The Most Popular Names in America, From the 1800s to Now

Two names that may never lose their charm? Charlotte and Noah.
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ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2021
Vintage black and white photo showing newborns in a hospital with a nurse close-by.
Photo: Getty Images

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 5,000 different first names in America alone, meaning it’s actually likely that names may not be as unique as you think. To determine the popularity of names dating back to 1860—and how long their popularity lasts— MyHeritage, a family history platform, took a look at their own historic Census archives, as well as at current information from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Social Security Administration (SSA). Here’s what they found in terms of the most popular names from the 1800s to now and their predictions for how long current popular names will stick around.

Some names, the report says, have continued to be popular since the 1800s, like Ella and Oscar, while others became popular for a short period of time due to historical figures, such as Alfred, Beatrice and Bertie, all of which became popular in the late 19th century when Queen Victoria used them to name her kids. In the 1860s, Carmen was the most popular name, but Ada, Nora and Walter were also popular. However, these names largely fell out of popularity by 2000. By the late 20th century, some historic names were replaced with Jessica and Micheal. The report found that many popular names in the U.S. in 1990 were not used by 2019, and that names such as Abigail, Matthew, Daniel and Emily were in danger of decline by 2030.

Most Popular Names in the U.S. During the 19th and 20th Centuries

1800s: Ada and Pearl were both popular names, though they declined in the following decades. Both Ella and Nora were also popular in the 1800s, but have become even more popular since the turn of the 21st century. Classic names like Ada, Ella, Maggie and Pearl have also seen a recent rise in popularity, along with Biblical names like Jacob. Many Amerians are also looking to history books for baby name inspiration. Names such as Franklin, Theodore and Walter saw a rise in popularity, peaking in 2017 and 2019. Throughout the years, names for boys remained popular more consistently than names for girls.

1860: Carmen was the most popular name in America, but Bettie and Amanda were also popular names.

1870: Clyde became the most popular name in America. Clara and Caroline were also popular.

1900s: Diane, Emily, Arthur and Donald all rose to popularity,

1910: Gail and Earl rose to the top spot.

1920s: George claimed the top spot.

1940s: Laura and Irene were the most popular, followed by Philip, Harrold, Carol and Everett.

1950s: Mary and James were both popular names and remained so into the 1960s. Some names like Deborah and Patricia fell out of favor in the 1950s.

1960s: Lisa and Michael become the most popular names, but James, Robert, John and David all retained their popularity into the 1960s. Some names for girls, like Kimberly and Karen, also appeared in top spots for the first time.

1970s, 1980s and 1990s: Michael was the most popular name, likely due to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Jennifer was the most popular name for girls in the 1970s, but was replaced by Jessica during the 1980s and 1990s. Also popular during the 1970s and 1980s was David. Emily and Jacob were both popular during the 1990s and kept their rank through the new millennium.

Predictions for Which Names Will Lose Popularity Moving Forward

MyHeritage also looked at birth data from 2015 to 2019 to track the rise and fall of popular names. Below, their predictions for which names will lose popularity in America and in which year.

  • Abigail; 2030
  • Aiden: 2027
  • Avery: 2035
  • Chloe: 2035
  • Daniel; 2032
  • David; 2032
  • Elizabeth; 2036
  • Emily; 2028
  • Emma; 2042
  • Ethan; 2027
  • Jackson; 2038
  • Logan; 2049
  • Matthew; 2028
  • Mia; 2038
  • Sofia; 2031
  • William; 2043

Their findings do predict, however, that Harper will remain popular throughout, and Liam will rise to the top spot in 2050. Meanwhile, names like Charlotte and Noah will remain timeless and continue to be popular despite fluctuations.

To view the full report, visit MyHeritage.com. And if you’re still looking for your baby’s name, check out the some of our baby name lists and tools for some help.

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