The 10 most popular American baby names for every decade in the past 100 years

Baby names go in and out of style each decade.

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Baby names go in and out of style each decade.
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debasige/Shutterstock.com

  • The most popular baby names are tracked each year by the Social Security Administration.
  • We compiled a list of the 10 most popular baby names for each decade since 1880 – nearly 140 years ago.
  • Some names, like “William,” are consistently popular, while other names like “Emma” are experiencing a resurgence.

Everyone wants their baby to be unique. But that doesn’t always apply to baby names.

Every decade in the United States, new baby names become popular as older names fade out of style.

The Social Security Administration has been tracking the most popular baby names in the United States since the 1880s. We compiled a list of the 10 most popular names for each decade since then, and the data show some fascinating trends.

The name “Michael,” for example, first entered the list of most popular names in the 1940s, and quickly became the most popular boy’s name in America. It held the number-one spot for four straight decades from the 1960s to the 1990s, slipped to number two in the 2000s, and fell completely off the list for the current decade.

Other names are experiencing a resurgence. “Emma” was one of the 10 most popular girl’s names in the 1880s and 1890s, but it didn’t crack the list again until more than 100 years later, when it became the 3rd-most popular name of the 2000s. The name continues to rise in popularity, and is currently the most popular name of the 2010s.

Some names prove to have serious staying power, like “John,” which made the top 10 for every decade from the 1880s to the 1980s, and William, which made the cut from the 1880s to the 1970s, as well as the 2000s and the 2010s.

Meanwhile, some names have a much shorter time in the spotlight, only appearing on the top-10 list for a single decade. They include “Jason” in the 1970s, “Amanda” in the 1980s, and “Brittany” in the 1990s.

Check out the 10 most popular baby names from every decade and see where your name lies.


‘John’ and ‘Mary’ were the No. 1 baby names in the 1880s.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


And again in the 1890s. This was the last appearance of ‘Emma’ in the top 10 for more than 100 years.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


John and Mary reigned through the 1900s, while names like ‘Mildred’ and ‘Florence’ made appearances on the girls’ side.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


Little changed through the 1910s — John, ‘William,’ and ‘James’ were the top three names for a fourth straight decade.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


John was finally usurped by ‘Robert’ in the 1920s. Meanwhile, ‘Dorothy’ reached a peak of No. 2 on the girls’ side.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 1930s, Robert and Mary continued to top the charts. ‘Barbara’ made its first of three straight appearances, and Betty peaked at No. 2.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 1940s, Robert gave way to ‘James,’ and ‘Linda’ soared to the second spot behind Mary. This decade was also the first appearance of ‘Michael’ in the top 10.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 1950s, James and Mary were the most popular names for a second straight decade. Meanwhile, both ‘Deborah’ and ‘Debra’ appeared on the girls’ list.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


But in the 1960s, ‘Michael’ and ‘Lisa’ took over. James would hang around for a few more decades, but this was Linda’s last appearance in the top 10.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


‘Jennifer’ topped the 1970s charts as Michael continued its reign. Christopher and Amy both debuted at No. 2, but Amy would not appear again.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


‘Jessica’ bumped Jennifer down to No. 2 in the 1980s. The decade also saw ‘Amanda’ and ‘Joshua’ rise to prominence.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 1990s, Michael and Christopher stayed at the top while ‘Ashley’ crept up on the longtime favorites.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 2000s, the No. 1 baby names were ‘Jacob’ and ‘Emily.’ The girls’ side saw a resurgence of old favorites, such as ‘Olivia,’ ‘Abigail,’ and ‘Isabella,’ as well as the return of Emma in the top 10 for the first time in more than a century.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration


In the 2010s, ‘Emma’ joined Jacob at the top. ‘Noah,’ ‘Liam,’ and ‘Jayden’ debuted on the boys’ side, while ‘Ava,’ ‘Sophia’ and ‘Mia’ made the girls’ list.

source
Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Source: Social Security Administration