Baby names: Why is Noah at the top of the list?

After a 14-year run at the top, the name Jacob loses its top spot on the most popular baby names list assembled by the Social Security Administration. How did Noah become the most favorite name?

By , Associated Press

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    Six-week-old Ewan Bingham, takes a look at his dad, Lt. Chris Bingham, of Cranford, N.J., after Chris disembarked from the nuclear aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., April 18.
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Noah sailed past Jacob to become the most popular baby name for boys in 2013, ending Jacob's 14-year run at the top. Sophia was the most popular baby name for girls for the third straight year.

The Social Security Administration announced the most popular baby names Friday. Noah was followed by Liam, Jacob, Mason, and William. Sophia was followed by Emma, Olivia, Isabella, and Ava.

The rise of Noah and Liam highlights a trend toward more smooth-sounding baby names, said Laura Wattenberg, creator of Babynamewizard.com.

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"You compare Jacob with all its hard, punchy consonants, versus Noah and Liam, you can really see where style is heading," Ms. Wattenberg said.

She also noted that the most popular baby names aren't nearly as popular as they used to be. For example, a little more than 18,000 babies born last year were named Noah. In 1950, when James was No. 1, there were more than 86,000 newborns with that name.

About 21,000 newborns were named Sophia last year. In 1950, more than 80,000 were named Linda, the top name for girls that year.

"In the past, most parents were picking from a pretty well-defined set of names," Wattenberg said. "Literally for hundreds of years, the English royal names dominated. You had John and Mary and James and Elizabeth."

"Today," she said, "we get names everywhere."

Jacob first rose to No. 1 in 1999. In the 45 years before that, Michael was king for all but one.

There has been a lot more variety among the girls. Mary dominated the first half of the 20th century. But in the past two decades, Emily, Emma, Isabella and Jessica have all spent time at the top.

The Social Security Administration's website provides lists of the top 1,000 baby names for each year, dating to 1880. The top baby names that year were John and Mary. John is now No. 27 and Mary has fallen to No. 121.

Social Security also charts the fastest-rising names each year. These names may not be in the top 10 or even the top 100, but they moved up more spots than any other.

For girls, the runaway winner was Daleyza, which jumped a whopping 3,130 spots, to No. 585. Daleyza is the name of the young daughter of Larry Hernandez, a singer who stars in a Spanish-language reality TV show called "Larrymania."

"Reality TV is one of the biggest style makers today because it gives us a constant new stream of names from all over the place," Wattenberg said.

For boys, the fastest rising name was Jayceon, which jumped 845 spots, to No. 206. Two hip hop artists are named Jayceon. One simply goes by the name Jayceon. The other, Jayceon Terrell Taylor, is a rapper who goes by the stage name The Game.

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