How Gen Z Is Your Name?
Gen Z names, the most popular names for babies born from 1997 to 2012, are led by Emily and Jacob, according to a new study by Nameberry.
The watchword for Generation Z names is diversity, according to Nameberry’s study, with 70% more names in general use for Zoomers than for Millennials and less than half as many Gen Z babies given the Number 1 names.
Top Gen Z boy name Jacob was given to 441,094 baby boys from 1997 to 2012, compared with Number 1 Millennial boy name Michael, used for 1.1 million baby boys from 1981 to 1996. And Number 1 Gen Z girl name Emily was used for only 343,442 Gen Z girls, compared with Jessica, given to 757,533 Millennial baby girls.
Even adjusting for population — fewer babies were born during the Gen Z era than during the Millennial years — parents used the top names at a much lower rate for Gen Z babies. In fact, parents were 53% less likely to give their Zoomer babies a Top 10 name of their generation than parents were with their Millennial children.
As a much smaller percentage of Gen Z babies were given the top names, many more babies received unique names. In 1982, at the beginning of the Millennial period, there were just under 20,000 names on the Social Security Administration’s extended list of names given to five or more babies. By 2012, the end of the Gen Z era, there were nearly 34,000 names on that same list, a 70 percent increase.
Our study of Gen Z names confirms a trend toward unique names that took hold with Zoomers and we predict will continue with even more energy into the future.
Diversity in Gen Z Names
Many parents of the late ‘90s and early aughts intentionally avoided the Top 10 — even Top 100 — baby names and went in search of more unique options. For the first time, they had the data to do so. 1997 — the beginning of Generation Z — was the first year American baby name statistics became available from the Social Security Administration.
This information could be accessed via the Internet, which changed the way parents chose baby names. Gen Z was the first generation to be named with the help of the world wide web, which introduced their parents to larger pools of names than those that would fit in a baby name book (even those ones that claimed to hold 100,000+ names).
Online, parents could see curated lists of names, search for names that met specific criteria and talk with other expectant parents about names on pregnancy forums. Parents who liked nature names could browse a list on that. Those who wanted a Swahili name or an Italian name that means “light” now had the resources to find it. As a result, those choosing names for Gen Z found uncommon choices that fit their taste, and many of them decided to forgo top names like Emily and Jacob for something more distinctive.
The trend toward more unique names follows the makeup of Gen Z itself. Generation Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the United States. Zoomers were born in a time that emphasized diversity and was filled with hope for the future. Barack Obama was elected president, campaigns for gender and marriage equality were underway, and the future seemed to be a world in which everyone’s differences were celebrated, rather than denounced.
This optimistic time made parents feel more comfortable giving their children individualistic names. In previous generations, a name with strong ethnic or cultural ties — or even a name that was just perceived as “different” — was practically guaranteed to be schoolyard teasing fodder. But in the new millennium, names that highlighted diversity were something to be proud of.
Gen Z and Gender
The names chosen for Generation Z reveal the beginning of a cultural shift around gender. While many of the most common choices — Emily and Hannah, Jacob and Anthony — fall firmly into a gender binary, the freshest options introduced during this era tell a different story.
Among the fastest-rising boy names during the Gen Z years were biblical names like Noah, Elijah, and Isaiah. These classic names are traditionally masculine but feature a soft -a ending many Americans associate with girl names. Compared to the biblical favorites of the Millennial years — Matthew, David, and Daniel — these names were a lot gentler, or more “feminine,” if you will.
This played out on the girls’ side with contemporary names. The trendy names that peaked among Gen Z girls were Madison, Alexis, and Taylor — more tailored, androgynous choices than their Millennial counterparts, Samantha and Brittany. With the exception of Madison, which was popularized by the 1984 movie Splash, these unisex names for girls were also more common among boys than Ashley, the top unisex name for Millennial girls, was during the Millennial years. This suggests that Gen X parents were more likely than Boomer parents to use names for their sons that were also used for girls.
The early aughts were hardly a time of gender reform, but this set the stage for the more gender-neutral choices that intentionally challenge gender identity, which are popular today among Generation Alpha — the current generation of babies being born.
In fact, Generation Z was the advent of many of today’s modern name trends, including spiritual names like Journey and Genesis and mix-and-match -ayden names like Braydon and Kayden. But the most popular names among Gen Z were stalwarts of the Millennial years such as Ashley and Ryan, fresh biblical boy names like Noah and Elijah, and vowel-heavy girl names like Isabella and Ava.
Here are the Top 20 most Gen Z Names for each sex, with the total number of babies who received the name during that generation.
Top 20 Gen Z Names for Girls
1. Emily 343,442
2. Madison 281,202
3. Emma 263,397
4. Hannah 240,236
5. Olivia 240,042
6. Abigail 223,523
7. Isabella 223,279
8. Samantha 216,433
9. Elizabeth 209,537
10. Ashley 209,350
11. Alexis 207,152
12. Sarah 201,246
13. Sophia 196,969
14. Alyssa 172,978
15. Taylor 171,917
16. Jessica 154,435
17. Ava 153,057
18. Grace 152,950
19. Brianna 152,342
20. Lauren 149,436
Top 20 Gen Z Names for Boys
1. Jacob 441,094
2. Michael 409,079
3. Joshua 357,524
4. Matthew 356,940
5. Christopher 324,255
6. Daniel 319,085
7. Andrew 315,420
8. Joseph 314,231
9. William 307,222
10. Anthony 294,011
11. Nicholas 284,110
12. Ethan 283,940
13. David 283,093
14. Alexander 278,502
15. Ryan 269,368
16. Tyler 263,809
17. James 263,372
18. John 256,625
19. Brandon 236,992
20. Noah 231,778
Gen Z Name Trends
Emily took the top spot among Zoomer girls, followed closely by sound-alike Emma, which ranks Number 3 on the list of popular Gen Z girl names. The Em- names carry a vintage sound that had last peaked among the Lost Generation — the grandparents and great-grandparents of Gen X. Emma and Emily were right on track with the 100 Year Rule, sounding fresh again when Gen X was having their own children.
Trendy, modern names ranked highly among Gen Z as well. Most notably, Madison, the next iteration of unisex surnames for girls, following the success of Taylor and Morgan, which picked up speed during the Millennial years.
Jacob usurped Michael’s two-generation run, knocking it down to the second-most popular boy name of Gen Z. After growing up with hordes of Michaels, Mikes, and Mikeys, Gen X went in search of fresher classics for their sons. Jacob emerged as the favorite choice. It features the strong J initial of previous top names John and James, biblical ties, and comes with the friendly, accessible nickname Jake. Jacob was traditional but not overused, having ranked outside of the Top 100 for most of the Gen X years. The same factors appeal about Joshua, Number 3 on the top Gen Z boy names list.
The Top 20 Gen Z names are largely 2000s names — Generation Z spans the entire decade. The girls’ list features names that peaked during the Zoomer generation, like Madison, Hannah, and Alexis, along with mom names with stronger ties to Millennials, like Ashley and Jessica.
Gen Z boy names are more traditional and stable. Classics such as Anthony and Joshua reached their height during the Gen Z years but remain Top 100 choices today. Trendier names on the Zoomer roster, including Brandon and Tyler, were also common among Millennials and are now considered dad names.
Several of the top Gen Z names have proven to be more common among Generation Alpha — the generation of babies born between 2013 and 2025 — including Emma, Olivia, Sophia, and Ava for girls, William, Noah, and James for boys. Further down the Gen Z Top 50 are even more Gen Alpha favorites, including Ella, Mia, Jack, and Luke.
Here are the Top 50 names given to Gen Z:
Gen Z Girl Names
Gen Z Boy Names
How Will Gen Z Name Their Children?
The oldest members of Gen Z have reached parenting age, but for the most part, they will be naming the generation that comes after Gen Alpha. As the generation most likely to change their own names, could the way parents go about picking a name change entirely?
Zoomers were raised with the Internet and autonomy over their identities. We’ve observed that when members of Gen Z feel like their name and identity are mismatched — due to gender identity or anything else — they often take matters into their own hands and choose a new name. Zoomer celebrity examples include Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, who went by John for a number of years, and AJ McLean’s daughter Elliott, who changed her name from Ava, unrelated to her gender identity.
For Gen Z, legal names are seen more and more as a placeholder. So what do you put on the birth certificate when your child is expected to choose their own name(s) at some point? We look forward to finding out.