Whether you love the idea of giving your baby boy a popular name or you hate it, you’ll need to know what the most popular
boy names of all time are in order to move forward in picking something for your little one. Some of these names are easy to guess, because they’ve withstood the test of time, like Michael or David, but there are plenty of others that may not be quite as obvious. Just because something isn’t popular today, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t all the rage at some point.
While it’s probably next to impossible to truly track the most popular
boy names over an extended period of time (simply because the world has been around for a long time), we do know which names have been the most popular in the United States over the last 100 years thanks to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Since every baby born in the United States is issued a social security number, the SSA has a record of every new little one, which allows them to track name popularity across the country. But, just because the name Liam was the most popular baby boy name in 2020, that doesn’t mean it’s earned a spot on the most popular boy names of all time.
So what names are on this prestigious list? Here are the top 40.
1 James d3sign/Moment/Getty Images
James is the number one most popular boy name from the last 100 years with the SSA reporting that 4,700,229 babies have been given the name between 1921 and 2020. It’s a Hebrew name that means “supplanter.”
Coming in at number two is Robert, which really isn’t all that surprising. It’s a solid choice for both a first or middle name, and it has some decent nicknames like Rob, Robbie, and Bob.
Over the last 100 years, 4,453,807 baby boys have been named John, but the name definitely goes back much further than 1921. It’s a Hebrew name that means “God is Gracious.”
Raise your hand if you know someone named Michael. Between first and middle names, Michael continues to be an incredibly popular name. It’s a classic, after all.
William is not only the fifth most popular baby boy name over the last 100 years, but it was also the
fifth most popular boy name of 2020, so it’s obviously not going out of style any time soon. 6 David
Since 1921, more than 3.5 million babies have been given the name David. It’s another Hebrew name, meaning “beloved,” and if you’re going to pick your baby boy’s name based on its meaning, then David is an excellent choice.
Richard, Rich, Richie, Rick, Ricky, and the list of nicknames for Richard goes on (yes, including
that one). The German name means “dominant ruler” and has been around for centuries. 8 Joseph
Another classic and timeless name, Joseph has Hebrew origins and has been popular for centuries. And, while Joseph isn’t a popular girl’s name, the nicknames Joe and Joey have become more common among the ladies.
We all had at least one Thomas (Tom, or Tommy) in our class as kids, and it seems that trend was well established before then and will continue for generations to come because it’s remained on the list of most popular baby boy names. It has Aramaic origins and means “twin.”
10 Charles Jessica Peterson/Tetra images/Getty Images
If you feel like the name Charles is old-timey, there’s a good reason, because it goes back centuries. Still, as old as it is, it continues to be very popular as both a first and middle name for baby boys.
The name Christopher was been given to 2,038,798 baby boys between 1921 and 2020, landing it at a very respectable eleventh place on the SSA’s most popular baby boy names list.
Meaning “God is my judge,” Daniel is a name with Hebrew origins that has remained popular throughout history. Still, despite its longevity, it doesn’t feel like an old-timey name.
Matthew has secured its place among the top 20 most popular boy names since 1921. It’s a Hebrew name that means “gift of God.”
Over the last 100 years, 1,406,030 baby boys have been given the name Anthony. Of course, it goes back way further than 100 years with its Roman roots.
Meaning “warlike,” Mark has been a popular name for well over a century. If you give your little one this name and he ends up being a tough little fighter, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Surprisingly, Donald lands in the top 20 most popular baby boy names, though something tells me it’s seen a steep drop in popularity in recent years.
Steven is an English name that means “garland” or “crown,” and more than 1.2 million baby boys have been given the name in the last 100 years.
Paul is a great name, and even though it’s not as common today it definitely has some staying power.
How many Andrews do you know? Chances are high you know at least a few, given its place on the most popular baby boy names. It’s no wonder it’s so popular with parents, because it means “strong” and “manly.”
20 Joshua Kevin Liu/Moment/Getty Images
Meaning “the Lord is my salvation,” Joshua just makes the top 20 most popular baby boy names of the last 100 years. Since 1921, 1,220,730 little boys have been given this name.
Here’s a name you don’t hear all that often anymore. Kenneth has Scottish and Irish roots and means “born of fire” and “handsome.”
Kevin is another Irish name that means “handsome.” It also happens to be the name of the kid in
Home Alone, which is also a good reason to give it to your baby boy, in my opinion. 23 Brian
It’s no surprise Brian is on this list. It seems like you can’t go anywhere without finding at least one Brian in the crowd. It’s an Irish name that means “strong, virtuous, and honorable.”
Prince George may be giving this name some new life, but it was popular long before he was born. Between 1921 and 2020, it was given to more than 1.1 million baby boys.
Meaning “wealthy guardian,” Edward is another name with serious staying power. However, if you were a
Twilight fan, it’s probably hard to think of anything other than Edward Cullen when you hear the name. 26 Ronald
The name Ronald means “ruler’s counselor” and has Norse origins. Even though it falls on the top 40 list of most popular baby boy names, it’s one that you don’t hear nearly as often anymore (which is a good thing if you want a traditional baby boy name that isn’t trendy).
Over the last 100 years, 1,070,916 boys were given the name Timothy, which has Greek origins and means “honoring God.”
Jason may feel like a more modern name (it’s still extremely common), but it’s actually been around for a very long time.
Jeffrey, or Jeff for short, comes in at number 29 on the list and is the first one not to break the 1 million mark. Since 1921, 975,915 boys were given the name.
You probably have at least one Ryan in your life, but did you know the name has a very cute meaning? It has Irish origins and means “little king.”
It’s not a big surprise that Jacob made it on this list, because the name has been around for centuries, but still somehow feels modern (maybe we can, once again, thank
Twilight for that). It’s a Hebrew name that means “supplanter.” 32 Gary
Gary is definitely a name you don’t see a lot of parents giving their babies these days, but maybe it’s time for a comeback. It obviously has some staying power, after all.
Meaning “people of victory,” Nicholas is a Greek name and has been given to just under 900,000 baby boys over the last century.
Eric is another name that seems pretty modern, but it dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. It has Old Norse origins and means “eternal ruler.”
Over the last 100 years, 848,774 baby boys were named Jonathan in the United States. It’s a good choice if you want to give your little one a nickname, because you can go with Jon, Jonny, or even Jona.
Another name that means “garland” or “crown,” Stephen has Greek origins and hit peak popularity between 1946 and 1957.
This one is really surprising. Over the last 100 years, 802,272 baby boys have been given the name Larry. Who knew?
The fact that Justin is among the most popular baby boy names probably comes as no shock to millennials, since it was one of the most popular names in the 1980s.
Scott is a simple name that means “from Scotland.” Maybe by giving your baby boy such a straightforward name he will grow up to be a straightforward guy?
An English name meaning “broom-covered hill,” Brandon was one of the most popular names throughout the 1990s, but it’s still rising in popularity today so we may see it climb its way up this list in the coming years.
If you’re stuck on what to name your little one, perhaps this list of the most popular baby boy names will serve as inspiration to help you decide. If you’re a fan of tradition and longevity, then you can’t go wrong with any of these names.