The Sideshow

Most popular baby names, 2011 vs. 1911: ‘William’ stands the test of time

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Popular baby names in the U.S. have changed drastically over the past century (KVUE-TV Austin)

Popular baby names in the U.S. have changed dramatically over the past 100 years. But some things never change, including our nation's love of the name "William."

Data from the Social Security Administration shows that virtually none of the top 20 most popular names from 1911 is still in the rankings in the most recent statistics from 2011.

For example, the most popular names in 2011 were "Jacob" for boys and "Sophia" for girls. But in 1911, they were "John" and "Mary." Again, as mentioned above, neither "John" nor "Mary" even appears in the top 20 for 2011:

2011
Male name Female name
1 Jacob Sophia
2 Mason Isabella
3 William Emma
4 Jayden Olivia
5 Noah Ava
6 Michael Emily
7 Ethan Abigail
8 Alexander Madison
9 Aiden Mia
10 Daniel Chloe
11 Anthony Elizabeth
12 Matthew Ella
13 Elijah Addison
14 Joshua Natalie
15 Liam Lily
16 Andrew Grace
17 James Samantha
18 David Avery
19 Benjamin Sofia
20 Logan Aubrey

But one name has resolutely stood the test of time: William. One hundred years later, "William" has fallen only one slot, from No. 2 to No. 3, in the list of popular male names. "James" has also managed to stick around, dropping from No. 3 in 1911 to No. 17 in 2011.

For girls, only "Elizabeth" has stayed on the list, dropping just four spots over the past century, from No. 7 to No. 11.

1911
Male name Female name
1 John Mary
2 William Helen
3 James Margaret
4 George Dorothy
5 Robert Ruth
6 Joseph Anna
7 Charles Elizabeth
8 Frank Mildred
9 Edward Marie
10 Thomas Frances
11 Henry Alice
12 Walter Florence
13 Harry Lillian
14 Willie Rose
15 Albert Ethel
16 Harold Evelyn
17 Paul Edna
18 Arthur Gladys
19 Raymond Louise
20 Richard Catherine

In recent years, the authors of Freakonomics have famously tracked the ever-evolving choice of baby names in America. And other sites have joined the trend, pointing to changing baby names as a sign of the decline of civilization. But for all the changes in the top 20, the list of popular baby names still reads as fairly tame.

What would be truly fascinating is comparing the top 100 names of 1911 with those of today. What were the 1911 equivalents of "Braxlee" and "Diesel"?

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There were most likely a lot of "Johns" and "Marys" in this bunch (Library of Congress)


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