The Most Popular Name in America Since 1880

People would be hard-pressed to know the most popular names people gave their children in 2021. The most popular boys’ names were Liam and Noah. Among the girls born last year, they were Olivia and Emma. What happened to Elizabeth and Bill?

Perhaps people want the names of their children to stand out. There are dozens of baby name books to help parents choose. One, with an extraordinary list, is “100,000+ Baby Names.” How many Americans can even name 1,000?

24/7 Tempo reviewed popular name data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify the most common name in America since records began. We found that there is less variety among boys’ names. Since 1880, the SSA has tracked more than 67,000 different female and almost 41,000 different male names in the United States.

Many historically popular names, such as Elizabeth and John, have dropped in popularity in the past decade but remain in the top 20 of all time. Other names that were popular about a century ago have not made a revival.

To identify the most popular names in America, 24/7 Tempo reviewed SSA name data for the years 1880 through 2019, the latest year for which data is available. SSA tracks every name with at least five occurrences. All names are from Social Security card applications for U.S. births after 1879. We calculated the share of each name for boys and girls born each year since. The popularity rank is based on the average frequency of each name over the period. The total number of babies given the name and the decade of their peak popularity also came from the SSA.

The most popular girl’s name is Mary. Here are the details:

  • Average share of babies named Mary: 3.38%
  • Total babies named Mary: 4,128,052
  • Most popular decade: 1920 (701,760 babies, or 5.87% of all girls)

Mary is the English form of Maria, which is the Latin name of the Greek Mariam and Maria, both of which are derived from the Hebrew Miriam. What the name means exactly is unclear: “sea of bitterness,” “rebelliousness” or “wished-for child.”

The most popular boy’s name is John. Here are the details:

  • Average share of babies named John: 4.01%
  • Total babies named John: 5,133,909
  • Most popular decade: 1880 (89,950 babies, or 8.21% of all boys)

John is derived from the Latin Johannes, which comes from the Greek Ioannes, which itself is derived from the Hebrew Yehanan, a short version of Yehohanan, meaning “Yahweh is gracious.”

Click here to see all the most popular names in America since 1880.

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