Popular Girls Names: Their ups and downs

If I were a cookbook writer, I think my first title would be: “100 Ways to Dice and Slice the Social Security List.”  There is so much information to be found embedded in it and so many ways to look at it, that there seems to be no end of different and intriguing ways to parse the data.

Pam will be writing later about the startling number of names that have been in the Top 1000 consistently—which is to say every single year– since score-keeping began in1880.  Today I’ll take a look at the patterns followed by the names that have moved in and out of fashion.

First, the girls, grouped by the decades they first came into favor, followed by the specific years when they were included in the Top 100. (This does not include names that have been up there every single year.)

You may be surprised at when some of the names initially appeared—sometimes earlier, sometimes later than you might have guessed.  Zoe and Chloe, for example, were both strong in the 19th century, as were Savannah and SamanthaAlexis was already up there in the 1940s, but Alexa didn’t break through till the 70s; Kayla was there as early as the fifties, while—and this may not be such a surprise– Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Kaylee and Makayla all broke through as a group in the eighties, along with Hailey and Bailey.

1880s-90s (and possibly earlier)

  • Abigail: 1880-1897, 1901-1903, 1906, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1949-2009
  • Andrea: 1880-1881, 1884-1887, 1889, 1901-1904, 1907-2009
  • Ava: 1880-1972, 1974-1975, 1984, 1986-2009
  • Bella: 1880-1931, 2000-2009
  • Chloe: 1880-1943, 1982-2009
  • Ella: 1880-1983, 1988, 1990-2009
  • Faith: 1880-1882, 1884-1886, 1888-2009
  • Isabella: 1880-1948, 1990-2009
  • Isabelle: 1880-1954, 1957, 1991-2009
  • Jessica: 1880-1893, 1895, 1898-1900, 1903-1912, 1914-1918, 1935, 1937, 1939-2009
  • Lily: 1880-1964, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1979-2009
  • Madelyn: 1893, 1895-1965, 1986-2009
  • Mariah: 1880-1908, 1910-1911, 1913, 1973, 1975-2009
  • Melanie: 1886, 1938-2009
  • Samantha: 1880-1902, 1907, 1964-2009
  • Savannah: 1880-1922, 1924-1925, 1928, 1983-2009
  • Sofia: 1881, 1881, 1886, 1888-1889, 1891-1892, 1895, 1898, 1900-1901, 1906-1914, 1916-1917, 1920-1925, 1927-1931, 1935, 1969, 1971-2009
  • Sophie: 1880-1955, 1984-2009
  • Sydney: 1886, 1905, 1932-1957, 1959-1961, 1963-1967, 1981-2009
  • Valeria: 1881-1944, 1946-1976, 1983, 1985-2009
  • Zoe: 1880-1912, 1914-1926, 1928-1929, 1931-1941, 1951-1955, 1957-1961, 1966, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1983-2009


Alexandra: 1915, 1934, 1936, 1938-2009


Jocelyn: 1927-1937, 1939-1943, 1945, 1948-2009








Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the boys’ list.

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11 Responses to “Popular Girls Names: Their ups and downs”

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Charlotte Vera Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 12:46 am

Very fascinating! You’re right, I was surprised by some of those inclusions. For one, I hadn’t realised that Avery had been on the girl’s list since the 1980s. Having grown up on Charlotte’s Web, it still reads boy to me.

I’m looking forward to that article on name constants!

Kat Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 9:16 am

In a weird way, it makes me feel better about naming my daughter Zoe – knowing that her name has been a popular one over a century and not just a blip on the Popular Name Radar lately. I love her name, but was hesitant to name her something so “trendy”. Now I wouldn’t change it, but I like knowing it’s come and go so frequently throughout time.

SJ Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 10:26 am

I love the posts analyzing the name stats. Thanks!

Lyndsay Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I love this blog! I’d love to see more like this. It’s all so interesting that I don’t even know where to begin! I was definitely surprised by a LOT of these stats. Like the fact that most of the names that entered the top 1000 since the 60s have never left.

I can’t imagine an Alexis or Kimberly born in the 40s, or a Kayla in the 50s. And I can’t believe Layla didn’t come around until the 70s! I had a great-great aunt Layla born in the 1890s…

Also find it interesting that the 70s had Destiny and Trinity, the 80s had Genesis, the 90s had Serenity, and now we have Nevaeh… It’s like every generation wants to find it’s own new spiritual name… And I don’t want to step on any toes, but I think it’s strange that most of those names have a bit of a trashy-stripper vibe… Maybe that’s why we always try to find a new one that doesn’t come across that way? And maybe that’s part of why everyone hates Nevaeh already and calls it trashy, when obviously the little babies with the name aren’t trashy… But we connect it to the others? I don’t know, just thinking…

Macy Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Amazing the amount of boy names the girls have stolen over the years. Pretty impressive. And it just means that the unisex trend will never end, because as some names fade away, others rise up.

Jen Says:

October 11th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I’ve never understood the concept of girls “stealing” names from the boys camp. Names will only become lost for boys if parents of boys stop using them. For example, Jordan and Cameron have remained primarily boys names over the last decade although both names have increased for girls.

May Says:

October 13th, 2010 at 4:27 am

I would love to see the same with Names from England!

pam Says:

October 13th, 2010 at 6:44 am

We would too, May — wish there were enough statistics to make it possible.

Jen Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 3:31 am

It seems odd that Jennifer isn’t anywhere on this list since it seems like every other person in their 30s has the name.

Susan Says:

July 31st, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I was born in the 50s and don’t remember any girls with the names posted as 50s names when I was in school, though I do remember a lot of Susans (seems I was never in a class when I was the only Susan), Kathys, Karens, Lisas, Sharons, Sandys, and Tracys, none of which appear on the list.

ssterikoff Says:

January 15th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I was the only Susan in my class/year until another one moved to my school in 5th? 6th? grade. I lived in an area where there was a large Italian population, so the girls who had names like Anna, Maria, Lisa, … were the ones who had their last initial or full surname used to distinguish who the teacher was calling on. Later on, in bigger schools and other areas, I was one of a herd of Susans.
I was born in the late 60s.

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