Top Baby Names of the Past Century by Decade

There are no guarantees that giving your child the perfect name will lead to constant good behavior!
There are no guarantees that giving your child the perfect name will lead to constant good behavior!

Tracking Name Trends

The Social Security Administration has a really great website that has information about naming trends for the past 100 years. It's really fun to browse around the site and see what names are popular now, and which ones were popular in the past. You can easily identify a decade by noting which names were popular with your classmates when you were in school. The SSA site is also useful for parents who want to choose a name with a specific level of popularity; for example, lots of people want to choose a name that is unusual, but not so unusual that their child will be teased (perhaps if you name your child Beecher?). If this is your goal, you can look at lists of popular names and choose one that ranks somewhere in the middle. You can also look at names and see if their popularity is rising or dropping - so, for example, if you were thinking about the name Noah, you could see that the name Noah is increasing in popularity very quickly. If you decide that you don't want your child to end up with a name in the top ten list, then you might have to go with a different name. The SSA website can help you make these kinds of decisions.

On the SSA site you can:

Search for a specific name and track its ranking (on a scale from 1-1000) for each year

View the most popular names for the past year,

Search for a specific year to see its most popular names,

See the top five names (boys and girls) for each year,

View top names by state,

And view top names by decade.

In this hub, we will look at the most popular names by decade for the past 100 years. Is your name on there, or the name of your child?

Blast from the Past: Names from the 1800s

1880s:

John, William, James, George, and Charles

Mary, Anna, Emma, Elizabeth, and Margaret

Some runners-up for girls include Ida, Minnie and Bertha... times have changed!

1890s:

John, William, James, George, and Charles

Mary, Anna, Margaret, Helen, and Elizabeth

Runners-up for girls now include Ruth, Florence, and Ethel. Emma has dropped to #9!


Baby boy, circa 1900.
Baby boy, circa 1900.

Turn of the Century: Names from the 1900s

1900s:

John, William, James, George, and Charles.

The list has not changed for 30 years! Runners-up for boys include Robert, Joseph, and Frank. All of these boys' names are pretty classic and show up in the top names of our decade!

Mary, Helen, Margaret, Anna and Ruth.

Next on the list are Elizabeth, Dorothy and Marie. Mildred is close, too! You don't see many Mildreds and Dorothys these days.

1910s:

John, William, James, Robert, Joseph.

George dropped to #6, and Charles to #7!

Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth

1920s:

Robert, John, James, William, Charles

Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Betty, Margaret. Doris is creeping up!

1930s:

Robert, James, John, Wiliam, Richard

Mary, Betty, Barbara, Shirley, Patricia. My grandmother is named Shirley, and my great-aunt is named Patricia. Looks like they were in the popular group as kids!

1940s:

James, Robert, John, William, Richard. Man, boys' names are staying strong! Thomas and Michael are now #8 and #9.

Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol. Sandra, Nancy and Sharon are next in line.


1950s family watching television
1950s family watching television

The 1950s "White Picket Fence" Era

The next few decades are interesting in terms of names, because the national atmosphere changes so frequently and drastically. From the 1940s and 50's to the 60's and 70's, a lot happens historically - let's see if the names reflect that.

1950s:

James, Michael, John, Robert, David. Hello, David!

Mary, Linda, Patricia, Susan, Deborah

1960s:

Michael, David, John, James, Robert. Mark is next in line.

Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Kimberly. Karen and Kimberly?! Whoa! Some more traditional names are getting bumped out of the top spots. Mary had a long, long run as #1!

1970s:

Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James. Christopher and Jason make an appearance - I thought Christopher would have been on here well before now!

Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, Kimberly. Now we're getting to some names that I see a lot!

1980s:

Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, David

Jessica, Jennifer, Amanda, Ashley, Sarah. Next in line are Stephanie, Melissa, and Nicole. Tiffany is creeping up too!

Contemporary Names

Until now we haven't seen any "unisex" names in the top 5, like Madison and Mason. I wonder if we will see some in the next decades.

1990s:

Michael, Christopher, Michael, Joshua, Jacob. Next are Andrew and Nicholas, newcomers! I have always had a fondness for both of those names.

Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Sarah, Samantha. Megan and Hannah are also up there, as well as Taylor, our first "unisex" name. Kayla is #12 - I classify this as a "new" name in my mind, in contrast to "old" names like Mary and Margaret.

2000s:

Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Michael, Daniel

Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia, Hannah. Next are Abigail and Isabella.

The most popular names in 2010 were:

Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Jayden, William, Alexander, and Noah

Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Ava, Emily, and Abigail


Other hubs about baby names:

You can read about baby names inspired by trees here.

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Comments 2 comments

IdeaMorphist profile image

IdeaMorphist 5 years ago from Chicagoland

Quite interesting info... thank you for sharing!


hazelbrown profile image

hazelbrown 5 years ago from Central PA Author

Thanks, IdeaMorphist!

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