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The Most Popular Baby Names of 2020 (and Why It Doesn't Matter)

Can you win at naming your baby?

Published on: June 08, 2021


Can we talk about baby names? Although chances are, you’ve already spent a lot of time talking about them.    

It’s a challenge, right? We try so hard to find that perfect name: something cute but still maybe a little interesting, and it’s okay for it to be popular — but not too popular — and maybe there should be some family history associated with it, and OMG you can't use that name now because your sister took it...

We stress and fret and worry then go back to stressing, and then even after all of that, we tend to pick the same thing as everyone else. That’s why a lot of babies end up sharing the same names as you'll notice from the list of most popular baby names released recently by the Social Security Administration.

We hear something cute, and we think “That would be a good name for my baby.” And before you know it, everyone is named Liam. Which is totally fine — I’ve got a Liam in my extended family. Whose best friend happens to be named Liam.  

Fun fact: there were just over 40,000 boys born in Washington in 2020, and just over 400 of them were named Oliver. That was the most common male name for the year. And it’s a great name! But if you’re looking for a moniker that’s one-in-a-million, you should know that Oliver is closer to one-in-a-hundred.  

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that names come and go depending on societal whims. You don't see a lot of baby Karens these days. No surprises if you’ve seen any viral videos lately. Incidentally, my mother’s best friend is named Karen, and she’s the nicest person I know — I guess that’s why no one is shooting videos of her. But okay, maybe not Karen this year.

Other names in the news continue to rise and fall like the tides. Donald is still plummeting. Kamala is on the rise. Joe is… pretty much holding steady. I think we can all agree that Joe is just a solid name. Twenty years ago, names like Phoebe, Rachel and Monica were more popular, because no one told you life was gonna be this way (Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap!!).  

I’ll be the first to admit that I stressed about names. Our firstborn got a family name from my side, then a middle name from my wife’s side to even things out. Then we reversed things for our second. We ended up with names we both loved that also managed to honor older generations in our family — not a priority, but we gave ourselves bonus points. But we needn’t have worried so much. Kid number three felt like a freebie for us, and we simply picked a name we both loved and never thought twice about it. And even if we had decided to name our baby Mashed Potato, and a bunch of other people happened to do the same thing, it wouldn’t matter. When we looked at our baby, he would be our Mashed Potato. With his drooling little smile, and his bright eyes the color of… melted butter… 

My point is this — the name you choose always ends up being the right name for your kid. Parenting is stressful enough. Let’s stop beating ourselves up before the kid’s even born! There is no “winning.” Find a name you love and use it. And if you name your new baby girl Emma (number two in popularity for girls after — I kid you not — Olivia) then your Emma will end up being the only Emma in the world for you, the most special Emma.  

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change my baby’s diaper. His name is Aaarussellwilson. Because I love the Seahawks, and he’ll always get to go first when they do stuff at school.  

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