KNAU and Arizona News
9:40 am
Fri December 21, 2012

This Year's List of Popular Baby Names in AZ

There's a new list today of what parents in the state are naming their newborns.

Some things in the report from the state health department are not a surprise. The names that parents choose for their baby boys does not change all that much from year to year. This year, as last, Jacob is the top choice, with Ethan and Daniel in the number 2 and 3 slots. All have been around near the top of the list for years, though Liam, coming in at No. 4, is a relative newcomer. That same pattern, however, does not seem to hold for girls. In fact, you could look at the list as being a rejection by today's moms of the names they were given a generation ago when Arizona was being populated by newborn Jessicas, Ashleys, Amandas and Jennifers. This year the list is led by Sophia, followed by Isabella, Emma and Mia. Yes, there were a few Jessicas born this year -- but just barely enough to crack even the Top 100, coming in at 98th. State health director Will Humble said he can only speculate on why the sharp change. He said some of it may be the result that both women and men are waiting longer before starting a family -- and having to make that selection.

"So I don't know if the age you had a baby makes a difference on whether you pick a traditional or more creative name or does it just have to do more with popular culture and the way people think today," Humble said. "This generation is less traditional than certainly mine."

That's not to say there have been no changes over time in what parents name their baby boys. But Humble said the changes are over a longer period of time. And in some cases they are more subtle. He pointed out that Arizona parents always have looked to the Bible in selecting names for their sons.

A century ago, when Arizona was just becoming a state, the top names included John, Jose, James and Joseph.

"Now, most of these names, if you look at the boys names, they're still kind of biblical, a lot of them. But they're Old Testament kind like Jacob, Daniel, Noah," Humble said.

And then there's Elijah, Isaac, Gabriel and Joshua, also on the current Top 20 for boys. But Humble said that still leaves the question of why parents choose a specific name. He said some of it can certainly be linked to popular culture. Consider the name Nevaeh -- Heaven spelled backwards. It shot out of nowhere a decade ago after Sonny Sandoval, frontman for the Christian rock group P.O.D. -- Payable On Death -- chose that name for his newborn daughter and took her on MTV in 2000. It continues to hang in at number 26. And sometimes, Humble said, it can be something as simple as a movie.

"I was watching a cowboy movie and one of the characters was Luke," Humble recounted. "Julie was pregnant. And I go, that's a cool name. Luke. What do you think of that? And she goes, yeah, I kind of like that."

Having decided he liked the name, Humble said he decided to find a deeper justification before the baby was born. It turns out that there actually was a Luke Humble, the first of that line to make it out West.

"And he made it as far as Kansas... Sawyer Kansas," he said. "And it was wintertime. And he turned his wagon over as his shelter that winter and, at least as the story's told, he lived under that wagon. But he was really hungry. And the Indians would bring him food."

Humble said family lore is that Luke Humble turned his wagon over in the spring and eventually started a wheat farm.

"But my idea came from a cowboy movie," Humble laughs.  "So I do it, too."

The namesake Luke Humble is now 19.

Most Popular baby names in Arizona for 2012

Boys

1 . Jacob

2 . Ethan

3 . Daniel

4 . Liam

5 . Alexander

6 . Anthony

7 . Noah

8 . Mason

9 . Aiden

10 . Michael

11 . David

12 . Jayden

13 . Julian

14 . Matthew

15 . Andrew

16 . Elijah

17 . Isaac

18 . William

19 . Gabriel

20 . Joshua

Girls

1 . Sophia

2 . Isabella

3 . Emma

4 . Mia

5 . Olivia

6 . Emily

7 . Ava

8 . Abigail

9 . Madison

10 . Sofia

11 . Victoria

12 . Camila

13 . Natalie

14 . Zoey

15 . Elizabeth

16 . Ella

17 . Aaliyah

18 . Zoe

19 . Charlotte

20 . Brooklyn

(Source: Arizona Department of Health Services)