Names that Ruled the Century: #1 Baby Names of the Last 100 Years


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by: Erin Dower
Before baby names became quite so trendy, parents chose classic names that were en vogue for long stretches of time. Take a look back at the #1 baby girl and boy names from the late 1800s on in the U.S. You may be surprised to learn how long some names reigned supreme!
1900s baby girl name, Mary
There's something about Mary! This was the #1 name for a baby girl from at least 1880 (the first year for which there is data) until 1946 (that's 66 years!). After falling into the #2 spot for a stint, it became the top name again from 1953-1961. These days, Mary rarely breaks into the top 100 girl names.
1950s baby girl name, Linda
It took a special name to bump Mary from the top spot! Linda — which means "pretty" or "beautiful" in Spanish — was the #1 girls' name from 1947-1961.
1960s baby girl name, Lisa
With a sound similar to Linda, Lisa became the next #1 name in U.S. history. It was the top girls' name from 1962-1969, so you might know a child of the '60s with this popular moniker.
1970s baby girl name, Jennifer
Jennifer became another name with staying power. It topped the charts for baby girl names from 1970-1984.
1980s baby girl name, Jessica
Hmmm... What sounds like Jennifer but is a little bit different? Jessica! This name ruled from 1985-1990 and again from 1993-1995 (the name Ashley snuck into the #1 spot from 1991-1992).
2000s baby girl name, Emily
In the mid-1990s, many parents decided on the classic baby name Emily, which first became popular a century earlier in the U.S. Emily stayed in the #1 spot for girl names from 1996-2007.

Since then, trends have shifted more quickly and various girls' names have nabbed the top spot: Emma (2008), Isabella (2009-2010), and Sophia (2011-2013). Many parents these days like to choose "unique" names for baby girls, with infinite possibilities found in pop culture and on the Internet.

Now onto the fellas...

1900s baby boy name, John
Much like Mary, the name John held strong at #1 for decades — from 1880 (or earlier) until 1923. Three of the nation's first 10 presidents were named John, which probably helped fuel its popularity. John was in the top five names in the U.S. every year until 1972. It still remains on the list of top 100 boys' names, but many of today's Johns go by Jack, Jake, or another nickname.
1930s baby boy name, Robert
Do you have an Uncle Bob? Me too! It's no surprise: Robert was the top name choice for a baby boy from 1924-1939 (and again in 1953). With a meaning of "bright" in Old English or "bright flame" in Spanish, Robert was the first name to knock John out of the #1 spot.
1940s baby boy name, James
Sweet baby James! This cool yet classic name was the perfect fit for parents in the 1940s. It held the #1 position for baby boy names from 1940-1952.
1970s baby boy name, Michael
Parents looking for a different boy name with biblical roots landed on Michael, which means "who is like God" in Hebrew. Michael was the top name from 1954-1959, and again from 1961-1998 (David — another name with Hebrew origins — was #1 in 1960).
2000s baby boy name, Jacob
Before being bumped from the top spot in 2013 (by the name Noah), Jacob was the #1 boys' name from 1999-2012. It has Hebrew roots and appeared in the Old Testament. Jacob proved to have more staying power in the #1 spot than popular girls' names of late. While Jacob ruled for more than a decade, four different girl's names held the #1 spot in the same period of time.

Learn more about the most popular names of the last 100 years.

For more on baby name meanings, trends, celebrity baby names, and lots more, visit our Name Lab.