Overall, there are some really great options for looking for baby names. When I first started looking at baby name websites, I was shocked by the larger number of pretty boring and copycat type baby name websites. In fact, I have a review of baby name websites to avoid, also. But, now it is clear that there are a couple pretty good choices. Every site has some issues, but the ones listed here should keep anyone busy for a long time.
Here are the best baby name websites: Baby Name Wizard, Social Security Administration, Nymbler, Behind the Name, BabyNamer, Baby Name Map, Baby Name Clusters (this site) and Babynames.com. Added July 20, 2008: The Right Baby Name and Baby Name Addicts.
Whenever I ask friends to review my own website, everyone says, "have you seen Baby Name Wizard?" This site has all the buzz and a large following of passionate readers. The site is the online home for the book "The Baby Name Wizard" by Laura Wattenberg. Their frequent and interesting blog posts by Laura usually have tons of comments. They have name popularity contests (predicting which names will rise and fall in popularity) which attract many participants, and the styling of the website is very appealing, with two ad banners on each page.
The name browsing itself is done via a cool chart (written in Java) called Name Voyager where the user is presented with a flashy looking stacked line chart and a cursor in the top left where names can be typed. As you type the name, the number of visible names decreases (cool animations!) and you are left with the matching names.
This is all very slick, but I think the Name Voyager interface has a number of downsides: (1) many of the unique / rare / unusual names are not visible because they only show the text for the name when there is enough room or if you carefully put the mouse over the correct line; furthermore, they only have names which have been in the top 1000 at some point - excluding many of the more unusual and interesting names, (2) there is no way to see groups of related names, (3) there are no name meaning or origins, (4) the graph itself only has one data point per decade and some trends are much more interesting with detailed yearly data, (5) there is no way to save your favorite names, (6) Java stuff sometimes takes a long time to start up, especially over dialup, and (7) the stacked line format is a little tough to understand for novices (the thicker regions represent more popular decades for that name).
Kudos to Baby Name Wizards, though, they set high standards. Interestingly, despite the buzz, they are currently ranked 10 at Google when searching for "baby names." But, first page is better than not (like this site), so congrats.
Here is a no-nonsense place to get the full name popularity data for the top 1000 baby names in the United States from 1880 until now. It is second in the Google search results for "baby names." It also has some links to very useful information that new parents need (how to get a social security card, having a healthy pregnancy, food stamps, immunizations, home/toy safety). Nice site, easy to use. Thank you, US government for making this data available!
This is a clever website where you can mark which names you like and don't like, and it will use your answers and a cool algorithm to try and narrow in on a name you will really like. It is affiliated with Laura Wattenberg (see #1 above for Baby Name Wizard) and her own database of name qualities like origin, ethnicity, popularity, sounds, etc. When you click on a name it gives you the origin, peak year of popularity (and decade based chart), a quick definition, and sometimes a few related names. I really like how this site makes you feel like you are exploring your own tastes in names. But, it is still lacking some basic features like browsing by letter, browsing by popularity, viewing a lot of related names and a detailed popularity graph. Nymbler and Baby Name Wizard have a great amount of name knowledge and interesting views of the data.
Although this is not advertised as a baby name website, Mike Campbell (site owner) does a great job at describing the etymology (history, origin) of first names. It also tries to define namesakes, who are famous historical figures that have the name. Another good feature is that the visitors can rate how a name "feels" to them using many different scales of measurement. I highly recommend visiting this site if you care about the detailed origins and meaning of names. There are good community features, like you can add information about the names or you can participate in the message board which has 100s of messages per day. However, this is not a great site to browse for names, since they are only listed alphabetically - and there are so many names in their database that it is overwhelming to view the names. The popularity graphs are not good data graphics. Nonetheless, you should visit this site - for the great name information or if you need to bounce some name ideas off other people, you will find many listeners in their message boards.
This website has great style and speed, along with some interesting data that I haven't found on other websites. The front page layout is great (there are two animated banner ads, though, one on top and one on the side), and who doesn't like pictures of the babies? The best part of this site is the name details page, so type a name and click the right gender to see more info like meaning, nicknames vs. similar sounding names vs. compound forms vs. alternative spellings, bad nicknames ("drawbacks"), famous people, and a Google search. The whole site is fast and readable. The "drawbacks" page of bad nicknames or other facts is fun and actually very helpful, especially when I am trying to make fun of my friends. And, for those parents who are going to be surprised, It is really neat that you can switch between genders very quickly on both the name details page and the browse-by-letter page. Another nice feature is that you can save names and have them emailed to you.
The main drawback is the browsing mode. When you click a letter, it only shows a long list of names in alphabetical order. There is no way to sort by popularity or remove similar names. But, once you find a few names you like, then the name details page is top notch as far as breadth of information and ability to explore similar names. I seem to remember that this site was called "babynamr" before they must have acquired babynamer from some domain squatter. This site is owned by Oxygen media.
Overall, this is a great new website, and raises the technical bar in terms of interactive features. More visitors are now needed so that more pictures, comments and user ratings will enhance the site.
This is the newest baby names website in this review, and was launched in the summer of 2008. There are some great ways to look at the data: browse by letter and popularity, cluster the names by similarity to each other, and view famous and notable people from wikipedia with your favorite names.
One really innovative approach is the clustering of the names. Many websites show related names, but this is the only site which allows you to adjust the size of the cluster (i.e. a big cluster will have weaker relatedness between the names, and a small cluster will only show the more tightly related names). This makes it easier for you to find rare and unique names which are similar to more popular names. The name cluster page (reached by clicking the popularity bar charts), has a nice detailed graph with the name popularity (in the USA) for each year between 1880 and now - and for all the names in the cluster. This makes it easy to see if all the names in a cluster rise and fall together or if they are out of phase. It is also pretty fun that notable people are included with the names - it makes for some fun reading.
This site has several fresh ideas, and the layout is simple and clean. Like some of the other websites, you can save names for review later. This site does not currently have forums or message boards, which might have a negative impact on its popularity - but perhaps the very interesting blog will begin to attract a larger community.
These folks have the gold... they have the most desirable web address in the bunch: babynames.com. And, to top it off, they are always the top hit in a baby names Google search. They flaunt it, too. Weekly BabyNames "TV" show via a youtube clip on the center of the page (talking about Hollywood and celebrity babies). There are forums, contests, games, blogs, membership and advice. The front page is busy and packed with things to look at. There are plenty of ads which nearly encircle the entire front page.
The actual name pages are just alphabetically sorted by letter in a grid (which I find hard to browse). There is a popup with brief meaning and origin info when you mouse-over a name, but that just seems to add to the clutter with all the ads on the sides, top and bottom of the name browsing pages. They give no indication of popularity other than a top 100 table linked from the busy front page. They seem to have their own book, too: "The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book." There are even a few columnists with parenting advice - which is a nice read, I have to say.
Overall, this site seems overly busy with a variety of things, including too many ads. The core of the website, the baby name list, is actually the least interesting part of the whole community experience.
This website creates really interesting reports of baby names based on a wide variety of statistical info for names (popularity, trendiness/fad, ethnicity, profession, family fit, etc). The first report is free, and additional reports actually cost money (but they are going to start having all free reports soon).
The reports are really useful once you have picked out a few names. They don't have a great way to browse for new names (only an alphabetical list), but I highly recommend viewing an analysis for some of your top names. They have a great blog, also.
These folks have created a very strong community of name spotters, and claim to have a database of 56,000 names. Most websites have on the order of 30,000 names, so this seems like an impressive number. A username/email is required to view the discussion, and there are new people each day with a lot of enthusiastic postings overall.
I'm not sure how I missed this site in my original review, it is currently ranked about 25 for a Google search on "baby names." The name browsing is alphabetic in a table with meanings and origins; so that is not too conducive for finding names where the second letter is not an "a," but if you are wanting to discuss names or ask advice, then this is a great place to go.
If you want to try and find some other baby name websites, and google isn't cutting it for you, try out the Open Directory Project (dmoz)page for baby names. There is some new attention being paid to that page, so it will get better and better.
Other interesting sites to keep an eye on include wikictionary, which is a wikipedia-related resource containing words and their definitions. They are starting to get some name meanings and origins, but it is still a little thin. Another place to browse would be the "names" tag on del.icio.us, which are sites that people have bookmarked for themselves or to share with others related to "names."