WASHINGTON — Talk about high expectations for a newborn: King and Messiah are among the fastest-rising baby names for American boys.
They’re just a little behind Major, the boy’s name that jumped the most spots on the Social Security Administration’s annual list of popular baby names.
Jacob is the most popular for boys — again — and Sophia is the top name for girls, according to the list released Thursday.
It was Jacob’s 14th straight year at the top. Next were Mason, Ethan, Noah and William. Liam cracked the top 10 for the first time, coming in at No. 6. Daniel slipped out of the top 10 for the first time since 1998, to No. 11.
It was Sophia’s second year in a row at the top for girls. Next were Emma, Isabella, Olivia and Ava.
But what about those rising boys’ names?
Typically, says Laura Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Name Wizard” and founder of Babynamewizard.com, “You don’t get a lot of Messiahs. You can have a lot more Majors.”
“I have no doubt Major’s rising popularity as a boy’s name is in tribute to the brave members of the U.S. military, and maybe we’ll see more boys named General in the future,” said acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin.
Wattenberg said Americans have long given their children “aggrandizing names.” She noted that Noble and General were on the list of popular boys’ names for much of the 20th century, though neither ever cracked the top 100.
“We’ve pretty much run out of presidential names, all the Jeffersons and Jacksons and Madisons, so we’re moving on to the aristocracy, I guess, or to the military.”
Jennifer Moss, author of “The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book” and founder of Babynames.com, says she discourages parents from giving children “expectation names, like Justice and Chastity.”
“We feel that it kind of puts an undue pressure on the child when you use those kinds of grandiose or purity names,” Moss said.
Chastity was in the top 1,000 for more than two decades before dropping off the list in 1994. Justice was on the list in 1880 but then fell off for more than 100 years. The name reappeared in 1992 and was No. 518 last year.
Jacob’s popularity endures because the name has much of what parents look for in a boy’s name, said Moss.
“It’s easy to pronounce, and it’s easy to spell. It’s a solid manly name,” she said. “It’s a biblical name, and biblical names are always in style.”
On the girls’ side, Sophia first cracked the top 100 in 1997. Isabella dropped off the list from 1949 to 1990.
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. 28 and Mary has fallen to No. 123 — the lowest for both names.
The list, which also includes top baby names by state, draws millions of viewers. The agency hopes that people go to the website to see the baby names and stay to learn about other services.
The website also shows which names are gaining — and losing — popularity.
Among the boys’ names that are spiking, Major jumped 505 spots, to No. 483, followed by Gael, Jase, Messiah and Brantley. Messiah gained 246 spots, to No. 387.
Jase Robertson is a character on the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty,” about a family that runs a business making duck calls and other duck hunting gear. Gael GarcDia Bernal is a Mexican film actor and director.
Among the other boys’ names gaining in popularity: Maverick, Armani and King, which jumped 133 spots, to No. 256.
Among the rising girls’ names, Arya jumped 298 spots, to No. 413, followed by Perla, Catalina, Elisa and Raelynn. And Raelyn with one ’n’ was eighth.
Arya Stark is a character in the TV show, “Game of Thrones.”
Among the girls’ names that are losing popularity, Dulce dropped the most, 159 spots, to No. 574. Next were Mikaela, Estrella, Danna and Audrina.
Among the boys’ names that dropped, Braeden fell 105 spots, to No. 581. Next were Yahir, Kieran, Cullen and Brayan.
The popularity of Cullen was fleeting. In 2010, it was the fastest rising name for boys. Edward Cullen is vampire in the “Twilight” books and movies.
The list shows that top names for boys have been more stable over the years than names for girls. William, for example, has been a popular boy’s name for more than 100 years, never falling out of the top 20. Mason is an exception, entering the top 100 for the first time in 1997.
Today’s top names aren’t nearly as popular as the top names were a generation ago.
For example, 18,899 babies were named Jacob last year. Two decades ago, that wasn’t good enough to crack the top 25. In 1992, Michael was the top name for boys, with more than 54,000 boys getting the name.
“We’re seeing a total revolution in terms of the diversity of naming,” Wattenberg said. “Parents are really focused on choosing a distinctive name that will make their child stand out.”
Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap
Social Security Administration: www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames