The Social Security Administration recently released the most popular baby names of 2013, reminding Americans that even something as intimate as what you name your child is influenced by our shared cultural zeitgeist. Rather than just look at last year’s data, we decided to chart how the top five names have shifted in popularity since 1880 (the year the Social Security Administration started tracking the names of infants).
Our fascination with baby names is not a new phenomenon: Back in 2003, the New York Times lamented “Where Have All the Lisas Gone?,” a title that feels out-of-date with the toddling Avas, Olivias and Emmas all around us. But when you’re looking adoringly into the eyes of a newborn child, even the most popular baby name of the year feels unique.
The top five girls’ names last year were Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella and Ava. These names have all been the top five names (in varying orders) since 2009. Only Emma and Olivia have been consistently in the top 600 names. Isabella and Ava even fell out of the top 1000 altogether. Ava may have surged in the 1940s and ’50s because of the actress Ava Gardner.
The top five boys’ names were Noah, Liam, Jacob, Mason and William. Mason entered in the top 5 back in 2011 and has stayed (possibly because of Kourtney Kardashian’s son Mason who was born in 2009). Overall, boys’ names are more consistent: William has remained in the top 20 for the 133 years that we have on record. Liam (a shortening of an Irish variation of William) emerged as a popular American name in the 1960s and has been on the rise ever since. Maybe it will finally overtake Noah as #1 in 2014.
What do these popular names mean? Find out in our slideshow on the meanings behind these popular names.
What names are on the horizon? What’s old is always new again in baby names. For girls, Marjorie snuck up more than 700 ranks to re-enter the top 1000. The name peaked at rank 16 from 1921 to 1923. For boys, Harvey rose; this name’s previous peak was when Chester A. Arthur was president in 1884. A few unique names also surged: Milan, Atlas and Forrest. Perhaps parents are looking to maps for novel name inspiration?
What are some of your favorite names?