Predicting the most popular baby names of 2018

Whether new parents want their baby's name to stand out from the crowd or fit in nicely among the other tots, it can be hard to predict if your plan will actually come to fruition. It's hard to see the zeitgeist while you're a part of it. 

So which baby names will be super popular in 2018 and which will be highly unique? I analyzed the Social Security Administration's data on changes in baby name popularity between 2015 and 2016 to spot names that are rising in popularity and creeping toward the top of the charts (2017 rankings haven't yet been released). Then I consulted with trend expert Daniel Levine of the Avant-Guide Institute to come up with this list of names that may be some of the most popular of 2018.

Emersyn

This newfangled spelling of the classic name Emerson jumped 90 spots to the 304th spot. As Levine notes, "while strange spellings are becoming commonplace, the names themselves are rooted in tradition. It's a balancing act that says 'I'm unique, but not strange.'" Emersyn/Emerson is definitely an example of this. 

The surname Emerson has been around the United States for a long time. Emerson College in Boston was named after minister Charles Emerson when he founded the school in 1880, and Ralph Waldo Emerson (above) is one of the most famous American poets of the 1800s. Nowadays, the first name Emerson (with the traditional spelling) is popular across the board — it's the #161 name for baby girls and #296 for baby boys. And if funky-spelling Emersyn keeps ascending the charts at the same rate, it could soon be in the top 100. Similar name Emery is ascending the charts for both genders, but it's already particularly popular with girls, currently at #130. With three versions of this name on the up and up, it will surely be a hot moniker for the next generation.

Leia

Leia leaped 100 spots on the charts to #321, and is a princess name for these times. Star Wars names are very hot at the moment, with names Kylo and Rey/Rae surging after the release of new installment, Force Awakens (Kylo jumped 2,368 spots last year, the biggest change of any boy's name!) 

Levine says animation and video games have a major influence on names right now, which could speak to the resonance of a sci-fi property like Star Wars. Perhaps after the tragic 2016 death of actress Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original films, more new parents will want to honor her by naming their kids after the badass space traveler that she portrayed.

Aloy

Here's a name you might think is going to be a standout, but could actually become really commonplace: Aloy. Levine highlighted this name as an example of one that is on the rise and could become very popular in the future. Like Emersyn, it's an updated version of a traditional name: Aloysius. 

According to BabyCenter, the name Aloysius is a boy's name that hit its peak popularity in 1898, but is once again on the rise. It sounds pretty old-timey to us now, but maybe in 20 years it will feel as young as the name Zayn.

Sage/Saige

Boys, girls, witches, mortals… all forms and applications of the name Sage are trending upward. The traditional spelling Sage is trending upward, moving up 15 points to #354 for girls, but the notable jump is for the boys, moving 102 spots to #546. Plus, the more modernly spelled Saige jumped 95 spots for girls. 

It makes sense that this name is emerging as a go-to, as it fits in with a number of current trends. Sage is an herb, which can be used in both cooking and magic (if that's what you're into). This puts it squarely in the hipster/artisanal name category (Brooklyn is the #34 most popular name right now for a reason), and in the witchcraft world, which is currently all the rage

There's also some crossover, as some millennials now burn sage as a cleansing ceremony for new homes. The word sage also, of course, means "wise through reflection and experience." This makes it kind of an ironic (but cute) name for a baby, and an apt one if the baby grows up to have some deep perspective.

Nier

As Levine says, "The "McDonaldization" of culture is propelling us to strive for individuality in our lives, which includes the names we choose for our children." Of course, if everyone tries to be original, originality can become common. This will explain what happened if there turn out to be a lot of new babies named Nier in the next few years. Levine chose this as an on-the-rise name, and it also fits the video game trend, and is a lot more catchy than naming your child Playstation. Just remember, "i" before "e."

Malia

5The Hawaiian name Malia jumped 55 spots last year to make the top 200 names, where it hasn't been since 2009, and it's no mystery why. Former First Daughter Malia Obama brought the name into the spotlight when her dad took office in 2008. And now she's a Harvard student, budding entertainment industry titan, and fashionable young person — a great role model to name a baby after. 

While Sasha was already a more common name before the Obamas entered the White House, it had it's biggest jump between 2008 and 2009 — the name moved 99 spots to #261. It's been trending downward quickly ever since, ranking in the 500s over the past few years. Though, the name has moved up nine spots since 2015 to #533. 

As for the name Barack? Not on the charts. It's probably a little too associated with one person.

Leo

There are a ton of different versions of the name Leo that are increasing in popularity: Leo, Leon, Leonel, Leonidas, Leonardo, and for girls, Leona. Even Mindy Kaling's character on her TV show The Mindy Project named her baby Leo

Perhaps all these babies with similar names will end up going by the nickname Leo, but they also have the option of a longer, more interesting version. You could probably come up with your own, too, though be warned: it might suddenly become extremely popular. How about Leonana? Leonido? Leom? Leonarda? The sky's the limit.

Nova/Luna

Two other space-related names that are jumping the charts are Nova and Luna. Nova made it into the top 200 girl's names after a 78-spot jump last year, and Luna jumped 33 spots to #77. A nova is a type of star, and luna is the Spanish word for moon

While the moon has — obviously — been around for quite some time, like millions of years, it's having a pop culture moment right now. You can pay $120 for a zodiac sweatshirt from Khloe Kardashian's line, read your lyrical horoscope from the Astro Poets (currently at 210K followers), and name all your children after objects you might find floating in outer space.

Harley

Looking for an edgy name for your future rebel baby girl? Harley jumped 57 spots to #224 for girls (but has been steadily trending downward for boys, ranking in the 600s for the past several years). The name connotes a Harley-Davidson motorcycle or villain Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad (the name Quinn is also rising), the 2016 movie inspired by the DC comics superheroes. If mean girls in the 80s were named Heather and the aughts were named Regina, perhaps in the 2020s they'll be named Harley. This is the perfect name for a badass in the making.