Strategy Stephen or Steven? Lindsey or Lindsay? The 'right' way to spell 21 of the most popular names in the US

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Baby names with variant spellings can be tricky. We compared the most common variations of popular baby names to see which spelling parents choose most.

Some spellings of baby names are more popular than others. play

Some spellings of baby names are more popular than others.

(Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Knowledge Universe)
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  • Baby names with variant spellings can be tricky: Which do you choose?
  • In the US, Alan is a more popular baby name than Allen or Allan, for example.
  • We compared the most common variations of popular baby names to see which spelling parents choose most.


Naming your child is a unique experience — linguist Steven Pinker called it "the only opportunity that most people get to anoint an entity in the world with a word of their choosing."

That means that whatever a parent decides on for their baby's name, the rest of the world pretty much has to go along with it — even when they choose an unusual spelling.

But what constitutes an unusual way to spell a name, and what's the "normal" way to spell them?

We compared the most popular variations of common names — think Shawn or Shaun instead of the more popular Sean — using data from Names.org, which tracks the names of babies born in the US dating back to 1880.

The results were surprising: According to the records, there have been 345,000 babies named Alan born in the US since 1880, compared to 268,000 named Allen and just 94,000 named Allan.

Meanwhile, girls named Makayla outnumbered those named Michaela by more than 50,000, making it by far the most popular variant of that name.

The names we chose to compare come from the Social Security Administration's list of the 100 most popular boys' and girls' names in US history, as well as a few other popular names with several spelling variations with at least 10,000 representatives.

Read on to whether Stephen is more popular than Steven, whether Lindsey beats Lindsay, and whether Philip or Phillip reigns supreme.

Alan, Allen, and Allan

Alan, Allen, and Allan play

Alan, Allen, and Allan

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Allison, Alison, Allyson, and Alyson

Allison, Alison, Allyson, and Alyson play

Allison, Alison, Allyson, and Alyson

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Ann and Anne

Ann and Anne play

Ann and Anne

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Brian and Bryan

Brian and Bryan play

Brian and Bryan

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Brittany, Brittney, Britney, and Brittani

Brittany, Brittney, Britney, and Brittani play

Brittany, Brittney, Britney, and Brittani

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Carl and Karl

Carl and Karl play

Carl and Karl

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Catherine, Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, and Catharine

Catherine, Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, and Catharine play

Catherine, Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, and Catharine

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Duane, Dwayne, and Dewayne

Duane, Dwayne, and Dewayne play

Duane, Dwayne, and Dewayne

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Elizabeth and Elisabeth

Elizabeth and Elisabeth play

Elizabeth and Elisabeth

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Erica, Erika, and Ericka

Erica, Erika, and Ericka play

Erica, Erika, and Ericka

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Jeffrey, Jeffery, Geoffrey, and Jeffry

Jeffrey, Jeffery, Geoffrey, and Jeffry play

Jeffrey, Jeffery, Geoffrey, and Jeffry

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Caitlin, Kaitlin, and Caitlyn

Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Caitlin, Kaitlin, and Caitlyn play

Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Caitlin, Kaitlin, and Caitlyn

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Lindsey, Lindsay, and Lyndsey

Lindsey, Lindsay, and Lyndsey play

Lindsey, Lindsay, and Lyndsey

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Louis and Lewis

Louis and Lewis play

Louis and Lewis

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Makayla, Mikayla, Michaela, Mikaela, Micaela, and McKayla

Makayla, Mikayla, Michaela, Mikaela, Micaela, and McKayla play

Makayla, Mikayla, Michaela, Mikaela, Micaela, and McKayla

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Mark and Marc

Mark and Marc play

Mark and Marc

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Megan, Meghan, Meagan, and Meaghan

Megan, Meghan, Meagan, and Meaghan play

Megan, Meghan, Meagan, and Meaghan

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Philip and Phillip

Philip and Phillip play

Philip and Phillip

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Sarah and Sara

Sarah and Sara play

Sarah and Sara

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Sean, Shawn, and Shaun

Sean, Shawn, and Shaun play

Sean, Shawn, and Shaun

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)


Steven and Stephen

Steven and Stephen play

Steven and Stephen

(Shayanne Gal/Business Insider)