Baby names are interesting because, just like the latest fashions, they tend to ride on trends. Some names remain all-time classics just like the little black dress that was the well-known staple of icons such as Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Edith Piaf. On the other hand, some names today are just as fashionable as voluminous baroque dresses and corsets. That is, you’ll find them here and there, but they’re no longer the norm. Yet other names rise up in popularity due to the latest, hippest movie star or book character.

This is why names such as Clementine, Constance, Bertrand and Alastair were popular back in their day. Also why names such as Lex, Winter, Azure and, yes, even Harry have come and gone on the popular name lists over time.

Of course, no matter the culture, we parents do want to imbue our baby’s names with all sorts of things. Some parents value originality, while others prefer familiar, conventional ones. Some parents name their kids after a well-loved family member while others after famous people they never got a chance to meet. Many parents prefer a name that nods to their native culture. A few parents prefer strange permutations of their own names. Yet others just want to give their child something that won’t get them bullied at school.

Nevertheless, a few names did stand out over the past year, in the U.S. and Canada, at least! Here are some of North America’s popular baby names in the past year.

20 Thomas
New parents may have hoped their newborn son would grow up to be an inventor like Thomas Edison, or perhaps even a president like Thomas Jefferson who also happened to be the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence. Or perhaps we need look no further in time and conclude that plenty of new parents are quite taken with the actor Tom Hiddleston (and yes, his real name is Thomas William) who became famous in recent years for his role as Loki in Thor and The Avengers.

While Thomas wasn’t as hot in the United States, the name soared in popularity in Canada. Expect a slew of little Toms to fill Canadian preschools in a few years!

19 Ava
Ava is derived from luxurious, but slightly dated names such as Aventina and Aveline. Ava could also be derived from the Persian language, where it means voice. However, probably the most iconic Ava in show business is the sultry rags-to-riches pinup and movie star Ava Gardner.

Several celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, Andrea Roth and Jack Ingram have chosen to name their children Ava, which probably helped boost its popularity over the years.

18 Michael
Michael is just a quintessential boy name. Inspiration includes the Archangel Michael, who in the Bible led the armies of God. Or, perhaps, Michael could even be named after popstar Michael Jackson or swimmer Michael Phelps.

In the United States, at least, Michael has held a spot in the top five name list for more than fifty years!

17 Charlotte
Charlotte has also had a steady rise in popularity over the years. Many Charlottes are named after the novelist Charlotte Brontë who wrote the classic story of Jane Eyre.

Perhaps also one of the inspirations for the rise of Charlotte is that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named their new daughter Charlotte! The royal couple chose this name as it is a female version of the name of her grandfather, Prince Charles. Interestingly, the new Princess’ name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, which means that she is also named after her grandmother and her great-grandmother as well.

16 Alexander
Whether the little tyke is named after Alexander the Great, the Greek king and conqueror, or Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, or even fashion designer Alexander McQueen, this is a pretty solid name in both North American countries.

The popular name also has plenty possible nicknames that are equally great-sounding such as Alex and Xander.

15 Emily
Emily is the second of the Brontë sisters to have a name in the past year’s popular lists! (Sorry Anne!) Emily Brontë‘s most popular work is Wuthering Heights, which is at once the darkest and most passionate of the Brontë novels. But other possible inspirations for the name Emily include Emily Dickinson, the tragic writer of beautiful poetry. Else, little Emily could have been named after actresses like Emily Blunt or Emily Browning.

14 James
James is yet another classic boy name. It’s slightly less popular than it used to be back in the 1970s but nevertheless a good number of kids are still named James. Famous Jameses include the British Explorer James Cook, the actor James Franco, the writer James Joyce and, of course, James McAvoy who plays Professor Charles Xavier in the recent X-men movie. That’s not to mention the number of kings and Presidents named James.

13 Abigail
All of the last year’s little Abbys may have been named after one of the two American first ladies named Abigail (Adams and Fillmore.) Or, perhaps, after Abigail Breslin, the Oscar-nominated actress who had a supporting role in Little Miss Sunshine. Young Abby may have also been named after the slew of fictional characters with that name, including Dr. Abby Lockhart of the ER series or Abigail (Abby) Sciuto of the worldwide popular TV series NCIS. Abigail is also mentioned in the Bible as a wise and humble woman.

12 Mason
A mason works with stone. Mason is, hence, a rock-solid name that has gained momentum in its popularity over the years. Famous Masons include Mason Andrews, the doctor who delivered the first test tube baby in America, as well as the number of athletes named Mason. Kourtney Kardashian and ex-boyfriend Scott Disick, named their eldest son Mason.

11 Isabella
Isabella has increased in popularity over the years. This Spanish and Italian name has, interestingly, surpassed its English counterpart Elizabeth in popular name lists. Isabella is the name of a number of Spanish, French and Italian queens, just as the name Elizabeth has made two appearances in the English royalty.

However, the popularity of the name increased greatly following the Twilight novel series that featured heroine Isabella Swan. Isabella is also the name of Heathcliff’s wife in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights.

10 Ethan
Ethan is a Hebrew name that means strength. Despite these origins, it didn’t become a popular name until it made a steep rise in the past decade. It is aptly the name of several athletes, as well as that of actor Ethan Hawke. Popular Ethans in fiction, however, include Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt and Lost’s Ethan Rom.

9 Zoe
Zoe was a popular name of early Christians but had waned and then risen in popularity over the years. Hence, despite its deep history, Zoe is widely considered a modern name. Popular Zoes include Zoe Saldana, who appeared in iconic movies such as Avatar, Star Trek and Pirates of the Caribbean. The phonetic Zooey is the name of the star who played Jessica Day in New Girl, Zooey Deschanel.

8 Noah
Many Noahs are named after the Biblical Noah, who built the ark. Or, perhaps, little Noah could have taken his name from the fictional Noah Calhoun of The Notebook, or Noah Joad of The Grapes of Wrath. Also,

Despite the Biblical origins, it wasn’t until the early 90’s that the name shot up in popularity. The name may also be because of the popular actor Noah Wyle from ER, Falling Skies and The Librarians.

7 Maya
Maya and its variants, Mya and Mia, have risen in popularity over the past decade. One reason why its popularity in the United States and Canada shot up over the past two years is probably because of the death of legendary poet, author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou in 2014. Because of Maya Angelou’s impact on the lives of countless people, we expect more baby Mayas in the coming years to pay tribute to her.

6 Jacob
Jacob is another Biblical name that has risen in popularity over the years. Like the name Bella, this may be due to the popularity of the novel Twilight where one of the lead character’s love interests is named Jacob Black.

It is also the name of child actor Jacob Tremblay who recently played in Room, as well as the main character in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Since the best-selling book is due to be released as a movie by Tim Burton later this year, we expect that more little Jakes are to come!

5 Sophia
Sophia is a name that has been popular throughout history. A number of queens and princesses across Europe have been named Sophia. It is also the name of a number of famous and accomplished people including iconic Italian bombshell Sophia Loren, Sophia Vergara and the American educator Sophia Packard.

Its variation, Sofia, also happens to be the name of the Disney Junior princess in Sofia the First.

4 William
The next generation’s Wills and Bills may have been named after anyone from English poet William Shakespeare to modern-day Prince William Duke of Cambridge and second-in-line for the English throne. Or, perhaps, even engineer and host of Bill Nye the Science Guy, William Nye.

Despite William’s popularity over the recent years, the name is actually slowly declining in popularity.

3 Emma
Emma is another name that has been popular over the years. Emma Woodhouse is the title character of one of Jane Austen’s novels. It is also the name of a number of modern-day stars such as Harry Potter star Emma Watson, The Amazing Spiderman leading lady Emma Stone, and Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson.

2 Liam
Liam is a variation of William that has risen far over the original just in the past ten years. Its rise in popularity is probably due to modern-day actors named Liam, including Liam Hemsworth who played Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games and Liam Neeson, star in films like Taken. Liam was the top boy baby name of the past year.

1 Olivia
Last year’s top baby girl name is no other than Olivia, another relative newcomer to the popular name scene. Little Olivia may have been named after pin-up actress Olivia de Havilland, House actress Olivia Wilde, or Grease star Olivia Newton-John.


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