Mental Floss

The Most Popular Baby Names From the Year You Were Born

Ellen Gutoskey
Do you see your name in this image? Probably.
Do you see your name in this image? Probably. / RoJDesign/iStock via Getty Images Plus

If you live in the U.S., there’s a fair chance you know at least a Michael or two. That was the most popular baby name for boys in 44 of the 45 years between 1954 and 1998. The lone outlier was 1960, when 1959’s runner-up David briefly knocked Michael into second place.

The streak ended in 1999, this time thanks to Jacob. From that year through 2012, more male babies were named Jacob than any other name, though Michael kept a tenable hold on second place through 2008. After two years in the third spot, it disappeared from the top five completely, and hasn’t regained a foothold since.

The rise and fall of Michael is chronicled by the Social Security Administration, whose digital baby name records are open to anyone curious enough to peruse them. On the girls’ side, no moniker can quite compete with Michael’s domination—but Mary came the closest. It sat in first place from 1930 to 1946, got bypassed by Linda from 1947 through 1952, and regained the top spot for the following nine years. Another L name took over in 1962: Lisa, which stayed there for the rest of the decade. J names were all the rage through the ’70s and ’80s, first Jennifer and then Jessica.

Arguably the biggest trend in recent years is girls’ names ending in -a. One of them—be it Emma, Isabella, Sophia, or Olivia—has occupied first place since 2008. For boys, Noah and Liam now reign supreme. (But don’t be surprised if your toddler starts meeting little Lokis and Wandas on the playground.)

See which names took the top spot in your birth year below. Wondering how your own name measures up to Michael or Mary? Check out the SSA’s tool for tracking a name’s popularity year over year.

1930: Mary, Robert
1931: Mary, Robert
1932: Mary, Robert
1933: Mary, Robert
1934: Mary, Robert
1935: Mary, Robert
1936: Mary, Robert
1937: Mary, Robert
1938: Mary, Robert
1939: Mary, Robert
1940: Mary, James
1941: Mary, James
1942: Mary, James
1943: Mary, James
1944: Mary, James
1945: Mary, James
1946: Mary, James
1947: Linda, James
1948: Linda, James
1949: Linda, James
1950: Linda, James
1951: Linda, James
1952: Linda, James
1953: Mary, Robert
1954: Mary, Michael
1955: Mary, Michael
1956: Mary, Michael
1957: Mary, Michael
1958: Mary, Michael
1959: Mary, Michael
1960: Mary, David
1961: Mary, Michael
1962: Lisa, Michael
1963: Lisa, Michael
1964: Lisa, Michael
1965: Lisa, Michael
1966: Lisa, Michael
1967: Lisa, Michael
1968: Lisa, Michael
1969: Lisa, Michael
1970: Jennifer, Michael
1971: Jennifer, Michael
1972: Jennifer, Michael
1973: Jennifer, Michael
1974: Jennifer, Michael
1975: Jennifer, Michael
1976: Jennifer, Michael
1977: Jennifer, Michael
1978: Jennifer, Michael
1979: Jennifer, Michael
1980: Jennifer, Michael
1981: Jennifer, Michael
1982: Jennifer, Michael
1983: Jennifer, Michael
1984: Jennifer, Michael
1985: Jessica, Michael
1986: Jessica, Michael
1987: Jessica, Michael
1988: Jessica, Michael
1989: Jessica, Michael
1990: Jessica, Michael
1991: Ashley, Michael
1992: Ashley, Michael
1993: Jessica, Michael
1994: Jessica, Michael
1995: Jessica, Michael
1996: Emily, Michael
1997: Emily, Michael
1998: Emily, Michael
1999: Emily, Jacob
2000: Emily, Jacob
2001: Emily, Jacob
2002: Emily, Jacob
2003: Emily, Jacob
2004: Emily, Jacob
2005: Emily, Jacob
2006: Emily, Jacob
2007: Emily, Jacob
2008: Emma, Jacob
2009: Isabella, Jacob
2010: Isabella, Jacob
2011: Sophia, Jacob
2012: Sophia, Jacob
2013: Sophia, Noah
2014: Emma, Noah
2015: Emma, Noah
2016: Emma, Noah
2017: Emma, Liam
2018: Emma, Liam
2019: Olivia, Liam
2020: Olivia, Liam
2021: Olivia, Liam