Every year the Social Security Administration (SSA) releases baby naming data from the previous year giving new parents a glimpse of which baby names are currently most popular among new parents across the US. The data, while huge in scope, is not terribly comprehensive when it comes to a myriad of factors. For Black History Month, we wanted to know specifically which names are moving the needle for African-American newborns. Because the SSA does not incorporate race into their findings, we had to do a little digging.
Thankfully, the folks over at BabyCenter discovered that four states: Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas, Texas, and one very big 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 fine metric as these places are diverse and represent different parts of the country except for the West Coast. We dug in to find which baby names for Black boys are trending. Here are the 25 most popular African-American baby names for boys today!
Anthony is one of the world 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!
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 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.
Caleb is an attractive Old Testament name that has been in the US Top 100 for nearly three decades 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.”
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.”
A stone’s throw away from Christian is Christopher that’s been a top 100 choice for parents since 1949. This name also has Greek origins and it means “bearer of Christ.” Coincidentally, Mr. Combs also chose this baby name for another one of his sons. Chris is the most widely used nickname for this one but you can get a little weird with Topher as well.
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 it 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.”
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.
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 went 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.
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 climbing 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.”
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel is the archangel who heralded the news of 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 top 50 pick in 2000 and it’s not going anywhere.
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 more popular today than ever before!
James is one of the classic Anglo-Saxon names, steady through the ages that is more popular, and yes, stylish, than ever today. 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.”
13. Jayden / Jaylen
Jayden and Jaylen are two popular examples of Jay-names that have cropped up over the last few decades and become some of America’s most beloved monikers. 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.”
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” 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.
Jordan is one of America’s most beloved 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.”
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 a favorite 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.
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. This handsome name has Latin origins and it means “righteous.” Tuck, Blackmon, Houston, and Forsett are just a few famous Justin NFL football players.
Malik is a completely delightful Arabic baby name for boys that has a few spelling variations 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.
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. All sound great!
Michael was the number 1 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 extensively used. This name enjoys Hebrew origins and means “who is like God?” Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson are the two most famous Michael’s in American pop culture.
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.
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 this appellation.
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 perennial of classics. It’s among the most popular boys’ names, as American parents see it as being ideally perfect. There are tons of Williams and Wills to draw inspiration from as this name is one of the world’s most beloved.
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.” This baby name for boys is 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. We think he chose very wisely!
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.
There you go! We hope you enjoyed these popular baby names for boys that belong to a bunch of newborn Black babies today. These names each have inspiring namesakes and a history in the US as some of the most cherished appellations. Happy baby name hunting!
- 1 25. Anthony
- 2 24. Brandon
- 3 23. Caleb
- 4 22. Christian
- 5 21. Christopher
- 6 20. Daniel
- 7 19. David
- 8 18. Elijah
- 9 17. Ethan
- 10 16. Gabriel
- 11 15. Isaiah
- 12 14. James
- 13 13. Jayden / Jaylen
- 14 12. Jeremiah
- 15 11. Jordan
- 16 10. Joseph
- 17 9. Justin
- 18 8. Malik
- 19 7. Matthew
- 20 6. Michael
- 21 5. Nathan
- 22 4. Tyler
- 23 3. William
- 24 2. Xavier
- 25 1. Zion
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