Name Trends: What's New and What's Next

Why should you care about trends? You're picking a name because you love it, not because of what everybody else thinks. In fact, you're determined to buck the trends and pick a name off the beaten track! Well, you're smack dab in the middle of the hottest naming trend of the 21st century.

Each year, hundreds of American babies are named Unique. It reflects a society where individuality has become a cherished virtue. Remember, as a kid, looking for souvenir license plates with your name printed on them? It's tough times now for the souvenir manufacturers, with every family in town inventing its own spelling of names like Alysha and Kayden.

In the 1950s, the top 10 names for boys and girls accounted for a quarter of all babies. Today, it's less than a tenth. Even parents who opt for classics are rejecting the once-standard nicknames. James sounds distinguished; Jim too "ordinary." And "ordinary" is becoming an endangered species. Names like Fred and Joan have completely disappeared.

So how do you stay truly distinctive in a sea of distinctive names? And how do you make sure you're not crossing the line from creative to just plain weird? Your child will be an individual, but you still want him to fit in.

The best way to find your perfect balance is to understand the trends that shape name style. You may end up rethinking whether Madison is really more individual than Martha, and Summer more creative than June. Or you may be emboldened to use a name your parents would never have dreamed of.

To get you started, here are the five most influential trends for the names of the coming generation. Each takes a different path toward individuality. The first four tap existing sources '- the past, foreign languages, surnames and common words '- for names that are fresh, but familiar. The fifth breaks new ground with completely modern inventions. For each trend you'll find examples that illustrate the current height of fashion, as well as suggestions of undiscovered names that could hit the same style bull's-eye.

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