Happiest Names

Names: omnipresent yet little studied

Names constitute a large part of our vocabulary, from proper names to names for goods, companies, and events. But can certain names make us happier?

British researcher Dr. David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University looked into the psychology of first names in 2009. He reports that people named Mark and Ruth smile the most while Frank and Pauline smile the least; in the workplace Richard and Judy are happiest, while Stuart and Liz are miserable; Richard and Carly are happiest in relationships but Frank and Harriet are the unhappiest.

Dr. Holmes told the Daily Mail: “The associations we have with certain names, particularly significant namesakes, also shapes how we see ourselves and so may have an effect on our confidence and assumed role in society.” We see this influence with celebrities and other high-profile figures. Parents name their babies after famous people with qualities they admire—confidence, power, beauty, or strength. Or perhaps tot style?

The Social Security Administration releases an eagerly-awaited top 1,000 baby name list. 2011’s recently-released list tells the story of Top 10 newcomer Mason jumping to No. 2. Perhaps Kourtney Kardashian’s uber-stylish two-year-old son Mason is sparking the trend, but the moniker also has the popular -n ending—four of the top 10 names on the boys list end with an ‘n’. Parents of girls favor the -a ending, with six of the top 10 names ending in ‘a’.

The Top Ten Names in 2011


  1. Jacob
  2. Mason
  3. William
  4. Jayden
  5. Noah
  6. Michael
  7. Ethan
  8. Alexander
  9. Aiden
  10. Daniel


  1. Sophia
  2. Isabella
  3. Emma
  4. Olivia
  5. Ava
  6. Emily
  7. Abigail
  8. Madison
  9. Mia
  10. Chloe

Are these popularly-named kids happier? Time will tell. The trending list, however, features a larger variety of (formerly?) unique names:


  1. Brantley
  2. Iker
  3. Maximiliano
  4. Zaiden
  5. Kamden
  6. Barrett
  7. Archer
  8. Declan
  9. Atticus
  10. Nico


  1. Briella
  2. Angelique
  3. Aria
  4. Mila
  5. Elsie
  6. Nylah
  7. Raelynn
  8. Brynlee
  9. Olive
  10. June

Curious now about your name? Click here to search for your name’s popularity on the Social Security Administration website. It won’t tell you how happy you are, but it will tell if your name is common.

We’d love your comments—do you think your name affects your happiness? How so?

Image: Some rights reserved by Alan O’Rourke

Category: Style


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