The 100 Most Popular Girl Names in America Aren’t What You Expect

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The Social Security Administration released a list of the 100 most popular baby names in America from 1918 to 2017 for both boys and girls and the list is, surprisingly, pretty normal.

It feels like it is increasingly common to hear seemingly ridiculous popular baby names in America, like Vyolette or Tridisha, two absurd names that I, just now, completely made up off the top of my head, but two names that I would not at all be surprised to find out are actual popular girl names. Mockable as names that read like a random jumble of vowels and consonants may be, it might actually be unfair to scoff at or ridicule those sorts of names. After all, aren’t all names made up? Aren’t all words made up? Is having recency bias about names really reasonable?

Probably not. That said, I’d still be concerned if I found out an upcoming surgery of mine was being performed by someone named Dr. Braxtonn Cage. (I refuse to be operated on by someone who sounds like they bought a round of tequila shots on a credit card they found on the bar floor during spring break, but maybe I’m old fashioned.)

Most popular girl name by state from 1960-2012 from MapPorn

For all the complaining that’s generally done, however, about the growing regularity with which we hear names that even J.R.R. Tolkein and George Lucas would find outrageous, it turns out that the most common popular girl names in America these last hundred years have been exceptionally normal. Boring, even. Which is good. Kids have enough to worry about without having a weird name.

Here is the Social Security Administration’s list of the 100 most popular baby girl names from 1918 to 2017.

1. Mary
2. Patricia
3. Jennifer
4. Linda
5. Elizabeth
6. Barbara
7. Susan
8. Jessica
9. Sarah
10. Margaret
11. Karen
12. Nancy
13. Lisa
14. Betty
15. Dorothy
16. Sandra
17. Ashley
18. Kimberly
19. Donna
20. Emily
21. Carol
22. Michelle
23. Amanda
24. Melissa
25. Deborah
26. Stephanie
27. Rebecca
28. Laura
29. Helen
30. Sharon
31. Cynthia
32. Kathleen
33. Amy
34. Shirley
35. Angela
36. Anna
37. Ruth
38. Brenda
39. Pamela
40. Nicole
41. Katherine
42. Samantha
43. Christine
44. Catherine
45. Virginia
46. Debra
47. Rachel
48. Janet
49. Emma
50. Carolyn
51. Maria
52. Heather
53. Diane
54. Julie
55. Joyce
56. Evelyn
57. Joan
58. Victoria
59. Kelly
60. Christina
61. Lauren
62. Frances
63. Martha
64. Judith
65. Cheryl
66. Megan
67. Andrea
68. Olivia
69. Ann
70. Jean
71. Alice
72. Jacqueline
73. Hannah
74. Doris
75. Kathryn
76. Gloria
77. Teresa
78. Sara
79. Janice
80. Marie
81. Julia
82. Grace
83. Judy
84. Theresa
85. Madison
86. Beverly
87. Denise
88. Marilyn
89. Amber
90. Danielle
91. Rose
92. Brittany
93. Diana
94. Abigail
95. Natalie
96. Jane
97. Lori
98. Alexis
99. Tiffany
100. Kayla

It’s not surprising to see Mary at the top spot. Catholics have a hard earned reputation for making legions of little Catholics, and they’re big fans of that Mary character. Likewise, seeing Betty in the top 15 might shock someone born after Desert Storm, but the name used to be as common as cigarette brands being endorsed by doctors.

Conversely, the name Hannah came in lower than expected at number 73, and that the name Kayla made it in at all seems pretty odd.

The Social Security Administration does have a few caveats about the list of popular girl names over the last century.

Please note that popular names listed below are not necessarily consistently popular in every year. For example, the name James, ranked as the most popular male name over the last 100 years, has been ranked as low as number 19. Similarly, the most popular female name in the table, Mary, ranked as low as 127.

Did your name make the list?

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