Presidential names ranked by their current popularity
Presidential names ranked by their current popularity
Presidents loom large in the American consciousness. Elections occur once every four years, and campaigning begins well in advance. Advertisements pepper radio and television waves, headlines are full of reports from the campaign trail, and the internet is full of ads and opinions on each candidate. Once a candidate has actually been sworn in, their decisions impact many facets of American life, making it almost impossible for Americans not to have a relatively high level of awareness of, at the very least, their president’s first name.
So when it comes time for parents to name their children, it is no surprise that some turn to presidential names, perhaps hoping their children will grow up to occupy stations of similar prestige and import to their predecessors.
But not all presidential names are valued equally. Stacker used the Social Security Administration’s Baby Names database to rank the 32 first names of U.S. presidents by their popularity in 2019 and found that the reputation of the president with the same name did not always correspond to how popular the name is today. For example, none of the presidents with the most popular presidential name—William—are remembered as particularly excellent presidents but still come out far ahead in name rankings than presidents with more aspirational legacies, such as Abraham Lincoln.
One factor is that other famous Americans share the same name as these ex-presidents. To wit, Warren Harding is hardly remembered as America’s best president, but Warren Buffett is a widely respected investor, and one of the richest people in the world. Other names simply fall out of fashion, as with Millard, the least popular presidential name.
Click through for a look at the most popular presidential names parents give their children today.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)
- Name shared by: Millard Fillmore
With a name the New York Times calls “vaguely ridiculous,” it’s no surprise Millard Fillmore’s first name is the least popular of the presidential names. The 13th president’s recent biographer suggested the name could rhyme with “dullard.”
- Name popularity rank in 2019: not ranked (fewer than 5 babies born)
- Name shared by: Rutherford B. Hayes
Perhaps one reason Rutherford isn’t one of the more popular presidential names today has to do with the 19th president’s tenure. Rutherford B. Hayes ran on a platform promising to serve only one term, during which he managed to antagonize those who had helped put him in office.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #6,735 (12 babies born)
- Name shared by: Barack Obama
The most recent occupant of the Oval Office before the current one, Barack Obama was a popular if divisive president. Although his name is not the most popular in the United States, more parents than ever have chosen to name their children Barack in recent years.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #3,980 (26 babies born)
- Name shared by: Grover Cleveland
Parents who want to name their children after President Grover Cleveland may not be exactly accurate to name their children “Grover.” The 24th president’s real first name was Stephen. Interestingly, he is the only president to have served two non-consecutive terms.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #3,780 (28 babies born)
- Name shared by: Bill Clinton
Although Bill sounds like a common name, it is one of the less popular presidential names. One reason may be that many parents, like Bill Clinton’s parents, may name their children William, and only nickname them Bill.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #2,478 (53 babies born)
- Name shared by: Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover’s reputation may make parents more hesitant to name their children after him. Hoover was widely blamed for the Great Depression in its aftermath, although in recent decades his reputation has bounced back.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #1,922 (76 babies born)
- Name shared by: Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow isn’t the most popular of presidential names, but this isn’t for lack of admiration for the former President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson is widely seen as one of the most admired American presidents, steering the country ably and admirably through World War I.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #1,902 (77 babies born)
- Name shared by: Dwight D. Eisenhower
Although Dwight D. Eisenhower is widely regarded for his stewardship of the country in the decade following World War II, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1962, a C-SPAN poll of prominent historians ranked him as “barely average,” although his reputation has grown steadily since, which can only be good news for future parents naming their children Dwight.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #1,715 (91 babies born)
- Name shared by: Chester Arthur
The National Constitution Center called Former President Chester Arthur “one of the more obscure leaders in American history,” so it may come as no surprise that his name isn’t wildly popular for parents looking to name babies after famous leaders. One reason Arthur may not be in such fuzzy focus? He was never meant to be president, assuming the office only after the assassination of James Garfield.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #1,496 (113 babies born)
- Name shared by: Lyndon B. Johnson
The architect of the Great Society that put in place many of the social programs Americans rely upon today, Lyndon Johnson is also remembered for further enmeshing the United States in a disastrous war in Vietnam. The popularity of his name is assisted by the fact that it can be given to men and women alike.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #1,017 (203 babies born)
- Name shared by: Ulysses S. Grant
The Civil War general and president Ulysses S. Grant is only one of the famous Ulysses parents may be naming their children after. The other? The title character from James Joyce’s famous experimental novel, “Ulysses,” modeled itself on another version of the name, Odysseus.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #894 (243 babies born)
- Name shared by: Gerald Ford
Despite the difficult circumstances of Gerald Ford’s presidency, his name retains some popularity. Ford became the president after the resignation of Richard Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, and inherited a disastrous economy and fallout from over a decade of war in Vietnam.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #705 (350 babies born)
- Name shared by: Joe Biden
Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2021—making it a little premature to see how his popularity will affect baby names in the coming months. Data collected between October and December of 2020 by YouGov found Biden to be the fifth-most popular Democrat and fourth-most famous.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #670 (382 babies born)
- Name shared by: Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter is remembered today for struggling to respond to many of the crisis moments in his presidency. Nevertheless, parents continue to name their children Jimmy—although not as many as those who choose to name their children James, from which the nickname Jimmy is often derived.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #647 (413 babies born)
- Name shared by: Harry S. Truman
Parents looking to name their children after Harry S. Truman may be interested to know that Truman himself was named after his uncle, Harrison Young. As for Truman’s middle initial? It was officially entered on his birth certificate as, simply, “S.”
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #552 (506 babies born)
- Name shared by: Donald Trump
Donald Trump will forever be remembered as one of the most polarizing presidents in modern history. Although his first name is moderately popular, it seems likely that many of these parents who name their children Donald may be among the president’s Republican supporters.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #527 (536 babies born)
- Name shared by: Ronald Reagan
Remembered for his sunny optimism that “It’s morning again in America,” Reagan’s first name is somewhat popular with parents looking to name their children after American presidents. One nickname option for Ronald? Ronnie, which is what the former president’s wife Nancy called him.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #422 (732 babies born)
- Name shared by: Franklin Pierce, Franklin D. Roosevelt
When parents think about naming their children Franklin after a former president, they are more likely thinking about Franklin D. Roosevelt than Franklin Pierce. Roosevelt is widely considered one of the greatest American presidents, steering the United States out of the Great Depression and World War II.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #349 (951 babies born)
- Name shared by: Warren G. Harding
One of President Warren Harding’s most enduring legacies is the criminality of his cabinet and the fact that he died of a heart attack in office. Another Warren parents may be naming their children after? Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #281 (1,244 babies born)
- Name shared by: Martin Van Buren
Parents who hope their children follow in the presidential footsteps that came before them may consider naming their children Martin. Martin Van Buren is best remembered for being one of the most gifted politicians of his era, garnering the nickname the “Red Fox” for his political skill.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #198 (1,969 babies born)
- Name shared by: Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon’s somewhat tattered reputation hasn’t stopped many parents from naming their children Richard. Although Nixon is also remembered for important milestones like opening the diplomatic door to China during his presidency, he is best remembered for the Watergate scandal that led to his impeachment.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #191 (2,039 babies born)
- Name shared by: Abraham Lincoln
The biblical name of Abraham was also shared by one of America’s best presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is best remembered for guiding the United States through the Civil War, and for his stirring words of hope and unity, now inscribed on the memorial bearing his name.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #145 (2,630 babies born)
- Name shared by: Calvin Coolidge
Although Calvin Coolidge was popular during his time as president, his reputation has not survived history in the same way. He is blamed in part for the Great Depression—a fact which has not stopped many parents from naming their children Calvin.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #124 (3,064 babies born)
- Name shared by: Zachary Taylor
Although he was elected into office as a popular hero from the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor’s legacy was largely defined by his inability to find a solution to slavery before dying 16 months after taking office. Nevertheless, many parents continue to name their children Zachary.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #119 (3,175 babies born)
- Name shared by: George Washington, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush
America’s first president, George Washington, has had two successors with the same name in the Oval Office—both Bush presidents. The name thus looms large in the American political consciousness, perhaps explaining in part why so many parents name their children George.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #47 (6,612 babies born)
- Name shared by: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson is widely remembered as one of the most interesting and multifaceted occupants of the Oval Office. In addition to serving as America’s third president, he was also a philosopher, diplomat, architect, and agrarian, meaning that parents who name their children after him might hope for a wide range of occupations and outcomes in their child’s life.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #46 (6,757 babies born)
- Name shared by: Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson
Two presidents have been named Andrew, which may play a role in the name’s popularity. However, neither man has an unblemished record, with Jackson castigated for his role in the forced removal of Native Americans, and Johnson remembered for his disastrous handling of the aftermath of the Civil War.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #36 (7,839 babies born)
- Name shared by: Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman which may contribute to making his name a popular choice for parents who appreciate nature and the environment. And just like the former president, Theodores can always shorten their names to Teddy.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #28 (8,779 babies born)
- Name shared by: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, John Tyler, John F. Kennedy
Four American presidents have shared the name John. Several are remembered as some of America’s best presidents, which may explain why so many parents continue to name their children John, in addition to the common popularity of the given name in general.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #7 (12,942 babies born)
- Name shared by: Benjamin Harrison
With a namesake like former president Benjamin Harrison, it’s a marvel that so many parents name their children Benjamin. Harrison is remembered by some historians, like the University of Virginia’s Allan B. Spetter, as a “human iceberg” who spent most of his time in the Oval Office checked out of his responsibilities.
- Name popularity rank in 2019: #6 (13,087 babies born)
- Name shared by: James Madison, James Monroe, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, James Garfield
James is one of the most popular presidential names, and the most common name for former presidents, with five ex-presidents sharing the name. One of the more famous is James Madison, who was one of the so-called Founding Fathers of the United States.
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- Name popularity rank in 2019: #4 (13,542 babies born)
- Name shared by: William Henry Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft
The most popular presidential name, William, has been shared by three former presidents. However, none of these presidents is ranked among America’s best, and one—William Howard Taft—may be best remembered for getting stuck in the White House bathtub.
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