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The top baby names for every year since 1880

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Written by Mary Fetzer   

The most popular baby names lists are comprised from the Social Security card applications for births that occur in any given year. Recent records are more complete and accurate than they were in decades past, mainly because it was not common practice to immediately request a Social Security number for an infant. Nevertheless, the SSA's published baby names lists go back as far as 1880... and we're here to tell you which boy and girl names topped the list every year ever since.

You might think that a lot of baby names would be included on a list that spans 134 years, but the number of  No. 1s is actually quite low. Since 1880, only 10 girl names and seven boy names have occupied the top spot. 

Top baby names for girls

History shows that once Americans find a baby name they like, they stick with it for awhile. The baby naming culture is changing, however, and we now spend fewer years obsessing over a particular name.

Mary has occupied the No. 1 spot far more times than any other name, but it has declined steadily since its reign and now checks in at an unimpressive #121 on the charts. But it's highly unlikely that any other name will ever again enjoy such a long run at the top.

Since 1880, the most popular baby names for girls — based on the number of times each was No. 1 — include these favorites:

Looking at these 10 names year by year, we find the following:

  • 1880 – 1946 Mary
  • 1947 – 1952 Linda
  • 1953 – 1961 Mary
  • 1962 – 1969 Lisa
  • 1970 – 1984 Jennifer
  • 1985 – 1990 Jessica
  • 1991 – 1992 Ashley
  • 1993 – 1995 Jessica
  • 1996 – 2007 Emily
  • 2008 Emma
  • 2009 – 2010 Isabella
  • 2011 – 2013 Sophia

Top baby names for boys

The name Jacob enjoyed a 14-year run, but that pales in comparison to a couple of the really big hitters from way back when. John and Michael are tied for the most years spent at No. 1, and none of the other boy names can hold a candle to them.

The most popular baby names for boys — again, based on the number of times each was No. 1 — include these seven names:

Examining the names year by year — 1880 through 2013 — provides a different perspective:

  • 1880 – 1923 John
  • 1924 – 1939 Robert
  • 1940 – 1952 James
  • 1953 Robert
  • 1954 – 1959 Michael
  • 1960 David
  • 1961 – 1998 Michael
  • 1999 – 2012 Jacob
  • 2013 Noah

More baby name lists

Top baby names by state 2014
Pros and cons of choosing a popular baby name
The most common surnames 

Photo credit: Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

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