Oliver and Olivia top Utah baby names list for third-straight year

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SALT LAKE CITY — The 2018 list of top baby names is out and there are going to be elementary schools full of a very similar name. Oliver and Olivia lead the top names in Utah for the third year in a row.

The Top 10 lists for Utah and the United States have a lot of repeats. The top five names for the boys in Utah are Oliver, William, Liam, James and Henry; and the girls’ top five names are Olivia, Charlotte, Emma, Evelyn and Lucy.

In the U.S., the top boys’ names in order are Liam, Noah, William, James and Oliver; for girls, Emma remains at the top, followed by Olivia, Ava, Isabelle and Sophia.

The list does not combine different spellings for the same name, like Jackson and Jaxon. The former is tenth on Utah’s list and the latter is No. 32.

“I’m sure that the data here underestimate the creativity and diversity of our naming practices in Utah,” said Dr. Russell T. Warne, associate professor of psychology at Utah Valley University.

Warne took a closer look at the data and trends over the years.

Rising and falling name trends

One of the largest local and nationwide trends is bringing back names from older generations.

“Oliver is a really good example of that. William and Charlotte — both of those are No. 2 in Utah for boys and girls,” Warne said. “These were names that were really popular about three or four generations ago. They lost some of their popularity and now they are really coming back."

Girl names have more change and turnover than boy names but experience the same trends. For example, the name Emma, which tops the U.S. list again and appears on the top five for Utah, was numbered in the 400s in the 1970s. But at the turn of the century, it was in the Top 50.

Warne said if a name becomes too popular, it tends to decline in popularity. He likened that to the Billboard Hot 100.

“As songs become more and more popular, people start feeling like they’re hearing them too much and they pull back and they fall off the top list,” he said. “The same thing happens to baby names, but it’s a lot slower cycle.”

Name phonetics

How a name sounds factors in popularity, Warne said.

“One thing that’s popular in boy names is that ‘un’ or ‘on’ ending. Jackson is No. 10 in Utah; then you see Lincoln, Logan, Hudson, Mason,” he explained. “But once something becomes too popular, it falls out of fashion, and people start pulling away.”

Name diversity

Parents are also more likely to come up with diverse girl names than boy names, he said. Their names are becoming increasingly unique.

“The top 1,000 names have a smaller and smaller percentage each year of the whole,” Warne said.

Pop culture

Meanwhile, a blog post from the Social Security Administration says pop culture names are rising fast. And Warne said that’s because most people who are naming babies are people in their 20s and 30s.

For example, Bella and Elizabella became popular a decade ago with the rise of “Twilight.” Warne believes the name Liam could be popular lately because it’s the name of a band member in “One Direction,” and also Liam Neeson's name.

Some parents just like the sound of a name they are hearing out there and want to have it for their own child, he said. The names Genesis for boys and Meghan for girls are growing more popular, and we’ll see if more parents choose Archie or Harrison next year because of the newest addition to the royal family, the son of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, born earlier this month.


And Yara from “Game of Thrones” jumped 314 spots in 2018. At the same time, though, pop culture can also kill a name’s popularity. That typically happens in politics, according to Warne.

Future name trends

Since name popularity fluctuates, it’s hard to tell what will be popular in the future. But Warne said Utah tends to be ahead of national trends.

“Utah might be a bellwether,” he said. “It’s hard to say for sure, but it has happened in the past. … You just never know. It just takes one person or one popular movie or book to really create a trend.”

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Mary Richards
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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