Why Are Certain Initials So Often Chosen?

I have noticed a couple of trends in baby name popularity on Nameberry and am interested in comments.

  1. The Popular Names of the [name_u]Day[/name_u] box often contains more than half its entries from the first half of the alphabet, or even the first 3 letters of the alphabet (A-B-C names).

  2. Sometimes there are only 1-3 lines of letters from N on.

  3. I have noticed that M names seem very popular.

  4. Personally, I include myself because I am strongly drawn to names starting with A-B-C and F-G-H and M. Why that it I do not at first glance know. It could be because my whole life I have either been a student or a teacher and thus associate A-B-C with passing grades, though this would not explain my passion for [name_m]Fenton[/name_m], [name_f]Fenella[/name_f], and [name_f]Flora[/name_f].

  5. It could be that I associate C with charming and comforting images ([name_m]Clyde[/name_m], [name_m]Clarence[/name_m], [name_m]Chester[/name_m], [name_f]Celia[/name_f], [name_u]Comfort[/name_u], [name_f]Constance[/name_f]). Many of the M names I love sound mom-like, such as [name_f]Morwenna[/name_f], [name_f]Marilla[/name_f], [name_f]Muriel[/name_f], [name_f]Mamie[/name_f], [name_f]Marjorie[/name_f].

  6. I know that K was big in the 1970’s. As a teenager, I knew families whose last name started with a K and whose children were named [name_u]Kelly[/name_u], [name_m]Keith[/name_m], [name_m]Kevin[/name_m] and Kamelle, [name_m]Kellen[/name_m], [name_m]Kevin[/name_m], and [name_u]Kris[/name_u] respectively. The Khardashians seem to have borrowed a page from that era and given it their own “special” flavor. I tend to assume that the folks who do this double initial naming of all their children think it is cute, but it still does not explain the popularity of certain initials generally at a certain point in time.

I would love to read a historical article or study or book on the subject and to hear others’ analysis.


I have read that cultural events shape initial preferences society-wide. So for instance, in the year after hurricane [name_f]Katrina[/name_f], there was apparently an uptick in people giving their children names beginning with the letter K. I do not know how long the Kardashians have been plaguing us with their celebrity and so can’t say whether that might also have been a factor in the rise of K names. Regardless, apparently other events have born the trend out. Also, the letter A tends to be a perennially popular first initial (possibly because we all associate it with success thanks to the A-F grading system most of us experienced). The reason for first half of the alphabet names being popular probably has to do with primacy (we mostly remember things that have either primacy or recency). As those are some of the first people encounter, they tend to be best recalled. Undoubtedly, too, there are certain sounds that are universally pleasing. M is likely one of those.

I do think it’s fascinating the underlying instincts, psychology, and chemistry that affect all of our preferences on a level so deep we’re never much aware of it.

There was an interesting article (on nameberry, I think?) about the recent trend toward names that start with vowels ([name_u]Aiden[/name_u], [name_f]Ava[/name_f], [name_f]Emma[/name_f], [name_f]Olivia[/name_f], [name_m]Ethan[/name_m], etc.) vs. the “dated” sound of names that begin with certain consonants like F/P ([name_m]Frank[/name_m], [name_f]Pamela[/name_f], [name_f]Patricia[/name_f], etc.). I’m going to see if I can find that article.

It seems that certain sounds go in and out of style. Right now there’s the popular -en/on/an ending ([name_m]Braden[/name_m], [name_u]Aiden[/name_u], [name_u]Mason[/name_u]) and up and coming -er ending ([name_m]Asher[/name_m], [name_m]Archer[/name_m], [name_m]Fletcher[/name_m]).