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The latest list of top US baby names has a few surprises

May 14, 2024, 6:25 AM

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(CNN) — There’s a new arrival on the list of the most popular baby names in the US.

Mateo made it into the boys’ top 10 list for the first time, becoming the sixth-most popular boys’ name in 2023 and edging Benjamin off the list, according to recently released data from the Social Security Administration.

“Mateo had a huge jump. … The fact that Mateo went from No. 11 in 2022 to No. 6 in 2023 is insane. We don’t see that very often at the top of the charts,” says Sophie Kihm, editor-in-chief of the baby name website Nameberry.

Names leading the list don’t tend to shift quickly, Kihm says. Liam and Olivia are topping the rankings for the fifth consecutive year. And Mateo is the only new name to reach the highest tier.

The name’s inclusion on the boys’ top 10 list also marks a milestone, Kihm says.

“It’s pretty much the first identifiably Latino name, too, at least on the boys’ side,” she says.

More than 11,000 babies in the US were named Mateo last year, the highest number on record, according to the Social Security Administration. The name, which means “gift of God,” began ranking in the top 1,000 in 1995, Kihm says. Two decades later, it had reached the top 100. And in recent years, its popularity has intensified at an even faster rate, Kihm says.

Kihm, who also works as a consultant helping people name and rename their babies, points to several trends she suspects are contributing to Mateo’s rise.

The name’s rising popularity is likely linked to the growing Latino population in the US, says Kihm, who notes it’s become increasingly common for people of many different backgrounds to turn to their heritage when naming their babies.

But Mateo also has cross-cultural appeal, as do all names that reach the top tier of the Social Security Administration’s list, she says.

“It feels friendlier and more accessible than Matthew. It has that nice ‘-o’ ending, which people really like right now. … It feels very fresh, but it still is traditional,” she says.

Pop culture and social media are shaping name trends

Mateo’s arrival on the top 10 list wasn’t the only surprise in the latest rankings.

Officials also pointed out that pop culture is having an impact on the list of baby names that are rising in popularity the fastest.

Kaeli was the fastest-rising girls’ name last year, jumping to No. 678 in the rankings. In a news release Friday, the Social Security Administration credited a social media influencer for inspiring the trend.

“Parents must have really smashed the ‘like’ button for YouTube and TikTok star Kaeli McEwen (also known as Kaeli Mae), who routinely promotes a clean, tidy, and neutral-aesthetic lifestyle,” the news release said.

Word that her name was rising in popularity came as a surprise for McEwen, who has 14.7 million followers on TikTok but so far hasn’t heard of anyone naming a child after her.

“I was a little shocked to see that for sure. … Growing up & even now, I don’t know any other ‘Kaeli’s’!” she told CNN in an emailed statement.  “I do love the spelling of my name, so it’s pretty cool to see it become more popular!”

Kihm of Nameberry says social media may also have fueled the growing popularity of the second fastest rising girls’ name in 2023: Alitzel.

“There was a really popular TikTok in Spanish that was putting out all of these indigenous American girl names, and Alitzel was the first one, and it had more than 1 million views,” she says.

The boys’ name Chozen also saw its popularity skyrocket, to No. 813 on the list, after a character with that name became a hero in the latest season of “Cobra Kai,” the Social Security Administration said.

Kihm traces the name’s rising popularity back even earlier, to 2015, when NFL player Cam Newton named his son Chosen.

But one pop culture icon didn’t see a big bump on the baby name list last year, despite the box-office success of the movie that featured her: Barbie.

Just 32 people in the United States named their child Barbie last year, according to official data, only a slight increase from the previous year. The name didn’t crack the “top 1,000” baby name list last year. And neither did Ken.


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The latest list of top US baby names has a few surprises