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Here are the most popular baby names by decade

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

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Trends constantly go in and out of style, and names are no exception. Thanks to popular culture, a name can be an indicator of the era a person was born — arguably now more so than ever. Of course, many classic names stand the test of time, so it’s up to you whether you want a timeless or more current option for your baby.

The genealogy experts at MooseRoots used data from the Social Security Administration to find the five most popular boys’ and girls’ names per decade from the 2000’s all the way back to the 1880’s. You can use this data to choose a name for your little one that will never go out of style.

The list is filled with classic favorites that have spanned generations, allowing you to see how much the times have changed — and in many cases the degree to which things have stayed very much the same. Enjoy a little history lesson by browsing the top names by decade to see if any sound right for the new addition to your family.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 2000s

 

Most Popular Names: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel

Jacob — meaning ‘supplanter’ — was the most popular male name from 2000 to 2009. In total, the top five baby boy names during this time period were Jacob (12,877 per million), Michael (11,782 per million), Joshua (10,907 per million), Matthew (10,419 per million) and Daniel (9,579 per million).

Top Baby Girl Names of the 2000s

 

Most Popular Names: Most Popular Names: Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia, Hannah

Emily — a medieval form of the Latin name Aemilia — was the most popular female name from 2000 to 2009. In total, the top five baby girl names during this decade were Emily (11,016 per million), Madison (9,512 per million), Emma (8,925 per million), Olivia (7,683 per million) and Hannah (7,666 per million).

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1990s

 

Most Popular Names: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Jacob

Michael — a common biblical name meaning ‘who is like God?’ in Hebrew — was the most popular male name from 1990 to 1999. In total, the top five baby boy names during this span were Michael (22,501 per million), Christopher (17,531 per million), Matthew (17,113 per million), Joshua (16,018 per million) and Jacob (14,517 per million).

Michael went on to become one of the five most popular boys’ names in the 2000s, but the frequency was less than half of what it was in the 1990s.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1990s

 

Most Popular Names: Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Sarah, Samantha

Jessica — believed to be derived from a biblical name that in appeared in the translations available during Shakespeare’s day, as Jesca — was the most popular female name from 1990 to 1999. In total, the top five baby girl names during this era were Jessica (15,431 per million), Ashley (15,366 per million), Emily (12,078 per million), Sarah (11,417 per million) and Samantha (11,405 per million).

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1980s

 

Most Popular Names: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, David

Michael was again the most popular male name from 1980 to 1989. In total, the top five baby boy names during this span were Michael (34,506 per million), Christopher (28,850 per million), Matthew (23,863 per million), Joshua (20,621 per million) and David (19,948 per million).

If this list sounds familiar, it’s because the top four names went on to hold the exact same rankings in the 1990s, but each with fewer instances.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1980s

 

Most Popular Names: Jessica, Jennifer, Amanda, Ashley, Sarah

Jessica was also the most popular female name from 1980 to 1989. In total, the top five baby girl names during this period were Jessica (25,443 per million), Jennifer (23,893 per million), Amanda (20,037 per million), Ashley (19,086 per million) and Sarah (14,771 per million).

In addition to Jessica, Sarah also went on to become one of the five most popular names for baby girls in the 1990s.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1970s

 

Most Popular Names: Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James

Michael was yet again the most popular male name from 1970 to 1979. In total, the top five baby boy names during these years were Michael (41,361 per million), Christopher (27,800 per million), Jason (27,056 per million), David (26,064 per million) and James (26,005 per million).

The 1970s marked the beginning of a three decade period where Michael and Christopher held the top two spots on the list.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1970s

 

Most Popular Names: Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, Kimberly

Jennifer — a Cornish form of the name of King Arthur’s unfaithful wife Guinevere — was the most popular female name from 1970 to 1979. In total, the top five baby girl names during this decade were Jennifer (35,343 per million), Amy (16,342 per million), Melissa (15,387 per million), Michelle (15,136 per million) and Kimberly (13,919 per million).

Popular male names had a much frequency during the 1970s and most decades, meaning parents tended to get a little more creative when naming their daughters than their sons.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1960s

 

Most Popular Names: Michael, David, John, James, Robert

Michael topped the charts as the most popular male name from 1960 to 1969, which would be the first of its four decade reign. In total, the top five baby boy names during these years were Michael (42,481 per million), David (37,424 per million), John (36,376 per million), James (34,917 per million) and Robert (33,183 per million).

It’s interesting that Michael was the most popular boys’ name for 40 years, but the difference frequency between its first and last time topping the charts was nearly 20,000.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1960s

 

Most Popular Names: Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Kimberly

Lisa — meaning devoted to God — was the most popular female name from 1960 to 1969. In total, the top five baby girl names during this span were Lisa (26,296 per million), Mary (18,795 per million), Susan (15,221 per million), Karen (15,135 per million) and Kimberly (13,709 per million).

Kimberly actually held the No. 5 spot in both the 1960s and the 1970s, with a difference in frequency of roughly 200.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1950s

 

Most Popular Names: James, Michael, Robert, John, David

James — a biblical name — was the most popular male name from 1950 to 1959. In total, the top five baby boy names during these years were James (41,113 per million), Michael (40,808 per million), Robert (40,462 per million), John (38,878 per million) and David (37,515 per million).

Look closely and you’ll notice the top five boys’ names from the 1960s are the exact same as the 1950s, just in a different order.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1950s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Linda, Patricia, Susan, Deborah

Mary — meaning drop of the sea — was the most common female name from 1950 to 1959. In total, the top five baby girl names during these years were Mary (31,701 per million), Linda (28,595 per million), Patricia (23,291 per million), Susan (22,182 per million) and Deborah (21,817 per million).

It’s interesting that Susan ranked one spot higher in the 1960s, despite a frequency difference of nearly 7,000.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1940s

 

Most Popular Names: James, Robert, John, William, Richard

James — a biblical name meaning that supplants, undermines, the heel — was again the most popular male name from 1940 to 1949. In total, the top five baby boy names during this era were James (52,501 per million), Robert (50,016 per million), John (46,949 per million), William (36,711 per million) and Richard (31,500 per million).

While parents opted for James more than any other name for their sons in the 1940s and 1950s, the frequency changed by more than 11,000 from the former to the latter decade.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1940s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol

Mary was again the most common female name from 1940 to 1949. In total, the top five baby girl names during these years were Mary (42,971 per million), Linda (35,694 per million), Barbara (28,551 per million), Patricia (27,622 per million) and Carol (19,626 per million).

In the 1950s, Mary and Linda remained in the same spots, but Patricia moved up to third place, despite the name’s frequency dropping by more than 4,000.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1930s

 

Most Popular Names: Robert, James, John, William, Richard

Robert — meaning bright, fame, famous — was again the most popular name for males born from 1930 to 1939. In total, the top five baby boy names during this period were Robert (54,437 per million), James (50,444 per million), John (44,959 per million), William (38,396 per million) and Richard (30,451 per million).

These names remained in the exact same rank in the 1940s, with the exception of James and Robert trading places.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1930s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Betty, Barbara, Shirley, Patricia

Mary was once again the most common female name for baby girls born from 1930 to 1939. In total, the top five baby girl names during this decade were Mary (51,869 per million), Betty (27,193 per million), Barbara (26,834 per million), Shirley (20,765 per million) and Patricia (19,969 per million).

The frequency difference between Mary and Betty is nearly 25,000, revealing the overwhelmingly popularity of longtime chart topper.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1920s

 

Most Popular Names: Robert, John, James, William, Charles

Robert was yet again the most popular name for males born from 1920 to 1929. In total, the top five baby boy names during this decade were Robert (50,678 per million), John (49,597 per million), James (45,311 per million), William (45,054 per million) and Charles (26,205 per million).

Charles is the only name on the list that didn’t go on to become one of the five most common boys’ names in the 1930s.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1920s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Betty, Margaret

Mary remained the most prevalent name given to baby girls born from 1920 to 1929. In total, the top five baby girl names during this time span were Mary (56,584 per million), Dorothy (29,743 per million), Helen (23,416 per million), Betty (22,826 per million) and Margaret (19,755 per million).

Despite Mary dominating the list for decades, it’s worth noting that girls’ names had much more variety than boys’.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1910s

 

Most Popular Names: John, William, James, Robert, Joseph

John — meaning the grace or mercy of the Lord — was the most popular name for baby boys born from 1910 to 1919. In total, the top five baby boy names during this period were John (54,159 per million), William (43,610 per million), James (39,588 per million), Robert (34,423 per million) and Joseph (20,409 per million).

For a period of five straight decades, James held the third place spot on the list, spanning from the 1880s through the 1920s.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1910s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ruth

Mary continued on as the most prevalent name for baby girls born from 1910 to 1919. In total, the top five baby girl names during this era were Mary (56,246 per million), Helen (29,161 per million), Dorothy (24,381 per million), Margaret (22,237 per million) and Ruth (20,409 per million). It’s interesting to note that while most of the names on the list were either added or changed position from the 1910s to the 1920s, frequency for each rank remained relatively similar.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1900s

 

Most Popular Names: John, William, James, George, Charles

John was again the most popular name for male infants born from 1900 to 1909. In total, the top five baby boy names during this period were John (57,644 per million), William (47,238 per million), James (42,365 per million), George (29,365 per million) and Charles (24,659 per million).

John, William and James held the top three spots from the 1880s through the 1910s.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1900s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Helen, Margaret, Anna, Ruth

Mary was yet again the most common female name from 1900 to 1909. In total, the top five baby girl names during this span were Mary (51,993 per million), Helen (22,351 per million), Margaret (18,647 per million), Anna (17,679 per million) and Ruth (16,421 per million).

In the 1910s, Margaret dropped from the third to the forth position, despite a 3,590 gain in frequency.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1890s

 

Most Popular Names: John, William, James, George, Charles

John was once again the most popular name for male infants born from 1900 to 1909. In total, the top five baby boy names during this period were John (65,513 per million), William (58,672 per million), James (41,194 per million), George (35,212 per million) and Charles (29,925 per million).

All five names went on to hold the same rank during the 1910s, but all except James experienced a drop in frequency.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1890s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Anna, Margaret, Helen, Elizabeth

Mary continued on as the most common name for baby girls born from 1890 to 1899. In total, the top five baby girl names during this span were Mary (55,723 per million), Anna (23,482 per million), Margaret (16,121 per million), Helen (16,063 per million) and Elizabeth (14,396 per million).

Elizabeth is the only name on the list that didn’t continue to rank in the top five during the 1900s.

Top Baby Boy Names of the 1880s

 

Most Popular Names: John, William, James, George, Charles

John topped the list of the most popular baby boy names for four straight decades, including 1880 to 1889. In total, the top five baby boy names during this period were John (76,412 per million), William (72,105 per million), James (45,921 per million), George (40,479 per million) and Charles (39,634 per million).

These five names held the same positions in the 1890s and the 1990s, but they had the highest frequency during the 1880s.

Top Baby Girl Names of the 1880s

 

Most Popular Names: Mary, Anna, Emma, Elizabeth, Margaret

Mary began its eight decade span as the most popular name for baby girls during the period of 1880 to 1889. In total, the top five baby girl names during this era were Mary (65,497 per million), Anna (27,264 per million), Emma (18,151 per million), Elizabeth (17,867 per million) and Margaret (15,576 per million).

Emma held the third place spot in both the 1880s and the 2000s, but the frequency was more than 9,000 higher the first time.