The Most Popular Names Every Decade Since the 1880s

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If your mom and dad are celebrities and you have a name like Apple or Blanket, you’ve probably never seen your name crack the top 200 on the list of the most popular names year after year. But if your name is John, James, Mary, or Emma, you probably know more than one person with the same name as yours, across different generations at that. Here are the most popular girls’ and boys’ names of every decade, according to data collected by the Social Security Administration.

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1880s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. John
  2. William 
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Charles
  6. Frank
  7. Joseph
  8. Henry
  9. Robert
  10. Thomas

Least popular name: Hubert

The list of the most popular boy names during the 1880s looks a lot like a list of royal lineage if you ask us, and John’s reign was just getting started. 

Image Credit: Ivan Makarov / Wikimedia Commons.

1880s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Anna
  3. Emma
  4. Elizabeth
  5. Margaret 
  6. Minnie
  7. Ida
  8. Bertha
  9. Clara
  10. Alice

Least popular name: Christina

Every John needs a Mary, and this top-spot girl name remains prevalent for decades to come, starting during the 1880s.

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1890s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Charles
  6. Joseph 
  7. Frank
  8. Robert
  9. Edward
  10. Henry

Least popular name: Jasper

We told you John wasn’t going anywhere. Entering a new decade, the popular boy names saw only minor tweaks, and just one swap, axing Thomas for Edward.

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1890s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Anna
  3. Margaret 
  4. Helen
  5. Elizabeth
  6. Ruth
  7. Florence
  8. Ethel
  9. Emma
  10. Marie

Least popular name: Virgie 

There’s something about Mary, y’know? The girl names got shaken up more than the fellas’ during the decade and we have to admit, we chuckle picturing a cooing little baby in our arms, imagining ourselves saying, “She looks like an Ethel. We’ll call her Ethel.” 

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1900s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Charles
  6. Robert
  7. Joseph 
  8. Frank 
  9. Edward 
  10. Thomas

Least popular name: Juan

Poor Juan. Just can’t compare to John. 

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1900s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Helen
  3. Margaret
  4. Anna
  5. Ruth
  6. Elizabeth
  7. Dorothy
  8. Marie
  9. Florence
  10. Mildred

Least popular name: Eliza

We’re wondering if Dorothy made her way to this list thanks to the release of the iconic book “The Wizard of Oz” in 1900. No Oz on the male counterpart list for the decade though. Bummer.

Image Credit: Henri Manuel / Wikimedia Commons.

1910s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. Robert
  5. Joseph
  6. George
  7. Charles
  8. Edward
  9. Frank
  10. Thomas

Least popular name: Bert

Give it a rest, John, William, and James. Sheesh! Folks back in the day really stuck to what they knew for boy names, huh?

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1910s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Helen
  3. Dorothy
  4. Margaret
  5. Ruth
  6. Mildred
  7. Anna
  8. Elizabeth
  9. Frances
  10. Virginia

Least popular name: Lela

Welcome to the party, Frances and Virginia. Mary might be the first one in the door, but you’re allowed entry too. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1920s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Robert
  2. John
  3. James
  4. William
  5. Charles
  6. George
  7. Joseph
  8. Richard
  9. Edward
  10. Donald

Least popular name: Forrest

Forrest was just seven decades ahead of its time in popularity here. We imagine “Forrest Gump” had people feeling a bit more open to the name. But hey, Robert finally knocked John down a peg!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1920s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Dorothy
  3. Helen
  4. Betty
  5. Margaret
  6. Ruth
  7. Virginia
  8. Doris
  9. Mildred
  10. Frances

Least popular name: Jeannette 

Dorothy is hot on Mary’s heels. Maybe she’ll drop a house on her to snag her top spot. 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1930s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Robert
  2. James
  3. John
  4. William
  5. Richard
  6. Charles
  7. Donald
  8. George
  9. Thomas
  10. Joseph

Least popular name: Alex

Seriously, where is the variety? We know Elmers, Jacks, and Jerrys born in the ’30s. Apparently they were no match for the Roberts, Jameses, and Johns. 

Image Credit: Bike Family Collection / Wikimedia Commons.

1930s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Betty
  3. Barbara
  4. Shirley
  5. Patricia
  6. Dorothy
  7. Joan
  8. Margaret 
  9. Nancy 
  10. Helen

Least popular name: Daisy

Shirley, Joan, and Betty just sound like a powerhouse trifecta of white-haired women with clip-on earings who love their Avon catalogs. We love it. 

Image Credit: State Library of New South Wales collection / Wikimedia Commons.

1940s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. James
  2. Robert
  3. John
  4. William
  5. Richard
  6. David 
  7. Charles
  8. Thomas
  9. Michael 
  10. Ronald

Least popular name: Fredrick

Ronald! Welcome to the top 10, bud. Good luck getting past John or James.

Image Credit: Collins, Tudor Washington / Wikimedia Commons.

1940s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Linda
  3. Barbara 
  4. Patricia
  5. Carol
  6. Sandra
  7. Nancy
  8. Sharon
  9. Judith
  10. Susan

Least popular name: Stella

At this point, we’re wondering how many women named Mary must’ve been walking around. We also don’t know a single person born in the ’40s named Stella, so it makes sense that that name was in last place.

Image Credit: Collins, Tudor Washington / Wikimedia Commons.

1950s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. James
  2. Michael
  3. Robert
  4. John
  5. David
  6. William
  7. Richard
  8. Thomas
  9. Mark
  10. Charles

Least popular name: Kelly

Ronald was short-lived, and a different “R” name made his way to the list instead with Richard.

Image Credit: Berl Shimony / Wikimedia Commons.

1950s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Mary
  2. Linda
  3. Patricia
  4. Susan
  5. Deborah
  6. Barbara
  7. Debra
  8. Karen
  9. Nancy 
  10. Donna

Least popular name: Grace

During the ’50s, the name Deborah was so popular it broke the top 10 spelled two ways. Dang, Debbie!

Image Credit: Florida Memory / Wikimedia Commons.

1960s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Michael
  2. David
  3. John
  4. James
  5. Robert
  6. Mark
  7. William
  8. Richard
  9. Thomas
  10. Jeffrey 

Least popular name: Gene

Michael finally took the top spot during the 1960s, but the top 10, as usual, didn’t get too mixed up. People must just be totally lazy about naming boys.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1960s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Lisa
  2. Mary
  3. Susan 
  4. Karen
  5. Kimberly
  6. Patricia
  7. Linda
  8. Donna
  9. Michelle
  10. Cynthia

Least popular name: Pam

Lisa came out of nowhere and snatched that top spot from entitled Miss Mary who thought she’d always be No. 1.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1970s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Michael
  2. Christopher
  3. Jason
  4. David
  5. James
  6. John
  7. Robert
  8. Brian
  9. William
  10. Matthew

Least popular name: Harry

Honestly, we’re not sure what’s more stunning about the popular boy names of the ’70s: The fact that we finally have a bit more variety in the mix or the fact that Harry was the least popular name. Tons of men are named Harry!

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1970s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Jennifer
  2. Amy
  3. Melissa
  4. Michelle
  5. Kimberly
  6. Lisa
  7. Angela
  8. Heather
  9. Stephanie
  10. Nicole

Least popular name: Adrienne

Mary’s fall from grace happened subtly and then all at once. Booted clear out of the top 10 just a decade after the first time she was bumped from the top spot. Poor gal.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1980s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Michael
  2. Christopher
  3. Matthew
  4. Joshua
  5. David
  6. James
  7. Daniel
  8. Robert
  9. John
  10. Joseph

Least popular name: Geoffrey

John was getting awfully low in the top 10 by the ’80s, and we’re not at all surprised that Mike took the top spot for that decade.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1980s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Jessica
  2. Jennifer
  3. Amanda
  4. Ashley
  5. Sarah
  6. Stephanie
  7. Melissa
  8. Nicole
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Heather

Least popular name: Taylor

Imagine Gen Z trying to wrap their brains around the fact that the name Taylor was the least popular girl name of the ’80s. The Swifties would riot.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1990s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Michael
  2. Christopher
  3. Matthew
  4. Joshua
  5. Jacob
  6. Nicholas
  7. Andrew
  8. Daniel 
  9. Tyler 
  10. Joseph

Least popular name: Larry

Joshes and Nicks were abundant indeed in the ’90s, so this one doesn’t surprise us much at all. And yeah, we don’t imagine many people listening to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears looked at their newborn son and landed on Larry.

Image Credit: middelveld/istockphoto.

1990s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Jessica
  2. Ashley
  3. Emily
  4. Sarah
  5. Samantha
  6. Amanda
  7. Brittany
  8. Elizabeth
  9. Taylor
  10. Megan

Least popular name: Mia

Jessica, Ashley, Brittany — if you’re reading this and you were born in the ’90s, you absolutely know a blond girl with one of those three names on her birth certificate.

Image Credit: cws_design/istockphoto.

2000s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Jacob
  2. Michael
  3. Joshua
  4. Matthew
  5. Daniel
  6. Christopher
  7. Andrew
  8. Ethan
  9. Joseph
  10. William

Least popular name: Martin

There was absolutely a surge of Ethans in the 2000s. And Martins were few and far between. We concur.

Image Credit: Fly_Fast/istockphoto.

2000s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Emily
  2. Madison
  3. Emma
  4. Olivia
  5. Hannah
  6. Abigail
  7. Isabella
  8. Samantha
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Ashley

Least popular name: Jasmin

Emma has transcended generations and is still a popular girl’s name to this day. Elizabeth was also born-again into popularity during the 2000s, although we feel like we’ve heard it more as a middle name for that generation of kids.

Image Credit: LSOphoto/istockphoto.

2010s: Most Popular Boy Names

  1. Noah
  2. Liam
  3. Jacob
  4. William
  5. Mason
  6. Ethan
  7. Michael
  8. Alexander
  9. James
  10. Elijah

Least popular name: Paul

Poor Paul. He didn’t stand a chance against Noah. Mason and Liam also burst onto the scene of popularity this decade, and chances are in an elementary classroom near you, there’s a kid with one of those names plastered to his desk.

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2010s: Most Popular Girl Names

  1. Emma
  2. Olivia
  3. Sophia
  4. Isabella
  5. Ava
  6. Mia
  7. Abigail
  8. Emily
  9. Charlotte
  10. Madison

Least popular name: Izabella

We told ya Emma wasn’t messing around! Olivia, Sophia, and Isabella (not with a “z” though apparently) also made their way to tons of baby girls name lists.

Image Credit: gpointstudio/istockphoto.

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