Top Baby Names of 2020

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The top baby names of 2020 include many longtime favorites.

Step right up, Eleanor and Leo. You've joined the big leagues now. The two names claimed spots on the top 10 lists of baby names at the Family Birthplace and Natural Birthing Suites at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital for 2020.

Eleanor scooted her way to No. 7 for girls, and Leo crawled to a ninth-place tie for boys. Nationally, both names have followed a steady trajectory upward in popularity in recent years, according to the Social Security Administration, which keeps records dating to 1900.

Eleanor ranked No. 27 on the national list last year. The last time it reached that height was in 1918—during another pandemic year. The name remained popular throughout the 1920s, then gradually became less common over the years, dropping to No. 693 in 1986. Since 2010, however, Eleanor has risen steadily on the list.

Leo also hit a recent high point last year—No. 40 nationally—after steadily gaining ground in the past five years. The name reached its peak of popularity in 1903, when it was the 28th most common name for newborn boys.

Because of a change in software, the Butterworth Hospital 2020 baby names list omits the first two months of the year. But it still gives a good look at the makeup of play groups and preschool classrooms in coming years, because more babies are born at Butterworth Hospital than any other hospital in Michigan. So far this year, more than 6,800 babies arrived there.

Top Baby Names of 2020


1. Ava
2. Charlotte
3. Nora
4. Olivia
5. Amelia
6. Emma
7. Eleanor
8. Hazel
9. Evelyn
10. Harper


1. Oliver
2. William
3. Liam
4. Owen
5. Benjamin
6. Theodore
7. Noah
8. Elijah
9. Leo (a tie)
9. Levi (a tie)

top baby names of 2020 graphic

Elegant Eleanor

Christine and Matt Stevens wanted to give their baby girl a traditional name, and they had a short list of possibilities in mind.

"We wanted one of those names that felt elegant and relatable," Matt said.

When delivery day arrived, they looked at their beautiful 6 pound, 14 ounce bundle of joy and knew her name: Eleanor. For a middle name, they paid tribute to Christine's grandmother, Rosella Bujold. She died earlier this year, on the same day the couple found out they were expecting a girl.

"We wanted to keep the memory of my grandma going, so we shortened (Rosella) to Rose and made it our own," Christine said.

The name suits little Eleanor Rose.

"She is a feisty little one but still super sweet," Christine said.

The Stevens had no idea Eleanor would make her debut on the top 10 list for the year.

"I guess we are kind of trendsetters," Matt joked.

Just 2 days old, Eleanor is already impressing her parents.

"She's doing fantastic," Matt said. "She let us sleep for three consecutive hours last night, which is a godsend."

"That's my grandma's name."

The growing popularity of the name Eleanor is no surprise to Eleanor Nelson, a mother caring for her baby boy, Elijah, in the Gerber Foundation Neonatal Center at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Growing up, she knew her name was rare for girls of her generation—and loved having a name that stood out.

"Everyone was always telling me, 'That's my grandma's name,'" she said.

But a few years ago, she sensed a resurgence: She began to hear more often of newborns who shared her name.

Eleanor's son, Elijah, shares the top 10 distinction with his mom. His name is tied for eighth place on the boys' list. And with his full name, Elijah Maverick Nelson has the same initials as his mom, Eleanor McClain Nelson. Eleanor and her husband, Jonathan DeJong, chose the name while looking at lists of baby names.

"I just wanted one that would be nice sounding when he was younger and when he is older," Eleanor said. "Elijah just stuck out. I've always loved that name."

Eleanor looks forward to the day she can introduce him to his grandparents and other family members. At 6 weeks old, Elijah is a calm and happy baby.

"He is super cuddly," Eleanor said. "He will fuss for a hot second if he is hungry or needs a diaper change, but that's all."

She marvels at how far her son has come since he arrived ahead of scheduled, at 31 1/2 weeks.

"I can't wait to tell him how strong he is and how well his name suits him—Elijah, who reaches for the stars, and Maverick, who is wild and free," Eleanor said.

Child of nature

A love of nature guided Mary and Brad Carlson as they chose the name Oliver for their firstborn.

"Oliver, to me, seems adventurous and really whimsical," Mary said. "It seems like the kind of name our little boy would be able to embrace."

The Carlsons live in Grandville and own 20 acres near Pentwater, a parcel of wooded land with a pond perfect for swimming and fishing. Mary can picture little Oliver one day roaming the forest, collecting firewood and camping under the stars.

"We camped pretty much all summer there," Mary said. "It's really been a blessing for us, especially during this pandemic, to be able to escape from town and be in our own element."

Not knowing any other children named Oliver, Mary was surprised the name led the list. She and Brad also chose the name because they liked the way it sounded with his middle name, Dane, chosen in honor of Brad's brother. Mary envisions traveling with Oliver and exploring the sights of Michigan.

"I love our state, and I am looking forward to sharing adventures with him," she said.

Two active boys

As Sally Park and Ben Mahar expected twins, they had different ideas about how to name them.

"I love more unique names. I wanted River or something like that," Sally said. "Ben is a very traditional name-type person."

When their baby boys arrived last month, they found two names they both loved: Owen and Parker. Owen, as it turns out, is No. 4 on the list.

"I'm not surprised," Sally said. "It was on a lot of lists we were looking at for names."

The twins arrived early at 27 weeks. They each have gained a half-pound since then, and now Owen weighs 2 pounds, 14 ounces, and Parker is 2 pounds, 10 ounces. Their personalities already are coming through.

"They are very active," Sally said. "They know what they like and what they don't like, in terms of noises and where they want to be positioned. It's cool to watch it all go down."

Written by Sue Thoms for Spectrum Health HealthBeat

This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Spectrum Health HealthBeat.


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