The 50 Most Beautiful Baby Names, According to Science
By Jake Rossen
Naming a baby is one of the most fraught experiences of parenthood. Whatever handle you give your kid, they’re likely to be saddled with it for the rest of their lives. So why not rely on science for an objective look at what names sound best to the ear?
Baby gifting site My 1st Years recently commissioned a study led by Bodo Winter, associate professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of Birmingham, to examine which popular baby names in the United States are most pleasing to hear. Here’s the list, with methodology explained below.
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How can science evaluate whether a name is “pleasant”? This study builds on research conducted by James Adelman and colleagues at the University of Warwick in 2018 [PDF] on the emotional valence (degree of pleasantness) of words by examining phonemes, or units of sound in a word. A pleasing phoneme at the beginning of a word (or name), for example, can signal positivity to the listener.
Baby names were broken down phonetically and then evaluated using Adelman’s table to come up with a valence score for each phoneme in the name. The higher the score, the more pleasing it may sound.
Naturally, naming babies is still a deeply personal exercise, and you may disagree with linguistics on certain matters. Sophia might indeed be a nice name, but not if your last name is Adams—the two As at the end of the first name and beginning of the last will blend together.
If you prefer originality over phonetic appeal, you can always grab one of the least popular baby names from over a century ago. Parthenia may not stand up to scientific scrutiny, but it’s memorable.
[h/t My 1st Years]