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Muhammad breaks into top 10 US baby names list in 2019

(RNS) — For the first time, the name Muhammad has cracked the top 10 list of most popular baby names for newborn boys in the U.S., according to a parenting website that tracks the popularity of names among its users.

The name, popular among Muslims as an act of devotion to honor Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, has long been climbing parenting website BabyCenter’s annual list. This year it rose, from number 14 in 2018 to number 10 in 2019, knocking Mason from the number 10 spot.

"Muhammad's been rising on BabyCenter top baby name lists around the world, so we knew it would soon break into the U.S. top 10," Linda Murray, BabyCenter's global editor in chief, said in a statement. "Muslim families often choose Muhammad for firstborn sons to honor the prophet and bring blessings to the child."

The list, which is based on nearly 600,000 parents who shared their newborn’s name with the site this year, combines names with multiple spellings. Some of this year’s top names include Biblically inspired names, including Noah, Elijah and Lucas. 

Among newborn girls, the 10th most popular name was the Arabic name Aaliyah, dethroning another Arabic name: Layla.

The Arabic name Muhammad, meaning “one who is praised,” is transliterated and spelled in myriad ways around the world, including Mohammad, Mohammed, Mohamed, Mahomet and Mahmet. Many Muslim men who go by another name are legally named “Muhammad.”

Social Security data shows the name has climbed from 620 in 2000 to 345 in 2018. The site's user data shows a much higher spike in babies with the name than Social Security numbers do, but the government agency does not combine its different spellings as BabyCenter does.

The name's many alternative spellings have complicated baby naming data in the United Kingdom, as well.

Since 2013, data from the Office for National Statistics has shown that Oliver has been the most popular name among baby boys born in England and Wales. But combining 14 different spellings put the name Muhammad, in all its variations, well ahead of Oliver.

High-profile figures with the name include champion boxer Muhammad Ali; Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman; British distance runner Mohamed “Mo” Farah; Egyptian soccer player Mohamed “Mo” Salah; Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah; Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari; and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

The girl's name Aaliyah means “exalted” in Arabic and “rising” in Hebrew and is also popularly transliterated as Aliya, Alia, or Aliyah.

According to Social Security Administration data and BabyCenter, the name's popularity saw a major spike in 2002, soon after the death of the iconic singer Aaliyah in 2001.

It has seen an upward trajectory since.