Parents today choose more adventurous baby names than ever before. There is more diversity among names in the US than there was even two decades ago. Parents who gave birth to children between 1970 and 1979, about 50 years ago, had more homogeneity when it came to the appellations they chose for their children. This means that the most popular names from the decade went to a truly massive number of babies.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has collected baby name data for over a century, and we can look back easily to the 1970s to uncover the most popular names. According to the SSA’s records, there were approximately 17.1 million male births and 16.5 million female births that decade. Discover the top 10 names for girls and boys that dominated the decade. If you were born at this time, chances are very good that you will find your name on this list.
Most Popular Appellations for Girls 50 Years Ago
Jennifer was found to be the most popular for girls born in the US in the 1970s. The name was given to 581,759 girls, according to the SSA. That’s a lot of Jennifers! The name Jennifer is a Cornish form of the Welsh name Guinevere, meaning “white wave” or “white shadow.”
Amy was reportedly given to 269,000 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. It was the second most popular name in the decade for girls. Amy is a French name of Latin origin (a form of Amata), meaning “loved.”
Melissa was reportedly given to 253,285 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. That means it was the third most popular name trailing Amy by just a few thousand. Melissa is an appellation that originated in Greek and means “honeybee.”
Michelle was reportedly given to 249,143 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Michelle is a French feminine form of Michael, a name of Hebrew origin, meaning “who is like God.”
Kimberly was reportedly given to 229,108 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Kimberly is technically a unisex name, but it has always been more popular for baby girls in the US. Kimberly originated as a surname and place name associated with Norfolk. The appellation means “Cyneburga’s field.”
Lisa was reportedly given to 228,689 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Lisa is an English diminutive form of Elizabeth, a name that originated in Hebrew and means “pledged to God.”
Angela was reportedly given to 225,261 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Angela can be found in Greek, Latin, and German naming traditions, and, of course, it means “angel.”
Heather was reportedly given to 203,917 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Heather is an English botanical name that describes the flowering plant Calluna vulgaris.
Stephanie was reportedly given to 160,469 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Stephanie is a feminine form of Stephen, a name that originated in Greek and means “laurel” and “crown.” Unlike other names on this list, Stephanie remained popular throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Nicole was reportedly given to 144,668 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Nicole had taken hold in the 1970s but grew even more popular in the 1980s. Nicole is a French feminine form of Nicholas, another name of Greek origin, meaning “people of victory.”
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Hottest Names for Boys 50 Years Ago
Michael was the most popular name for boys born in the US in the 1970s. The name was reportedly given to 707,588 boys, according to the SSA. Names for boys tend to remain more static than those for girls. You will see this reflected in the totals, which are much higher for the top ten names for boys than for girls. Michael has been among the top 75 most popular boys’ names since records began in the 1880s. Michael originated in Hebrew and means “who is like God.”
Christopher was reportedly given to 475,597 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Christopher had been rising in the US since the 1930s before completely dominating in the 1970s. Christopher originated in Greek and means “bearer of Christ.”
Jason was reportedly given to 462,916 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Jason enjoyed its most popular years in the US in the 1970s and early 1980s. The storied name can be found in Greek myth and the Bible. Jason is of Greek origin and means “to heal.”
David was reportedly given to 445,926 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. David has been in the top 50 most popular names for boys in the US since records begin in the 1880s. David is of Hebrew origin and means “beloved.”
James was reportedly given to 444,900 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. James is one of America’s most treasured names, never falling out of the top 20 since records begin in 1880. James is of Hebrew origin and means “supplanter.”
John was reportedly given to 402,813 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. John was a top 10 name in the US from the 1880s (when records begin) through the 1980s. It had an incredible 100-year run. John is of Hebrew origin and means “God is gracious.”
Robert was reportedly given to 397,376 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Robert and John have followed the same trajectory in the US. It also began to decline by the 1980s. Robert is an English name of German origin that means “bright fame.”
Brian was reportedly given to 322,803 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Brian has a much different story than the previous names for boys. It only came into use in the 1930s and did not go mainstream until the middle of the 20th century. Brian is an Irish name from an Old Celtic root related to nobility. The name is taken to mean “virtuous” and “honorable.”
William was reportedly given to 283,522 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. William is similar to other names that have always been very popular for boys in the US, just like James, John, Robert, and the like. The name is of German origin and means “resolute protector.”
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Matthew was reportedly given to 277,918 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Matthew was a somewhat middling name in the US until the 1970s, when it first came to dominate. It remained extremely popular through the 2000s and is still in the top 50 today. Matthew originated in Hebrew and means “gift of God.”
There you go! Did any of these popular appellations from the 1970s surprise you? We hope you found this list informative and as revealing as we did. If you’d like to keep reading about baby names, we have some popular options that are actually way older than you’d expect. Take a look!
Wyatt is more popular in the US today than ever before. It has a cowboy adventure vibe to it. This might give the impression that the name is fresher than it actually is. Wyatt was originally a medieval English surname from Old English. It means “brave warrior.”
Wolf has a long history as a Germanic name used both as a given name and a surname since the 8th century. Today, the name is surprisingly popular across the UK. There’s no mystery here about what this name means.
Tiffany peaked in popularity in the US in 1988. It had a meteoric rise following the release of the film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the 1960s. The name is derived from a medieval English appellation, Theophania, which was traditionally given to baby girls born on Epiphany.
Stacy is a name that did a gender flip in the US. Today, it is mostly associated with girls but in previous decades it was used equally for boys. Rewind to medieval times and the name was given exclusively to boys as a diminutive form of the saint’s name Eustace.
The first recorded use of the name Scott was in the 12th century in Rome. You might be wondering how this name landed there instead of what would seem its native Scotland, but it was a Roman byname (nickname) for a person from Scotland.
Baby names with X’s and especially X-endings are as hot as they get right now. Parents can’t get enough of the edgy feel it offers. Pax is part of this huge trend. The name is from Latin and was used by the ancient Romans as a name for the goddess and personification of “peace.”
Natalie really heated up in the US in the 1950s and peaked in 2008. The baby name just feels effervescent. The name belonged to an ancient saint with Russian ties to Natasha and Natalia. The name has been used for babies born on or near Christmas for centuries.
Morgan is a unisex name but it’s a bit complicated. For boys, the name comes from the Welsh name, Morcant a name belonging to many ancient kings around the 6th century. Morgan le Fay, of the Arthurian chronicles, made this name appropriate for girls in the 12th century. The name’s meaning, depending on gender and origin, can be “born of the sea” or “sea circle” or “sea song.”
Milo is more popular today in the US than ever before. The name originated in Latin, got funneled through German, and became Milo by the 7th century. It was first recorded in France. Milo’s Germanic root means “mild.” The name’s Latin one can make it mean “soldier.” Two very different meanings!
Linda has two origins. The more contemporary is a Latinate baby name (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), meaning “pretty.” However, the name’s history is much deeper. Linda was in use in medieval times as a diminutive form of Germanic names like Adalinde, Erlinde, Godelinde, and Richlinde.
Larkin is an Irish name that means “fierce.” However, in English, the name first was recorded as a form of Laurence. Today, Larkin is a red-hot baby name for girls but originally it was used as a male name.
Kristin and all of its many spellings were one of the hottest baby names of the 1980s. However, it was not new then. Kristin is a Nordic form of Christina, first recorded in Norway in the 12th century. As with Christina, the name means “a Christian.”
Kai is a charming name that was imported from Hawaii to the mainland in the 1970s. The name is unisex and means “sea.” However, this name can be found in so many naming traditions around the world. One of the best-documented instances was as a diminutive of ancient names in Germanic and Scandinavian countries like Gerhard, Nikolaus, Cornelius, and Gaius.
Jessica was all the rage and a top-ten baby name in the 1970s. The origin of the name can be traced to Shakespeare in the 16th century. He invented the name for a character in The Merchant of Venice. It is thought that he based the name off of the Old Testament, Iscah. The character in the play is Jewish so it makes sense for him to choose a Hebrew name. Iscah means “to behold.”
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Griffin has been a popular baby name for boys in the US since the 1990s. However, it originated from Gruffydd, an ancient, Welsh, royal name that means “brave lord.” The appellation is also associated with the mythological creature.
Emery is another one of the ancient names that has undergone a gender flip. The ancient name was borne by several early Germanic kings in the form of Amalric or Emmerich. Today, the name could not be any more fashionable for baby girls in the US as parents are choosing it as an alternative to Emily, Emma, etc. This name means “industrious.”
Denise is a name that belonged to two very early saints. The name originated in Greek (and was used by the Romans as well) in the form of Dionysos and Dionysia. Both refer to the god of wine.
Chloe is one of the many names of the Greek goddess Demeter. Chloe is one with a connection to the spring season as Demeter was attributed with new plant growth at that time. Thus, the name means “young, green shoot.” The name has become a mega hit in recent decades.
Chad did not come into its own in the US until the latter half of the 20th century. However, this baby name is extremely old from Anglo-Saxxon, Ceadda who was a 7th-century English saint. Most agree the appellation means “battle warrior.”
Caitlin is a name with a variety of spellings that came into use in a big way in the 1980s and 1990s in the US. Caitlin is the Irish form of Catherine, a medieval French form of an ancient Greek name that means “pure.”
Brian Boru names one of the legendary kings of Ireland who fought back the Viking invasion in the 11th century. Thus, the name became a hero one and ensured its popularity for centuries to follow. This baby name is so beloved in Ireland that even the Bryan spelling has been documented as far back as the 16th century! The name is taken to mean “strong and virtuous.”
Avery is a very old French form of the Old English royal name, Alfred. The name has two potential meanings in “wise counsel” and “elf counsel.” Originally a masculine name, it goes to more girls than boys in the US today.
Austin, Texas gives the name a hip, youthful feel. But, you’d be wrong to think this baby name was new. Austin is a contraction of Augustine, popularized by two celebrated saints in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Austyn spelling was first recorded in England in the 16th century! The Latin root of the name means “magnificent.”
Aubrey was originally a masculine name and it very much still is popular among boys in England today. Aubrey started as a Norman-French form of Alberich, from German. The name became a popular male one in medieval England. In the US today, the name goes to far more girls than boys. Yet another one of the baby names that has flipped.
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Alison did not become truly popular in the US until the 1950s. Before that, in medieval times, it was a French and English diminutive form of Alice. The name was so popular that alternative spellings Alyson, Allison, and Allyson were recorded as far back as the 16th century!
There you go! Can you believe that so many of these baby names are ancient? We hope you enjoyed learning about them and their long histories.
Andrew is an Assistant Editor for Mamas Uncut with over ten years of experience as a writer in the creative, marketing, and blogging spaces. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a passion for telling stories in a variety of mediums. Obsessively making lists, reporting celebrity news, and diving into emerging pop cultural topics are a few of his interests.
- 1 Most Popular Appellations for Girls 50 Years Ago
- 2 Hottest Names for Boys 50 Years Ago
- 2.1 Michael
- 2.2 Christopher
- 2.3 Jason
- 2.4 David
- 2.5 James
- 2.6 John
- 2.7 Robert
- 2.8 Brian
- 2.9 William
- 2.10 Matthew
- 2.11 Wyatt
- 2.12 Wolf
- 2.13 Tiffany
- 2.14 Stacy
- 2.15 Scott
- 2.16 Pax
- 2.17 Natalie
- 2.18 Morgan
- 2.19 Milo
- 2.20 Linda
- 2.21 Larkin
- 2.22 Kristin
- 2.23 Kai
- 2.24 Jessica
- 2.25 Griffin
- 2.26 Emery
- 2.27 Denise
- 2.28 Chloe
- 2.29 Chad
- 2.30 Caitlin
- 2.31 Brian
- 2.32 Avery
- 2.33 Austin
- 2.34 Aubrey
- 2.35 Alison
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