Pittsburgh's top baby names for 2012: 'Noah' and 'Olivia'

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Don't expect another Great Flood, and no need to begin gathering wild animals, but the most popular boys name in Pittsburgh is Noah.

For girls, Olivia is top olive.

West Penn Allegheny Health System has released its top 10 list of names, based on the 3,400 babies born through November in West Penn and Forbes Regional hospitals. Its top names don't vary wildly from the 2011 Social Security Administration's annual list of most popular names published online. The Social Security Administration's official 2012 list won't be published until next year.

Finishing second and third in the WPAHS list of girls names are Sophia and Emma, which are first and third respectively in the Social Security list for 2011. On the WPAHS list for boys, Jackson -- or Jaxon -- came in second, followed by Mason.

"Today's parents want their child to stand out in the crowd," WPAHS said in its announcement. Of the 3,400 newborns, 700 girls shared the same name and 600 boys did so. But many baby names "had no duplicate."

"Sometimes parents created their own name, and often they added a creative spelling or flourish to an old name," the announcement said.

PG graphic: Pittburgh's top baby names for 2012
(Click image for larger version)

WPAHS spokeswoman Stephanie Waite declined to release any one-of-a-kind names to protect parents and children from unexpected publicity. But the announcement said baby names "run the gamut of the literary, the biblical, the distinguished-sounding, the traditional and those that reflect parental creativity."

In another trend, WPAHS said more than 100 of the 700 girls names began with the letter "A," but it didn't note that four of the top five girls names also end with an "a."

The top girls name, Olivia, is believed to have first appeared in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." It has ranked fourth nationwide in recent years, making a steady climb in popularity since 1971, when Australian singer Olivia Newton-John began gaining fame.

Noah has arced in popularity. In 1880, the name ranked 130th but reached its nadir in 1963 with a ranking of 693. Since then, it has had a steady climb in popularity to this day. The Social Security Administration listed Noah fifth in 2011.

Babycenter.com has its own list of the most popular names, with the top girls names for 2012 listed as Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava and Isabella. Its top five boys names are Liam, Ethan, Noah, Mason and Jacob.

Sophia is a Greek Orthodox saint and a Christian martyr. Famed Italian actress Sophia Loren, born in 1934, was reaching her peak of popularity in the 1960s, when the name's popularity began its rise. Sophia jumped from second to first place on the Social Security Administration's list in 2011, trading places with Isabella. Emma finished third in 2010 and 2011.

Jacob, a biblical name, has been the nation's most popular boys name since 1999 and in the top 10 since 1993. Mason, 12th in 2010, has made a consistent rise to second place, with William leaping two spots to third place in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration website.

After a historic run of popularity, Michael's prominence might be declining. It was the top boys name from 1954 until 1998. It held second place until 2008, then third place until 2010 before dropping to sixth place in 2011.

Through the last half century, top boys names varied little year to year. Michael, James, John, Robert and David led the pack in the 1950s and '60s.Jason and Christopher emerged in the 1970s, with Matthew in the 1980s and Jacob in the 1990s.

Girls names are more trendy. In the1950s, Mary, Deborah and Linda were popular. Susan gained ground in the early 1960s, which also saw the growing popularity of Lisa, Karen and Kimberly. Jennifer was popular in the 1970s, with Amy, Heather, Melissa and Angela also gaining ground. Amanda and Jessica approached the top in the early 1980s, with surges by Ashley, Sarah and Stephanie, followed by Brittany's popularity in the 1990s.

In the past 10 years, Emily, Hannah and Madison, along with Emma and Abigail, have had notable gains.

Under the radar, Ava, Mia, Ella, Avery and Lily have been making slow but steady gains in recent decades, now breaking into the top echelon of girls names

The Social Security Administration website of popular baby names: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/

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David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com.


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