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Explainer: The most popular baby names of the last century

  • Deciding whether to give your unborn child a traditional or unique name? Wondering if your favorite name is becoming more or less popular?

    Giving a child a name is one of the most memorable and important parenting moments — a name can help nurture a child’s personality and help them identify with a culture, an icon, or a loved one who has passed away.

    TODAY highlights the hottest names from 1900 to the present, lists the strangest celebrity picks, looks at popular politicians' names and takes a look at TODAY hosts' names.

  • Most popular names by year

    If you're debating naming your next tyke "Apple" or "Obama," check out the latest statistics. TODAY lists the hottest names from 1900 to the present — find out if yours made it into the top 10 list of each decade.

  • 2009

    Female names
    1. Isabella
    2. Emma
    3. Olivia
    4. Sophia
    5. Ava
    6. Emily
    7. Madison
    8. Abigail
    9. Chloe
    10. Mia

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Ethan
    3. Michael
    4. Alexander
    5. William
    6. Joshua
    7. Daniel
    8. Jayden
    9. Noah
    10. Anthony

  • 2008

    Female names
    1. Emma
    2. Isabella
    3. Emily
    4. Madison
    5. Ava
    6. Olivia
    7. Sophia
    8. Abigail
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Chloe

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Ethan
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. Alexander
    7. Anthony
    8. William
    9. Christopher
    10. Matthew

  • 2007

    Female names
    1. Emily
    2. Isabella
    3. Emma
    4. Ava
    5. Madison
    6. Sophia
    7. Olivia
    8. Abigail
    9. Hannah
    10. Elizabeth

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Ethan
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. Christopher
    7. Anthony
    8. William
    9. Matthew
    10. Andrew

  • 2000

    Female names
    1. Emily
    2. Hannah
    3. Madison
    4. Ashley
    5. Sarah
    6. Alexis
    7. Samantha
    8. Jessica
    9. Taylor
    10. Elizabeth

    Male names
    1. Jacob
    2. Michael
    3. Matthew
    4. Joshua
    5. Christopher
    6. Nicholas
    7. Andrew
    8. Joseph
    9. Daniel
    10. Tyler

  • 1990

    Female names
    1. Jessica
    2. Ashley
    3. Brittany
    4. Amanda
    5. Samantha
    6. Sarah
    7. Stephanie
    8. Jennifer
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Lauren

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. Christopher
    3. Matthew
    4. Joshua
    5. Daniel
    6. David
    7. Andrew
    8. James
    9. Justin
    10. Joseph

  • 1980

    Female names
    1. Jennifer
    2. Amanda
    3. Jessica
    4. Melissa
    5. Sarah
    6. Heather
    7. Nicole
    8. Amy
    9. Elizabeth
    10. Michelle

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. Christopher
    3. Jason
    4. David
    5. James
    6. Matthew
    7. Joshua
    8. John
    9. Robert
    10. Joseph

  • 1970

    Female names
    1. Jennifer
    2. Lisa
    3. Kimberly
    4. Michelle
    5. Amy
    6. Angela
    7. Melissa
    8. Tammy
    9. Mary
    10. Tracy

    Male names
    1. Michael
    2. James
    3. David
    4. John
    5. Robert
    6. Christopher
    7. William
    8. Brian
    9. Mark
    10. Richard

  • 1960

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Susan
    3. Linda
    4. Karen
    5. Donna
    6. Lisa
    7. Patricia
    8. Debra
    9. Cynthia
    10. Deborah

    Male names
    1. David
    2. Michael
    3. James
    4. John
    5. Robert
    6. Mark
    7. William
    8. Richard
    9. Thomas
    10. Steven

  • 1950

    Female names
    1. Linda
    2. Mary
    3. Patricia
    4. Barbara
    5. Susan
    6. Nancy
    7. Deborah
    8. Sandra
    9. Carol
    10. Kathleen

    Male names
    1. James
    2. Robert
    3. John
    4. Michael
    5. David
    6. William
    7. Richard
    8. Thomas
    9. Charles
    10. Gary

  • 1940

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Barbara
    3. Patricia
    4. Judith
    5. Betty
    6. Carol
    7. Nancy
    8. Linda
    9. Shirley
    10. Sandra

    Male names
    1. James
    2. Robert
    3. John
    4. William
    5. Richard
    6. Charles
    7. David
    8. Thomas
    9. Donald
    10. Ronald

  • 1930

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Betty
    3. Dorothy
    4. Helen
    5. Margaret
    6. Barbara
    7. Patricia
    8. Joan
    9. Doris
    10. Ruth

    Male names
    1. Robert
    2. James
    3. John
    4. William
    5. Richard
    6. Charles
    7. Donald
    8. George
    9. Joseph
    10. Edward

  • 1920

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Dorothy
    3. Helen
    4. Margaret
    5. Ruth
    6. Mildred
    7. Virginia
    8. Elizabeth
    9. Frances
    10. Anna

    Male names
    1. John
    2. William
    3. Robert
    4. James
    5. Charles
    6. George
    7. Joseph
    8. Edward
    9. Frank
    10. Richard

  • 1910

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Helen
    3. Margaret
    4. Dorothy
    5. Ruth
    6. Anna
    7. Elizabeth
    8. Mildred
    9. Marie
    10. Alice

    Male names
    1. John
    2. James
    3. William
    4. Robert
    5. George
    6. Joseph
    7. Charles
    8. Frank
    9. Edward
    10. Henry

  • 1900

    Female names
    1. Mary
    2. Helen
    3. Anna
    4. Margaret
    5. Ruth
    6. Elizabeth
    7. Florence
    8. Ethel
    9. Marie
    10. Lillian

    Male names
    1. John
    2. William
    3. James
    4. George
    5. Charles
    6. Robert
    7. Joseph
    8. Frank
    9. Edward
    10. Henry

  • Ranking political names

  • Names of politicians, their kids

    Image: Malia, left, and Sasha Obama
    Larry Downing  /  Reuters file
    First Lady Michelle Obama can count her first name as the 103rd most popular among baby girls last year and her daughters’ names were fairly popular, too. The family name Obama, however, did not make the Top Thousand as a first name for boys or girls.

    As for former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin – her name ranked 20th in baby name popularity last year. However Bristol, her daughter’s name, did not rank in the Top Thousand.

    Obama
    Rank: Not in the Top 1,000

    Sasha
    Rank: #363

    Malia
    Rank: #345

    Michelle
    Rank: #103

    Sarah
    Rank: #20

    Bristol
    Rank: Not in the Top 1,000

    Levi
    Rank: #117

  • Ranking TODAY names

    Find out whether TODAY Show hosts’ names rank:

  • Anchors' names

    Image: TODAY anchors

    Matt (Matthew)
    Meaning: A gift of god (Hebrew origin)
    Rank: #5

    Meredith
    Meaning: Guardian of the sea (Celtic/Welsh origin)
    Rank: #310

    Ann
    Meaning: Grace and mercy (Hebrew/Greek origin)
    Rank: #731

    Al (Albert)
    Meaning: Brilliant, noble (Saxon origin)
    Rank: #354

    Natalie
    Meaning: Born on Christmas; to be born (Latin/French origin)
    Rank: #16

    Hoda
    Meaning: Praise, confession, enlightenment (Iranian/Hebrew origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

  • TODAY other talents' names

    Willard
    Meaning: Courageous (Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    Giada:
    Meaning: Jade (Italian origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    Tiki
    Meaning: Spirit, god (Hawaiian/Polynesian origin)
    Rank: Not in the top 1000 names

    For more name meanings, visit the iVillage Baby Name Finder

Discuss: What's your favorite baby name for 2009?

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