Presidential Baby Names: Who’s winning?

Jackson, Harrison and Hayes

by Linda Rosenkrantz

Since the days of George Washington, American parents have used their babies’ names to honor present and past presidents.  Think George Washington Carver, probably the most famous example. The surnames of revered leaders such as Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt have been used in an aspirational way to pay tribute to those political heroes.

These days, presidential surnames are as popular as ever, but—with certain exceptions—they don’t usually relate back to the presidential source. How many parents who name their kids Tyler or Taylor, for example, are thinking of 10th Prez John Tyler or the 12th, Zachary Taylor? Perhaps the office itself isn’t as venerated as it once was.

Another difference is that we find an increasing number of girls named Madison and Monroe—with just the faintest hint of their presidential ties.

So let’s take a look at the ranking of past Presidents’ names, in order of their current popularity. With a number of them, a pop culture link might be more of a connection, as indicated in parens.


JACKSON     #20 (Michael)

Has been in the Top 20 since 2013, was always in the Top 1000.

CARTER        24 (Gossip Girl character)

Now at its highest point ever

TYLER          106 (Tyler Perry)

Peaked in the 1990s, when it was in the Top 10 for 6 years

HARRISON  113 (George)

Has been at its top rank ever for the past two years

GRANT         172

Peaked in 1997

ARTHUR      244 (minimal if any connection to Chester A.)

A gallant classic now on the rise again; a Top 20 name in the early 20th century

HAYES          409 (chosen by both Kevin Costner and Jessica Alba)

Way more popular now than ever, and rising fast

LINCOLN     416 (climbed in tandem with a spike in Lincoln-related books and movies)

Became a Top 100 name for the first time in 2013. Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard pulled a gender switch when they named their daughter Lincoln Bell in 2013, and a number of other parents have followed suit.

NIXON          482 (popularity of letter X)

Nixon entered the popularity list for the first time in 2011

TAYLOR       506 (Hanson)

Taylor entered the boys’ list in 2000, has been on a downward path ever since.

PIERCE         522 (‘Community’ character)

Has been on the list more or less consistently since 1900

WILSON       638  (popularity of Wil-names)

Most popular in 1918, during Woodrow Wilson’s term of office. (Folk singer Woody Guthrie was born Woodrow Wilson Guthrie)


A consistent mid-list name

FORD             711 (via attention to Owen Wilson’s choice)

On and off the list since 1900

REAGAN        970

Has definitely gone to the girls


MADISON        17 (the movie ‘Splash)

Jumped onto the list in 1985 and had a spectacular rise, in the Top 10 from 1997 to 2014, several times in the 2nd and 3rd spot, given to as many as 21,000+ girls in a single year.

KENNEDY       58 (Camelot mystique)

In the Top 100 for girls since 2011

REAGAN         98 (girl characters in ‘Fangirl’ and ‘New Girl’) in 2015

Entered the girls’ Top 100 in 2012, the Regan spelling also on the girl list

TAYLOR         112 (Swift)

Taylor hit a high of #10 in 2000, when it was given to over 15,000 girls

McKINLEY     437 (popular ley ending for girls)

One of the popular Mc names since 2006; not used for boys since 1966

CARTER         520 (possible association with Blue Ivy Carter?)

Entered the girls’ list in 2013

MONROE        681 (Marilyn)

Mariah Carey and Nick  Cannon revived this tired male name when they gave it to their twin daughter, in honor of Marilyn—not James—in 2011, and several other celebs have followed their lead.

ALSO-RANS, not currently on the list


Peaked in 1910 at #225–could it return as a place name, with cool nickname Cleve?


The name of two larger-than-life presidents, was in the Top 100 in Teddy‘s time, left the list in 1993. (There’s a Sesame Street Muppet named Roosevelt Franklin)


Peaked when Truman took office in 194 at #249, was still in use until a few years ago


Unlike Jackson, only reached the Top 500 in the early years of the last century


Peaked pre-presidency, in 1981, at #124, fell off the list in 2014

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9 Responses to “Presidential Baby Names: Who’s winning?”

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benjamelissa Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 7:08 am

I used Taylor for my son’s middle. Not after the president, though. It was my maiden name.

GenEric Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 10:29 am

I met a Clinton before, nice name, but the presidential associations best be avoided.

wandsworth Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 11:41 am

Attributing the popularity of these names to American presidents is a rather weak assertion when so many are common surnames in the English-speaking world.

jimtown Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 12:08 pm

I really like all the presidential names. I found in my family tree brothers named: Roy McKinley, Ray Dewey and Ralph Roosevelt.

alom Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 4:02 pm

My guess is people like the name Harrison more because of Harrison Ford than either the president or George Harrison.

catcher5 Says:

February 15th, 2019 at 7:21 pm

I have a son Lincoln specifically named after the president 🙂

jmsouthern Says:

February 16th, 2019 at 1:22 pm

I’m surprised that Hamilton wasn’t mentioned, given the popularity of all things Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Pansy Says:

February 17th, 2019 at 11:24 am

@jmsouthern – That’s because Alexander Hamilton was never president. He was secretary of the treasury.

Sinclaiiir Says:

February 17th, 2019 at 6:21 pm

I find it highly unlikely that Carter would be given because of Gossip Girl. Same with Taylor, just because Nameberry is obsessed with Hanson, doesn’t mean that’s the reason why it’s been given as a name.

As a child, I always wanted to name my daughter Carter (I think I got the name from Rush Hour)

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