Which baby names for boys have been beloved for 100 years? We take a look at the data to discover the most popular names for boys that new parents have bestowed on their children for decades. Each name on this list should look fairly familiar to you too, but they may surprise you! Naming trends dramatically shift with the tides so it’s very intriguing to know which names for boys have stood the test of time.
While names like Donald are not showing up on the top 25 again in the foreseeable future, the name has been huge throughout our history. If you’re looking for a gold standard baby name for your son, you have come to the right place! Take a look at these 25 baby names for boys that have been the most popular in the US for a century or more.
Edward is a boy’s name of English origin meaning “wealthy guardian.” The first year baby naming records were kept in the US in 1880, the name ranked at number 11. The name has been on an extremely slow decline since the twenties, but it still remains in the top 200 today.
America’s most famous George is, of course, Washington, the first President. The name was the fifth most popular name in the US in 1880 and like Edward, George enjoyed favor through much of the midcentury before slowly declining. The name has Greek origins and means “farmer.”
Brian has been among the most popular of the Irish imports for boys since the twenties. It landed on the US popularity list in 1925, entered the top 100 where it remained for over 60 years. It reached the top 10 in the 1970s. 2016 marked the first year since before World War II that Brian finished outside the top 200 boys’ names. Talk about a good run! Brian has Celtic origins and means “honorable.”
Kevin has been waning in popularity in recent years. It dropped out of the top 100 for the first time since the Truman administration in 2017. Like Brian, Kevin is a trusted Irish name that’s been a favorite for decades. It means “handsome.”
Joshua was a top 10 name from 1983 until 2010 but has dropped a bit since. In fact, the years it spent at the top in the latter tail of the 20th century are how it was able to land on this list. It was and remains a popular Jewish baby name today.
In this country, Kenneth was a top 20 name from the 1920s through the 50s. However, Americans didn’t invent this name. It has Scottish and Irish origins and means “handsome” or “born of fire.” The name fell from the top 200 in 2002 and has slowly been slipping ever since.
Though it has fallen, dropping out of the top 20 in 2013, Andrew was firmly in the top 10 for more than two recent decades and has been in the top 100 since naming records were recorded in the US. The name has Greek origins and means “manly.” It’s a top 50 pick for new parents today.
Steven recently fell from the top 100 after enjoying eight decades in favor. It’s an English form of Stephen, which means “garland.” Now, the name still enjoys its everyman appeal, but seems dusty to many parents.
The simple name Paul has been popular since Roman and medieval times. Even if a little boy doesn’t get this as a given name, it’s one of the most popular choices as a middle. Paul means “small.” So, there’s nothing thrilling about this name except for its ease of use.
After centuries of straggling behind other apostle names Peter and Paul, Mark suddenly caught on in the early 1950s, reaching number 6 by 1960. It was in the top 10 from 1955 to 1970 and second only to Michael in popular boy names starting with M. Mark is a Latin name that means “warlike.” However, it’s peacefully fading from its former glory.
Donald was a top 20 name throughout most of the early twentieth century. With the introduction of Donald Duck in the thirties and later, Donald Trump, this name has steeply declined in popularity. Today, it’s the least popular it has ever been in the US. This Scottish name means “chief.”
Anthony now sits at the 38 most popular name for baby boys in the US. It has consistently ranked in the top 50 since 1880. The name has been very, very slowly on the downward slide since the nineties. This classic Roman name means “priceless one.”
Matthew was the third most popular boys’ name in America throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and is still one of the top names that starts with M. However, parents have begun adopting alternatives like Matteo and Matthias. Matthew has Hebrew origins and means “gift of God.”
Daniel is a boy’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “God is my judge.” It’s a perennial favorite that’s been in the top 50 since 1880 and in the top 15 every year since 1972. While it’s a familiar, easygoing classic, this name has become ubiquitous in the US.
Christopher was originally used figuratively, to represent the bearing of Christ in one’s heart. Which is why the Greek name means “bearer of Christ.” The name emerged as a classic, but more modern-sounding option than Richard or Robert in the sixties. It’s slipped since its soaring highs from 1980-2010, but it’s still beloved.
Charles is a French name that means “free man” which might explain why it’s so popular among American parents. Charles was in the top 10 for almost 100 years before it started losing steam in the fifties. Today, it’s the 51 most popular name for baby boys.
Thomas has been one of the most commonly used classic baby names in both England and the US over time and is still firmly in the top 100. Like Charles, this name was in the top 10 until the sixties. Now, parents are embracing more romantic options like Tomas, Tomaz, or Tomasso.
Joseph is seen as an all-American classic and its nickname Joe is now associated with an everyday “regular” guy. Joseph was in the top 10 every year until it slipped in 2000. The name is still wildly popular in the US and Europe.
A classic old Norman name popular for a thousand years, Richard was the sixth most popular US boys’ name in 1925, and was still number 8 in 1950, but is now much less popular. Unlike other contemporaries that are on this list, Richard has seen a dramatic decrease in favor that began in the seventies. This German name means “dominant ruler.”
David is a classic with a lot going for it. While no longer in the top 10, it still ranks second to Daniel among boy names starting with D. The name clenched the number one spot in 1960 and has kicked around the top ten ever since then. This perfect Hebrew name means “beloved.”
William is one of the most enduring of classics. It’s among the most popular boys’ names, as American parents see it as being ideally conservative yet contemporary, and hands-down the most popular baby name beginning with W of all time. This name is second only to John in the English-speaking world. While it has slipped in the recent decades the moniker remains exceedingly popular. This English name has German roots and means “resolute protector.”
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 extensively used. How has Michael racked up this remarkable record? Credit its use by parents of diverse ethnic and religious groups, and Michael’s all-around likability, strength, and sincerity. The name has Hebrew origins and means “who is like God?”
Robert was Number one in both 1925 and 1950, and in fact was in the top 25 for an entire century, giving it true classic status. Though no longer stylish, Robert is still widely used as a family name. The English name also has German roots and means “bright fame.”
Many of today’s baby Johns get their names for familial rather than stylistic reasons. John isn’t as ubiquitous as it once was. For modern parents, the nickname Jack feels much fresher. But John is still one of the Top 10 boy names starting with J of all time. The name was the most popular Christian name for 400 years after the Crusaders introduced it to Britain after returning home. John has Hebrew origins and means “God is gracious.”
James, which reentered the top 5 in 2016, for the first time since 1980, is a current favorite among stylish parents looking for a baby name that has both charm and substance. James is one of the classic Anglo-Saxon names, a stalwart through the ages that is more popular, and yes, fashionable, than ever today. This name has Hebrew origins and means “supplanter.”
There you go! Did the top 25 baby names for boys of the last 100 years surprise you? While they might not be the most exotic names, these are time-tested favorites that parents have relied on for decades.
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 25. Edward
- 2 24. George
- 3 23. Brian
- 4 22. Kevin
- 5 21. Joshua
- 6 20. Kenneth
- 7 19. Andrew
- 8 18. Steven
- 9 17. Paul
- 10 16. Mark
- 11 15. Donald
- 12 14. Anthony
- 13 13. Matthew
- 14 12. Daniel
- 15 11. Christopher
- 16 10. Charles
- 17 9. Thomas
- 18 8. Joseph
- 19 7. Richard
- 20 6. David
- 21 5. William
- 22 4. Michael
- 23 3. Robert
- 24 2. John
- 25 1. James
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