Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of! Choosing the perfect baby name is no easy feat. With countless names from countless time periods, there are just so many wonderful choices. We’ve rounded up the most popular baby girl names from each decade, starting as early as the 1880s and ending with the latest full decade, the 2010s.
Not only will you find a number of unique monikers to consider for your little lady, but you’ll also discover the meaning of each name, the country or nationality the name originates from, and how many girls shared each of the names in their respective decade. Plus, you’ll also discover a range of well-known individuals who shared the names each decade. You may be surprised to discover which brilliant minds and glamorous stars influenced the popular names of each decade, and perhaps these names will inspire your choice of name for the baby girl in your life, too!
1880s: Mary, Anna, and Emma topped the charts
During the 1880s, we see from the Social Security Administration that 6.5% of all girls born in the U.S. during the 1880s were named Mary, with 91,668 little ladies sharing the name. Verywell Family tells us that the name Mary comes from Latin origins and means "beloved." This is perhaps unsurprising considering in the Christian faith, Mary was Jesus’ mother and clearly favored by God.
The next two most popular names of the 1880s were Anna, with 38,159 girls sharing the name, and Emma, belonging to 25,404 babies. Meaning "grace," according to Nameberry, the Hebrew name Anna belonged to historian and Marxist economist Anna Rochester who was born in the 1880s and founded the Labor Research Association (via Archives West). The German name Emma stands for "whole or universal," as referenced by Family Education, and belonged to Emma Morano, who, in 2016, was the oldest person still alive born in the 1880s (via USA Today). Using any of these names for your baby girl will undoubtedly pay tribute to history!
1890s: Mary, Anna, and Margaret were popular choices
Mary was once again the most popular name with 131,137 babies sharing the name in the 1890s, according to the SSA. Anna then followed with 55,261 baby girls with that name.
Margaret, Helen, and Elizabeth were the third, fourth, and fifth most common names. So, what do they mean? Behind the Name says that Margaret is Latin for "pearl" and belonged to 37,937 baby girls, while, according to The Bump, Helen is Greek for "sun ray or shining light" and was given to 37,802 babies in the 1890s. Notably, in Greek mythology, Zeus‘ daughter Helen was known for her overwhelming beauty, as depicted in Homer’s "The Iliad" (via World History). Rounding out the most popular names for baby girls in the 1890s, Elizabeth belonged to 33,879 newborns and is Hebrew for "God is my oath," states Verywell Family.
There’s no denying the strength and significance of these popular names from the 1890s!
1900s: Ruth entered the top five baby names
As with the previous two decades, according to the SSA, Mary once again reigned supreme with 161,504 babes sharing the name in the 1900s, followed by Helen, Margaret, and Anna. Meaning "compassionate friend," Hebrew name Ruth was the fifth most popular name, belonging to 51,011 baby girls in the decade, as seen on Nameberry. Biblically, Ruth is known for her overwhelming loyalty.
Following Elizabeth, Greek name Dorothy was seventh in line, belonging to 39,112 girls during the decade, and means "gift of God" (via The Bump). Marie was the eighth most popular first name for girls during the 1900s, with 37,091 girls sharing the name. Latin for "star of the sea," the popularity of Marie in the 1900s could have been due to historic icons like physicist Marie Curie and former Queen of France Marie Antoinette sharing the name previously (via Verywell Family).
1910s: Mary was still No. 1
Throughout the 1910s, Mary remained most popular, with 478,638 girls sharing the name, according to the SSA. Following Helen, Dorothy, Margaret, and Ruth and ranking sixth on the list was Mildred, with 124,000 baby girls sharing the name. According to Behind the Name, Mildred is of Old English origin and means "gentle strength." One Mildred born in this time was Mildred Burke, who was born in 1915 and was a famed female wrestler who made her way into the WWE Hall of Fame after beating countless male competitors (via WWE). A few years prior, in 1911, English art historian Mildred Archer was born and later became responsible for bringing attention to Indian art, according to The Guardian.
Frances was in ninth place, with 105,600 girls having the name. According to Charlies Names, the name Frances, the female version of the boys’ name Francis, means "little French woman."
1920s: Mary again reigned supreme, but Betty entered the picture
The Roaring Twenties probably makes you think of flapper girls, but how about popular baby girl names of the decade? As you may have guessed, Mary topped the chart with 701,760 babies sharing the name, followed by Dorothy and Helen, as noted by the SSA. Gaining popularity in the 1920s was the name Betty, belonging to 283,098 girls, and in the overall 1920s names ranking, Betty took fourth place. Betty is short for Elizabeth, and means "pledged to God," according to Nameberry. Undoubtedly the most famous Betty to ever live, Betty White was born in 1922 and is best known for her hilarious characters in countless roles, including the hit sitcom "Golden Girls."
Next, after Margaret and Ruth, came Virginia with 169,555 babies. The name comes from Latin descent and means "virginal, pure," according to Nameberry.
The name Doris was given to 151,192, earning itself eighth place on the list. According to The Bump, Doris means "gift" and is from Greek origins. Born in the same year as Betty White, American actress Doris Day began her career singing on radio programs in the 1950s before becoming a Hollywood film sensation in the ’60s, as noted by Britannica.
1930s: Barbara and Shirley followed behind Mary
The 1930s kicked off with the births of new baby girls with popular names like Barbara, Shirley, and Patricia. For the sixth decade in a row, Mary was given to the most girls in the United States, with 572,982 babies sharing the name, as shared by the Social Security Administration.
After Betty, Greek name Barbara ranked third and belonged to 296,409 babies, and according to Behind the Name, the name most closely means "foreign." Born in 1937, actress Barbara Windsor was known for her career as a pin-up girl before transitioning to film, according to the BBC.
The English name Shirley ranked fourth and belonged to 229,371 baby girls in the 1930s. Baby Names tells us that Shirley stands for "bright meadow." Born just two years before the 1930s, Shirley Temple brought joy to the entertainment industry. Who can forget her famous song "Animal Crackers in my Soup"?
Each of these traditional names bode stardom, making them perfect for the soon-to-be star of your family!
1940s: Linda rose to second place on the list
Can’t stop, won’t stop! Mary once again topped the charts as the most popular name, this time in the 1940s, with 640,050 girls sharing the name, according to the SSA. Linda was the second most common baby girl name in the 1940s and was given to 531,650 girls. Linda comes from Spanish origins and means "pretty," according to The Bump. Curious to know about the famous Lindas born during this time? Jack of all trades Linda McCartney, first wife to Paul McCartney, was born in 1941 and is best known for her career as a keyboardist and vocalist for rock band Wings, as noted on her website.
Following Barbara, Patricia was given to 411,409 babies. The name means "noble," according to Oh Baby! Names. And during the decade, Carol was another popular name and is English for "joyful song," also referenced by The Bump. Carol belonged to 292,325 babies, as noted by the SSA. Actress Carol Sutton was born in 1944, and "Outer Banks" fans will recognize her for appearing in was in the hit TV series in 2021, as highlighted by Women’s Health.
Sandra was the sixth most common name of the decade with 265,531 babies. The name is Greek for "defender of mankind," as explained by Family Education.
It’s clear that these popular 1940s names made a lasting impact!
1950s: Susan, Deborah, and Debra were on the rise
With the dawn of a new decade, a new wave of popular names for baby girls was on the rise, including Susan, Deborah, and Debra. Unsurprisingly, Mary remained most popular, with 625,591 babies sharing the name, according to the SSA.
Fourth place Susan was given to 437,754 babies in the 1950s. As The Bump noted, the name means "lily." Notably, the name Susan was given to famous actress Susan Sarandon just four years prior to 1950. Having acted in countless roles since, Sarandon’s big break came from her role in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (via Entertainment Weekly).
Fifth place Deborah and seventh place Debra were also compelling contenders of the decade with the names belonging to 430,536 newborns and 341,336 girls, respectively. Numerous brilliant minds and famous faces were born in the 1950s, including journalist Deborah Norville, entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, and model Deborah Raffin (via Ranker). Plenty of famous Debras were born during the ’50s, too — one of whom was Debra Marshall, a WWE Diva and professional wrestling manager. Both Deborah and Debra have Hebrew origins and most closely mean "bee," according to The Bump.
1960s: Lisa replaced Mary at the top spot
Finally! The 1960s have arrived and they brought along a new most popular name of the decade, finally knocking Mary from its longtime No. 1 rank. During the 1960s, 496,982 girls shared the No. 1 name Lisa, according to the Social Security Administration. Lisa comes from Hebrew origins and most closely means "pledged to God" (via Nameberry). Notably, world-famous Elvis Presley named his daughter Lisa in 1968 (via Biography)! Still, Mary remained popular, earning second place with 355,228 babies.
After Susan, fourth place contender Karen was given to 286,053 baby girls. The name comes from Danish origins and means "pure," according to Verywell Family. Celebrities born in the 1960s sharing the name Karen include reality star Karen Huger and Grammy award winner Karen Clark-Sheard.
There were also 259,085 baby girls were named Donna this decade. Meaning "lady," the name Donna comes from Italian origins, according to Baby Centre, and was given to American author Donna Tartt in 1963 (via Britannica).
1970s: Jennifer claimed most popular name
In the age of disco, new, trendy monikers appeared this decade, including the names Jennifer, Amy, and Melissa. Jennifer ranked No. 1, Amy was No. 2, and Melissa ranked No. 3, according to the SSA. Many popular celebs were born during the ’70s and shared these names, including "13 Going on 30" star Jennifer Garner, comedic actress Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy of "Bridesmaids" fame, and Melissa Joan Hart, who memorably starred on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," were also all born during the decade.
Belonging to 581,768 baby girls in the ’70s, according to the SSA, Jennifer means "blessed spirit" (via Verywell Family). Meaning "well-loved," the name Amy comes from French origins, according to Baby Centre, and the moniker was given to 269,004 girls during the decade. Rounding out the most popular girl names of the 1970s, Melissa originates from Greece and most closely means "honey bee," states Nameberry, and the name belonged to 253,284 newborn girls.
1980s: Jessica, Amanda, and Ashley ranked the highest
The 1980s are best known for some classic musical hits, but the era was equally responsible for popularizing baby girl names we still see frequently today. According to the Social Security Administration, Jessica was the most popular name in the U.S. during the ’80s and belonged to 469,510 little girls. Singer Jessica Simpson and actress Jessica Alba were two stars born during this time with the name. As explained by Baby Names, Hebrew name Jessica means "God beholds."
After Jennifer, the name Amanda took third place and belonged to 369,729 babies. Amanda has Latin origins and means "worthy of love" (via Verywell Family). Known by her stage name Willa Ford, Amanda Williford was born in 1981 and is best known for her singing career alongside stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore (via Billboard). And, of course, actresses Amanda Bynes and Amanda Seyfried were born in this decade, too.
In the 1980s, 352,192 newborns were given the name Ashley, the fourth most popular name. Family Education states that Ashley is an Old English moniker meaning, quite literally, "ash tree." One famous Ashley born during this decade is Disney’s Ashley Tisdale. Talk about a star-studded time to be born!
1990s: Jessica topped the charts for another decade
What do bandanas, sheer clothes, and ripped jeans all have in common? They’re all totally rad trends from the 1990s, of course! The ’90s packed a powerful punch, bringing us grunge music and Google, plus even more popular baby girl names. Jessica was once again the most popular name throughout this ten-year period with 303,111 newborn girls having the name, as noted by the SSA. Ashley came in second with 301,809 babies being named that.
Third place went to Emily, with 237,240 babies being given the name. According to Baby Center, Emily descends from Latin roots and means "striving" and "eager." It’s quite possible that historically renowned American poet Emily Dickinson (born in 1830) and "Wuthering Heights" author Emily Brontë (born in 1818) influenced this new wave of popularity of the name. Notably, Emily Osment was born during this time.
Fourth place was Sarah, with 224,371 baby girls taking the name. The Hebrew name means "noblewoman or princess" (via Verywell Family). Biblically, the original Sarah was Abraham’s wife and known for giving birth to her first son, Isaac, at age 90, showing us all that it’s never too late!
Fifth place Samantha was given to 224,009 baby girls and means "listens well," according to Family Education.
2000s: Emily, Madison, and Emma were top picks
Y2K has arrived! And so have new popular names for baby girls. Emily topped the charts at No. 1 during the 2000s with 223,714 baby girls being given the name, according to the Social Security Administration. Madison ranked as the second most popular name, with 193,172 babies being given the name. The first name comes from English origins and most closely mean "good" or "child of Maud," according to Family Education.
Just like in the 1880s, Emma was the third most popular name in the 2000s. Olivia followed closely behind in fourth place, as 156,018 newborns were named Olivia in the 2000s (according to SSA). The Latin name simply stands for "olive tree," as referenced by Verywell Family, and popular stars born during the 2000s include gymnast Olivia Dunn and pop singer Olivia Rodrigo, whose catchy song "Drivers License" was No.1 on the Billboard Top 100 list for eight consecutive weeks in 2021 (via Billboard).
Hannah was given to 155,723 girls, and the Hebrew name stands for "favor" and "grace," according to Verywell Family. And appropriately so, as the biblical character Hannah was presumed barren, and then given a son, Samuel, who later became a religious hero of Israel, as referenced by Britannica.
2010s: It was Emma, Olivia, and Sophia’s time to shine
The 2010s were the most recent decade to offer a range of newly popular names for baby girls. Around the country throughout the decade, 194,755 baby girls were given the name Emma, according to the Social Security Administration. Olivia was the second most popular name with 184,291 babies given the moniker.
In third, 180,896 were named Sophia. As defined by Verywell Family, Sophia is Greek and means "wisdom." In the 2010s, 170,265 shared the name Isabella, which is a Hebrew name that means "pledged to God" (via Family Education).
In fifth place is Ava, as 155,606 newborns were given that name. It’s quite possible that actress Ava Gardner, born in 1922 and known as a Hollywood beauty, influenced the popularity of the name. The name comes from Latin origins and most closely means "life; bird; water; and island," according to Nameberry.