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Popular baby names by decade

The Social Security Administration has published popular baby name lists since the late 1800s. It’s so fun to compare the naming trends from one decade to another.


Let’s begin with the most popular baby names of the 1900s, when the first Nobel prizes were awarded, Times Square held its first New Year’s Eve celebration and Einstein postulated E=mc2.


Despite the devastation brought about by World War I, the Spanish flu and the sinking of the Titanic, this decade gave us the Federal Reserve Bank, the Panama Canal Treaty and the first crossword puzzle.


The first Miss America pageant and the first Academy Awards were held. The Walt Disney Company was founded, and Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. Meanwhile, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began.


The western half of the nation was busy with the legalization of gambling in Nevada, the opening of Alcatraz prison and the building of Hoover Dam. Around the world, Mahatma Gandhi led the Salt March, Hitler took control of Germany and oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia.


Mount Rushmore, the Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial were completed. NATO was formed, and the First General Assembly of the United Nations commenced. The boy names remained consistent, while the girls’ top five added the decade’s biggest mover, Linda.


Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union. The first McDonald’s restaurant opened, and the first Barbie doll was sold. The Soviets launched Sputnik 1, and the U.S. launched Explorer 1.


Ford Motors introduced the Mustang. Nelson Mandela was jailed. The Beatles came to the U.S., and the first man walked on the moon.


The World Trade Center was dedicated, and the Sydney Opera House opened. President Nixon resigned, and Muhammad Ali retired. Microsoft and Apple Computer were founded, and Star Wars hit the big screen. For the first time this century, the names Mary and John were not in the top five:


Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer. Oprah Winfrey hosted her first televised talk show. Calvin and Hobbes was introduced, and the space shuttle was launched. The top baby names reflected some of the decade’s hottest pop stars:


The Eurotunnel opened. President Clinton signed NAFTA into law. Tiger Woods won the Masters. Google was launched, and O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder.


Jacob would rise to the No. 1 boy’s spot and enjoy a 14-year run at the top. (It was finally beaten in 2013 by this new “most popular.”) While many parents opt for traditional baby girl names, the charts are also ripe with unique new spellings and plenty of surprising unisex names. Interestingly, five of this decade’s most popular names were also in the top 100 names of 1900.

More baby name lists

Baby boy names for girls
Baby names: A to Z
Baby names ending in X

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