What's in a name? Well, according to experts, baby names express both an individual family's tastes and traditions, as well as the changing trends of an era. And for babies born in 2009-a year of national challenges and a global recession-that has meant a return to the classic monikers of decades past.
While some of the most popular baby names, such as Emma, Isabella, Aiden, and Jayden, have been going strong for several years, other more unusual baby names, like Rory, Riley, and Gavin, are now making their first appearance in the top 10.
1. Ella 2. Grace 3. Emma 4. Elizabeth 5. Lorelei 6. Riley 7. Rory 8. Isabella 9. Chloe 10. Anna
1. Aiden 2. Jayden 3. Dylan 4. James 5. Gavin 6. Benjamin 7. Caleb 8. Nathan 9. Jack 10. Andrew
Bear in mind, however, that while some parents are sticking with the classics, others-including celebrities-are opting for unique baby names. Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, for example, named their son Sparrow, and their older daughter boasts the unusual name Harlow.
In addition, baby naming trends vary by state. In California, for example, the leading 2008 baby names were Daniel and Isabella; in Arkansas, parents opted most often for Jacob and Madison; and in Hawaii, Ethan and Chloe led the way.
Although there are no hard and fast rules to picking a baby name, there are some pointers you may want to keep in mind. To start, you should consider how the baby's first name will blend with his or her last name-both in terms of length and pronunciation. For example, you might have your heart set on a five-syllable first name, but if your last name is also very long, this may not be the best choice.
Pay special attention to your baby's prospective initials and potential nicknames, avoiding any embarrassing combinations beforehand. Also bear in mind that certain names suggest a clear gender identification, while others are more gender-neutral (which you prefer is a personal choice). And consider howyour baby's name will sound over the course of time, when he or she is ateenager, an adult, and in middle age.
Finally, while it's valuable to get some input from friends and family, remember that, ultimately, your baby's name is your decision. If you're feeling pressured, for instance, to name the baby after a distant relative whose name you don't love, be gracious but stand your ground. Or consider other options: A middle name, for example, can be a great way to honor a loved one.