Menu

This New Tool Can Guess Your Name!

January 28, 2020 Emma Waterhouse
top names by letter

… Well, it can take a good punt, at least.

Using the SSA’s data on the most popular baby names of the past century and beyond, this clever new tool from Nathan Yau at FlowingData takes your birth decade, sex, and first initial(s) to make an educated guess at your name.

It was inspired by Yau’s own tendency to forget acquaintances’ names, as well as the fact that people always seemed to want to call him Nick (and Amelia, his colleague, Amanda).

So, could raw data work better than human memory? Give it a go! How did it do for you?

Popular Names: An A-Z through the ages

OK, so even if it didn’t work out for you — nope, I’m not an Emily! — it’s still a fun way to visualize the nation’s favorite baby names for every letter of the alphabet, and how name trends have evolved over time.

Below, we’ve taken a look at the most popular picks for each letter across the past four generations: from the great-grandparents of babies born today, to the names filling kindergarten rosters in 2020 and beyond.

The starred names ranked outside of the Top 200 during the given decade, and the double-starred names outside of the Top 1000, despite being the most popular for their particular initial.

Top 1920s Names: Anna to Zane

Yes, Zane! Despite sounding like a thoroughly modern favorite, Zane was used in small but steady numbers throughout the 1920s (ranking in the 700s for boys), inspired by the Western adventure novelist Zane Grey.

According to the Hundred Year Rule, these baby names from the 1920s should be coming back into style right around now. But while we wouldn’t be surprised to meet a little Arthur, Frances or Louis, others, like Gladys and Melvin, might need another decade or two to feel fresh again!

A: Anna, Arthur
B: Betty, Bernard
C: Catherine, Charles
D: Dorothy, Donald
E: Elizabeth, Edward
F: Frances, Frank
G: Gladys, George
H: Helen, Harold
I: Irene, Irving
J: Jean, John
K: Katherine, Kenneth
L: Lois, Louis
M: Mary, Melvin
N: Norma, Norman
O: Opal, Oscar
P: Patricia, Paul
Q: Queen*, Quentin*
R: Ruth, Robert
S: Shirley, Stanley
T: Thelma, Thomas
U: Una*, Ulysses*
V: Virginia, Vernon
W: Wilma, William
X: Xenia**, Xavier**
Y: Yvonne*, Yoshio*
Z: Zelma*, Zane*

Top 1950s Names: Anthony to Zelda

Midcentury, and consonants rule the roost! It’s not only the high-value Scrabble letters, like X and Y, which lack representatives in the 1950s Top 200: O names have also fallen out of favor, and top I boy name Ira ranks all the way down at #271 across the decade.

And Xenia, the most popular X girls’ name of the fifties, was anything but: given to fewer than 100 babies throughout the whole decade.

A: Ann, Anthony
B: Barbara, Bruce
C: Cynthia, Charles
D: Deborah, David
E: Elizabeth, Edward
F: Frances, Frank
G: Gloria, Gary
H: Helen, Henry
I: Irene, Ira*
J: Janet, James
K: Karen, Kenneth
L: Linda, Larry
M: Mary, Michael
N: Nancy, Norman
O: Olivia*, Oscar*
P: Patricia, Paul
Q: Queen*, Quentin*
R: Rebecca, Robert
S: Susan, Steven
T: Teresa, Thomas
U: Ursula*, Ulysses*
V: Vicki, Vincent
W: Wanda, William
X: Xenia**, Xavier*
Y: Yvonne, Ysidro**
Z: Zelda*, Zachary*

Top 1980s Names: Amanda to Zachary

Always the most popular male initial, J names for boys hit their historic peak in the 1980s, with Joshua, James, John, Joseph, Jason, Justin and Jonathan all in that decade’s Top 20. Not to mention the fact that J girls’ names Jessica and Jennifer also took the two top spots for girls!

Further down the list, it’s interesting to see an increasing international influence in the eighties’ top names by letter: like Ian, Felicia, Luis, Quiana, Xiomara, Xavier, Yolanda and Yosef.

A: Amanda, Andrew
B: Brittany, Brian
C: Christina, Christopher
D: Danielle, David
E: Elizabeth, Eric
F: Felicia, Frank
G: Gina, Gregory
H: Heather, Henry
I: Irene*, Ian
J: Jessica, Joshua
K: Kimberly, Kevin
L: Lauren, Luis
M: Melissa, Michael
N: Nicole, Nicholas
O: Olivia, Oscar
P: Patricia, Patrick
Q: Quiana**, Quentin*
R: Rachel, Robert
S: Sarah, Steven
T: Tiffany, Thomas
U: Ursula**, Ulysses*
V: Vanessa, Victor
W: Whitney, William
X: Xiomara**, Xavier*
Y: Yolanda*, Yosef**
Z: Zoe*, Zachary

Top Names of the 2010s: Alexander to Zoey

In sharp contrast to the trends of the 1950s, vowel initials are now red-hot – especially for girls (and especially A girls’ names). But we’re still waiting for U to catch on. Ironically enough, the most popular U girl name of the last decade was… Unique. Yeah.

The modern love of all things “unique” means that Q, Y, Z and even X initials are now relatively mainstream. Yahir is the lowest-ranking of these top picks – in the 500s for boys during the 2010s.

A: Ava, Alexander
B: Brooklyn, Benjamin
C: Charlotte, Christopher
D: Delilah, Daniel
E: Emma, Ethan
F: Faith, Finn*
G: Grace, Gabriel
H: Harper, Henry
I: Isabella, Isaac
J: Julia, Jacob
K: Kaylee, Kevin
L: Lily, Liam
M: Mia, Mason
N: Natalie, Noah
O: Olivia, Oliver
P: Penelope, Parker
Q: Quinn, Quinn*
R: Riley, Ryan
S: Sophia, Samuel
T: Taylor, Thomas
U: Unique**, Uriel*
V: Victoria, Vincent
W: Willow, William
X: Ximena, Xavier
Y: Yaretzi*, Yahir*
Z: Zoey, Zachary

Which are your favorite top names for each letter? What would you name a baby boy and girl from each generation’s most popular picks? What do you think will be this decade’s top baby names by initial? Let us know!

About the author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.

View all of Emma Waterhouse's articles