What’s In A Name? 100 Years of Baby Names

The nursery is complete. Outfitted in the perfect theme, with pops of this year’s trendiest of colors. The baby shower was pure bliss, and all of those thank-yous were placed promptly in the mailbox. Meal prep was a success and there are currently ten meals stocked in your freezer. The house appears spotless and your overnight bag has been sitting by the door for the past two weeks. 

The list is completed, with the exception of one minor detail…

Baby’s Name

For some, this process comes easily, with no real bumps in the road. But for others it’s an agonizing process. Selecting the perfect name can feel overwhelming. Do you go traditional, classic, unique, or maybe something with a hint of pizazz? 

Maybe you begin your search the traditional way, by busting out an encyclopedia-sized book of baby names. Ugh! That feels so 1985! Instead you scour Pinterest for every baby name post imaginable. But that feels too trendy. So instead you hop on ancestry.com and begin creating your family tree. Certainly there you will find a name with the perfect combination of classy and that special family touch.

Growing up with lots of cousins, I have seen the name game play out all sorts of ways. A few of my relatives went the traditional route, choosing family names. Some laid out a map of the U.S., circling their favorite cities. Others drew names out of a hat to narrow down their favorites, and a few waited patiently to see their little one before selecting the perfect name.

Selecting the perfect name can feel overwhelming. Do you go traditional, classic, unique, or maybe something with a hint of pizazz?

Personally for me, the process was a bit more agonizing the second time around. Not because we couldn’t agree. No, in fact, we had both our daughter’s names selected quite easily before our first was even born. My hesitation came when the second name had risen in popularity since that time. For some this would be a small detail or just a blip on the radar. My husband remained unfazed. Me, well, I blame the hormones. In the end, our original choice was the right one. It just took me a bit longer to get there. 

Truthfully, I love searching for baby names. Although it can be a bit agonizing at times, it’s one of the best parts of growing your family. It was my love of looking through names and their meanings that inspired me to take you on a stroll through the most popular names of the last century by decade.

baby names

Popular Baby Names of the Last Century by Decade

1920’s – The Roaring Twenties 

Boy                  Girl

1. Robert         1. Mary 
2. John            2. Dorothy 
3. James         3. Helen 
4. William      4. Betty 
5. Charles       5. Margaret

1930’s – The Turbulent Thirties

Boy               Girl

1. Robert         1. Mary 
2. James          2. Betty 
3. John            3. Barbara 
4. William      4. Shirley 
5. Richard       5. Patricia

1940’s – The Flying Forties

Boy                   Girl

1. James           1. Mary 
2. Robert         2. Linda 
3. John             3. Barbara 
4. William       4. Patricia 
5. Richard        5. Carol

1950’s – The Fabulous Fifties 

Boy                   Girl

1. James           1. Mary 
2. Michael       2. Linda 
3. Robert         3. Patricia
4. John            4. Susan 
5. David           5. Deborah

1960’s – The Swingin’ Sixties

Boy                   Girl

1. Michael        1. Lisa 
2. David           2. Mary 
3. John             3. Susan 
4. James          4. Karen 
5. Robert         5. Kimberly

1970’s – The Disco Era

Boy                      Girl

1. Michael           1. Jennifer 
2. Christopher   2. Amy 
3. Jason              3. Melissa 
4. David              4. Michelle 
5. James             5. Kimberly

1980’s – The Decade of Decadence 

Boy                    Girl

1. Michael          1. Jessica 
2. Christopher  2. Jennifer 
3. Matthew        3. Amanda 
4. Joshua           4. Ashley 
5. David             5. Sarah

1990’s – The Naughty Nineties 

Boy                     Girl

1. Michael           1. Jessica 
2. Christopher   2. Ashley 
3. Matthew        3. Emily 
4. Joshua           4. Sarah 
5. Jacob             5. Samantha

2000’s – The OO’s 

Boy                      Girl

1. Jacob              1. Emily 
2. Michael         2. Madison 
3. Joshua           3. Emma 
4. Matthew       4. Olivia 
5. Daniel            5. Hannah

2010’s – The Tensies 

Boy                    Girl

1. Jacob             1. Emma 
2. Noah             2. Sophia 
3. Mason          3. Olivia 
4. William        4. Isabella 
5. Liam             5. Ava

What’s in a name? Whether you are choosing a name to represent family or give your child their own unique flair, one thing is for certain. There is nothing but love and joy put into it. So, roll out that map or power up that laptop and enjoy the process.


Nikki Wildemuth
Nikki is new to the area. She graduated from the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Campus in 2009 with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education. She married her husband the same year. Nikki loved the creativity of teaching and continues to bring that same creativity as a stay at home mom. During the day you can find her chasing after her precocious toddler. By night she is a Pinterest junkie! She enjoys getting out and spending time with her family!


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