America Week 2015

The Most Popular Baby Names in America, From 1880 to Present


The land of the free is a constantly changing beast. One day we're eating erotic salads, the next we're into artisanal donuts. And while Linda was once the most popular girl's name in the whole country, nowadays Emma and Sophia are giving it side-eye. With the help of the Social Security Administration, we compiled the top boy and girl baby names in the US for the past 134 years. As the organization notes, the data discounts anyone who never applied for a Social Security card, and several people born before 1937 neglected to do just that. But you'll still get a pretty clear picture of what we've been naming our spawn since 1880, as well as our great-grandparents' utter lack of imagination.

1880-1923: John, Mary

For 43 uninterrupted years, John and Mary ruled the charts with tiny baby fists. Despite some impressive moves by No. 2 seeds like William and Helen, there was just no toppling these despots. That is, until the flapper era came along...

1924-1939: Robert, Mary

While Mary continued her hot streak, Bobby finally overtook John in 1924. He wouldn't enjoy quite the same legacy as his bro, but at least he cracked the rankings, Ted.

1940-1946: James, Mary

There's a reason 85% of all grandpas are named Jim. James would dominate the boy baby charts throughout the '40s, but the decade finally brought Mary's downfall.

1947-1952: James, Linda

We wouldn't have pegged Linda to end Mary's 67-year reign of terror, and, yet, the tough broad did it. No wonder Linda Hamilton is such a badass.

1953: Robert, Mary

... well that didn't last long. Mary returned to the throne just seven years later, along with Robert, who felt he was due a full 16-year term.

1954-1959: Michael, Mary

Goodbye Bob, hello Mike. And yes, Mary, we still see you there.


1960: David, Mary

Dave got his brief day in the sun as the '60s began, but true to the decade, things changed fast.

1961: Michael, Mary

Or sorta stayed the same? This was another boring one-year outlier setting up for fresh blood.

1962-1969: Michael, Lisa

No more surprise resurgences: from this point on, Mary was done. Lisa rose in her stead like a majestic phoenix, just without all the feathers.

1970-1984: Michael, Jennifer

Jen, Jenny, 'ennif. No matter how you styled it, Jennifer was in. She apparently didn't care to stick around for the second half of the '80s, though, and instead ceded power to a similar name.

Touchstone Pictures

1985-1990: Michael, Jessica

It wouldn't be the '80s without approximately five bajillion baby Jessicas. (And one very grown-up cartoon Jessica.) The name spilled over into the next decade along with Mikey, who entered his third decade of dominance.

1991-1992: Michael, Ashley

For every Jessica, there is an equal and opposite Ashley. The two names duked it out for '90s supremacy, but clearly, Ash was slacking in this fight...

1993-1995: Michael, Jessica

Trouncing rising contenders like Sarah and Samantha, Jessica climbed back up to the top for another three-year stretch. But that No. 5 seed was coming for her.

1996-1998: Michael, Emily

Michael kept chugging right along, probably thanks to the impressive mugging by this Michael. On the flip side, Emily picked up where Jessica left off.

1999-2007: Jacob, Emily

Obviously fearing Y2K, Michael retreated into his bunker and finally let another guy (Jacob) take the spotlight. Emily stayed put, because she's no wuss.

2008: Jacob, Emma

You're getting nicknamed Em either way, but fine, Emma, you can have this one year.

2009-2010: Jacob, Isabella

People have speculated that Twilight fandom had something to do with the rising popularity of Isabella (or "Bella") in the late aughts. That makes us sad for humanity, so we choose to believe instead that either a bunch of Isabella Rossellini fans or history nerds (Isabella I of Castile represent!) were responsible.

2011-2012: Jacob, Sophia

Tiring of Bella but wanting to keep things Mediterranean, parents swapped in Sophia as the new girl name of the moment.

Paramount Pictures

2013: Noah, Sophia

No doubt due to mass excitement over Russell Crowe's Noah, parents started naming their boys after the ancient arkmaster in droves.

2014: Noah, Emma

Crowe mania raged on another year (man, remember that scene with all the water?!), but people grew weary of Sophia and went with Emma instead. Will she stick around through 2015? You'll have to check back with the SSA next year to find out.

Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist. If Biblical names are in again, she's really pulling for Ezekiel. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.