Names Like Sophia

August 25th, 2012


Ah, Sophia, Sophia.  You ancient venerable beauty, once a rarity, now found en masse in Kindergartens across the land.  I’ve always stated that the rise of the names Sophia, Isabella, Olivia and the like is evidence that the tide in name taste has turned a corner for the better.  But what do you do when you’ve loved this name forever, but your sister just chose it for her daughter born three months prior to yours?  Well, friends, you choose a different name.

Here’s a short list of Sophia stand-ins.  What would you choose?


Louisa – A steadfast beauty that deserves its rightful place among the top 10, yet isn’t found among the top 1000 most popular girls’ names in the United States (!)

Cecilia – Mellifluous and lovely like Sophia herself, with Classical roots.

Phaedra – A step outside the norm, but with similar cadence and sounds.

Athena – The Greek goddess of wisdom conveys the same meaning.

Minerva – Go with her Roman counterpart Minerva, and get the bonus darling nickname of Minnie.

Flavia – An Ancient Latin name, particular well-suited to the flaxen-haired.

Paloma – Brilliant meaning of “peace” or “dove”, this could appeal particularly to Sophia’s Latino devotees.

Sylvie – You could do Sylvie or the more obvious Sylvia.  I favor the lively -ie ending here.

Sonia – An International variation ready for her audience, this one has many spellings (Sonya, Sonja).

Zosia – A Polish transliteration with zest to spare.


Already have a little Sophia at home, love the name, but would prefer something less popular for her brother or sister?  Consider these complementary names:

Sisters: Beatrice, Imogen, Iris, Juliet, Verity

Brothers: Cosmo, George, Lawrence, Lucian, Theodore


Do you have any brilliant alternatives to Sophia?  I know you do!  What sibling names would you suggest?  


(Pictured: Film Star and character actress Sylvia Sidney, whose given name was Sophia Kosow.  How times have changed!)

A New Series.

June 7th, 2012

What to do when you love a terribly popular name?  I say, go ahead and choose the name you love the MOST.  But if you’re already convinced that you don’t want your child to be one of three in her class, maybe we can come up with alternatives for you.

What’s that you say?  You have baby name regret because you already hear your son’s name on multiple children everywhere you go?  You’re expecting a second child and don’t want to do this again?  Maybe we can help you find something in the same style, but isn’t quite so popular yet.

That’s why I’m starting a new series, “Names Like _____.”   I’ll start with Sophia and Jacob, and go down the list from there.  Sound like fun?  I hope so!  I’m looking forward to new discoveries and connections.

Image: Personalized name tiles by Nina van de Goor at Ninainvorm

WOOT!  Are you as excited as I am?  Just when I think I’ve seen it all, a fresh list of baby name statistics makes me feel like a new woman.

A look at the hottest names of 2011 is like a stylistic checkerboard of modern invynchuns and resuscitated old gems.  ElsieJune, Cora, OliveAtticus, Abel and Abram made some of the biggest leaps.  Meanwhile in the top ten, Sophia eclipsed Isabella for #1 spot, while Jacob refuses to fade in the twilight (couldn’t help myself).  Mason shot up from the #12 spot to #2.

Celebrities and reality television stars are the biggest influencers. Mila, of Mila Kunis fame, was the hottest star for girls. Question is, are they pronouncing that with a long or short I?  Iker honors Spanish soccer goalie Iker Casillas.  Yet what goes up must come down.  Those who fell from grace?  Kendra, Kimora, Kobe, and Khloe. And yet the Kray Kray kontinues with Kason, Karter, and Karson.

“Br” is now a most popular Brefix.  Brantley and Briella were the fastest risers in the ranks.  Parents are also turned to BrynleeBrynnBristolBraylen and even Bruce in droves.  Let’s not forget the BR in the middle.  Aubrey and her variant spellings had a very strong showing.  Yet when compared to the quickest names to plummet we see what a flash in the pan these names truly are:  Brisa, Brett, Brendan, Braiden, and Braeden, and Brayan were among the fastest fallers.

As for Unending Yndings?  RaelynnAdalynnLondyn and Adelyn are just a few (I had to copy and paste those for fear I’d forget the spellings).

Most scintillating perhaps are the new names that entered the top 1000 for the first time in a while.  AubriannaElliot :-( , Gwyneth, Hattie, Juniper, Kamille, Nova, and Temperance for girls.  Arlo, CassiusCrosby, Enoch, Hendrix, Kohen, Nixon, Otto, Princeton and Turner for boys are those I spotted.  Please chime in on the comments if you see more.

These are just some thoughts at first glance.  We’ll be delving more deeply into these and other categories as gleaned from the new SSA list in the coming weeks.  Did your favorite name have any dramatic change? 


As we all know by now, Natalie Portman and fiance Benjamin Millepied chose the name Aleph for their son.  Aleph represents the space marker in the Hebrew alphabet or aleph bet, that takes on the breathy position of a glottal stop or pronunciation of the vowel adjacent to it in the word.

Jewish mysticism associates Aleph with air, a oneness with God, and infinity.  In the sacred text Sefer Yetzirah, “Aleph is King over Breath, Formed Air in the universe, Temperate in the Year, and the Chest in the soul.”  In Rabbinic Hebrew, the Bible begins with Bet, the second letter of the alphabet.  To reward Aleph for “his” humility, he is given the task of starting The Ten Commandments.

In addition to the first letter of the alphabet, it also represents the number one.  Both Natalie Portman’s father Avner and her grandfather Arthur‘s names begin with the aleph, and it perhaps honors both men without explicitly naming her son after a living relative (her father is living while her grandfather has passed).  After reading more about Aleph, I’ve come to really respect the choice and expect my research only scratches the surface of this spiritual name.  Natalie Portman is a Harvard graduate would not take a decision like this lightly, so while at first it may have seemed like a wacky celeb name, it’s actually one chosen from careful deliberation.


The week also brought us news of another much anticipated babe, the child of David and Victoria Beckham.  They shocked us all when they chose zeitgeist sweetheart Harper as their daughter’s first name, but stuck to their convention of choosing the unconventional with they put Seven in the middle.

Despite being the fourth child, Seven is David Beckham’s lucky number. 7 was his Jersey when he played for English team Manchester United and the national team.  Harper Seven was also born in the 7th hour on the 7th day (Sunday) in the 7th month and weighed 7 something pounds.  It looks like it’s her lucky number too.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Seven used as a name.  Erykah Badu dubbed her son Seven way back in 1997, and as readers so astutely pointed out in the comments, Seven was George Costanza’s unborn child until a couple overheard him and “stole” the name.  My generation will recall Six on Blossom, and Novogratz child and fifth son Five made is reality TV debut last year on Nine By Design.

I went to high school with a boy called “Cuatro” because he was the fourth in line to bear the name.  Trey and Trip are also variations on this theme which sometimes wind up on the birth certificate.  I’m partial to Sixtine (sic) and Octavian myself.  In some languages Nina is the number nine and Una number one.

Do you think letters and numbers are the next wave in baby names? It’s just an extension of the word name trend, and has the capacity to dip into religious and cultural symbolism of the power of symbols, scientific and mathematical harmonies, and the history of language.  I can see Brooklyn parents really digging this.  Gone are the days when being “just a number” is construed as a bad thing.

Are there any letters or numbers you particularly would like to see on a child?

Name possibilities continue to run far and wide on the boys’ list.  I must admit that finding suitable substitutes for the top 100 blues proved to be more difficult than the pinks.  Nothing replaces a classic, but perhaps some of these suggestions, which include cognates and corollaries with similar pedigrees, will help to stimulate the imagination?  People have always been willing to take more of a chance with their daughters’ monikers, so don’t be surprised if many are out of your comfort zone.  I certainly don’t expect everyone anticipating baby David to make the leap to Moses overnight!   
  1. Jacob –> Max
  2. Michael –> Micah
  3. Ethan –> Egan
  4. Joshua –> Asher
  5. Daniel –> Philip
  6. Alexander –> Alasdair
  7. Anthony –> Antonio
  8. William –> Lawrence
  9. Christopher –> Peter
  10. Matthew –> Levi
  11. Jayden –> Quentin
  12. Andrew –> Hugh
  13. Joseph –> Jonah
  14. David –> Moses
  15. Noah –> Noam
  16. Aiden –> Declan
  17. James –> Elliot
  18. Ryan –> Reid
  19. Logan –> Lachlan
  20. John –> Paul
  21. Nathan –> Lathan
  22. Elijah –> Elias
  23. Christian –> Cristobal
  24. Gabriel –> Gideon
  25. Benjamin –> Barnabas
  26. Jonathan –> Phineas
  27. Tyler –> Spencer
  28. Samuel –> Samson
  29. Nicholas –> Matthias
  30. Gavin –> Gareth
  31. Dylan –> Deacon
  32. Jackson –> Maddox
  33. Brandon –> Graham
  34. Caleb –> Callum
  35. Mason –> Mercer
  36. Angel –> Abel
  37. Isaac –> Simon
  38. Evan –> Finn
  39. Jack –> Hank
  40. Kevin –> Kieran
  41. Jose –> Josue
  42. Isaiah –> Ishmael
  43. Luke –> Luca
  44. Landon –> Emmett
  45. Justin –> Justus
  46. Lucas –> Silas
  47. Zachary –> Zacharias
  48. Jordan –> Joachim
  49. Robert –> Rupert
  50. Aaron –> Abram
  51. Brayden –> Brennan
  52. Thomas –> Tobias
  53. Cameron –> Harrison
  54. Hunter –> Thor
  55. Austin –> August
  56. Adrian –> Oscar
  57. Connor –> Calder
  58. Owen –> Ewan
  59. Aidan –> Alban
  60. Jason –> Hector
  61. Julian –> Julius
  62. Wyatt –> Wesley
  63. Charles –> Louis
  64. Luis –> Linus
  65. Carter –> Jasper
  66. Juan –> Felipe
  67. Chase –> Grant
  68. Diego –> Octavio
  69. Jeremiah –> Japheth
  70. Brody –> Remy
  71. Xavier –> Felix
  72. Adam –> Asa
  73. Carlos –> Ruben
  74. Sebastian –> Frederick
  75. Liam –> Finlay
  76. Hayden–> Haddon
  77. Nathaniel –> Raphael
  78. Henry –> Edward
  79. Jesus –> Emanuel
  80. Ian –> Milo
  81. Tristan –> Stellan
  82. Bryan –> Byron
  83. Sean –> Seamus
  84. Cole –> Kai
  85. Alex –> Gus
  86. Eric –> Axel
  87. Brian –> Ronan
  88. Jaden–> Judah
  89. Carson –> Colin
  90. Blake –> Beckett
  91. Ayden –> Dante
  92. Cooper –> Conrad
  93. Dominic –> Damon
  94. Brady –> Brandt
  95. Caden –> Cadmus
  96. Josiah –> Jonas
  97. Kyle –> Kian
  98. Colton –> Corbin
  99. Kaden –> Roman
  100. Eli –> Leo



Times have changed.  The top 100 baby names in the United States at the moment are very heartening.  When we see lovelies such as Emma, Isabella, Sophia, and Olivia in the top 10, it’s momentous.  Taste has evolved for the better.  

Yet I still lament that many parents chose these beautiful names unwitting that they were so very very popular.  If you would like your child to be the only one in his or her class, try these alternates on for size.  I’ve tried to maintain similarity between history, style, and/or meaning.  Most will surprise your friends, but I’ll wager that many will garner more attention over the years.  Better to be ahead of the pack I say.  

Anyone else have some ideas we could tap into for great substitutes?  


  1. Emma  –> Rose
  2. Isabella –> Araminta
  3. Emily –> Cecily
  4. Madison –> Emerson
  5. Ava –> Wren
  6. Olivia –> Louisa
  7. Sophia –> Thalia
  8. Abigail –> Susannah
  9. Elizabeth –> Beatrice
  10. Chloe –> Thisbe
  11. Samantha –> Matilda
  12. Addison –> Auden
  13. Natalie –> Elodie
  14. Mia –> Pia
  15. Alexis –> Tamsin
  16. Alyssa –> Calista
  17. Hannah –> Keturah
  18. Ashley –> Holly
  19. Ella –> Isla
  20. Sarah –> Ruth
  21. Grace –> Jane
  22. Taylor –> Landry
  23. Brianna –> Chiara
  24. Lily –> Iris
  25. Hailey –> Harper
  26. Anna –> Laura
  27. Victoria –> Eleanor
  28. Kayla –> Kyra
  29. Lillian –> Laurel
  30. Lauren –> Devon
  31. Kaylee –> Paisley
  32. Allison –> Imogen
  33. Savannah –> Marietta
  34. Nevaeh –> Kalila
  35. Gabriella –> Francesca
  36. Sofia –> Rosa
  37. Makayla –> Nicola
  38. Avery –> Waverly
  39. Riley –> Rowan
  40. Julia –> Delia
  41. Leah –> Willa
  42. Aubrey –> Ellery
  43. Jasmine –> Sorrel
  44. Audrey –> Penelope
  45. Katherine –> Genevieve
  46. Morgan –> Rhiannon
  47. Brooklyn –> Astoria
  48. Destiny –> Verity
  49. Sydney –> Bristol
  50. Alexa –> Alethia
  51. Kylie –> Esme
  52. Brooke –> Greer
  53. Kaitlyn –> Maireed
  54. Evelyn –> Violet
  55. Layla –> Lelia
  56. Madeline –> Jacqueline
  57. Kimberly –> Bellamy
  58. Zoe –> Xanthe
  59. Jessica –> Yessenia
  60. Peyton –> Arden
  61. Alexandra –> Helena
  62. Claire –> Alice
  63. Madelyn –> Marianne
  64. Maria –> Marina
  65. Mackenzie –> Connolly
  66. Arianna –> Renata
  67. Jocelyn –> Bronwyn
  68. Amelia –> Cecilia
  69. Angelina –> Celestina
  70. Trinity –> Haven
  71. Angela –> Irena
  72. Maya –> Mina
  73. Valeria –> Valentina
  74. Sophie –> Noemie
  75. Rachel –> Esther
  76. Vanessa –> Valencia
  77. Aaliyah –> Eliana
  78. Mariah –> Mireya
  79. Gabrielle –> Giselle
  80. Katelyn –> Gillian
  81. Ariana –> Alessia
  82. Bailey –> Bronte
  83. Camila –> Paloma
  84. Jennifer –> Juniper
  85. Melanie –> Coralie
  86. Gianna –> Giulia
  87. Charlotte –> Josephine
  88. Paige –> Sage
  89. Autumn –> September
  90. Payton –> Larkin
  91. Faith –> Blythe
  92. Sara –> Lucy
  93. Isabelle –> Juliette
  94. Caroline –> Vivian
  95. Genesis –> Evangeline
  96. Isabel –> Mirabel
  97. Mary –> Susan
  98. Zoey –> Pax
  99. Gracie –> Sadie
  100. Megan –> Teagan

Just Kidding. Sophia #1

May 20th, 2009

Sophia Loren


It seemed something was awry.  I hear Sophia incessantly.  Emma had her day.  And where are all the Aidens, Jadens, and Caydens we keep coming across???

The answer lies in multiple spellings.  

What happens when we add the numbers?  The big new is, Emma is not number one.


Here are THE REAL top 10 from You Can’t Call It “It”:

1) Sophia 21,783 (SSA ranked #7) - Sophia 15,887 + Sofia 5,896   …Sophie is at 4,014

2) Isabella 20,398 (#2) - Isabella 18,377 + Izabella 1,454 + Isabela 567

3) Emily 19,807 (#3) - Emily 17,217 + Emely 1081 + Emilee 678 + Emilie 436 + Emmalee 395

4) Madison 19,563 (#4) - Madison 16,853 + Maddison 1,010 + Madisyn 880 + Madyson 820

5) Olivia 18,927 (#6) - Olivia 16,845 + Alivia 1,809 + Alyvia 273

6) Emma 18,587 (#1) – one spelling

7) Ava 17,122 (#5) - Ava 16,850 + Avah 272

8 ) Abigail 16,108 (#8) - Abigail 14,901 + Abbigail 605 + Abagail 314 + Abigayle 288

9) Hailey 15,353 (#26) - Hailey 7,788 + Haley 3,301 + Haylee 1,451 + Hayley 837 + Hailee 683 + Haylie 624 + Haleigh 404 + Hailie 265

10) Kaitlyn 14,256 (#53) - Kaitlyn 5,062 + Katelyn 3,932 + Caitlyn 1,472 + Caitlin 1,449 + Katelynn 1,116 + Kaitlin 664 + Kaitlynn 561


And for boys, it is as we feared.  Does this sound more realistic?

1) Aiden 31,799 (#16) - Aiden 15,411 + Aidan 7,628 + Ayden 5,010 + Aden 1,368 + Aaden 950 + Aydan 451 + Aydin 387 + Aidyn 332 + Aedan 262

2) Jayden 27,090 (#11) – Jayden 16,942 + Jaden 5,126  + Jaiden 2,319 + Jaydon 657 + Jadon 578 + Jaeden 405 + Jaydin 299 + Jaidyn 269 + Jadyn 262 + Jaydan 233

3) Jacob 23,337 (#3) – Jacob 22,272 + Jakob 1,065

4) Michael 20,874 (#2) -Michael 20,298 + Micheal 576

5) Ethan 20,227 (#3) – Ethan 20,004 + Ethen 223

6) Christopher 19,269 (#9) – Christopher 17,783 + Kristopher 677 + Cristopher 549 + Cristofer 260

7) Joshua 18,924 (#4) – one spelling

8 ) Alexander 18,776 (#6) – Alexander 18,423 + Alexzander 353

9) Daniel 18,717 (#5) – one spelling

10) Caden 18,398 (#95) – Caden 4,718 + Kaden 4,449 + Kayden 2,569 + Cayden 2,297 + Kaiden 2,082 + Caiden 1,389 + Kaeden 360 + Kadin 316 + Kadyn 218


Applause to the Social Security Administration for giving us so much information.  I appreciate the way they do the rankings, because to me, Abigail and Abigayle are worlds apart.  

Yet it can be misleading.  

Parents looking for an unusual name opt for Caden, which holds 95th place on the SSA list.  Yet with combined spellings, Ks, Ys, and all, we’re looking at the tenth most often heard name on the playground.  

Emma holds the distinction of being the only version of her kind in the top 1000.  I’ve seen Ema and Imma too.  Madeline could eclipse Kaitlyn for the number 10 coveted spot, except that I steadfastly refuse to believe that all Madelines in the U.S. pronounce their names to rhyme with “Lynn.”  If you ask me, Madeline has always rhymed with “wine”, and any other pronunciation is a little bit lazy.  I let Alivia/Alyvia slide. 

Still, the list deviates from my local experience.  The girls are familiar with Sophia and Isabella calling the shots, but in my bubble?  It’s all about Max and Henry, way down at 126 and 78.  One spelling each (not counting the long versions of Max!) Hmph.  



This was all I wanted for Mother’s Day.  

SSA published the list.  Here’s a look at the fast risers from vast wealth that is the Social Security Administration top 1000 names from 2008.


People are quicker to take chances on their girls.

Who woulda’ thunk it?  The fastest female riser was Khloe with a K, catapulting 469 places from #665 to #196.  Jacoby, top choice for boys in 2008 plus a superfluous Y, rose a mere 200 points by comparison from 623 to 423. Khloe konspired with Chloe, who cracked the top 10 for the first time up from #16 in 2007.  Khloe has gained attention as an alternate spelling from Keeping Up With the Kardashians, all of whom have names that begin with K (the sisterhood includes Kourtney, Kim, Kendall and Kylie).  And all of this goes back to O.J., remember?  Jacoby rides on the coattails of Jacob as an intriguing cognate.  He saw the limelight last year on the baseball field with Red Sox rookie Jacoby Ellsbury.  


Couch Potatoes:

Khloe- Kardashian, up a staggering 469 points from #665 to #196

Audrina- The Hills, up 354 to #353

Kimora- Kimora Lee Simmons of reality TV, up 73 to #291

Penelope- Ms. Cruz, LOST- up 51 to #358

Aaden- Debuted at an insane #323, “the professor” (one with the glasses) on Jon and Kate +8.

Cohen- The O.C., up 35 landing at #356

Sawyer- LOST, up 15 to #225

and many, many more…


L is where it’s at.  

Non-consecutive double Ls prevail.  Lilah, Lyla, Delilah, Lila, Lola, Leila, Lilly, Laila, Leilani, Lilliana, Lillian, Lily, and Liliana all prove much more appealing to parents in 2008 compared to previous years.  When you combine Lilah, Lyla, and Lila alone, they rose at total of 384 places, bringing it to 4th on the list of climbers.


K is also masculine.

The hard C sound connotes strength on the boys’ side, in several forms.  Only two of the top 10 male risers are missing this sound– August and Braylon.  The other top eight here?  Jacoby, Kane, Beckett, Paxton, Kale, Ryker, Kingston and Kolton.  Gotta love the K.  


Spell it any which way but Jadon.

While Jadon, a bonafide Biblical name, fell 48 spots last year from #473 to #425, his brothers (and sisters) bumrushed the list:  Zayden leaped the most, 103 points from #591 to #488.  Braydon rose 39 points, from #364 to #325.  Braiden, Kayden, Caiden, Kaiden, and Jaiden all jumped 24 places or more.  Jaydon and Braeden were the only other double digit droppers in the clan.  

The ever feminine Peyton and Payton broke through the top 100 girls’ names at #60 and #90 respectively.  While still qualifying as androgynous, they are much less popular for boys with he-Peyton at #130 (fell 5) and he-Payton at #276 (rose 3).  She-Hayden rose 69 points to #126.  She-Kayden rose 117 to #391.


The Break Throughs.

Boys inducted into the top 1000 of note include Odin, Pierre, Callum, Cassius, Leonidas, and Tripp.

Amongst the new girls are Sloane, Nola, June, Isla, Matilda, Gemma, and Kenley.


Above: An overnight baby name celebrity, Khloe Kardashian.

It's UP!!!

May 8th, 2009



The social security administration has released the stats for top 1000 names of 2008.  Chloe and Alexander made it into the top 10, both leapfrogging multiple places.  Emma usurped Emily for top honors on the girls’ side.  Jacob still holding strong to number one for the tenth year.

Let’s reconvene later to compare results.  Can’t wait!



Top 10 Names for 2008
Rank Male name Female name
1 Jacob Emma
2 Michael Isabella
3 Ethan Emily
4 Joshua Madison
5 Daniel Ava
6 Alexander Olivia
7 Anthony Sophia
8 William Abigail
9 Christopher Elizabeth
10 Matthew Chloe

Cough It Up!

April 16th, 2009


I think it’s safe for us to share now.  What, pray tell, did you enter on your Baby Name Wizard ballot for the SSA’s fastest risers and fallers?


My Ballot:


1. Adelyn-  I had to do it.  I debated between Adelyn, Adeline and Adelaide– the latter two being better known names with history.  Adelyn struck me because it’s appeared only once on the SSA list in 2007, yet I see it on name boards often.  It’s resemblance to Madelyn and Camryn is what made me opt for this spelling on the ballot.  Adelaide and Adeline already show fast rising tragectories, and either of those would have been a good, safe choice.  

2. Finn-  This one popped up out of nowhere for me this year.  Suddenly, not only do I hear it everywhere, but it seems to be a real crowdpleaser with the online crew as well.  I know a Fenton, a Finley, a Phineas, and one potential Finnegan on the way.  Nameberry posed it as “the new Max.”  I’m inclined to agree.  

3. Harlow-   It’s that catchy O.  People of all different backgrounds went gaga for the name of Nicole Richie’s baby girl born in January last year.  This is my attempt at prophecy, for it has not yet entered the top 1000.  If it doesn’t this year it will next.  I probably should have just stuck with my original choice of Willow, which has gained steady favor over the last few years.  2009 will see an even bigger jump in Willow after the Palin exposure.  I’ve also run across some real life baby Shilohs born in ’08– another good choice I *almost* wrote in.  


1. Brittney

2. Paris

3. Lindsay

Total cop-out.  Except in the case of a massive calamity like Hurricane Katrina, I find it desperately hard to chart the fallers.  These three are already on their way down.  The namesakes just don’t have the same allure they once did.  

As for the ranking for Bella?  I’ll bet my guess was a lowballer at 132.

Laura Wattenberg, the poll’s creator, posted her own ballot here, along with the most popular guesses.