Historical rankings of the U.S. presidents usually show that Abraham Lincoln is the most popular Commander in Chief of all time. So it's surprising that while Lincoln lives in infamy in our history books, his surname has yet to break into the mainstream for U.S. baby names. Too big of a legacy, maybe? Or maybe not... Baby name charts show that Lincoln is on the rise so far this century. Actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard named their daughter Lincoln in 2013, and Bill Murray named his son Lincoln in 2001. Lincoln means "home by the pond" in Old English, which adds to its cool factor.
That's no baby face! But, somehow, the surname of our nation's fourth president, James Madison, has become quite the popular baby name — particularly for girls, who can be nicknamed "Maddy" or "Maddie." Since Madison is also the name of the capital of Wisconsin, it also landed on our city-inspired baby names list.
Our 7th president, Andrew Jackson, was nicknamed "Old Hickory" for his toughness. He was a self-taught lawyer from the Carolina backwoods, so quite the smarty britches! His legacy has added to the appeal of the name Jackson — which ranked 23rd on the list of most popular boys' names in the U.S. in 2011. Actors Bill Murray, Jackie Chan, and Charlize Theron have sons named Jackson.
Zachary Taylor, the 12th U.S. president, was a strong nationalist, bent on preserving the Union as talks of a civil war brewed during his presidency from 1849-1850 (his term was cut short by his death from cholera). Taylor became a popular boys' name in the 1990s, but it's now more common as a girls' name. Singer Taylor Swift's fame undoubtedly gives the name a boost. Tim and Elisabeth Hassleback have a son named Taylor, and David Hasselhoff has a daughter named Taylor.
Did you know that Ulysses S. Grant's first name was actually Hiram? While we don't see Ulysses or Hiram becoming common names anytime soon, we have a feeling that the surname of our 18th president, Grant, could reach a peak any year now. It's been steadily rising in popularity since the 1950s. Silver screen legend Cary Grant adds to the name's allure.
Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S. president, is known for signing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to protect our markets against monopolies. Actor Harrison Ford has brought some attention to the handsome surname as a first name. It sounds great as a formal version of the nickname "Harry." Benjamin is already a popular pick for a boys' name, and perhaps Harrison will follow suit.
With his mustache and spectacles, our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was both rugged and refined — city boy meets country boy. He led the U.S. into a more active role in world politics, with his motto "Speak softly and carry a big stick." He was the inspiration behind the first teddy bear in 1903. We have a hunch that the names Theodore, Theo, and Teddy will soon be really big on baby name charts. Originally a Greek name, Theodore means "gift of God." Filmmaker Steven Spielberg has a son named Theo, and actresses Bryce Dallas Howard and Ali Larter have sons named Theodore.
Speaking of Roosevelts! Franklin D. Roosevelt, our nation's 32nd president, was Teddy Roosevelt's fifth cousin. FDR helped the U.S. climb out of the Great Depression, created the Social Security Administration, and ruled the Oval Office for an unprecedented 12 years before succumbing to health problems in 1945. The first name Franklin has been in steady decline since the early 1900s, but that's what happens before a neat old name has a resurgence. Frankie, in particular, has a trendy ring to it as an up-and-coming girls' name.
Our famed 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was the youngest man elected president and the nation's first Roman Catholic president. Before his tragic assassination in 1963, he laid the groundwork for civil rights gains, created the Peace Corps, and safely negotiated the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy is one of the top 100 girls' names in the U.S., possibly due in part to the lasting allure of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. And Jack — JFK's nickname — is in the top 50 boys' names.
The 36th U.S. president, Lyndon B. Johnson, may not have had the swagger of his predecessor, JFK, but he bravely took over after Kennedy's assassination and led the country through difficult times of riotous race relations and the Vietnam War. The name Landon is climbing baby name charts, so Lyndon could be the next big thing.
The Iran hostage crisis and rising inflation overshadowed the accomplishments of James "Jimmy" Carter, our 39th president. But he made great contributions during his single term, such as the creation of the Department of Education and the expansion of our National Parks System. Carter is a nice name for a boy or a girl. Notably, James is the most popular first name in the history of our U.S. presidents (six were named James: Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, and Carter).
Reagan means "little king" in Gaelic, so it's ironic that the surname of our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, is a rising name for baby girls. Ronald Reagan's early days as a Hollywood actor, his survival of an attempted assassination in 1981, and his restoration of U.S. economic prosperity mark his presidency.