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Category: most popular baby names

vintagebabybook

Popular baby names change every year, but here we bring you the top names in the U.S. of all time — or at least since the government started keeping count.

A week or so ago, we presented to you Nephele‘s lists of the most popular baby names for each letter of the alphabet over the 130-year period from 1880 to 2009.  Though you all found these stats fascinating, and, as always, made some perceptive observations, there was a shout-out for the overall, cumulative list of most popular names no matter what their first initial.

So Nephele went back to the drawing board (aka the U.S. Social Security Administration’s complete names lists) and generously offers now a list of the Top 100 names given to babies over the whole period, for your perusal and commentary.

Again, you might be surprised to find Patricia in the second spot—a name that is not even in the Top 500 today.  Of course, Social Security counts every spelling separately, so that if we were to add together Katherine and Catherine, she would jump up to seventh place, and then if Kathryn were factored in, the total would be 1,692,290— beating out Patricia for the second spot.

As the list of popular baby names stands, there are only a dozen girl millionaires, compared to 27 boys, showing once more the gender disparity in popularity. (Please note that due to a computer glitch, the last number is left off the boys’ column, so that the names from James to Timothy are all over a million.) It’s also interesting to note that today’s top girl, Isabella, has not yet reached Top 100 status, and nor has Number Two boy Ethan, so we can be sure the list will gradually morph in coming years.

Here now the list of the top names over time:

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socialsecurity2

 Since the Social Security site showing the rankings of baby names is the bible for so many nameberries, we thought we’d turn to webmaster Jeff Kunkel to give us some insight into how it developed–and his instrumental part in it.

Soon after Social Security joined the internet, I became webmaster for my office, the Office of the Chief Actuary.  A high priority in those days was providing the public with information on cost-of-living increases and other things that affected Social Security beneficiaries.  The lists of baby names begun by Michael Shackleford, who was then a co-worker, were decidedly a low priority.

However, the popularity of the baby name web pages soon became apparent.  Dissatisfied with simply presenting the baby names as lists of the top 1000 names by sex for each year of birth, I wrote an interactive computer program that would allow people to select the year of birth, select the number of names to display, and select whether to display the number of occurrences of each name.  In essence, the program allowed people to generate their own customized lists.

My desire to see how the popularity of my daughter’s name changed over time, coupled with the success of that list-generating program, inspired me to write another program that would provide a way to see time trends in the baby name data.  The resulting new program proved to be even more popular than the list-generating program.

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statespuzzlemap2

It’s always interesting to take a look at which names are most popular where.  You can usually count on some surprises and this year is no exception.  For instance Anna ranking in the top five in both Alabama and Mississippi, when it’s down at 29 across the country, and Logan, which is #17 on the Social Security list, now the #1 boys’ name in three widespread states—Idaho, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Repeating the pattern of last year, the majority of names that popped out from the crowd were in the boys’ column; for the girls’ names across the country there was a remarkable uniformity of choice—with Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Madison, or Ava heading the list in all but two states, while on the male side, there were several top singletons, such as Wyatt in Wyoming and Ryan in Massachusetts.

But what are really most intriguing are the names that jump out of nowhere in one particular place—some of them throwbacks, some predictive of future popularity, some reflecting the state’s ethnicity, such as Gianna in New Jersey and José, the most common name in Texas.

Here are some of the names that were not even in the Top 25 nationally, but rated high in specific areas, with their national ratings in parenthesis:

ALLISON  (30)—     #1 in the District of Columbia

ANNA (29)  —          #4 in Alabama

BROOKLYN (37)      #4 in Utah

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triplets

What are the most popular girls’ names in the U.S.?  If you consult the official Social Security list, or most of the state lists, you’ll get one version.  With each name counted individually by spelling — Sophia and Sofia are counted separately, in other words — the national list of most popular girls’ names (I’m going to include the Top 15, for reasons that will become evident) is:

1. EMMA

2. ISABELLA

3. EMILY

4. MADISON

5. AVA

6. OLIVIA

7. SOPHIA

8.ABIGAIL

9.ELIZABETH

10.CHLOE

11.SAMANTHA

12.ADDISON

13.NATALIE

14.MIA

15.ALEXIS

But to Katharine Hales — aka nameberry’s k_lareese — this didn’t look quite right.  Hales, an attorney who is studying to be a law librarian, wanted to name her first child Lillian, with the nickname Lily.  But when researching the name, she noticed that both Lily and Lillian were in the Top 30.  If you added all the spelling and variations of the name together, she wondered, mightn’t you end up with a true popularity number that was significantly higher?

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Popular Baby Names: The Top of the Top

winning trophy

Popular baby names get that way for a reason: Most offer a lot to like to a wide range of parents.  The upshot: the list of 100 Most Popular Baby Names is studded with great names.  While many parents have a horror of choosing a name that’s overexposed, some of the most popular choices are simply too wonderful to resist.

If you love one of these popular baby names, you might feel better about using it when you learn that many fewer babies receive one of the top names now than ever before.  So even though there are certainly a lot of Emmas and Jacobs around, there are many fewer than there were Jennifers or Michaels, Marys or Johns, or any of the other top names of the past.

Here, what we consider the ten best names for girls and boys from the Top 100.

AUDREYAudrey has been rising surely and steadily since the early 1970s, achieving a new fashion status in the past decade, since the death of the incandescent actress Audrey Hepburn.  An ancient saint’s name, it means “noble strength” and also has the stylish A initial.

CHARLOTTE – Is there another classic name more luscious than Charlotte? Like many of our top popular girls’ names, Charlotte combines strength with prettiness.

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