Top Baby Names: Emma And Noah Reign Supreme In 2016, Caitlyn Drops, Kylo Up

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Third time's a charm for the most popular girl's baby name in the U.S., while the most popular boy's name is on a four-year streak.

The Social Security Administration released its annual list of the 1,000 most popular baby names for 2016 on Friday. The agency uses the announcement to drive traffic to its website, where workers can start tracking their benefits long before they retire.

Emma was the top baby name for girls for the third year in a row. It was followed by Olivia, Ava, Sophia and Isabella.

emma watson
Actor Emma Watson has the most popular girl's name of 2016. (Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters)

Noah was the top baby name for boys for the fourth year in a row. It was followed by Liam, William, Mason and James.

The agency also lists the baby names that increase — and decrease — the most in popularity. Pop culture often influences the popularity of names, and it happened again 2016.

kylo ren
Did the Force drive up the popularity of the name Kylo (as in Kylo Ren a.k.a. Adam Driver, shown here)? (Photo: NBC)

For boys, the named that skyrocketed in popularity was Kylo, as in Kylo Ren, a character in the 2015 movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” For girls, it was Kehlani, as in Kehlani Parrish, a singer and songwriter nominated for a Grammy in 2016.

Neither of these names is among the most popular, but they jumped more spots than any other names. Kylo jumped 2,368 spots to No. 901. Kehlani jumped 2,487 spots to No. 872.

On the flipside, all four versions of Caitlyn — Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn — fell out of the top 1,000 in 2016.

"It was inevitable,'' said Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com. "Caitlyn was already falling in popularity. Now, it is suddenly controversial.''

In 2015, Jenner, an Olympic gold medallist, came out as a transgender woman. The iconic cover of Vanity Fair magazine was featured the quote, “Call me Caitlyn,” with a photograph of Jenner taken by the Annie Leibovitz.

The issue sparked much debate and an outpouring of support for Jenner in a country that is still evolving in its views of gay marriage and equal rights for the LGBT community.

The first time any spelling of Caitlin showed up on Social Security's list of popular baby names was in 1976 when Caitlin debuted at No. 947.

C-a-i-t-l-i-n has been the most common spelling. The name reached the height of its popularity in 1988, when it ranked No. 44. After 17 years in the top 100 it started to fall after the turn of the century.

Last year, it fell 542 spots — the biggest drop of any name — to No. 1,151.

Wattenberg said it would be wrong to blame Caitlyn's drop in popularity solely to the fact that Jenner is transgender. In general, she said, parents don't want to give their children names that might attract controversy.

It's one reason few parents name their children after politicians.

“Even parents who are huge Donald Trump supporters are unlikely to name their child Donald,” Wattenberg said. “In part, we just want to avoid controversy in picking names.”

Donald fell 45 spots last year, to No. 488. Hillary fell out of the top 1,000 names in 2009 and has not returned.

donald trump
Sorry, Donald, you're not the top dog when it comes to baby names. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty)

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. 127.

But sometimes old is new: Emma was the third most popular name in 1880.

The top 10 baby names for girls stayed the same in 2016, though the order shuffled a bit. For boys, Alexander dropped to No. 11 and Elijah cracked the top 10 for the first time ever, at No. 9.

Baby-naming experts said parents have long used biblical names for their children. However, there has been a decided shift from the New Testament to the Old.

“Elijah to our grandparents would be unimaginable,” Wattenberg said.

“Once parents see that a name is super popular, they are going to start avoiding it.”
— Jennifer Moss, founder of Babynames.com.

Also, parents are getting more creative in naming the little ones. As a result, today's top names aren't nearly as popular as the top names from 50 years ago.

For example, a little more than 19,000 baby boys were named Noah last year. In 1966, about 80,000 babies were named Michael, the top name for baby boys that year.

“Once parents see that a name is super popular, they are going to start avoiding it,” said Jennifer Moss, founder of Babynames.com.

With files from Lisa Yeung.