The Most Popular Names Over Time


By Kelli Brady, NameFreak!

Ever wonder which name has been given the most overall? Of course I have! To satisfy my curiosity on the matter, I totaled the raw numbers of all names ever recorded by the SSA since the data has been collected (1880). I must say the results are very interesting!

Since more than 38,000 names have been given to boys and 64,000 names have been given to girls over the years, it is not possible for me to include all of them here. What I did include are the top 25 names as well as any of the #1 names not included in the top 25 and those that have been in the Top 100 every year since 1880.

* Has been #1
+ Has been in Top 100 every year since 1880


1 Mary* 4112231 2 Elizabeth+ 1591239 3 Patricia 1570091 4 Jennifer* 1461125 5 Linda* 1450258 6 Barbara 1432454 7 Margaret 1237972 8 Susan 1120028 9 Dorothy 1105244 10 Sarah 1055682 11 Jessica* 1038686 12 Helen 1015038 13 Nancy 1000497 14 Betty   998601 15 Karen   983128 16 Lisa*   963508 17 Sandra   872028 18 Anna   867903 19 Ashley*   831067 20 Donna   830074 21 Kimberly   825168 22 Ruth   818934 23 Carol   815573 24 Michelle   802684 25 Emily*   795955 46 Emma*   572797 134 Sophia*   268598 145 Isabella*   257611

Mary at #1 is no surprise, but the amount of Marys in comparison to the rest of the names might be. Elizabeth is #2, even though she has never ranked #1. She is, however, the only girl name that has been in the Top 100 every year since 1880. But what about Patricia!? She never ranked higher than #3 in the SSA rankings and hasn’t been consistently near the top the entire 134 years, but still comes in at #3. Jennifer at #4 is pretty astounding considering the name wasn’t even used until 1916. Ashley also wasn’t consistently given until the 1940s. The numbers of recent #1s Sophia and Isabella show that while they may seem to be everywhere now, they are definitely the new kids on the block.


1 James*+ 5090707 2 John*+ 5073505 3 Robert*+ 4789390 4 Michael*+ 4293031 5 William+ 4038015 6 David*+ 3564806 7 Joseph+ 2557478 8 Richard 2552110 9 Charles+ 2356638 10 Thomas+ 2275664 11 Christopher 1984039 12 Daniel+ 1854313 13 Matthew 1539934 14 George 1451300 15 Donald 1408009 16 Anthony 1391262 17 Paul 1378834 18 Mark 1341435 19 Edward 1278445 20 Steven 1270194 21 Kenneth 1264520 22 Andrew+ 1244448 23 Joshua 1163596 24 Brian 1155323 25 Kevin 1147119 35 Jacob*   858101 43 Samuel+   706532 105 Noah*   298307

I was shocked to see James ahead of John! They have both been at the top pretty consistently, but I guess John has fallen slightly harder than James. Quite frankly, this entire list is a bit astonishing. The boys have a lot of names that have been in the Top 100 every year since 1880, but you see Richard well ahead several of those names (Richard was firmly in the Top 100 until it fell out after 2007). Brian is relatively high considering it wasn’t even given in the United States until 1900, and Samuel is another constant name that just never spiked. The most recent #1, Noah, is a relative newby.

All of this is also more proof that parents are choosing more of a variety of names nowadays; #1 names are not as widely used currently as they were in the past. And if you compare the girl numbers with the boy numbers, it also shows that parents are much more willing to go with a less common name for their daughter than for their son.

What do you think? Anything particular surprise you?

Originally posted at NameFreak! on May 14, 2014 and revised for Nameberry.

About the Author

Kelli Brady

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at!

Subscribe to the Nameberry Newsletter

Exclusive Nameberry picks, direct to you.