Most popular baby names for baby boomers
It’s been nearly 450 years since Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” In 2012, the Washington Post sought to answer, reporting on how the government tracks baby names and monitors trends over time.
Unsurprisingly, traditional names dominate the top of the pack for people born between 1946 and 1964. This group, commonly known as the baby boomers, results from the post-war population boom that accompanied an era of American prosperity during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. Names like Susan, Linda, and Gary may sound old-fashioned now—but at the time, they represented the traditions and values of a new American dream.
To determine the most popular names of the baby boomer generation, Stacker compiled data from the Social Security Administration’s Baby Names Archives and ranked every popular name by how many babies were given that moniker from 1946 to 1964. The most popular years for each name and each name’s 2018 rank (most recent data available) are also included. Behind the Name was consulted for facts about a name’s etymology and history.
While names from the Bible occupy much of the list, the name Kathleen has the distinction of being the first name given to any baby boomer, just one second after midnight in 1946. Hollywood and pop culture also played a significant role in helping a name’s popularity jump up the list, with everything from actors, book characters, and athletes helping advance the generation’s top names. Some names, like Larry and Cynthia, have lost their Hollywood luster and faded from use in the decades since.
Read on to find out the most popular baby names for baby boomers.
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#25. Girl: Judy
- Total baby boomers with this name: 239,145
- Peak popularity: 1946 (#11 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1964 (#74 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #1,529 (141 babies born)
The success of two Judys in Hollywood helped spur this name up the list. The Golden Era’s most recognizable starlet, Judy Garland, who starred in 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” and Judy Holliday, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949’s “Born Yesterday.” The name Judy derives from the name Judith, which in Hebrew translates to “Jewish woman” from the tribe of Judah.
#25. Boy: George
- Total baby boomers with this name: 342,077
- Peak popularity: 1946-1948 (#16 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1963 (#34 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #127 (3,059 babies born)
The name George is Greek for “farmer or earth-worker,” and it rose to popularity in the 18th century, beginning with the first King George’s rise to the throne of England. George Washington brought the name West, and it reached peak popularity from 1946 to 48 in part because of the death of WWII hero Gen. George S. Patton in 1945. Additionally, the loss of George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1948 also made the name famous.
#24. Girl: Carolyn
- Total baby boomers with this name: 256,829
- Peak popularity: 1946 (#12 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1963-1964 (#56 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #859 (312 babies born)
Deriving from the name Caroline, a feminine version of Charles meaning “free man,” Carolyn’s popularity spiked from the late 1930s through 1950. The “Nancy Drew” book series, written by a collection of authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, was popular during the time and led to a series of films in the early 1940s that helped further the name’s use.
#24. Boy: Jeffrey
- Total baby boomers with this name: 343,488
- Peak popularity: 1962-1964 (#10 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1946 (#78 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #331 (1,003 babies born)
A variant of the name Geoffrey, stemming from German meaning “pledge of peace,” Jeffrey became a common name in the early 1960s among boys. Olympian Jeffrey Farrell, a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, helped the name’s popularity. Famous Jeffs born during the 1962-64 spike include actor Jeff Garlin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
#23. Girl: Margaret
- Total baby boomers with this name: 284,735
- Peak popularity: 1948 (#13 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1964 (#49 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #127 (2,312 babies born)
Tracing back to Sanskrit and ancient Greek words meaning “pearl,” the name Margaret takes many forms, including Marge, Maggie, and Peggy. Actress Angela O’Brien, who took the name Margaret for the stage, was a wildly famous actress at the time, popularizing the name after earning a Juvenile Academy Award in 1944. One of the first female astronauts, Margaret Rhea Seddon, was born in 1948 during the name’s peak popularity.
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#23. Boy: Timothy
- Total baby boomers with this name: 344,399
- Peak popularity: 1960 (#11 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1946 (#60 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #165 (2,330 babies born)
A popular biblical name, Timothy, meaning “honoring God,” accompanied the apostle Paul during his missionary work and was the name of several early Christian saints. The name reached the height of its use around 1960, and popular Timothys of that time include actor Timothy Carey, who became a cult icon in the late 1950s for his portrayal of several mentally unstable characters. Timothy Hutton is one famous baby boomer with the name, as are Tim Burton and Tim Robbins, who shortened their title.
#22. Girl: Janet
- Total baby boomers with this name: 285,736
- Peak popularity: 1950-1951 (#18 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1964 (#48 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #1,411 (157 babies born)
Popular actress Janet Leigh released a series of hit movies in the late 1940s, including a film adaptation of “Little Women,” helping perpetuate the name Janet’s popularity. She also may have helped precipitate its slide after starring in the 1960 classic “Psycho.” An offshoot of the name Jane, Janet is one of many feminine derivatives of the name John.
#22. Boy: Stephen
- Total baby boomers with this name: 345,212
- Peak popularity: 1949-1951 (#19 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1963-1964 (#29 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #284 (1,236 babies born)
The name Stephen, which means “crown,” rose to use after Saint Stephen, who is considered the first Christian martyr of the New Testament. It has been used by 10 popes, as well as kings and saints. Baby boomers with the name Stephen include author Stephen King and actors Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea. While not as popular today, the moniker’s link to royalty and religion helps it remain in baby-naming books.
#21. Girl: Cheryl
- Total baby boomers with this name: 294,755
- Peak popularity: 1958 (#13 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1952 (#31 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #2,889 (57 babies born)
A combination of the names Cherie and Beryl, Cheryl wasn’t used as a name often until the 1930s. The release of the French book “Cheri,” about a young man and his older female lover, helped spur its popularity. Cheryl Ladd and Cheryl Tiegs are two famous baby boomers.
#21. Boy: Edward
- Total baby boomers with this name: 346,440
- Peak popularity: 1946-1948 (#19 rank)
- Lowest popularity: 1961-1962 (#29 rank)
- Popularity in 2018: #169 (2,268 babies born)
The name Edward, meaning “rich guard,” has been used by 11 kings of England, most recently in 1936 by Edward VIII. The name’s popularity post-WWII can be attributed to several famous Edwards: journalist Edward R. Murrow, actor Edward G. Robinson, and “Jane Eyre” character Edward Rochester, who was portrayed by Orson Welles in the 1943 movie adaptation.
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