Choosing a baby name can be hard, and it’s something a child has to live with until it’s at least old enough to change it. While North, Saint and Chicago may suit Kimye’s kids, they’re not likely to make it onto lists of popular baby names any time soon. More traditional names, however, will never go out of style.
1950: James and Linda on top
For boys, the name Harold had a spike in popularity, perhaps due to Harry Truman’s tenure as president. Top of the list, however, was perennial favorite James, with the solid Robert, John, Michael and David close behind. For the girls, it was Linda, Mary, Patricia, Barbara, Susan.
1951: Deborah rises
The only change in the top five baby names in 1951 came for the girls, with Deborah making an entry in fourth place. In an era that apparently was not one to embrace change, James, Robert, John, Michael and David held steady for the boys, with Linda, Mary, Patricia and Barbara completing the girls’ top five.
1952: Gracefully Susan
Making an appearance in the top five girls’ names in 1952 is Susan, the Hebrew word for “graceful lily.” But, keeping with trends of the time, James, Robert, John, Michael and David continued to represent for the boys, with Linda, Mary, Patricia and Deborah remaining popular for the girls.
1953: All change at the top
There was change at the top for the boys and the girls in 1953. Robert led the way for the boys – a name with Germanic roots, meaning “bright fame.” Mary topped the girls’ list – an anglicized version of Maria, which is thought to have Egyptian roots, meaning “beloved.”
1954: Michael crowned
There was change for the boys again as Michael topped the list ahead of Robert, James John and David. For the girls, Mary topped the list for the second consecutive year, with Linda, Deborah, Patricia and Susan rounding out the remainder of the top five.
1955: Bee my baby
By the mid-1950s, the name David had a sudden surge in popularity and leaped to the second-most popular boys’ name. Until that point he had barely clung to the top five. For the girls, Deborah – which is Hebrew for “bee” – was joined by a variant in spelling, Debra.
1956: Deborah and Debra tussle
David’s spike in popularity proved short lived as he slid back behind Michael, James and Robert. Meanwhile, the battle of the Debra/Deborahs raged, with the simplified spelling overhauling the more traditional variant of the name. However, Mary still reigned at number one.
1957: Karen brings some purity
This is the year that Karen made her first appearance in the top five girls’ names. It’s believed to be the Danish variant of Katherine, rooted in the Greek word katharos, meaning “pure.” James held strong behind Michael in the top five boys’ names ahead of David, Robert and John.
1958: Noble Patricia returns
After having two variants in the top five two years before, Debra made way for re-entrant Patricia. The feminine form of the boy’s name Patrick has its roots in Latin and means “noble.” For the boys, David regained some popularity to sit in second behind Michael.
1959: Lady Donna calls for respect
At the close of the 1950s, Donna made an appearance behind Mary, Susan, Linda and Karen. Donna is a direct translation of the Italian word for “woman,” although its original meaning aligns with “lady of the home” and commands respect. Michael, David, James, John and Robert remained solid choices for the boys.
1960: Beloved baby boy
A new decade meant a new name at the top of popular boys’ names. Though David – Hebrew for “beloved” – had been floating around the top five, 1960 was the year that he replaced Michael at number one. There was no change for the ladies with Mary holding strong at the top.
1961: Michael returns to top
David’s reign was short lived, and Michael returned as the most popular boy’s name in 1961. But for the girls, Lisa made a strong entry in the top five in second place behind long-time favorite, Mary. Lisa is derived from Elizabeth, a Hebrew name that translates as “oath of God,” or “God is satisfaction.”
1962: Lisa leaps to lead
Despite a tendency to lose favor, at least in the top five boys’ names, David held on for a second consecutive year behind Michael. For the first time in nearly a decade, Mary was displaced as the leading girl’s name, having been ousted by Lisa, whose momentum carried her all the way to the top.
1963: John takes it from the top
Being the year in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, it’s fitting that the name John claimed second spot for most popular boy’s name behind Michael. There was no change in the girls’ list, with Lisa maintaining the top spot ahead of Mary, Susan, Karen and Linda.
1964: Michael still the king
Patricia made a reappearance in the top girls’ names after a brief appearance in 1958. She settled in fifth behind Lisa, the ever-popular Mary, Susan and Karen. There was no change in the top five boys’ names with Michael leading the way from John, David, James and Robert.
1965: Kimberly comes into fashion
It’s believed that Kimberley was first established as a masculine name. But by 1965 the variant Kimberly was more common as a girl’s name and was quite a popular at that. Meaning “from the wood of the royal forest,” it was the fourth-most popular girl’s name of the year with no change for the boys.
1966: Michelle makes her mark
People were sticklers for tradition in the 1950s, and through the 1960s little seemed to change. Perhaps that’s why the trend for boys’ names was unmoved for many years. For the girls, however, Michelle – meaning “who is like God?,” like her male namesake Michael – joined the ranks of the top five girls’ baby names.
1967: Golden oldies stay good
Many names on these lists have been popular for centuries, with most even dating back to Biblical times. So it’s no surprise, then, that Michael, David, James, John and Robert continued to dominate the boys’ list. Kimberly and Michelle continued to gain popularity behind Lisa for the girls.
1968: Meet Melissa
Throughout the 1900s, Mary had remained a popular girl’s name. But in 1968 she dropped out of the top five for the very first time that century. Instead, Jennifer and Melissa made their first appearance behind Lisa, Michelle and Kimberly. Little changed for the boys with Michael, David, John, James and Robert filling the top five.
1969: Jennifer rising
Lisa claimed most popular girl’s name for the eighth year running ahead of Michelle, the steady-climbing Jennifer, Kimberly and Melissa. Shout out to Robert for hanging on to the boys’ fifth spot for the 11th consecutive year behind the usual suspects, Michael, David, James and John.
1970: Fair lady takes the top
This was the year Jennifer claimed the top spot from Lisa, who placed in second. Jennifer derives from Guinevere, which in turn is taken from the Welsh name Gwenhwyfar, meaning “fair lady.” Amy also made her first top five appearance, with little change in the boys’ list other than a second-place grab from James.
1971: Michael makes his move
Jennifer held on to the top of the girls’ list ahead of Michelle. Lisa continued to slip back to third spot, with Kimberly holding steady ahead of Amy in fifth. With Michael still dominating for the 11th consecutive year, Michael Jackson was making a transition from Jackson 5 band member to solo pop icon.
1972: Christopher comes to town
For the first time in more than two decades, there was a new addition to the top five boys’ baby names. Christopher, originating from St. Christopher, who carried a young Christ across a river in the Bible, came in second behind Michael. The girls remained the same as in the previous year.
1973: Jason joins in
For the second consecutive year, there was a newcomer to the top boys’ names. Deriving from the Greek word iasthai meaning “to heal,” Jason was a new addition behind Michael and Christopher. Amy, meanwhile, climbed the girls’ list to rank in second spot behind Jennifer.
1974: Our little angel
Jason made good on his debut the previous year and climbed to second spot behind perennial favorite Michael. While Jennifer held on to the top spot ahead of Amy and Michelle, there were two new names featured in the girls’ list. Heather and Angela joined the ranks in fourth and fifth, respectively.
1975: Heather’s here
This was another strong year for Heather, climbing from fourth- to third-most popular girl’s name. And its derivation is exactly what you might think. It’s of floral origin from Middle England: a perennial, purple-colored flower found on heathland. There was little change for the boys with Michael, Jason and Christopher holding the top three spots.
1976: Same old, same young
There was little change for either boys or girls in 1976. Michael was still the most popular name for boys ahead of Jason, Christopher, David and James. Meanwhile, Angela, deriving from the Greek ángelos, or “messenger of gods,” hung on to fifth in the girls’ list for the third year running.
1977: Melissa mounting
After a strong top five debut in 1968, Melissa soon disappeared from the top rankings. Having made a comeback in 1975, however, this year she climbed to a strong second place behind Jennifer, with Amy, Jessica and Heather closing out the top five. There was no change in the boys’ list.
1978: Jessica brings riches
In Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock’s daughter is named Jessica. It derives from Hebrew and means “rich,” or “God beholds.” In 1978 the name remained popular, placing third behind Jennifer and Melissa and ahead of Amy and Heather. Michael, Jason, Christopher, David and James remained favorites for the boys.
1979: Loveable little lady
Christopher remained popular in 1979, coming in second behind Michael for the boys. Meanwhile, Amanda made her first appearance in the top five for the girls. With its roots in Latin, it translates roughly to “worthy of love,” and its first recorded use dates back to England in the 13th century.
1980: Mommy’s little princess
Amanda and Jessica continued their strong showing, placing second and third behind Jennifer. They were joined in the top five by Sarah, Hebrew for “princess,” in fifth behind Melissa. Once again, there was no change for the boys, with Michael proving most popular once again.
1981: Gift from God arrives
For the first time since his name topped the list in the 1950s, James dropped out of the top five to make way for another Biblical favorite, Matthew. Deriving from the Hebrew Matityahu, which translates as “gift from God,” he landed in third behind Michael and Christopher. Jessica and Sarah both gained popularity among girls.
1982: Michael rules the roost
The status quo was maintained in 1982. Michael remained the most popular boy’s name for the 22nd year in succession, ahead of Christopher, Matthew, Jason and David. Jennifer was the most popular name for girls for the 12th year ahead of Jessica, Amanda, Sarah and Melissa.
1983: Trumpets sound for Joshua
Yet another Biblical name joined the most popular names for boys in 1983. This time, Joshua, meaning “God is salvation,” joined the party in fifth place. Meanwhile Ashley crept in at number four for most popular girl’s name. It’s another Old English name deriving from nature.
1984: Ashley on the rise
After breaking into the top five last year, Joshua continued his rise in popularity among the boys, edging ahead of David. Likewise, Ashley climbed the list among the girls, eventually placing third-most popular ahead of Amanda and Sarah. Once again Michael and Jennifer proved most popular.
1985: Daniel roars in like a lion
Perhaps a more obscure Biblical name, Daniel has its roots in the Hebrew word meaning “God is my judge.” He was a prophet whose belief in God saved him from a pride of hungry lions. He was also the fifth-most popular name for boys, whereas Jessica edged out Jennifer for the top girl’s name ahead of Ashley.
1986: Jennifer on the slide
Daniel’s popularity was short lived. He dropped out of the top five in 1986 for a re-emerging David. Jessica held on at the top of the girls’ list, while Jennifer experienced a sudden slide down to fourth after clinging on at the top for 14 years.
1987: No change at the top
The top names stayed the same for both the boys’ or the girls’ most popular names in 1987. For the girls, Jessica held strong at the top ahead of Ashley, Amanda, Jennifer and Sarah. For the boys Michael continued to reign ahead of Christopher, Matthew, Joshua and David.
1988: Andrew comes into view
There was a new addition to the top boys’ names in 1988. With its roots in the Greek word andreios, meaning manly – and also the name of Jesus’ first disciple – Andrew made an appearance at number five. For the girls, Sarah gained a spot ahead of the still-popular Jennifer.
1989: Brittany brings up the five
Popular for four decades, David returned to the top five boys’ names after a year’s absence. Proof if it were needed that you can’t keep a good man down. For the girls, after 15 years at the top through the 1970s and 1980s, Jennifer dropped out of the top five to make way for Brittany, named after a region of northwestern France.
1990: Samantha shining
After a brief appearance in 1985, Daniel returns to the top five boys’ names. Michael remained favorite for the 30th straight year. In the girls’ top five, Samantha made her first appearance. A name thought to have been used for the first time in the southern states in the 1800s, it’s the female form of Samuel, meaning “name of God.”