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Most popular baby names from each decade: 1900s through today

One of the most fun, yet challenging, things for new parents is deciding their new baby's name. While the most popular baby names today include Emma, Noah, Olivia and Liam, have you ever wondered what names topped the lists when your parents or grandparents were born?

Nameberry.com, a website solely focused on baby names, looked back at each decade beginning with the 1900s to see not only what names were popular, but also what may have influenced parents' baby-naming decisions. When did the names Mary and Michael fall out of the No. 1 spot? What decade saw a rise of babies being named Rainbow and Leaf? Take a stroll through time with the most popular baby names from 1900 through today.

1900s: Biblical names dominate

In the early 20th century, boys names like
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In the early 20th century, boys names like William, John and James dominated the list of baby names, as they had for the last century, said Linda Rosenkrantz, co-founder of nameberry.com. "Tradition is everything," she said. "Boys were typically named for their fathers and other family members."

However, it was different for girls. "Even though Mary was still number one, as she would for another half century, parents widened their horizons," Rosenkrantz said. Along with saints and biblical names, new names such as Dorothy, Mildred and Gladys began to appear.

1910s: Pop culture heroines and WWI influence

Famous women of the 1910s had an effect
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Famous women of the 1910s had an effect on baby names, said Rosenkrantz. Popular monikers included Marie (Curie, a Noble Prize-winning chemist) and Florence (Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing). Flower and gem names also gained popularity with Rose, Pearl and Ruby.

John was still the top name for boys as well as William, James, Robert and George. But in 1914, German-inspired names, such as Bertha, Carl, Gus, Rudolph, Herman, Otto and August declined because of the start of WWI.

1920s: Jazz age, flapper era

The 1920s brought on big name changes, as
Photo Credit: MacGregor / Tropical Press Agency / Getty Images

The 1920s brought on big name changes, as pop culture icons influence names for the first time, said Rosenkrantz. For example, names like Gloria (Swanson), Jean (Harlow) and Myrna (Loy) began to gain popularity. Other female names on the rise in the 1920s included Dorothy, Doris, Mildred, Eleanor, Thelma and more. Additionally, the name Betty entered the Top 10 in the 1920s, the highest-ranking nickname used on its own.

According to Rosenkrantz, in 1924, Robert topped John, becoming the only non-Biblical name to ever hold the boys' top spot. Charles, Richard, Edward, Arthur, Harold and other boy names continued to rise in the 1920s.

1930s: The rise of Shirley Temple, Great Depression

The second most popular name in 1936 was
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The second most popular name in 1936 was Shirley, given to more than 35,000 girls that year, in honor of Shirley Temple. "The curly-haired beacon of bright optimism in the midst of the Great Depression influenced parents' baby name decisions," said Rosenkrantz. "Glamour" names such as Rita and Anita became popular during the Depression years, while Ronald and Donald joined Richard and Robert as nouveau classics, she said.

Rosenkrantz also said names like Patrick, Patricia, Maureen and Kathleen reflected the an influx of Irish immigrants during this decade.

1940s: The end of WWII

The late 1940s marks the end of WWII
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The late 1940s marks the end of WWII with a new generation of names. After Dr. Benjamin Spock's book "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," which came out in 1946, encouraged parents to be relaxed and confident, and inspired dads to be more involved in baby naming. In 1947, the name Linda dethroned Mary for the No. 1 spot, said Rosenkrantz. "Actress Linda Darnell and a popular song by that name were major factors," she said.

1950s: Irish and TV westerns inspire boy's names

In the 1950s Eisenhower years, conservative boy names
Photo Credit: George Marks / Retrofile / Getty Images

In the 1950s Eisenhower years, conservative boy names ranked high among parents, including James, Michael, John, David, William, Richard and Thomas. The name Gary, as in Gary Cooper, peaked at No. 9 in 1954, according to Rosenkrantz. Irish names for boys were on the rise, such as Brian, Kevin, Ryan and Sean, and the popularity of TV westerns brought back old cowboy names, such as Cody, Jason, Jesse, Jeremy and Josh.

1960s: Decade of the British invasion, Barbie, Woodstock

Pop culture was a big baby-naming influence in
Photo Credit: George Marks / Retrofile / Getty Images

Pop culture was a big baby-naming influence in the 1960s. Scott, Todd, Duane/Dwayne and Bruce became popular after surfer dudes from "beach blanket" movies, said Rosenkrantz. Names sounding like nicknames, such as Tammy, Lori, Cindy and Terri, spiked in the early '60s after the 1959 release of the Barbie doll. " 'Kooky' names were born, such as Moon Unit and Dweezil, Frank Zappa's children's names, were on the rise," Rosenkrantz said.

Other influences included the British Invasion, which propelled the name Michelle, after the Beatles song. The name rose to No. 9 in the 1960s. "Unisex names, such as Terry, Tracy, Stacy, Jody, Casey and Kelly, as well as flower-child names like Sunshine, Leaf, Light, Rainbow and America emerged in the freewheeling, Woodstock/hippie days as gender stereotypes were being reevaluated," Rosenkrantz said.

Buoyed by Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson, the name Michael began its long reign in the No. 1 spot for boys.

The 1960s also saw a rise of black pride, with African-American naming patterns diverging from the general population as black parents looked to Muslim and African sources, said Rosenkrantz. "By 1973, 31 percent of African-American girls born in New York City would have unique names," she said.

1970s: Epidemic of J names for both girls and boys

In the 1970s, the name Jennifer jumps to
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In the 1970s, the name Jennifer jumps to No. 1 for girls. Other names beginning with the letter J also saw a rise, including Jessica, Jason, James, Julie, Jonathan and Jeffrey.

People magazine debuted in the 1970s, which made parents aware of and influenced by names stars gave their babies.

1980s: The Reaganomics, go-go, yuppie years

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"The 1980s inspired rich-girl names, such as Amanda, Ashley, Whitney, Courtney, Samantha, Kimberly and Tiffany, along with WASP-y surnames for boys, like Carter and Parker, and androgynous executive names for all, like Blair, Blake and Kyle rose in popularity," said Rosenkrantz. Nicknames -- Johnny, Jimmy and Betty -- fell by the wayside as children were called by their full names -- John, James and Elizabeth.

1990s: Parents get creative

The 1990s marks a decade when parents became
Photo Credit: Newsday / Ken Spencer

The 1990s marks a decade when parents became creative with the spelling of some baby names, for example: Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Kaitlin, Caitlyn, Makayla, Mikayla and Krystal. Popular TV shows often influenced a few moms and dads, as names such as Rachel ("Friends"), Alyssa ("Who's the Boss?") and Alexis ("Dynasty"), as well as Brandon and Dylan ("90210") rose in the 1990s. The unisex Taylor and Tyler were both big, said Rosenkrantz. The 1990s also began the rise of the boy's name Aidan.

2000s: Traditional names are back

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"With some economic downturns, parents started looking back to solid, traditional girls names' such as Ella, Grace and Olivia, as well as biblical boy names such as Jacob, Ethan and Benjamin," said Rosenkrantz. Extreme "starbaby" names got more extreme, with names such as Pilot Inspektor, Audio Science and Bronx Mowgli making headlines, she said. In the 1990s, the name Madison rose to No. 2, inspired by the Madison Avenue street sign in the popular movie "Splash."

"As the Internet rules the world, parents were able to get more information, share ideas -- and judge each other-- search genealogy sites for ancestral names and more," Rosenkrantz said.

There was also an influx of girls' names beginning and ending in the letter A which continues today.

2010s: Romantic, spiritual and superhero names soar

Thanks to
Photo Credit: iStock

Thanks to "Grey's Anatomy," the name Addison, one of the female characters, rose in the charts in the 2010s. Romantic names such as Isabella, Sophia and Olivia topped the list, as well as Avery, Aubrey, Emerson, Ellery and Harley. The gender lines blurred, said Rosenkrantz. "James became a popular middle name for girls."

Bodhi, Journey, Genesis and other spiritual names became popular for boys, while superhero names like Thor, Blaze and Logan rose to the top. "There was also a huge boom in nature names, such as River (as in River Phoenix) and in 2010, the popular Aidan became Aiden, spawning numerous rhyming cousins like Kayden, Braden, Kaden and other boy names ending in the letter N.

In 2016, the Social Security Administration's annual list revealed that Emma and Noah were the most popular baby names, followed by Olivia, Liam, Ava, William, Sophia and Mason.

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