How Long Do Popular Names Stay Popular?

October 26, 2015 Pamela Redmond
top 10 baby names

By Pamela Redmond Satran

We are working on a major upgrade to the site and user lists are temporarily unavailable. Sorry for the inconvenience but your lists are safe and will be available again shortly.

A Nameberry reader recently asked: How long do baby names in the US Top 10 tend to remain in the Top 10?

Good question, we thought, and so with the help of our commando researcher Esmeralda Rocha, we did some investigation.

The short answer: It’s complicated. While girls’ names in the current Top 10 have been there fewer years on average – 12 years versus 14 for the boys – those numbers are skewed by the amazing durability of Emily at 24 years and, even more dramatically, Michael at 72. Take Emily and Michael out of the equation and the balance reverses, with girls’ names staying on top an average of 10 years versus only 7.5 for the boys!

But this doesn’t tell the whole story either, given that classic boys’ names such as William and James have been in the Top 10 for most of the 135-year history of the data, though they dipped out and returned only recently. And on the girls’ side, Elizabeth had been in the Top 10 most of those years, only to slip out in 2014.

Here, a closer look at the popularity durability of all the names of both genders in the current US Top 10.


1. Emma

Emma has been in the Top 10 since 2002. Although always in the top 1000, Emma steadily rose from Number 399 in 1984 to reach Number 1 in 2008 and again in 2014.

 2. Olivia

A Top 10 name since 2001, Olivia‘s rise has been marked by two big leaps. The first was from Number 492 in 1973 to Number 232 in 1975; the second leap was from Number 248 in 1985 to Number 72 in 1990, the year it entered the Top 100.

 3. Sophia

Sophia has been a Top 10 girls’ name since 2006. Sophia experienced three big leaps over 50 years to get to its current position: from 1956 to 1962, the heyday of actress Sophia Loren; from 1978 to 1981; and finally vaulting into the Top 100 in 1997. Sophia held the Number 1 spot from 2011 through 2013.


Among the Top 10 girls’ names since 2004, Isabella experienced a meteoric rise from Number 895 in 1990 to Number 45 ten years later. Isabella was Number 1 in 2009 and 2010.

5. Ava

Ava has been in the Top 10 since 2005. Like Isabella, Ava‘s rise was meteoric, going in only seven years from Number 739 in 1996 to Number 39 in 2003.

 6. Mia

A Top 10 girls’ name since 2009, Mia‘s climb has been more sure and steady, rising from Number 463 in 1984 to the Top 10 a quarter of a century later.

 7. Emily

Emily is the sturdiest female name on the current Top 10 list: It’s been in the Top 10 since 1991 and has rarely been outside the Top 200.

 8. Abigail

The Biblical Abigail rose mostly steadily over 50 years, although a significant jump occurred between 1966 and 1976, when it climbed 450 places. It’s been in the Top 10 since 2001.

 9. Madison

The girls’ name Madison was unheard of before it was popularized by the movie Splash in 1985, when it entered the Top 1000 at Number 628. Madison‘s popularity increased quickly over the next 12 years, entering the Top 10 in 1997.

 10. Charlotte:

Though a newcomer in 2014 to the Top 10, Charlotte is a perennial favorite and has rarely been outside the Top 250 in the past century. However, it owes its current Top 10 status to a significant jump between 2002 and 2011. With the naming of the British princess this year, Charlotte is likely to remain popular for years to come.


 1. Noah

Although it has been increasing in popularity since the 1960s, Noah experienced a marked jump between 1992 and 1996, when it climbed to Number 50. It’s been in the Top 10 since 2009.

2. Liam

Liam has been in the boys’ Top 10 since 2012. Pretty much unheard of before the mid-1970s, Liam (like Noah) experienced a particularly steep rise in popularity between 1992 and 1996, with the growing fame of actor Liam Neeson.

3. Mason

A Top 10 name since 2011, Mason experienced a significant increase in usage in the 1980s and vaulted into the very top ranks when it was chosen for her son by a Kardashian.

 4. Jacob

Jacob, always a popular name, has been in the Top 100 for more than 40 years and the Top 10 for more than 20, including 13 years at Number 1.

 5. William

The question with William is not so much when it entered the Top 10, but when it’s ever been out of it? William has been in the Top 10 for 90 of the past 120 years, slipping at its lowest point to Number 20 in 1995.  It’s been back in the Top 10 since 2006.

 6. Ethan

The Biblical Ethan disappeared from the Top 1000 for the first half of the 20th century, but since reappearing in the mid-1950s, it’s steadily climbed the popularity ranks. Ethan’s big boost came in the late ’80s when it catapulted into the Top 100; Ethan reached the boys’ Top 10 in 2002.


Winner of the longevity contest, Michael has been in the Top 10 since 1943, and spent at least 40 consecutive years at Number 1.


Alexander dropped just outside the Top 200 in the early 1960s, but by the 1990s it had reached the Top 20. Since then it was a slow climb to reach the Top 10 in 2008, where it peaked at Number 4 in 2009.

9. James

Despite James re-entering the Top 10 only in 2014, the name has NEVER been outside the Top 20. Plus James was in the Top 10 every year between 1880 and 1992.

 10. Daniel

Technically, Daniel has been in Top 10 only since 2012. However, it’s been in the top dozen since 1982, and has rarely been outside the Top 50 in the past 135 years.


About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show of the same name.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

Filed Under