After more than 40 years as America’s number one boys’ name, ‘Michael’ dropped to number two in the last decade, giving way to ‘Jacob,’ according to the birth certificate data from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
During the first half of the century, John, James and Robert dominated the top five boys’ names. In 1950, Michael took the top seat and held steady throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, joined by Christopher and Matthew and later, Jacob and Ethan in the 2000s.
But in 2009, Michael didn’t even make the nation’s top 10, falling to Aiden/Aidan/Aden, Matthew, Owen, Ethan, Evan, Braden/Braeden/Brayden, Noah, Jack and Zachary.
In Florida, Michael still made the state’s top five boys’ names of 2008 (latest data available), with Jayden taking first, followed by Joshua, Michael, Anthony and Christopher.
On the girl’s side, the name “Mary” reigns as the 20th century’s most consistently popular girl’s name, having been number one from 1910-1960, when the name fell to number two. Mary dropped to number 15 in the ‘70s and hasn’t been seen in the top-50 since.
Over the years, girls’ names have been more diverse in popularity than boys with Helen, Betty, Margaret, Patricia and Barbara being popular in the first half of the century, replaced by Jennifer, Kimberly, Jessica, Sarah, Ashley and Emily in the second half.
In 2009, the nation’s top girl names were Madelyn/Madeleine/Madelynn, Madison, Emma, Hannah, Olivia, Audrey, Isabella, Grace, Taylor and Emily.
In Florida, the top five girls’ names of 2008 were Isabella, Sophia, Emily, Emma and Madison.
Lakeya Stokes, registrar with the Collier County Health Department, says she’s seen a lot of Jayden names, spelled in a variety of ways in Collier County and noted that “Rihanna” is popular locally, because of the notoriety of pop artists by the same name.
The trend toward creating unique spellings of familiar names may also have resulted in fewer Americans choosing the exact same name over the years, according to SSA records. Various spellings of like-sounding names in the database – such as Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, and Katelynn – are considered separate names and given their own rank.
While “Michael” garnered more than 800,000 places on birth certificates in the 1960s, the number needed to hold the top spot has decreased steadily over time. By the 2000s, Jayden copped the lead in popularity with only a few more than 250,000 like-named babies.
“We’ve seen more spelling variations of both of this year’s top names than we imagined possible,” says Candace Alper, executive producer of a children’s personalized music company. “Aidan has also been Ayden, Aidyn, Aden, and Aaden and Madeline can be spelled Madeleine, Maddelin, and Madalen. Parents like the sound of traditional names, but they also want to show the individuality of their children.”
Those comments rang true while interviewing random Collier County residents, most of whom had a penchant for names not likely to be found among the personalized gift items in a Hallmark store.
“I wanted something Italian, but not too long for him, you know how some Italian names are so l-o-n-g?” says Marina Alfredo, whose toddler shares her middle name, Lee. “When he was born he was just so adorable; he’s still really cute and I think the name Romeo fits him.”
Alfredo admits to falling in love with her middle son’s name, Julian Ricci, while watching a movie and says her husband named their eldest boy Presley, due to a ‘man crush’ on Elvis.
Karen Leskin says people often ask if she named her son Cody, 13, after Kathy Lee Gifford’s child, but insists her husband didn’t know anything about the Gifford’s name selection when he came up with the idea. She says a niece came up with the name for her younger son, Noah, 8. Their middle names, Ryan and Matthew, were chosen to honor grandparents.
Juan Cianca credits his mother with naming his 11-year-old daughter, Arantza, after a flower in Italy. He says his five-year-old son Carlos Ivan got his moniker having been born between hurricanes Charley and Ivan.
“I named him Carlos, because I wanted a ‘C’ for Charley and also my middle name is Carlos. That’s how I picked it,” he says.
Opera singer Stefanie Pearce says it took her and husband Sam a long time to decide on a name for their daughter, Aria, 3.
“We debated over a lot of names. We wanted something unique and beautiful, but also Spanish sounding like her last name, Vasquez,” says Pearce. “I was watching ‘The Fantasy Film’ in a movie theater when it hit me, ‘That’s really pretty, I like it!’”