10 Most Popular Baby Names of All Time


1
James and Mary
The one and only James Brown performing at the 50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll in New York.
The one and only James Brown performing at the 50th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll in New York.
Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Here's the big reveal: If you haven't already guessed, the most popular names of the last century are James and Mary.

Collectively, these names represent more than 8 million babies! Mary was the No. 1 girl's name for eight decades, from the 1880s to the early 1950s. James only occupied the top spot from 1940 to 1953, but was in the top five from the 1880s all the way to 1980.

It's fitting, even karmic, that James means "supplanter" or someone who replaces another, because this name replaced every other boy name to gain the top spot. Six U.S. presidents, at least two Declaration of Independence signers, plus numerous saints and kings have had this name. Modern-day Jameses include actors Cagney, Dean, and Earl Jones; athletes Jim Thorpe and Jimmy Connors; musicians James Brown, James Taylor and Jimi Hendrix -- and this barely touches the tip of the iceberg.

Mary is by far the most popular girl's name of all time. The Bible alone mentions four Marys in the New Testament, including Jesus' mother. In the Christian Church's early days, the name was considered too sacred to bestow on a person but around the 12th century, people began using it again. There have been famous Marys in every walk of life -- history, religion, science, literature, politics, royalty -- even on ships and in nursery rhymes.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Associated Press. "Nearly 23 Million Americans Watched Royal Wedding." May 1, 2011. ABCNews. (March 21, 2012). http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=13502255#.T2vKesUgdOh
  • Barden, Amanda Elizabeth. "The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names: Baby Names Made Easy." Fireside. 2009.
  • BBC News. "Royal wedding watched by 24.5 million on terrestrial TV." April 30, 2011. (March 21, 2012). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13248199
  • Biography. "Famous People Named David." (March 20, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/groups/famous-named-david/all
  • Biography. "Famous People Named Elizabeth." (March 20, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/groups/famous-named-elizabeth
  • Biography. "Famous People Named John." (March 21, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/groups/famous-named-john/all
  • Biography. "Linda." (March 20, 2012). http://www.biography.com/search-results?searchText=linda&search-header-search-submit=
  • Biography. "Susan Lucci." (March 21, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/susan-lucci-9542038
  • Biography. "Susan Sarandon." (March 21, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/susan-sarandon-9471729
  • Biography. "Joseph Stalin." (March 20, 2012). http://www.biography.com/people/joseph-stalin-9491723
  • Bolton, Lesley. "25,001 Best Baby Names." Sourcebooks, Inc. 2009.
  • Celizic, Mike. "Baby Jessica 20 years later." Today. June , 2007. (March 21, 2012). http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19165433/ns/today-today_people/t/baby-jessica-years-later/#.T2vIqMUgdOh
  • Craker, Lorilee. "A is for Atticus." Center Street. 2008.
  • Danforth, Charlotte. "American Heirloom Baby Names: Classic Names to Choose with Pride." New American Library. 2006.
  • Family Education. "British Royal Name." (March 20, 2012). http://life.familyeducation.com/baby/baby-names/45500.html?page=1
  • Family Education, Name Lab. "Charles.: (Marcy 25, 2011). http://baby-names.familyeducation.com/name-meaning/charles
  • Highfield, Roger. "Why are they so popular?" The Telegraph. June 16, 2004. (March 19, 2012).
  • Kansas Literature. "L. Frank Baum." (March 19, 2012). http://www.washburn.edu/reference/cks/mapping/baum/
  • Pappas, Stephanie. "Baby Name Regret is on the Rise, Experts Say." Yahoo News. March 22, 2012. (March 22, 2012). http://news.yahoo.com/baby-name-regret-rise-expert-says-140808874.html
  • Satran, Pamela Redmond & Rosenkrantz, Linda. "The Baby Name Bible." St. Martin's Press. 2007.
  • Schewegel, Janet. "The Baby Name Countdown: 140,000 Popular and Unusual Baby Names." Da Capo Press. 2008.
  • Social Security Administration. Top Names over the Last 100 Years. (March 22, 2012). http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/decades/century.html
  • Social Security Administration. Top 5 Names in each of the Last 100 Years. (March 24. 2012). http://www.ssa.gov/oact/babynames/top5names.html

UP NEXT

This App Can Explain What Your Baby's Cries Mean

This App Can Explain What Your Baby's Cries Mean

HowStuffWorks reports on ChatterBaby, an app developed by a UCLA scientist and mother to take the guesswork out of a baby's cries.


More to Explore