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The 25 Hottest Baby Names Throughout the Decades

Whether you’re the type of mom who loves traditional baby names (cue: Mary and Michael) or are one of those hipsters who thinks random fruits and cities make for like, the coolest, baby names ever (cue: Apple and Brooklyn), one thing’s for sure: the last 100 years have seen their fair share of namesakes.

We scoured the top baby name charts of the 20th and 21st centuries and picked the 25 most popular baby names out there. Inspiration for these monikers came from all types of literature and historical events … from books of the Christian Bible to the tween-crazed Twilight series to Hollywood’s most popular celebrities. Check out our list after the jump, and see if you can figure out what inspired these names! — Jennifer Gimbel


  • Emily 1 of 25
    Emily
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: rival, laborious, eager
    One of the most popular baby names of the 21st century (it held the top spot for girls from 1996 to 2007), Emily is a fitting name for your little one who arrives weeks early … eager to make her mark on the world!
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Madison 2 of 25
    Madison
    Origin: Old English; Meaning: son of the mighty warrior
    First introduced as a girl's name in the 1980s with the classic mermaid film, Splash, Madison took two decades to become popular as a name. But today, odds are your child's in class with one … or three!
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Ashley 3 of 25
    Ashley
    Origin: Old English; Meaning: ash meadow
    This baby name was a 2-year wonder of the ‘90s, holding the top spot for girl names in 1991 and 1992. We can't help but wonder if it was because of the adorable Full House child star, Ashley Olsen. It seems, once again, her twin sister Mary-Kate has been over-shadowed. Tough break.
    Photo credit: PRPhotos.com
  • Samantha 4 of 25
    Samantha
    Origin: English; Meaning: God heard
    Another popular ‘90s baby name, Samantha first gained popularity thanks to the beautiful and spellbinding character Samantha Stephens in the 1960s TV show Bewitched. And if you have a dashing fellow but are still a fan of this name, consider bequeathing him with the masculine
    alternative, Samuel.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Jessica 5 of 25
    Jessica
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: He sees
    Holding strong to the top baby name spot from 1985 through 1990, Jessica is also a popular name for some of Hollywood's finest, from Jessica Simpson to Jessica Alba. If you predict your precious daughter has a famous future ahead of her, why not let her share her moniker with a Hollywood star?
    Photo credit: PacificCoastNews.com
  • Amanda 6 of 25
    Amanda
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: fit to be loved; lovable
    Amanda made it on the top 5 girl's baby names list for every year of the 1980s — an impressive accomplishment in the world of nomenclatures. With a meaning full of love, this is a wonderful name for a little girl fortunate enough to be born on Valentine's Day (and a welcoming alternative to Cupid).
    Photo credit: iStockPhoto.com
  • Jennifer 7 of 25
    Jennifer
    Origin: Welsh; Meaning: fair, smooth
    This variant of the medieval name, Guinevere, held the top girls baby name spot for over 10 years, from 1970 to 1984. We hate to state the obvious, but any girl named Jennifer probably has highly impressionable parents. For a fresh take on Jennifer today, try opting to name your little one Jenna or Gennifer.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Amy 8 of 25
    Amy
    Origin: Old French, Latin; Meaning: beloved, friend
    The sweet and innocent Amy March in Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women first put this name on the map; it eventually became so popular that it earned the number two spot for popular baby names of the ‘70s. Given its meaning, we'd dare say any tyke given this name would grow up to have an amazing group of friends.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Lisa 9 of 25
    Lisa
    Origin: English; Meaning: pledged to God
    The number one baby name from 1962 to 1969, Lisa hit superstar status with Elvis' hit song "Mona Lisa" and after the King named his daughter, Lisa Marie. If you're looking for a more original name with a similar ring, try one of the variants, Annalisa or Liesel.
    Photo credit: PacificCoastNews.com
  • Linda 10 of 25
    Linda
    Origin: Spanish; Meaning: pretty
    One of the most popular names of the 1950s, Linda will go down in history as the moniker that bumped Mary out of its 400-year reign as the number one girls name. If you're convinced your daughter is the prettiest baby out there, this is the perfect name — or go for a more obscure variety, Melinda or Belinda.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Mary 11 of 25
    Mary
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: star of the sea
    It seems the namesake Mary has been popular ever since the beginning of man — first claiming the name of Jesus' mother, then followed by countless queens throughout time. Meaning "star of the sea," Mary is the ideal name for a blossoming swimmer or beach lover.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Barbara 12 of 25
    Barbara
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: foreign woman
    It's all Greek to … Barbara. This baby name was originally used as an adjective to describe women who weren't Greek; cue the meaning "foreign woman." Barbara was a popular name of the 1940s, but today it seems to be tainted with a permanent middle-aged image.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Jacob 13 of 25
    Jacob
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: he who supplants
    Holding the number one spot for boy names from 2000 on is Jacob, whose popularity is no doubt thanks to the sexy werewolf character in the Twilight series. If you love this name but are hesitant to jump on the Twilight bandwagon, try the variant Jacoby.
    Photo credit: PacificCoastNews.com
  • Ethan 14 of 25
    Ethan
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: strong, firm
    This stylish baby name has been on the top 5 baby names list since 2002, and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere. With a strong, firm meaning — we imagine any young lad bequeathed with this name wouldn't dare have the word "weak" in his vocabulary.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Joshua 15 of 25
    Joshua
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: the Lord is my salvation
    A winning baby name in the ‘80s and ‘90s (it held tight to the number 4 spot from 1984 to 1994), Joshua's popularity can no doubt be attributed to its ties to the biblical Joshua in the Old Testament. If you're looking for a more modern alternative to this name, try opting for Josiah or Jasper (but beware of the Twilight reference your son will forever be plagued with if you choose the latter).
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Matthew 16 of 25
    Matthew
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: gift of God
    Matthew, a popular name since the mid-'80s, is a classic moniker with Biblical ties (claiming the name of one of Jesus' 12 apostles and a book of the Bible). If you're looking for a more original variety of this popular namesake, you might consider naming your new cherub Matthias
    or Matteo.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Michael 17 of 25
    Michael
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: Who is like God?
    Holding the number one baby name spot from 1961 to 1998, Michael is most often associated with the Biblical archangel who led the other cherubs to victory in the war against Satan. For a less trite variety, try other options, like Micah or Malcolm.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Christopher 18 of 25
    Christopher
    Origin: Greek; Meaning: bearer of Christ
    Although Christopher held strong as the number two most popular baby name every year of the ‘80s, this classic moniker still sounds modern enough to be used today. Pair it with the middle name Robin, and your little boy just might grow up to befriend all sorts of animals in the Hundred-Acre Wood.
    Photo credit: Pixar Animation Studios/The Walt Disney Company
  • David 19 of 25
    David
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: beloved
    This classic name was on the top 5 boy's baby names list throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. And any child named David has big shoes to fill — be it the boy who fought the giant Goliath and won, the favored star of Judaism, or the world's greatest soccer player.
    Photo credit: PacificCoastNews.com
  • Jason 20 of 25
    Jason
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: healer, the Lord is salvation
    A popular baby name choice in the ‘70s, Jason is a great name to bequeath a budding doctor … but beware … this name will also conjure up images of the Friday the 13th villain.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • James 21 of 25
    James
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: He who supplants
    This classic namesake of the ‘40s is still going strong today, thanks to several celebrities who recently named their own little cherubs this, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Fehr, who stylishly chose to name his little girl James.
    Photo credit: INFphotos.com
  • Richard 22 of 25
    Richard
    Origin: Old German; Meaning: powerful leader
    This top 5 baby name of the ‘30s and ‘40s was popular for centuries but has since fallen out of favor. (We can't help but wonder if it's due to the name's unsophisticated nickname.) Name your little man this today, and you may just have a powerful leader on your hands. Look out, world!
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • John 23 of 25
    John
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: God is gracious
    For nearly 400 years, John lived on the top 5 baby name list — gaining its popularity from Christianity's John the Baptist, countless kings and nobles throughout time, and any unidentifiable man of the 20th century (see: John Doe). While John has fallen out of favor in the past twenty years, fresher alternatives include Jack and Jonathon.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • Robert 24 of 25
    Robert
    Origin: Old German; Meaning: bright fame
    Claiming the number one boy's baby name spot from 1924 to 1939, Robert is the ideal name to give your little one destined to be the next big star. (We wonder if that's what Robert Redford's parents were thinking!) And although it's gone out of fashion today, stylish alternatives include Robertson and Robinson.
    Photo credit: iStockphoto.com
  • William 25 of 25
    William
    Origin: Old German; Meaning: resolute protection
    William is a popular baby name of the early 1900s, and parents today see this name as conservative yet modern enough to be stylish. Whether you dream of your little one becoming a great playwright (cue William Shakespeare), an awesome fighter of aliens (cue Will Smith), or a famous president (cue Bill Clinton) — this name will fit the bill.
    Photo credit: PRPhotos.com

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