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From ‘Alma’ to ‘Zuri,’ Parents Are Looking for Positive Baby Names

The Social Security Administration’s most current list of the country’s top 1,000 baby names dates from 2019, so we have yet to see how these searches translate into baby naming en masse. But the experts I spoke to agreed that new parents are searching for names that represent optimism and strength.

Jennifer Moss, founder and chief executive of BabyNames.com and co-host of “The Baby Names Podcast,” is seeing “a huge influx of gods and goddess names — Persephone, Adonis, Achilles, Athena. These are just jumping on the charts, and they’ve never been there before.” The name Anahita, the ancient Iranian goddess of fertility, is similarly gaining, Redmond added.

With mythological names, Moss suggested, “people want to instill strength in their children, because we’re all feeling scared and powerless right now over this virus we can’t control. How better to arm your child for the uncertain future than to give them the name of a god or goddess who has power over the universe?”

Biblical names, which had been dropping off Moss’s charts in past years in favor of more creative monikers, have also surged. “For comfort in hard times, people turn to faith,” she said. “We’re seeing Gabriel, Elijah, Esther, Lilith and even Naomi, which hasn’t trended in a long time.”

Some parents-to-be have been so distracted by the pandemic that they’ve skipped the deliberation and quickly picked a name. Amanda Austin of Erie, Pa., owner of an e-commerce store specializing in dollhouse miniatures, came up with her daughter’s name on a whim. “It was in March, when the whole world was shutting down,” she said. “Covid terrified me. My husband and his dad own a construction company and Pennsylvania had banned construction work.”

The name “Annette” popped suddenly into her mind. “I shared it with my husband and he loved it,” Austin said. “His reaction is a far cry from my other daughter’s naming process, where we went back and forth for months. I think we had so much going on with the pandemic that we didn’t have the mental bandwidth to dig deeper.” The name also reminded the couple of the 1950s, a “less complicated” time.

Baby names are “like a mirror; they reflect what’s happening in culture,” said Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind.” “Given the current mood, I wouldn’t be surprised if traditional names get a bump.”

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