Have you ever wondered why your parents picked your name and why you are not, say, Lucifer?
Deciding on a child’s name is usually a negotiation process, often ending in a compromise. Cultural influences clash with personal preferences, and the results can range from familiar to funky.
24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) for the period from 1880 through the end of 2019, the latest year for which data is available, to identify the most popular name in America since records began.
There is less variety among boys’ names. The SSA has tracked more than 67,000 different female and almost 41,000 different male names in the United States in that time.
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.
Some names were rare and then became popular. Some names never even make it to the 1,000 most popular names in the United States. These are the 30 most uncommon baby names of the past 100 years.
SSA tracks every name with at least five occurrences. All names are from Social Security card applications for U.S. births after 1879. 24/7 Tempo calculated the share of each name for boys and girls born each year to determine the most frequently given name. The popularity leader 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.
John is the most popular name of the period. The average share of babies named John between 1880 and 2019 was 4.01%. The total number of babies named John in that time was 5,133,909. The most popular decade was 1880, when 89,950 babies were named John, or 8.21% of all baby 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.”