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Most popular baby names of every decade

  • Most popular baby names of every decade

    One of the most important and exciting tasks for new parents is picking out their child's name. Whether it's a long-held family name, a biblical name, or a name that holds special meaning for mom or dad, choosing the moniker that your child will carry for life isn't something to take lightly. Over the years, certain names have peaked and then faded in popularity while others stayed at the top of the rankings for multiple decades. And while traditional and biblical names always seem to be in style, we've also seen some more uncommon names become trendy.

    The advent of movies and television had a significant influence on society, and baby names were no exception. As pop culture became a bigger part of our lives, the popular baby names of those decades reflected it, with some names seeming to have been pulled straight from the silver screen. We've also seen plenty of unusual celebrity baby names over the years, but how many made it into the top rankings?

    Using information collected from the Social Security Administration's historical baby name database, Stacker compiled a list of the top five baby names for both girls and boys in every decade. Stacker's list starts with the 1880s, the year in which the Social Security Administration began recording these data and ends in the 2010s. The data was released in May 2019.

    We've included some of the meanings and origins of the names, why they might have been popular during that particular era, and some famous people who shared the top five names of that decade.

    Starting with America's early years and taking you through the Great Depression, World War II, hippie generation, '90s grunge, and into the next century, here are the baby names that were the most popular during every decade:

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  • 1880s for girls

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Mary (91,668 babies born)
    --- #2. Anna (38,159 babies born)
    --- #3. Emma (25,404 babies born)
    --- #4. Elizabeth (25,006 babies born)
    --- #5. Margaret (21,799 babies born)

    The 1880s were a time of growth and change in America, with a large influx of Eastern European, Southern European, and Jewish immigrants fleeing religious persecution. The most popular girl names of this era reflect that growth, as the names Mary and Elizabeth are both Hebrew in origin, while Emma comes from the old German word for "whole."

  • 1880s for boys

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. John (89,950 babies born)
    --- #2. William (84,881 babies born)
    --- #3. James (54,056 babies born)
    --- #4. George (47,651 babies born)
    --- #5. Charles (46,656 babies born)

    Popular boy names in the 1880s had one common theme in that they were all also the names of various kings of England. While America had won its freedom from England more than 100 years earlier, some influence seemed to remain when it came to picking out names for male children. Charles and William are both of German origin, while James and John are Hebrew. Despite being the name of more than one British king, the name George is Greek and means "tiller of the soil."

  • 1890s for girls

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Mary (131,136 babies born)
    --- #2. Anna (55,261 babies born)
    --- #3. Margaret (37,937 babies born)
    --- #4. Helen (37,802 babies born)
    --- #5. Elizabeth (33,879 babies born)

    Most of the top girl names in the 1890s carried over from the 1880s, and names like Mary, Margaret, and Elizabeth were still very popular. The name Helen, which is Greek in origin, was a new addition, as well as the name Anna, a Hebrew name meaning "Gracious." During this time, the National Woman Suffrage Association had started to gain ground across the country, which possibly led mothers to endow their daughters with strong, meaningful names.

  • 1890s for boys

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. John (80,665 babies born)
    --- #2. William (72,244 babies born)
    --- #3. James (50,724 babies born)
    --- #4. George (43,358 babies born)
    --- #5. Charles (36,848 babies born)

    Top boy names for the 1890s kept to the status quo, with all the same names that were popular in the 1880s staying in the top five and even maintaining the same order of popularity. Because it was still very common for parents to look to the family Bible for baby names, it's not surprising that biblical names like John and James were trendy. Additionally, the name George was the name of Christian martyr Saint George, the patron saint of England.

  • 1900s for girls

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Mary (161,505 babies born)
    --- #2. Helen (69,429 babies born)
    --- #3. Margaret (57,921 babies born)
    --- #4. Anna (54,918 babies born)
    --- #5. Ruth (51,011 babies born)

    The names Mary and Margaret were still among the top choices in girl names in the 1900s, as well as Helen and Anna. Added to the list was the name Ruth, a biblical name of Hebrew origin meaning "friend." The popularity of the name may have been influenced by President Grover Cleveland, who named his firstborn daughter Ruth.

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  • 1900s for boys

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. John (84,593 babies born)
    --- #2. William (69,319 babies born)
    --- #3. James (62,170 babies born)
    --- #4. George (43,589 babies born)
    --- #5. Charles (36,184 babies born)

    The 1900s brought the same popular boy names as the previous 20 years, in the exact same order. While choosing names from the Bible remained a common method of baby-naming, the influence of famous authors such as Charles Dickens, who died in 1870 but was still widely read, might also have been a factor.

  • 1910s for girls

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Mary (478,639 babies born)
    --- #2. Helen (248,155 babies born)
    --- #3. Dorothy (207,476 babies born)
    --- #4. Margaret (189,233 babies born)
    --- #5. Ruth (173,678 babies born)

    Mary was still the #1 choice for girl names in the 1910s, but Margaret was edged out by the names Helen and Dorothy. The name Dorothy is of Greek origin and means "gift of God." The ongoing popularity of the name Helen may have been related to the continued success of Helen Keller's biography "The Story of my Life," which was published in 1901.

  • 1910s for boys

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. John (376,318 babies born)
    --- #2. William (303,020 babies born)
    --- #3. James (275,076 babies born)
    --- #4. Robert (239,189 babies born)
    --- #5. Joseph (179,302 babies born)

    While John, William, and James remained first picks for boys in the 1910s, The names Robert and Joseph had also become very popular. As John and James, Joseph, which is of Hebrew origin and means "God shall add another son," was most likely taken straight from the Bible.

  • 1920s for girls

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Mary (701,754 babies born)
    --- #2. Dorothy (368,871 babies born)
    --- #3. Helen (290,402 babies born)
    --- #4. Betty (283,093 babies born)
    --- #5. Margaret (245,008 babies born)

    The roaring 1920s were a time of economic growth, social change, and the advent of a more urban culture that included music, movies, and young women called "flappers," who danced, smoked, and drank despite prohibition laws. The name Betty, a diminutive of Elizabeth, made its way to the top of the baby name charts during this time. "Betty" was also the name of a young woman in a popular comic strip created by artist Charles Voight, which ran from 1920 to 1943 and may have inspired parents to name their daughters after the glamorous character.

  • 1920s for boys

    - Most popular baby names:
    --- #1. Robert (576,364 babies born)
    --- #2. John (564,063 babies born)
    --- #3. James (515,309 babies born)
    --- #4. William (512,400 babies born)
    --- #5. Charles (298,034 babies born)

    The name Robert took the lead in the 1920s, while Charles made its way back into the top five after dropping off in the 1910s. Famous film actor Charlie Chaplin might have had something to do with the renewed popularity, as movies had become a big part of American life, and Chaplin's career was at its peak during this time.

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