Which baby names for girls have been beloved for 100 years? We take a look at the data to discover the most popular names for girls 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 girls have stood the test of time.
While names like Karen 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 daughter, you have come to the right place! Take a look at these 25 baby names for girls that have been the most popular in the US for a century or more.
Deborah has languished since the mid-twentieth century when there were so many Debbies on the block that the attraction and meaning of the original name got lost. It’s still a top 1000 name today, but it’s nowhere near its height in the fifties and sixties. Deborah is a classic Hebrew name that means “bee.”
Melissa is such a beloved name that it’s remained in the top 500 most popular name for girls since 1947. Coincidentally, this is another name that’s got a bee meaning in “honeybee.” This lovely name with Greek origins was most popular from 1970 to the early 2000’s.
Amanda has been one of America’s most favored names for girls since records were kept in the 1880s. The name was a top 10 choice for new parents throughout the eighties and nineties. Today, you’ll still find Amanda in the top 500. Amanda is a name with Latin origins that means “she must be loved.”
You’ll find Carolina, Carolyn, and Caroline in the top 1000 today, but curiously absent from these Carol-adjacent names is Carol. Carol was the nom du jour from the 1940s to the 1970s. Carol is an English name with French origins that’s a feminine form of the name Charles. The name means “free man.”
Michelle is still kicking it in the top 300 names! The name rose to prominence in the forties and has remained relatively popular ever since. This attractive name also has French origins and is based on a Hebrew name that means “who is like God.” We imagine Michelle Obama will continue to inspire new parents to choose this name for their daughters.
Though it seems to have a midcentury timestamp, Donna goes back to at least the late nineteenth century, reaching the top 100 in 1926 and the top 20 in the 1940s. In 1960, Donna was the fifth most popular name in the United States. Today, you won’t find this charming Italian classic on the top 1000. The name means “lady.”
Emily was derived from the Roman name Aemilia, which may have evolved from the Latin word aemulus, meaning “hardworking” or “rival.” Currently, Amelia is more favored than Emily, but they’re both enjoying favor. Emily has been in or around the top 100 since 1880. Americans love, love, love this name.
Good old Kimberly is an English name that means “Cyneburga’s meadow.” Kimberly was very stylish in the sixties and seventies and it enjoyed a top five ranking. New parents are still seeing potential in this handsome name as it’s currently the 194 most popular name for newborn baby girls.
Dorothy has been used in Britain since the sixteenth century and was so common there that nickname Dolly led to the word “doll.” In the US, parents have been smitten with the name especially in the earlier part of the 20th century. She fell off of the charts in the early 2000s but came back in 2011! Dorothy is an English name with Greek origins that means “gift of God.”
Honest question: have you ever met an Ashley you didn’t like? We don’t know what strange circumstances gave us a life full of wonderful people named Ashley! It’s an excellent English name that means “dweller near the ash tree meadow.” Ashley was a sensation in the 1980s and 1990s; it hit number 1 in 1991.
The name Sandra dominated the popularity charts for 30 years before nearly falling out of the top 1000 in 2019. The devastating Hurricane Sandy might be responsible for this name’s decline in popularity. With Greek and Italian origins, this name means “defender of men.”
Mad Men‘s fabulous Betty Draper Francis reintroduced the world to this playful name. You won’t find too many baby girls named Betty who were born after 1996. While we think the name has retro charm, new parents aren’t scrambling to bring this name back. Betty is a pet form of Elizabeth and means “pledged to God.”
No one can deny the appeal of this majestic name. Margaret was in the top 10 from 1880 until 1940. It only started to dramatically decline as a chosen name for babies in 1960. It’s still wildly popular, however, holding strong in the top 200. Margaret has Greek origins and means “pearl.”
While Lisa was wildly popular in the US, it now is more favorable to German, French, and Dutch families. The name was most popular in the US in 1970 when it ranked at number four. Lisa is a diminutive form of Elizabeth and shares its meaning with the root name.
A baby name that has always been in the top 1000, Nancy was in the top 20 from 1931 to 1962, in the top 10 for several of those years; in 1940, Nancy was given to about 20,000 baby girls. Currently, the name is as unpopular for new parents as it’s ever been! Nancy is an English form of Ann that can be traced back to the Middle Ages as a pet form of Agnes.
Karen is a Danish diminutive of Katherine, an English name derived from the Greek name Aikaterine. It means “pure.” You’d be hard-pressed to find hip parents with newborn daughters choosing this name as it is now associated with the meme of a privileged white woman behaving badly. The name ranked at 660 in 2019 and we expect its standing to suffer even more after this year of reckoning.
If Sarah seems like a timeless option, it’s because it is! This Old Testament classic has been in use for centuries and has Hebrew origins that mean “princess.” The only time this name slipped out of the top 100 was in the 1950s, but it quickly bounced back. Sarah is the most popular spelling, but Sara emerged as an alternative along with Sally and Sadie.
Jessica was a name with middling prospect until 1940 when it began its meteoric rise to the top. Jessica became a ubiquitous moniker in the eighties and nineties. By 2000, the shine on this name rubbed off and it has now fallen out of the top 200. Jessica is a name that was most likely invented by Shakespeare for The Merchant of Venice.
Baby Susans were everywhere from the thirties to the sixties but the name has since fallen out of fashion. While we expect a revival of this baby name in coming years, it has been off the top 1000 list since 2017. This timeless Hebrew name means “lily.”
Barbara entered the top 100 in 1913, and then the top 10 a decade and a half later. She held the number 2 spot from 1937 to 1944. You’ll still find this rhythmic name in the top 1000, but it has certainly lost its luster. We adore this Latin name that means “foreigner.”
Elizabeth has a noble appeal as it has belonged to two of the most influential Queens of England, Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. It’s one of the world’s most popular names and has been in or around the top 10 in the US since records were kept. We believe that part of the appeal of this name is all of the wonderful nicknames parents can create from it.
Libby, Lizzy, Liz, Beth, Eli, Eliza, Liza, Lilly, Lilibet, etc. The list goes on and on!
Linda surprised us! If you would have told us that Linda was historically more popular than Elizabeth, we would have laughed. It’s remarkable just how popular this name was for baby girls in the forties, fifties, and sixties. Linda will live forever remain in baby name history for toppling Mary from its 400 year reign as number 1. Linda is a Latin name that means “pretty” and you’ll find it in a variety of naming traditions.
Jennifer was the top name of the seventies, when there were close to 800,000 Jennifers born. Jennifer is a girl’s name of Cornish origin meaning “white shadow, white wave.” It comes from the Welsh name Guinevere. Over the past two decades Jennifer has been slipping and its origin, Guinevere has been rising!
Patricia began not in Ireland, as some believe, but evolved in Scotland, going on to become mega popular in Britain after the christening of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught. The name caught fire in the US in the twenties and skyrocketed to the top five for most of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. This name, which means “noble,” is probably going to fall out of the top 1000 next year.
Mary was the most popular and enduring female name in the English-speaking world, as were Maria and Marie in Spanish and French, until the 1940s. That was when, in the US, Mary was finally dethroned by such trendy newcomers as Linda and Karen. Mary is an English name with Hebrew origins that means “drop of the sea” or “bitter” or “beloved.” The name is the least popular it’s ever been as secular names have taken rise.
There you go! Did any of these baby names for girls surprise you? We hope you find this list helpful in understanding the most popular names for girls of the last 100 years.
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. Deborah
- 2 24. Melissa
- 3 23. Amanda
- 4 22. Carol
- 5 21. Michelle
- 6 20. Donna
- 7 19. Emily
- 8 18. Kimberly
- 9 17. Dorothy
- 10 16. Ashley
- 11 15. Sandra
- 12 14. Betty
- 13 13. Margaret
- 14 12. Lisa
- 15 11. Nancy
- 16 10. Karen
- 17 9. Sarah
- 18 8. Jessica
- 19 7. Susan
- 20 6. Barbara
- 21 5. Elizabeth
- 22 4. Linda
- 23 3. Jennifer
- 24 2. Patricia
- 25 1. Mary
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