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Dad Names Give Us All The Nostalgia

June 19, 2020 Clare Green
Dad Names

Happy Fathers’ Day! To celebrate, we’re looking at today’s Dad Names.

Dad Names are names that peaked in popularity between 1980-2000. This means they’re mostly found on men aged 20-40, the main age group for new dads.

The key point here is when the names peaked. Some, like Richard and Robert, were well-used in the 1980s and 90s but were already past the height of popularity, and are now in Grandpa Name territory. Others, like Jacob, were becoming popular but peaked later, so most of their wearers aren’t dad age yet.

Then there are classics so enduring we can’t pin them down to any generation. Thousands of new fathers are named James and William, but so too are thousands of children and grandpas.

So are Dad Names usable today? Most still rank in the popularity charts, some even still in the Top 100. And there are certainly arguments in their favor. Many are very appealing — that’s why they were popular in the first place — and if being one of several in the class is a concern, they will probably stand among the Liams and Noahs at school. 

But if you want a name that’s fresh, cool, and not likely to be shared with your kid’s teacher/sports coach/boss, you may want to avoid Dad Names. Let them rest (with slippers and a glass of something chilled), and they’ll be vintage and trendy again by the time your great-grandchildren are born.

10 Major Trends 

1. C__y surnames

Between Cody, Casey and Cory (and Kody, Kasey and Kori), parents loved these hard-soft surname names with a hint of the Wild West.

2. Cowboy names

Along the same lines, many names that peaked in the 80s and 90s had cowboy style. After all, their parents grew up in the golden age of Clint Eastwood. Cowboy Dad Names include Austin, Dallas, Cassidy and, yes, Clint. Cowboy names are still on trend today, but with a fresh set of names like Wyatt, Wilder and Colton.

3. Early-adopter occupational names

Nowadays the charts are teeming with occupational names, but it all started with Taylor and Tyler, which peaked in 1993. Tanner, Skyler and Spencer were hot on their heels.

4. Classic Spanish names

The 80s and 90s were a high point for traditional classics like Roberto, Felipe, Juan and Pedro. Since then, Spanish-speaking parents have moved on to a new generation of names. Some of the hottest now include Mateo, Angel and Santiago.

5. Biblical Dad Names

Every generation has its favorite bible names. Today’s dads have names that pull away from mid-century classics like David and Steven, but are more streamlined than the dramatic Old Testament prophet names favored today. Some examples: Aaron, Nathaniel, Jared and Joel.

6. Names starting with D

If we had to pick just one letter to define Dad Names, it would be D. These decades were the golden age of names with a De- prefix — Deandre, DeVante — as well as popular D names like Daniel, Devon and Drew.

7. Prefixes

De- wasn’t the only popular prefix. Many Dad Names start with sounds like Ja-, Ra-, Tre– and Ty-. These are a mixture of established names, and creative ones that take the sound and run with it, so there’s Jamal and Jamarcus, Rashad and Rashawn. Today’s parents are equally creative, but with different sounds. The hot syllables of today include Jay, Kay, Car and Bry.

8. Names starting with Br-

This is another trend that is still going strong, with an evolved set of names. Today’s dads are called Brandon and Brett. Their sons are more likely to be Braydon and Bryson.

9. Names ending in -ell

The most defining ending of Dad Names is -ell, in names such as Darnell, Jarrell, Montrell, Mitchell and Tyrell. Today, Maxwell is the only one in the Top 500: parents tend to prefer this sound on the start of names, like Elliot.

10. Pop culture

Some names that peaked in the 1980s and 90s can be firmly pinned to the stars of the time, including:

Chandler (Friends)

Clayton (Dallas)

Darien (Time Trax)

Dawson (Dawson’s Creek)

DeVante (Swing)

Jordan (Michael)

Keanu (Reeves)

Shaquille (O’Neal)

Taurean (Blacque)

Tristan (Legends of the Fall)

Here’s our pick of the most typical Dad Names. The full list is here.

Today’s Dad Names

Aaron

Adam

Alberto

Alex

Andrew

Antoine

Ashley

Austin

Brandon

Brendon

Brett

Brice

Carlos

Casey

Chaim

Chandler

Christopher

Clayton

Cody

Cory

Cristian

Dakota

Dallas

Daniel

Dante

Darnell

Dejuan

Derek

Devon

Duncan

Felipe

Garrison

Grant

Jamal

Jared

Jarvis

Joel

Jonathan

Jordan

Joshua

Juan

Justin

Keanu

Keenan

Kendall

Khalil

Kyle

Lamar

Malik

Marcus

Marquis

Mitchell

Montel

Morgan

Nathaniel

Nicholas

Nigel

Pedro

Pierre

Quinton

Rafael

Rashad

Rashawn

Ricardo

Roberto

Ruben

Ryan

Salvador

Sean

Sergio

Shaquille

Shaun

Shea

Skyler

Spencer

Tanner

Tariq

Taylor

Terrell

Travis

Trevor

Trey

Tristan

Tyler

Tyrese

Zachary

For context, these were the most popular boy names of the 1980s and 1990s.

Top Boy Names of the 1980s

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

Top Boy Names of the 1990s

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

And these are some of the boy names that peaked in popularity during that time:

Names that Peaked in 1980

Brannon

Clint

Derek (and Derik and Derick)

Lamar

Roberto

Names that Peaked in 1985

Antoine

Christopher

Daniel

Dejuan

Rafael

Names that Peaked in 1990

Hector

Julio

Kyle

Marquis

Quinton

Names that Peaked in 1995

Alex

Cristian

Dakota

Keanu

Trayvon

What are the names of dads you’re celebrating this Fathers’ Day?

About the author

Clare Green

Clare Green writes Nameberry's weekly round-up of the latest baby name news, including celebrity announcements, unusual naming stories, and new statistics from around the world . Clare, who has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, lives in England, where she has worked in libraries and studies linguistics. You can follow her personally on Instagram and Twitter.

View all of Clare Green's articles

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