top NFL Draft pick and stellar quarterback Peyton Manning.

#8. Boy: Colton

- 2000-2021 rank: #83 (102,179 newborns named Colton)
- 1980-1999 rank: #940 (453 newborns)
- Positions gained: 857

During the Industrial Revolution, many families moved into coal towns in the name of finding work, giving rise to Colton, meaning "swarthy person" or "coal town." Some parents might have chosen this name for its diminutive form, Colt, which denotes a playful, young horse.

#8. Girl: Camila

- 2000-2021 rank: #61 (91,579 newborns named Camila)
- 1980-1999 rank: #4,046 (94 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,985

A Spanish variation on Camilla, Camila means "young ceremonial attendant" in Latin. In ancient times, the name was associated with the swift-footed Roman huntress who was a favorite of the goddess Diana. Today, more people draw a connection with pop star Camila Cabello.

#7. Boy: Cooper

- 2000-2021 rank: #95 (90,907 newborns named Cooper)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,085 (350 newborns)
- Positions gained: 990

Cooper means "barrel maker" in English. It is a handy name that honors the craftsmen who created items such as buckets and other containers during medieval times.

#7. Girl: Skylar

- 2000-2021 rank: #98 (68,202 newborns named Skylar)
- 1980-1999 rank: #4,776 (74 newborns)
- Positions gained: 4,678

Meaning "noble scholar" in English, Skylar draws parents in with its beautiful diminutive Sky. Its Danish origins show it's a version of the name, Schuyler, which may now be on many a parent's mind due to the hit Broadway show "Hamilton" featuring the Schuyler sisters. The name has been linked to Skylar Grey, the famous singer-songwriter responsible for penning the hook to Eminem and Rihanna's chart-topping 2010 earworm "Love the Way You Lie."

#6. Boy: Grayson

- 2000-2021 rank: #91 (95,437 newborns named Grayson)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,085 (350 newborns)
- Positions gained: 994

From the English word meaning "son of a steward," Grayson certainly evokes images of a young sidekick to the Dark Knight, Robin, in the form of Dick Grayson.

#6. Girl: Madison

- 2000-2021 rank: #6 (303,657 newborns named Madison)
- 1980-1999 rank: #6,494 (48 newborns)
- Positions gained: 6,488

Meaning "son of Matthew," Madison is a name used for boys and girls alike. History's more famous Madisons include James Madison, co-author of the Constitution. And for the Beliebers out there, Justin Bieber's pop star protege Madison Beer may also come to mind.

#5. Boy: Aidan

- 2000-2021 rank: #81 (104,426 newborns named Aidan)
- 1980-1999 rank: #1,819 (153 newborns)
- Positions gained: 1,738

The original variant of the name comes from the Gaelic name Aodhán, inspired by the Irish mythical god of fire. One other theory is that it comes from the Persian name Aydin, meaning "bright" or "illuminated." Either way, this name connotes brightness and light, wonderful qualities in a child.

#5. Girl: Kennedy

- 2000-2021 rank: #87 (72,898 newborns named Kennedy)
- 1980-1999 rank: #8,301 (32 newborns)
- Positions gained: 8,214

Meaning "helmeted chief" in Gaelic, Kennedy has certainly lived up to its potential when taking the political powerhouse family of the Kennedys in consideration. Perhaps parents aspiring for children with inspiring leadership qualities chose this name for that reason.

#4. Boy: Brayden

- 2000-2021 rank: #71 (122,393 newborns named Brayden)
- 1980-1999 rank: #3,228 (66 newborns)
- Positions gained: 3,157

Brayden is part of a series of inventive names that all end with the "-ayden" sound that has slowly increased in popularity—Caden, Jayden, and Aiden, among them. This name has roots in the Irish for the word "broad" and evokes expansive things, such as rivers.

#4. Girl: Harper

- 2000-2021 rank: #44 (107,988 newborns named Harper)
- 1980-1999 rank: #8,591 (30 newborns)
- Positions gained: 8,547

Do you come from a musical family? Look no further than the name Harper. Originally an English surname for—you guessed it—those who played the harp instrument, Harper has a great chance to hit the right note.

#3. Boy: Jaxon

- 2000-2021 rank: #89 (96,598 newborns named Jaxon)
- 1980-1999 rank: #4,249 (44 newborns)
- Positions gained: 4,160

Jaxon has climbed up the ranks in the last two decades, moving from #477 to #55 on the Social Security Administration's ranking. This updated spelling of the classic Jackson has certainly shortened the name and amped up its cool factor.

#3. Girl: Zoey

- 2000-2021 rank: #54 (96,787 newborns named Zoey)
- 1980-1999 rank: #9,409 (25 newborns)
- Positions gained: 9,355

A Greek name meaning "life," Zoey is a variation of the name Zoe. There are several celebrities who bear the moniker (or close variations of it) including Zoey Deutch, Zooey Deschanel, and Zoë Kravitz.

#2. Boy: Aiden

- 2000-2021 rank: #31 (229,853 newborns named Aiden)
- 1980-1999 rank: #6,855 (16 newborns)
- Positions gained: 6,824

Aiden is an anglicized version of the old Irish name Adohán or Áedán, meaning "little fire." There are numerous famous Aidens from which to draw name inspiration, including a seventh-century saint known for his kindness and generosity and a popular character (Aidan) from the hit series "Sex and the City."

#2. Girl: Addison

- 2000-2021 rank: #32 (131,269 newborns named Addison)
- 1980-1999 rank: #10,154 (21 newborns)
- Positions gained: 10,122

Addison is an English surname, meaning "son of Adam." Today, it's a very popular gender-neutral name that is often associated with the nickname "Addie" and has gained popularity for rhyming with the name Madison.

#1. Boy: Jayden

- 2000-2021 rank: #33 (228,492 newborns named Jayden)
- 1980-1999 rank: #6,984 (15 newborns)
- Positions gained: 6,951

Derived from the Hebrew name Jadon, meaning "thankful," Jayden is a truly modern spelling of the ancient name. The name received a major bump in popularity when singer Britney Spears chose it for her second son, Jayden James Federline, born in 2006.

#1. Girl: Nevaeh

- 2000-2021 rank: #64 (89,022 newborns named Nevaeh)
- 1980-1999 rank: Unranked (0 newborns)
- Positions gained: At least 18,679

Topping the baby girl name list is none other than Nevaeh. This one is of American origin and is simply "heaven" spelled backward, giving a modern flair to what sounds like a biblical name.

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