The Official Most Popular Baby Names of the Decade

May 9th 2010

With the 2009 data in we can close the book on the naming decade of the 2000s. The Social Security Administration plans to release their list on the 14th, but who can wait? The official data's in hand, so I've run the numbers myself.

In December, I told you in advance who the decade's champions would be: Emily and Jacob, with 2nd place honors to Madison and Michael. Those races weren't even close enough for the 2009 data to matter. (It's worth looking at that old blog to see why Madison, which only ranked in the top 2 for 2 years, trounced Emma, which had 6 top-2 showings.)

Beyond the top 2, though, there are plenty of stories. Take a look at the top 10 regardless of sex:

1. Jacob
2. Michael
3. Joshua
4. Emily
5. Matthew
6. Daniel
7. Christopher
8. Andrew
9. Ethan
10. Joseph

Just 1 girl's name makes the cut. That really drives home how remarkable it was that Isabella was America's #1 name by a large margin last year. Until the 1930s, Mary and John routinely ran neck-and-neck for the overall title. But it's been 60 years since a girl's name was #1.

Explore the decade yourself: I've posted the top 2,500 names for boys and girls. Going that deep lets you see the dramatic shape of modern style, with more girls named Skyy and Alexzandria than Marcia.




By Beth the original (not verified)
May 9, 2010 11:35 AM

First comment, whoo-hoo! Now, to think of something to say...

May 9, 2010 11:39 AM

Awesome to see this data. One question, though: Are you accounting for names that never made the top 1000? For instance, a certain name may have been given to 100 boys each year of the decade, which wouldn't be enough to crack the top 1000 in any given year, but would put it at as high as #1441 for the decade.

By Beth the original (not verified)
May 9, 2010 11:58 AM

OK then. Surprises in the top 100: Melanie? Jocelyn?

May 9, 2010 12:25 PM

Thank you for doing that ! It was incredible interesting & actually helped me with some of the names that I like :)

Thanks !

May 9, 2010 1:08 PM

"One question, though: Are you accounting for names that never made the top 1000?"

Good question -- yes, this includes figures from outside the top 1000. For instance, Beverly, #1285, never made the top 1000 in any year of the decade. Furthermore, the girl's name Unique made the top 1000 for 5 of the 10 years, but its #999 decade ranking is based on totaling usage from all 10 years.

By JenRose82 (not verified)
May 9, 2010 1:14 PM

Interesting. I notice that a lot of the names that are pretty far down the list are actually alternate spellings for more common names, like "Stefanie." A lot of others like "Lilybelle" while unusual, fit right into style trends. And then names like "Bella" are probably much more common than they appear given that Bella is a nickname for Isabella, the current number 1 name.

The boy's side of the list was actually a lot more fascinating because once you get past the top several names you get into some really rarely heard and super unusual ones, some of which are more common as girls' names, "Jade" for instance.

By Guest (not verified)
May 9, 2010 1:19 PM

Did anyone else notice the pairing of #511 - Miley for girls and Cyrus for boys?

May 9, 2010 1:57 PM

Guest 7

Yes, I did. I thought it was pretty funny

May 9, 2010 2:08 PM

Amazing list, Laura, and so much more depth than what SSA will publish. I've been looking at the SSA's Beyond the Top 1000 Names list for 2009. I can't believe I've never heard of this list before now. HAS it been available all along?

May 9, 2010 4:30 PM

Don't know if this link was already posted but thought you all might like to review these numbers too-

By Emilie (not verified)
May 9, 2010 5:13 PM

Any ideas on why the name Ethan is less common in the Northeast than the rest of the country? We have a baby boy on the way and I have always loved the name Ethan, and it sounds great with our difficult last name, but I've always been turned off by the popularity (I mean, #2???). I'm really not overly concerned with popularity for a boys name (for some reason I cared much more about that with a girls name), but I don't want to hear it coming and going either (like Alex in our area - seems like every other little boy is named Alex). Anyway, I checked out the Namemapper and Ethan has bumped along around the high-teens/low-20s for the past decade.

I guess my main concern is that I know sometimes the name trends hit the coasts first, and I don't want to give my kid a name that's "so 2002". :-) But it doesn't really seem that way from the Namemapper.

Any ideas? And am I crazy to consider giving my kid a name that is #2 in the country?

By Emilie (not verified)
May 9, 2010 5:15 PM

Should have said ...I checked out the Namemapper and Ethan has bumped along around the high-teens/low-20s *in my state* for the past decade.

May 9, 2010 5:40 PM

On Ethan and the Northeast: Ethan is one of the names that seems to vary with population density. It's more common in rural areas, less in cities.

On the "beyond 1000" data -- it's brand new, and needless to say my mind has been reeling with fabulous ways to use it. :-D Hopefully you'll see some of them here soon. I only wish there were enough hours in the day (and dollars in the till) to turn half of my ideas into reality!

By JenniferN (not verified)
May 9, 2010 5:52 PM

I'd go with Ethan! Even if it's very popular, the "th" gives it a bit of a phonetic distinction.

By Guest (not verified)
May 9, 2010 6:31 PM

I love the "beyond the 1000" data! It's very interesting to see which names are currently on the verge. I also had to check out some of the naming urban legends out there. I see there really are some babies named 'abcde', but at least 'S-head' appears to be only a myth.

May 9, 2010 6:55 PM

Laura-any idea why these posts seem to be acting so strange?

The post I tried to provide a link to before was to the SSA's ranking of how the top 1000 names only represent 79% of the population or whatever. So hunt around on the site!

By TamaraR (not verified)
May 9, 2010 7:20 PM

Zoerhenne, just wanted to say in case it wasn't obvious already, the link you tried posting appears if I highlight that area. Made me first think, 'is this a spoiler or something?' hee hee..

By Cassandra (not verified)
May 9, 2010 7:31 PM

I'm really excited to finally see this list. I was happy that Madison got kicked down a bit - it's so trendy and masculine, time to give it a break. (permanently).

I was really happy to see a lot of older, established names make their way back up, though.

By JenR (not verified)
May 9, 2010 9:41 PM


1st time poster, but couldn't help but chime in...

I am a parent to an "3than" born a few years ago, and, despite its popularity, find it to be actually uncommon in a sea of boys named Jack, Henry, Max, Sam, Owen, Will, Eli, etc. I live in an upper-middle class, sort-of-hipster, urban area. I think the popularity scares some people off.

I (obviously) love the name, and like that no one ever spells or pronounces it wrong. I get a lot of compliments. I agree, too, that a common boys name didn't bother me as much. Of note, my DD is Z0e, and I am amazed at the number of people who pronounce it to rhyme with "Joe." It's kind of annoying, but I still like the name...

By Kyle (not verified)
May 9, 2010 10:54 PM

Look at the boys name for rank 2004... that can't be right can it?

By CB, nli (not verified)
May 9, 2010 11:18 PM

Love the list and appreciate the work immensely, but, but, but......

As a graduating senior in 2000 I constantly corrected people.... the millenium didn't change in 2000, it changed in 2001. And decades go from 1 to 10 (or 20, 30, etc). Sorry, just have to be a dork and butt in. There was no year 0. It goes from 1 BC to 1 AD... :) There, I feel all better now....

By hyz
May 9, 2010 11:35 PM

For some reason, I'm not able to download the top 1000, so all I get is a text page that's essentially gibberish. Does any good samaritan want to do me a big favor and give me the info for Hyacinth in the last year or two?? I'm dying to know since I saw it mentioned on the previous thread (great lists, by the way!!), and I can't find it anywhere in Laura's top 2500 of the decade, so I imagine the numbers must really be pretty small.

All this new data is amazing!!!! I'm excited about Laura's 2500 list, and I can't wait to go through the SSA data more myself when I have some time to kill (assuming I can ever download the new SSA lists)....

By hyz
May 9, 2010 11:36 PM


By Guest (not verified)
May 9, 2010 11:41 PM

Actually, a decade is any ten-year period. The "00's" started in 2000 and ended in 2009. One decade. Would you say that the '80s actually covered the period from 1981 - 1990? If we counted decades the way we do centuries ("the two hundredth decade AD"), it would matter where we started and ended, but we're not, so it doesn't.

/end rant

And thanks for the list, Laura - I can't wait to peruse it!

May 9, 2010 11:52 PM

hyz-For the years 2007-2009 the numbers for Hyacinth were 12, 6, and 8 respectively. You are very welcome!

Hope all the moms out there had a wonderful day!

May 9, 2010 11:57 PM

hyz, Number of girls given the name Hyacinth:
2009 - 8
2008 - 6
2007 - 12
2006 - 11
2005 - 8

Just a very few Hyacinths each year, so no chance for the name to be in the top 2500 names of the decade.

May 9, 2010 11:57 PM

oh my goodness oh my goodness oh my goodness. my little NE heart is going to be pouring over this for the next...several years

hyz: open the data in wordpad, then cut and paste into excel.

and...17 poor little girls were named Renesmee in 2009.

By CB, nli (not verified)
May 9, 2010 11:58 PM

Weeellll.... We did count decades in my upper level history classes, and I was trained to begin and end them the way I do. In my classes, "decade" didn't translate to any ten year period like, say "score" would translate to any twenty year period (maybe this is a connotation/denotation argument). Anyway, I didn't mean to say that I'm not okay with the short hand meaning of the 80's or whatever. I just wanted to vent my tiny little pet peeve.

Also, I'm very happy having it blurred if that means I get way cool BNW data sooner!

And Hyacinth will always be the awesome lead on "Keeping Up Appearences" to me! Love it :)

By hyz
May 10, 2010 12:07 AM

zoerhenne and Patricia, thank you both so much for the Hyacinth data!!! Looks like there are only a few people out there each year who are as crazy as I am to love that name so much! :) Blythe, thanks for the tip--I'll try it! And CB, yes, Mrs. Bucket isn't necessarily the best namesake, but I do find her awesome and charming in her own way! :)

May 10, 2010 12:08 AM

that is, poring. good grief.

May 10, 2010 12:24 AM

for hyacinth:
2005 - 8 children
2006 - 11 children
2007 - 12 children
2008 - 6 children
2009 - 8 children

so, yeah, i'm going with pretty small numbers. :]

on another flower note, the name azalea was given to 135 children in 2009, which still isn't that close to the top 1000 (the 1000 name, which was mireya, was given to 263 children), but i was just wondering about it, since we'd been discussing it for lucky as a sibling to bird and fin. i don't think i'd ever use any of the flower names myself, but i'm kind of liking them. i have to admit, i'd be pretty thrilled to meet a hyacinth in person. :]

May 10, 2010 12:27 AM

oh my goooosh, those numbers on renesmee grieve me... i can't even imagine...

May 10, 2010 12:34 AM

hyz, your mention of Hyacinth -- which I associate with the amusing Hyacinth Bucket in the BBC comedy "Keeping up Appearances", got me wondering if the name Hyacinth was ever used much in this country. Apparently not, because quickly checking the number of baby girls given the name Hyacinth in 10 year intervals showed:
1889 - NA (less than 5)
1899 - 7
1909 - 13
1919 - 18
1929 - 5
1939 - NA
1949 - 6
1959 - 5
1969 - NA
1979 - 7
1989 - NA
1999 - 7
2009 - 8

May 10, 2010 12:43 AM

CB - no. The 90s, for example, were 1990 - 1999, not 1991 - 2000.
Or would you seriously tell someone born in 1990 that they were born in the 80s? Or that as a 2000 graduate, you graduated in the 90s?

A decade is any ten year period. The 00s are from 200 - 2009, and this naming data is for the 00s.

Also, as a side note, the world is of course billions of years old and there was no official 0AD. The Julian/Gregorian calendars were a matter of 'We estimate it has been X years since the birth of Christ so today would be year X.'

May 10, 2010 12:52 AM

well, i'm sure the decade issue isn't a terribly big deal. i'm sure its usage is different in an advanced history class than in the day-to-day way many people use it. and everyone does have little pet peeves, as cb says. for example, i really dislike back hair. :]

May 10, 2010 8:16 AM

Re the definition of decades: In the case of baby-name data, the definition is "any ten-year period defined by the Social Security Administration." :-)

The SSA has always divided its historical data into decades by first digit, so that's the standard to follow.

May 10, 2010 9:23 AM

The SSAs new "beyond 1000" baby name data is just TOO MUCH fun! My second granddaughter hopes to have a daughter named Mabel someday. Cate is finishing her nursing home administrator studies, loves older people and their names. When I saw Cate yesterday I mentioned that Mabel didn't make the Top 1000 in 2009, which made her happy. But Mabel HAS been a Top 20 name, and with the new data from SSA, I was able to trace the rise and fall of Mabel, a name that I continue to see on baby name boards:

1880 (first year of SSA data) - #22/808 baby girls named Mabel

1889 - #16/1947 baby girls named Mabel
1891 - Mabel peaked at #15/2029
1899 - #22/2127
[1905 - my Great-aunt Mabel born: #29/2178]
1909 - #41/2007
1919 - #78/3405
1929 - #148/1512
1939 - #256/591
1949 - #511/255
1959 - #874/140
1969 - NA (no longer in Top 100)/86
1979 - NA/70
1989 - NA/64
1999 - NA/90
2009 - NA/145 (needed 263 to make the Top 1000)

So there it is - a history of the frequency of use of just one name over a span of 129 years. Obviously a NE could spend YEARS going over the 'beyond 1000' data. Fascinating!

And immediately after it was released, Laura put to use the "beyond 1000" data to compile a list of the 2500! most popular names of the first decade of the 21st century. (Mabel ranked 1838.) Such a wealth of baby name data; so many possible ways to use it.

By Beth the original (not verified)
May 10, 2010 10:00 AM

But, but, but ... doesn't Name Voyager give you "a history of the frequency of use of just one name over a span of 129 years?" Or is that just if it's in the top 1000, and now we have a "static" version of NV? So confused.

Ethan, no matter how you slice it, is a cute name. But I wonder if anyone has ever done a study about how "unusual" boy names affect social status. Parents--well, OK, white middle- and upper-middle-class parents--seem to pick the same names over and over for boys (witness Laura's data above), seeming to worry about the social fall a boy might take if his name is unusual or perceived as sissified. Whereas with girls, they strive for "unique" names. It's as if being acceptable for a boy means fitting in, but a girl has to stand out to stand a chance. Has anyone researched this, or is it all just too nebulous to track?

May 10, 2010 10:49 AM

@39: Name Voyager shows only names that were in the Top 1000 for any given year. Thus the graft for Mabel disappears after the decade of the 1950s. Without the newly released "beyond 1000" data, we have no way of knowing how a name has been faring after disappearing from the SSA top baby names charts (or before entering it): is use of the name plunging or just decreasing slightly? Has the downward slide of a name turned around? With Mabel, we can see that use of the name hit a low around 1989 (I didn't check every year), then started to increase in use, and is presently not that far from making it back into SSA's annual Top 1000.

May 10, 2010 10:58 AM

There are more names out of the top 1000 than in it. Before the "beyond 1000" data, all one knew was that a name wasn't in the top 1000. Two such names in my family are Susanna and Catrina. Looking at the "beyond 1000" data, I know now that Susanna (160 baby girls in 2009 were given that name) is far more popular than Catrina (only 31 baby girls). I also can see that the other traditional Scottish spelling of Catrina, Catriona, is in some use in this country, with 18 baby girls given the name last year.

May 10, 2010 11:13 AM

With the "beyond 1000" data I was also able to check on something that has been puzzling me. In a recent Daily Beast article, an author of many baby name books published an article about "The Elite's Top 50 Baby Names." In the accompany list of names, Seraphina is ranked #2 among names being chosen for children of "the elite":
"2. SERAPHINA ... (not on the Top 1,000, though thanks to Miss Affleck, its heading up fast)"

Are parents -- "elite" or otherwise -- choosing the name Seraphina in great numbers? Is Seraphina "heading up fast"?

Apparently not. SSA's "beyond 1000" data shows that only 87 baby girls were given the name in 2009.

May 10, 2010 11:23 AM

Re: "There are more names out of the top 1000 than in it." No question, far more, since by definition, the top 1000 is capped at 1000! That said, there are many more *babies* in the top 1000 than out of it. So I think the NameVoyager remains the best single way to track trends.

I'd hate to see parents thinking "oh no, there were 7 boys named Victorious last year, now I can't use it, I have to find something UNIQUE!" After all, the #1000 most popular boy's name accounts for just 1 in every 11,000 boys born. That's pretty darned distinctive already.

By Anna S (not verified)
May 10, 2010 11:24 AM

I've taken a look at the distribution of vowels in the top 2500 names (yay, number-crunching!)

GIRLS - Contains - Begins with
A - 75% - 17%
E - 50% - 6.7%
I - 52% - 2.1%
O - 15% - 1.0%
U - 5% - 0.02% *
Y - 29% - 0.5%

*Only one girls' name begins with U - Unique

BOYS - Contains - Begins with
A - 62% - 10%
E - 48% - 4.7%
I - 33% - 1.8%
O - 36% - 1.1%
U - 11% - 0.1%
Y - 15% - 0.3%

May 10, 2010 11:32 AM

As someone who is interested in many of the names in the London Telegraph birth announcements, I can now find out if a name popular in the UK might soon become popular in the USA too. A case in point: Imogen, which was #33 in England and Wales in 2008. I thought the name might be starting to catch on here too. In fact, I looked for Imogen right away when the 2009 top 1000 list was released on Friday. Not there. And now I know that Imogen is a LONG way from being in the top 1000: there were only 77 American girls named Imogen in 2009. Without "beyond 1000" we had no way of knowing that. Certainly on the name boards Imogen comes up enough that it SEEMS far more popular than it is. But that's just NEs talking to each other! "Beyond 1000" data helps us connect with the 'real world' of baby naming. :-D

May 10, 2010 11:32 AM

regarding comment #43:
good point, laura.

May 10, 2010 11:46 AM

Per the question about the name "Babyboy" (rank 2004): could that represent children who didn't live long enough to be given a more formal name? At what point are babies given Social Security numbers these days?

May 10, 2010 1:29 PM

Anna S-Quite interesting number crunching. Thanks so much for posting that. I am doing my own number crunching/analyzing but I hadn't gotten that far yet!

By Daffy Castilian (not verified)
May 10, 2010 1:30 PM

Here is some stuff that was buried deep in the 2009 'beyond', where I've been having fun rooting around. I've grouped my favorites by style category, like Laura does! ;D

Tough Pregnancy?
Gamble (M) 10
Concepcion (F) 11
Secret (F) 11
Reality (F) 11
Real (M) 5
Fate (F) 6

Tough Childbirth?
Early (M) 7
Tremar (M) 5
Tug (M) 5
Naw (F) 5
Thorn (M) 7
Saw (M) 13
Havoc (M) 6
Lucifer (M) 9

Who's on First?
Papa (M) 11
Ma (F) 7
Paw (F) 7
Man (F) 5

Dstruktiv Spelling
Pipper (F) 6
Ski (F) 6
Gila (F) 6
Gizzel (F) 7
Lean (F) 7
Loganne (F) 7
Analyse (F) 36
Chasiti (F) 6
Chadsity (F) 9
Analee (F) 91
Gorge (M) 12
Johnanthan (M) 5
Jospeh (M) 12
Drystan (M) 10

Why Not?
Steeve (M) 5
Elmo (M) 5
Damoney (M) 15
Yugo (M) 7
Tyre (M) 35
Hopper (M) 6
Dairy (M) 6
Edit (F) 6
Abcde (F) 32
Pebbles (F) 9
Thy (F) 7
Chaos (M) 9
Thang (M) 15
Dragon (M) 5
Purvi (F) 9
Tred (M) 5
Tzippy (F) 8
Isabelly (F) 6

By Jillc (not verified)
May 10, 2010 1:36 PM

Elizath T, it's my understanding that requirements vary by state: in FL, for example, a baby's birth certificate data must be filed within 5 days; if the baby doesn't have a name by then, it goes down as Baby Boy (or Girl), and parents have to re-file with the official name when they choose it. I believe the re-filed data doesn't make it into this list -- can anyone confirm?