What are the most popular African American names today? Each year the Social Security Administration (SSA) releases baby naming data from the previous year which gives new parents an idea of which baby names are currently most popular among parents across the US. The data, while big in scope, is not exactly comprehensive when it comes to a variety of factors. We wanted to know, specifically, the African American names parents are choosing most. Because the SSA does not incorporate race into their findings, we decided to dig deeper.
The folks over at BabyCenter discovered that four states: Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas, Texas, and one very populous city, New York City, are the only places in the US that rank baby names by popularity, taking into account race. While this is not the very best sample it is a decent metric as these places are diverse and represent different parts of the country save for the West Coast. We dug deep to find which baby names for Black girls and boys are trending. Here are the 50 most popular African American names for children born today!
Popular African American Names for Girls
Trinity climbed the baby name charts after the release of The Matrix in 1999. As you recall, the heroine was named Trinity. It’s still a top 200 name. This Latin name means “triad.” But, it could hold religious connotations as it relates to the Holy Trinity. One famous example is Trinity Rodman, Dennis Rodman‘s daughter. We absolutely love that parents are still choosing this beloved name.
Tiana became extremely popular after Disney gave this pretty name to its first African-American princess. The name has been in the US top 1000 since 1975 and it peaked in the nineties. While it has dipped slightly it’s still a very favored baby name. The name has Slavic origins and means “fairy queen.”
Taylor is one of the most popular gender-neutral surnames used for girls. Taylor was in the top 10 for the last several years of the twentieth century, so that now it tends to feel a bit nineties, but we’re still into it. We also love the charming nickname, Tay, a ton!
Nevaeh has had outstanding success after singer Sonny Sandoval introduced the idea of turning Heaven around and using it as a baby name. Especially popular with religious parents, Nevaeh has been in the top 100 for a decade now! Interestingly, a number of professional athletes have chosen this pretty name for their daughters.
Makayla Epps is a professional women’s basketball player. She last played for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA. Makayla is a girl’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “who is like God.” This name is the perfect female version to honor a relative or loved one named Michael. Last year, the name was the 263rd most popular name for girls. It has been in the top 500 since 1993.
Kiara is a baby name that can be found in dozens of naming traditions from Italian to Aboriginal origin found in modern-day Australia to Korea. This name can essentially mean whatever you would like! Kiara has been in the top 1000 since 1988 and while it has slipped since its height in 1999 it’s still a top 500 option today. The name even has Disney credentials as it was the name of Simba’s daughter in The Lion King! Kiara also proves one perfect vehicle to get parents to the adorable nickname KiKi.
Kennedy has emerged as one of the country’s most popular names for girls and, over the last decade, it has hit the height of its popularity. Even though this Irish baby name has a funny meaning, “misshapen head” it is not stopping new parents from flocking to it. Born in 1994, Kennedy LeVon Kirkland is NFL player Levon Kirkland. It’s one of the most popular African American names today!
Kayla jumped from relative obscurity to popularity due to a soap opera, Days of Our Lives, in the 1980s to become a mega-popular. Its popularity has faded slightly since it hit the high mark of number 12. In Arabic tradition, this name means “wise child.” In Hebrew, you get “laurel” or “crown.” Former NBA star and currently a commentator, Kenny Smith gave his daughters two names on this list in Kayla Brianna Smith who is an accomplished singer and actor.
Jordan is one of America’s most cherished unisex baby names. It spiked following the international fame of one of the greatest athletes of all time Michael Jordan entered the scene. The Hebrew name refers to the holy river and it means “flowing down.” “Roll, Jordan, Roll” is a spiritual in which “The River Jordan of the song became a coded message for escape, calling to mind the Mississippi or Ohio Rivers, both of which led to the slave, free northern United States and thus freedom.” This makes Jordan one of the most resonant African American names.
Not quite as unusual as it might seem, Jayla first entered the popularity charts in 1995, as an alternative to the very popular Kayla. Today, you will find it firmly in the top 500. It’s a modern spelling of Jaalah, a Hebrew name that means “ascend.” David Darnell Brown, best known by his stage name Young Buck, is an American rapper who chose this baby name for his daughter, Jayla Brown, born in 2003.
Jasmine was derived from the Persian word yasmin, referring to the jasmine flower. Scented oil was made from the plant, and it was used as a perfume throughout the Persian Empire. Variants include Jazmin, Yasmin, Yasmine, and Jessamine. It’s been one of the most popular African American names in the US since the seventies. It’s now a top 500 baby name for new parents. This one means “gift of God.” Jasmine Guy is an American actress, director, singer, and dancer. She named her daughter another name on this list, Imani.
As cool as the precious green stone said to transmit wisdom, clarity, justice, courage, and modesty, Jade has been rising in popularity since the seventies. The name has Spanish origins and means “stone of the side.” It sits just outside of the US top 100 today, making it one of the most beloved African American names!
Isis was best known as the name of the supreme Egyptian goddess of the moon, sky, magic, motherhood, and fertility, revived by feminists and others. Her followers stretched far from Egypt’s shores and was worshipped in the Greco-Roman world as well. This gorgeous Egyptian name means “throne.” American reality TV star Christopher “Big Black” Boykin named his daughter Isis Rea Boykin when she was born in 2008.
A strong Arabic name, this one is popular throughout the Muslim world. Imani means “faith.” The name was most popular in the nineties and it rests just outside of the US top 500 today. We hope it does not go far because it’s one of our favorite African American names.
Hailey and the many spelling variants that can come from it is one of the most treasured African American names. The spelling Hailey achieved the most success in 2010 when it cracked the US top 10 list. Hailey has English and Scottish origins and means “Hay’s meadow.” However you spell it, you will have a winner with this name.
One celebrity mom that we absolutely respect and admire is Gabrielle Union. It’s been a firm top 500 name since 1978 and its beauty and elegance will keep there for years to come we imagine. Gabrielle is the female form of Gabriel that was invented in France. It comes from Hebrew origins that mean “God is my strength.”
Diamond White is an American singer and actress. In 2007, she starred in a Chicago-based production of The Color Purple that toured nationally. This sparkling name means exactly what you think it does. It’s become one of the most popular African American names in the US today.
If Destiny is your daughter’s destiny, she likely won’t be the only one in her class. Until 2009, Destiny was in the top 50, with a trio of its alternate spellings right behind it. The name has since dropped a bit in popularity but is still widely used. Destiny Jones, born in 1994, is the daughter of rapper Nas. It’s easy to understand why this charmer is among the most used African American names.
Chloe appeared in Greek mythology as an alternative name for the goddess of agriculture and fertility, Demeter. She was referred to as Chloe in the spring months, due to the name’s relation to sprouts and growth. Chloe is also mentioned in the New Testament as the name of a Greek Christian woman. The name means “sprout.” American treasure Toni Morrison‘s full name is Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison. We could think of no better person to inspire African American names than the accomplished writer!
Brianna Perry AKA Lil’ Brianna is an American actor and rapper from Miami who become the youngest person ever to be signed by Missy Elliott‘s label, The Goldmind Inc. Brianna might sound like an invented name, but it has Irish origins as a form of Brian which means “honorable.” It entered the US popularity list in 1976, rose to the top 100 in 1988, then got as high as number 14 in 1999. It’s still a top 200 pick today and one of the most used African American names!
Aniyah is a clear favorite among African-American names, and it’s similar to names like Zaniyah, Taniyah, Saniyah, and Janiyah. You can spell it with or without the H and both options are in the US top 1000. This modern name means “grace.”
Many more sightings of earthly Angels of both sexes have been reported recently, with a good proportion of them Latino males. This English word name means exactly what you think it does! It’s been a top 1000 pick for baby girls since 1961. Mel B and Eddie Murphy named their daughter Angel Iris Murphy Brown when she was born in 2007.
Alyssa was in the top 20 baby names from 1997-2010 and peaked as the 11th most popular girls’ name in 1998 and 1999 but has become less widespread in recent years. It’s related to the flower alyssum as well as to the classic Alice and variants giving it the meaning “noble.” Alyssa Thomas is an American professional basketball forward for the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA and makes for worthy baby name inspiration for African American names.
Alexis was a top 20 girls’ name from 1994-2010 but has declined in popularity in recent years though now it’s one of the top unisex names. Alexis is the short form of Alexandra, which is equally popular. The name has Greek origins and means “defender.” Alexis Marie “Lexi” Nucklos-Allen is a notable Gospel singer with this classic name.
Aaliyah is the feminine variation of Aali, a masculine Arabic name meaning “high” or “exalted.” There are many alternative spellings of the name, including Alia, Aliyah, Aleah, and Aleia. In Hebrew, aliyah means “rising,” and points to Jewish immigration to Israel. Thanks to the iconic singer Aaliyah’s the most popular spelling today. Last year, it was the 70th most popular baby name for girls. It’s one of the very best, universally loved, African American names.
Popular African American Names for Boys
Zion has exploded in recent years, especially after singer Lauryn Hill used it for her son in 1997 and incorporated the name into a hit song. The name is more popular today than ever before! In the Old Testament, the name Zion frequently refers to the city of Jerusalem, meaning “highest point.” Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson also named his son Zion with Zion Mandela Samuelsson.
Xavier originated is as a given name after Saint Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuit order, who got his name from the Spanish-Basque village where he was born. It originated there and means “new house” or “bright.” It’s one of the African American names that’s more popular today than ever before in the US! Xavier Zechariah Wade is the name of one of pro basketball stars, Dwyane Wade‘s sons.
William is derived from the Germanic name Wilhelm, composed of the elements wil, “will,” and helm, referring to a “helmet or protection.” Thus, the name means “resolute protector.” William has been among the most evergreen African American names. There are tons of Williams and Wills to draw inspiration from as this name is one of the world’s most cherished appellations.
Tyler Perry, Tyler Gregory Okonma AKA Tyler the Creator, and Tyler James Williams are just a few examples from the entertainment world. Tyler is an English occupational name for “maker of tiles.” Tyler was mildly popular in the US before but it was not until the 80s and 90s that the name truly took off. It has been on a downward trend over the last few years and if you love it, help keep momentum behind one of the most treasured African American names for boys.
Nathan was derived from the name Natan, which came from the Hebrew verb natan, meaning “gave.” In the Old Testament, Nathan was the name of a prophet and also that of one of King David’s sons. It has been a top 500 name since 1880 and in the top 100 since the seventies. Nathan is mega-popular in Europe right now, especially in France and Belgium.
Michael was the number one American boys’ name for almost half a century. Now, though, Michael has moved down out of the top 10 baby boy names, but it’s still one of the most extensively used African American names. This name is of Hebrew origin and means “who is like God?” Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson are the two most famous Michael’s in American pop culture.
Matthew is the English derivative of Matthaios, the Greek form of the Hebrew Mattiyahu, composed of mattan, meaning “gift” and yah, in reference to God. The biblical Matthew was the apostle who wrote the first Gospel in the New Testament. The name has been popular in the US for centuries. Mateo, Matthias, Teo, Matek, and Mattia are among the many alternatives for Matthew. No matter what form you choose, it’s one of the most popular African American names today.
Malik is a completely pleasant Arabic baby name for boys that has a few spelling variations in Malek and Maliq. No matter how you decide to spell this one, it is a popular choice. Malik Yusef El Shabazz Jones is an American spoken word poet, rapper, writer, actor, and producer based in Chicago. He is but one of many examples of distinguished people with this timeless name.
Justin has been widely popular since the 1980s when parents were seeking a fresher J-boys’ name to replace Jason, Jeremy, and Jonathan. It’s been dipping in popularity a bit in current years but it reached as high as number 9 in 1990, making it one of the most popular African American names. This handsome appellation has Latin origins and it means “righteous.” Tuck, Blackmon, Houston, and Forsett are just a few famous Justin NFL players.
Joseph comes from the Hebrew name Yosef, which was derived from the verb yasaf, meaning “to increase.” In the Old Testament, Joseph is the 11th and favorite son of Jacob and Rachel. Joseph is one of the favorite African American names in the US and although it has slipped in popularity in recent years, it is still a top 25 choice. Joseph gives us the nickname Joe that sounds like an all-around good guy.
Oh, hello again! Jordan is one of America’s most beloved unisex baby names. It ranked equally as high for boys as it did for girls among African American names. If you’d like a related alternative consider Baptist or Bautista both names refer to John the Baptist who dunked Jesus in the river in the Bible.
Jeremiah is a solid Old Testament prophet name that has slowly taken the place of the now-dated Jeremy, Gerard, and Gerald. It joins other currently favored biblical “iah” African American names like Josiah and Isaiah. Jeremiah means “appointed by God.” It’s been a top 100 pick for parents since the seventies. Jeremiah Alvesta Wright is President Barack Obama‘s pastor and he certainly has a fabulous name.
Jayden and Jaylen are two popular examples of Jay-names that have cropped up over the last few decades and become some of the most beloved African American names. Jayden could be a spelling variation of Jadon, a Biblical name of a person who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Conversely, this name could also be a modern invention and a combination of names to honor relatives or others. We lump Jaylen in with Jayden because they came to prominence at the same time and are just one letter apart. The Hebrew origins of these names mean “thankful.” We are thankful every single time we hear this name!
James is one of the classic African American names that is more stylish and favored than ever before. It has been a top 10 choice in the US since 1880 when record-keeping began. James Earl Jones and LL Cool J are just two famous examples with this storied name. James is the English form of Jacob, an appellation that comes from Hebrew and means “supplanter.”
The biblical Isaiah, son of Amos, was the most important of the major prophets, with an Old Testament book named for him. He foretold the Children of Israel would be exiled from their homeland, but that God would bring them back. NBA’s Allen Iverson and actor Terry Crews are just a couple of examples of famous folks who have chosen this baby name for their sons. Isaiah means “Salvation of the Lord.” It’s one of the African American names that’s timeless yet is more popular today than ever before in the US!
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel is the archangel who heralded Jesus’ birth and appears in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim texts. Gabriel, like many names on this list, contains Hebrew origins and it means “God is my strength.” This name emerged as a top 50 choice in 2000 and it’s not going anywhere among other popular African American names.
Ethan derives from the Hebrew name Eitan. There are several Ethans in the Old Testament, the most prominent of whom, Ethan the Ezrahite, is praised for his wisdom. The name has been soaring since the 1950s and it is a top 10 choice today. This elegant baby name has an equally great meaning to match its sound, “strong.”
Legendary politician and civil rights leader, Elijah Eugene Cummings, would be a suitable inspiration for this absolutely stunning name. Elijah is derived from the Hebrew name Eliyahu, composed of the elements ‘el and yah, both of which refer to God. In the Old Testament, Elijah was the prophet who traveled to heaven in a chariot of fire. If you’re interested in an alternative, Elias is the related, Greek variation of Elijah. Elijah figures in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions so it should come as no surprise that this name was the fifth most popular last year and one of the most popular African American names for decades.
David comes from the Hebrew name Dawid, which evolved from the element dod, meaning “beloved.” It is the name of the Old Testament second king of Israel who, as a boy, slew the giant Philistine Goliath with his slingshot. Both Jennifer Hudson and Monique chose the baby name for their sons. David ranks only second to Daniel as the most popular D-name for boys.
Speaking of Daniel, let’s take a look at one of the most highly favored African American names. Daniel is another one of the US’s most popular baby names for boys and has been in the US top 50 since the start with the appellation being a top 15 choice for new parents since 1972! The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament recounts the Jewish prophet’s life of captivity in Babylon and visions of the last days of Earth. Daniel has Hebrew origins that mean “God is my judge.”
Once considered too pious, Christian is now seen as making an intrepid statement of faith by some, while also having secular appeal for others. Eddie Murphy and Sean “Diddy” Combs both chose this name for their sons born in the nineties. Christian ultimately comes from Greek origins and, as you might expect, the baby name means “follower of Christ.” It’s one of the most delightful African American names for religious families.
Christopher has been a top 100 choice for parents since 1949. This name has Greek origins as well and means “bearer of Christ.” Coincidentally, Mr. Combs also chose this baby name for another one of his sons. Chris is the most widely used nicknames for this one but you can get a little funny with Topher as well.
Caleb is an attractive Old Testament name that has been in the US top 100 for nearly thirty years now. Caleb is one of only two ancient Israelites, Joshua was the other, who set out from Egypt to finally enter the promised land. Last year the baby name was the 52nd most popular pick for boys and the updated spelling Kaleb is also attracting new parents. Caleb has Hebrew origins and means “devotion to God” or “whole heart.” However you spell it, Caleb is one of the most cherished African American names for boys.
Brandon landed in the US top 10 from 1992 until 1998! It has slipped in popularity in recent years but it still remains firmly in the US top 500. Brandon is a lovely English topographical baby name that means “broom-covered hill.” There are a number of high-profile professional athletes with this handsome name including Brandon Byron Jennings, Brandon Tyrone Marshall, Brandon Dawayne Roy, and Brandon Xavier Ingram. Brandon is one of the African American names that also works surprisingly well as a middle name!
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Anthony is one of the world’s and, indeed, America’s most popular baby names for boys. In fact, the name has been in the US top 100 baby names for boys since 1880 when recording started. Anthony has two possible origins both come from Latin. One is the Roman family name Antonii which has elements meaning “priceless one.” The other possibility is the word anthos which means “flower.” There’s nothing to be mad at in either case! If you’re looking for one of the most timeless African American names, Anthony is it!
There you go! What did you think of these very popular African American names? While we encountered a few surprises, African American names are classic names beloved by all American parents. It’s easy to see why each of these 50 names is roundly beloved. We hope you choose one for your baby!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 Popular African American Names for Girls
- 2 Popular African American Names for Boys
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