About Names: Dr. Cleveland Evans on the top Baby Names of 2023

Photo of a newborn (Photo by Kimberly Vardeman, CC-BY-2.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 19th column, he discusses the name the top Baby Names of 2023.

Sophia, Liam and Noah cemented their baby name popularity in 2023, while a soccer star and a country singer helped their names soar.

May 10 the Social Security Administration released the United States’ top baby names of 2023.

On SSA’s lists, Liam and Olivia have been No. 1 since 2019.

SSA counts every spelling separately. I add together spellings pronounced the same, creating lists I believe show popularity more accurately.

When alternative spellings like Jaxon were added, Jackson was first on my list from 2013 through 2020. Jackson’s now swiftly declining, only ranking fourth in 2023. Liam, Noah and Oliver are the top three on both my “combined spellings” list and Social Security’s single spelling version.

Liam rose 1.8% and Noah 2.2% last year, despite the total number of births declining 2.3%.

Liam and Noah are international hits. Both rank among the top 11 in Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Quebec, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Argentina. Noah’s now No. 1 in England, Australia and New Zealand, where Liam had its heyday back in the 1990s.

After Jackson, the rest of my 2023 male top 10 were Mateo, Lucas, Elijah, Luca, James and Aiden. All were on the list in 2022, though Mateo, Lucas and Luca rose in rank.

Mateo increased 11.6%, fourth biggest percentage among the top 100. This Spanish form of Matthew is Liam and Noah’s counterpart in the Spanish-speaking world, ranking No. 1 in Chile and Argentina, and No. 2 in Mexico, Spain and Uruguay.

Thiago had the quickest rise among the top 100, soaring 28.3% from 112th to 84th. Thiago’s a Portuguese form of Santiago, “St. James” in Spanish. Much of Thiago’s popularity stems from international soccer star Thiago Alcântara, born 1991 in Italy to Brazilian parents. Like many soccer greats — including his father, Mazinho, who helped Brazil win 1994’s World Cup — Thiago is a one-name celebrity. He plays for Liverpool in England’s Premier League as well as the Spanish national team.

Another example of soccer fandom influencing baby names is that Kylian, French form of Irish saint’s name Cillian or Killian, is now the most common spelling for American newborns. Kylian Mbappé is captain of the French national team.

With Sofia and other spellings added, 19,836 Sophias arrived in 2023, 156 more than in 2022. Sophia’s been No. 1 since 2011. Traditional Spanish spelling Sofia accounted for 37% in 2022 and 38.5% in 2023.

The rest of the girls’ top 10 are Olivia, Emma, Amelia, Charlotte, Isabella, Mia, Evelyn, Camila and Eliana. Eliana nudged Ava out of the top 10. A saints’ name from a Roman family name meaning “sun,” Eliana’s also used in Israel, where it’s interpreted as Hebrew “God has answered.” Its sound fits in with other fashionable names like Isabella and Amelia.

Lainey was the fastest riser among the girls’ top 100, skyrocketing 91.4% to 55th from 140th. Lainey Wilson was the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year for 2023.