What do the year's top 20 baby names actually mean? Wisdom...protection...life... and more!

By Lisa Milbrand
June 09, 2014
Hottest Baby Names

What are the hottest baby names in the United States? The Social Security Administration just crunched the data to give us the scoop on the most popular baby names of the year -- and there are some surprising finds! Besides a new number-one for boys (hello, Noah!), you'll see plenty of classic choices and a few crossover boys' names that are trending for girls. Keep reading for the meanings and inspirations behind the latest crop of hot baby names!

1. Noah and Sophia

The moniker most famously worn by the Biblical captain of the Ark reigns supreme, unseating the previous 14-year champ, Jacob. Noah is a Hebrew name that means "rest."

This is Sophia's third year in the top spot. It's a Greek name that means "wisdom," and iconic screen siren Sophia Loren is the most famous namesake.

2. Liam and Emma

Liam is the Irish variant of William, and means "protection." It leaped nearly 100 spots in the last decade to make it to the second-place spot -- actor Liam Neeson helped to popularize it.

You can still blame Friends for Emma's popularity. After on-and-off couple Ross and Rachel picked it for their daughter, it vaulted into the top three names, and hasn't looked back since. Emma means "universal," a perfect meaning for a name that's so universally loved.

3. Jacob and Olivia

Jacob began his reign at the top of the baby names before Stephenie Meyer chose it for the werewolf portion of the Twilight series' love triangle. But its usage in that book certainly didn't hurt its longevity in the top spot -- after 14 years as the most popular boys' name, it just fell to number three. This Biblical name means "supplanter."

Olivia has been a top five name for the past five years -- and thanks to the clever and cool Olivia Pope on Scandal, it's unlikely to go anywhere but up. It's a lovely name that means "olive tree."

4. Mason and Isabella

Could the Kardashian backlash be starting? After Khloe Kardashian picked Mason for her son, the name zoomed up the charts to number two last year, but has since fallen two slots to number four. It's an occupational name that means "stone worker."

Isabella is Elizabeth with Spanish flair. After several decades bottomed out in the top 1,000, it started zooming up the charts in the 1990s -- and its association with Twilight's leading lady, Isabella "Bella" Swan, helped it maintain a top spot for the past several years. It means "consecrated to God."

5. William and Ava

William is a classic, tried-and-true baby name that?s very popular in the South. Like its variant further up the charts, William means "protection."

Ava helped lead the advent of "v" names -- including Avery, Vivienne, and red-hot Everly. But this timeless name has an ancient saint and legendary actress Ava Gardner behind it, and a wonderful and basic meaning: "life."

6. Ethan and Mia

Ethan hit the top 10 more than a decade ago, after a long, slow climb from the basement of the top 1,000. It's a Hebrew name that means "strong," and has Biblical characters, historic figure Ethan Allen, and actor Ethan Hawke to recommend it.

Mia is yet another short-and-sweet, universal name that has hit the top 10. It means "mine" in Italian, and hit the pop culture consciousness thanks to actress Mia Farrow and women's soccer phenom Mia Hamm.

7. Michael and Emily

Michael has been a top 10 baby name since World War II -- so odds are there's someone in your family already sporting this name. Michael is an archangel in the Bible, but this uberpopular name has plenty of secular namesakes, too, including basketball legend Michael Jordan, King of Pop Michael Jackson, Olympic legend Michael Phelps, and actors Michael Douglas and Michael J. Fox.

Emily spent nearly a decade at number one during the late 1990s through the early part of the 21st century, and still maintains plenty of popularity. The name means "rival," and actor Emily Blunt, etiquette doyenne Emily Post, and poet Emily Dickinson are among its bearers.

8. Alexander and Abigail

Alexander has ties to ancient times -- Alexander the Great conquered Asia before the Roman Empire came to be. The name means "defender of men," and it has been defending its place in the top 25 U.S. names since 1991.

Abigail has been a top 10 name since the turn of the 21st century. It was the name of the second First Lady of the United States, and of legendary advice columnist Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby). It's a Hebrew name that means "my father is joyful."

9. Jayden and Madison

Jayden hit the mainstream after Britney Spears picked it for her son. It's a variant spelling of Jaden, which means "thankful."

Madison first became popular for girls back in the 1980s, after the mermaid in Splash picked it from a Manhattan street sign. It hasn't left the top 10 since 1997.

10. Daniel and Elizabeth

This Biblical classic is one of the most tried-and-true names for boys -- it hasn't left the top 60 for more than a century, and it's been in the top 10 for almost all of the past 40 years. That means that it's likely that a modern-day Daniel has a few namesakes within the family.

Elizabeth is equally timeless, thanks to its prominence in the Bible and its massive array of nicknames, making it easy to transform it to fit a prim-and-proper Betsy or a more vibrant Eliza. Elizabeth, which means "consecrated to God," has been a top 25 baby name for girls for more than a century.

More Top Baby Names

11. Elijah and Charlotte

Think chariot of fire when you hear Elijah, an Old Testament name that's making a big comeback. Actor Elijah Wood is the most famous current bearer of the name.

Charlotte is a feminized version of Charles, and shares its meaning, "free man." You can peg Charlotte's current popularity to the pop culture zeitgeist around Sex and the City.

12. Aiden and Avery

Aiden's popularity also rose on Sex and the City's coattails -- though the character used the more traditional spelling, Aidan. The name means "fiery." (P.S. Don't be fooled -- with all the Aydens, Aidans, and Aidyns out there, this name actually tops the charts.)

Avery means "ruler of the elves," and it's still on a slow and steady progression toward the top 10 girls' names. Several celebs have picked it for their daughters in recent years.

13. James and Sofia

James never goes out of style -- it's been a top 20 baby name for more than a century. It means "supplanter," and has a slew of namesakes, including presidents (James Madison and Jimmy Carter) and screen legends (James Stewart).

Sofia's a Spanish variant of the number-one baby name in the land, and shares its meaning, "wisdom." (Because this and Sophia are both in the top 20, you can expect either a Sophia or a Sofia in pretty much every classroom.)

14. Benjamin and Chloe

Benjamin has been a top 200 favorite for more than a century, and has legendary namesake Benjamin Franklin to recommend it.

Chloe is a cute Greek name that means "young bloom." It started its recent run for the top during the 1980s, and stalled out just below the top 10.

15. Matthew and Ella

Matthew is an author of a New Testament book, and his name means "gift from God." It's been a top 20 boys' name for more than 40 years.

Ella may have gained some of her popularity as an also-ran with Emma and Ava. Her biggest claim to fame is jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald.

16. Jackson and Harper

This presidential surname means "son of Jack," and with its alternate spelling Jaxon, looks poised to rule the playground.

Harper is another surname option, and is red-hot on the heels of its selection for David and Victoria Beckham's only daughter.

17. Logan and Amelia

The alias of X-Men's Wolverine's has been a popular choice for boys since the mid 1990s, and it means "small hollow."

íœbercool and mysterious aviatrix Amelia Earhart may have spurred some of the fascination with Amelia, a classic German name that means "work."

18. David and Aubrey

David means "beloved," and it is: it hasn't left the top 30 for more than a century!

Aubrey is one of those boys' names that's now become much more popular for girls. It means "elf ruler."

19. Anthony and Addison

Anthony is a Latin name that means "priceless," and hasn't left the top 25 for the past 50 years. There's a whole slew of Anthonys out there, from the holy (Saint Anthony) to the not-so-angelic (Tony Soprano from The Sopranos).

Addison was a boys' name that meant "son of Adam," but after Shonda Rhimes picked it for Dr. Addison Shepherd (McDreamy's first wife, before Meredith Grey), the girls took it over.

20. Joseph and Evelyn

Yet another Biblical top 20 choice for boys, Joseph was the stepfather of Jesus. The current VP sports the name, among a whole slew of pop-culture namesakes.

Evelyn has the sweetest meaning: wished-for child. With actor Bruce Willis recently choosing up-and-coming Evelyn for his daughter, odds are this name isn't leaving the top 20 anytime soon.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.