It’s been nearly 450 years since Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” In 2012, The Washington Post sought to answer, reporting on how the government tracks baby names and monitors trends over time.
Unsurprisingly, traditional names dominate the top of the pack for people born between 1946 and 1964. This group, commonly known as the baby boomers, results from the post-war population boom that accompanied an era of American prosperity during the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Names like Susan, Linda, and Gary may sound old-fashioned now—but at the time, they represented the traditions and values of a new American dream.
To determine the most popular names of the baby boomer generation, Stacker compiled data from the Social Security Administration’s Baby Names Archives and ranked every popular name by how many babies were given that moniker from 1946 to 1964. The most popular years for each name and each name’s 2018 rank (most recent data available) are also included. Behind the Name was consulted for facts about a name’s etymology and history.
While names from the Bible occupy much of the list, the name Kathleen has the distinction of being the first name given to any baby boomer , just one second after midnight in 1946. Hollywood and pop culture also played a significant role in helping a name’s popularity jump up the list, with everything from actors, book characters, and athletes helping advance the generation’s top names. Some names, like Larry and Cynthia, have lost their Hollywood luster and faded from use in the decades since.
Read on to find out the most popular baby names for baby boomers.
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25. Girl: Judy
– Total baby boomers with this name: 239,145
The success of two Judys in Hollywood helped spur this name up the list. The Golden Era’s most recognizable starlet, Judy Garland, who starred in 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz , and Judy Holliday, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949’s Born Yesterday . The name Judy derives from the name Judith, which in Hebrew translates to “Jewish woman” from the tribe of Judah.
25. Boy: George
– Total baby boomers with this name: 342,077
The name George is Greek for “farmer or earth-worker,” and it rose to popularity in the 18th century, beginning with the first King George’s rise to the throne of England. George Washington brought the name West, and it reached peak popularity from 1946 to 48 in part because of the death of WWII hero Gen. George S. Patton in 1945. Additionally, the loss of George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1948 also made the name famous.
24. Girl: Carolyn
– Total baby boomers with this name: 256,829
Deriving from the name Caroline, a feminine version of Charles meaning “free man,” Carolyn’s popularity spiked from the late 1930s through 1950. The Nancy Drew book series, written by a collection of authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, was popular during the time and led to a series of films in the early 1940s that helped further the name’s use.
24. Boy: Jeffrey
– Total baby boomers with this name: 343,488
A variant of the name Geoffrey, stemming from German meaning “pledge of peace,” Jeffrey became a common name in the early 1960s among boys. Olympian Jeffrey Farrell, a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, helped the name’s popularity. Famous Jeffs born during the 1962-64 spike include actor Jeff Garlin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos .
23. Girl: Margaret
– Total baby boomers with this name: 284,735
Tracing back to Sanskrit and ancient Greek words meaning “pearl,” the name Margaret takes many forms, including Marge, Maggie, and Peggy. Actress Angela O’Brien, who took the name Margaret for the stage , was a wildly famous actress at the time, popularizing the name after earning a Juvenile Academy Award in 1944. One of the first female astronauts, Margaret Rhea Seddon, was born in 1948 during the name’s peak popularity.
23. Boy: Timothy
– Total baby boomers with this name: 344,399
A popular biblical name, Timothy, meaning “honoring God,” accompanied the apostle Paul during his missionary work and was the name of several early Christian saints. The name reached the height of its use around 1960, and popular Timothys of that time include actor Timothy Carey, who became a cult icon in the late 1950s for his portrayal of several mentally unstable characters. Timothy Hutton is one famous baby boomer with the name, as are Tim Burton and Tim Robbins, who shortened their title.
22. Girl: Janet
– Total baby boomers with this name: 285,736
Popular actress Janet Leigh released a series of hit movies in the late 1940s, including a film adaptation of Little Women , helping perpetuate the name Janet’s popularity. She also may have helped precipitate its slide after starring in the 1960 classic Psycho . An offshoot of the name Jane, Janet is one of many feminine derivatives of the name John.
22. Boy: Stephen
– Total baby boomers with this name: 345,212
The name Stephen, which means “crown,” rose to use after Saint Stephen, who is considered the first Christian martyr of the New Testament. It has been used by 10 popes, as well as kings and saints. Baby boomers with the name Stephen include author Stephen King and actors Stephen Fry and Stephen Rea. While not as popular today, the moniker’s link to royalty and religion helps it remain in baby-naming books.
21. Girl: Cheryl
– Total baby boomers with this name: 294,755
A combination of the names Cherie and Beryl, Cheryl wasn’t used as a name often until the 1930s. The release of the French book “Cheri,” about a young man and his older female lover, helped spur its popularity . Cheryl Ladd and Cheryl Tiegs are two famous baby boomers.
21. Boy: Edward
– Total baby boomers with this name: 346,440
The name Edward, meaning “rich guard,” has been used by 11 kings of England, most recently in 1936 by Edward VIII. The name’s popularity post-WWII can be attributed to several famous Edwards: journalist Edward R. Murrow, actor Edward G. Robinson, and Jane Eyre character Edward Rochester, who was portrayed by Orson Welles in the 1943 movie adaptation .
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20. Girl: Elizabeth
– Total baby boomers with this name: 302,285
First appearing in Greek form in the Bible, Elizabeth, which means “my God is an oath,” is still among the most popular girl names today. It was linked to royalty during the mid-20th Century, with Elizabeth Truman serving as First Lady from 1945 to 53, and Queen Elizabeth of England rising to the throne in 1952. Actress Elizabeth Taylor was still perhaps the most recognizable namesake of the time, starring in several blockbuster Hollywood movies in the 1940s–1960s.
20. Boy: Dennis
– Total baby boomers with this name: 355,270
Adapted from the French name Denis, the name Dennis traces back to the Greek god of wine, Dionysius. Dennis Barlow was the main character from Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satirical novel The Loved One , which helped perpetuate the name’s image as cool, but began to fall in popularity after two separate Dennis the Menace comics cast a mischievous light on it. Some popular baby boomers with the name include actors Dennis Quaid and Dennis Waterman, as well as Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley.
19. Girl: Lisa
– Total baby boomers with this name: 310,117
A diminutive of Elizabeth, Lisa stems from Hebrew meaning “God is my vow,” and would remain the most popular name for girls from 1962 to 1969. The sudden jolt in the name Lisa, which wasn’t common before 1940, can be attributed in part to Nat King Cole’s famous song “Mona Lisa” in the 1950s, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa touring the U.S. for the first time in 1963. Actresses Lisa Kudrow and Lisa Rinna were named during the last spike of baby boomers in the early ’60s.
19. Boy: Daniel
– Total baby boomers with this name: 420,632
Meaning “God is my judge,” Daniel’s connection as a hero in the Old Testament of the Bible has helped it maintain top 25 status since 1943 . During the baby boomer era, Daniel peaked at #16 in 1957–58, including the birth of Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis in 1957. Baby boomer actors Dan Aykroyd, Danny Glover, Danny Bonaduce as well as former NBA star Danny Ainge all use a form of their given name: Daniel.
18. Girl: Diane
– Total baby boomers with this name: 347,824
Derived from the French name Diana, who was the Roman goddess of the moon and hunting, Diane became more popular among English-speaking countries following the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy in 1817. Diane first appeared as an American name in 1904 and surged in popularity during the baby boomer generation before falling back out of the top 100 in 1972. Popular Dianes born during that time include TV personality Diane Sawyer and actress Diane Keaton.
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18. Boy: Larry
– Total baby boomers with this name: 455,659
The name Larry exploded in usage during the baby boomer era before falling out of favor, and the top 100, in the late 1980s. A pair of Larrys helped push the name into the public consciousness: Larry Doby, who was the second African American to play Major League Baseball after Jackie Robinson; and comedian Larry Fine, one-third of the popular Three Stooges, who made their television debut in the late 1940s. The most famous baby boomer born during the era was NBA legend Larry Bird.
17. Girl: Brenda
– Total baby boomers with this name: 375,275
Brenda means “sword” and stems back to the Old Norse name Brandr. Actress Brenda Joyce starred as Jane in the Tarzan movies in the late 1940s and helped move the name up the list. Musician Brenda Lee helped it reach peak success following her hit “Sweet Nothings,” which topped the rock ‘n’ roll charts in late 1959 .
17. Boy: Paul
– Total baby boomers with this name: 463,865
Latin for small or humble, Paul was one of the first Christian saints and has been the name of six popes. The moniker has faded in usage after remaining in the top 100 from 1880 until 2000. In 1958, when the name reached its zenith among baby boomers, actor Paul Newman earned an Oscar nomination starring alongside Elizabeth Taylor in the smash hit Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
16. Girl: Pamela
– Total baby boomers with this name: 378,780
The name Pamela was invented for the poem “Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney and didn’t appear on Social Security data until 1925. Pamela Churchill Harriman helped popularize the name in England during the 1940s when she was married to the son of Winston Churchill. The name’s popularity spread west, with the likes of actress Pam Grier and astronaut Pamela Melroy representing the moniker during the baby boomer era.
16. Boy: Kenneth
– Total baby boomers with this name: 481,489
The Daily Beast reported in 2014 that while Kenneth was famous in the 1960s, the name is not coming back anytime soon. The English name and surname is also the monogram of three demographic regions in Indiana, Minnesota, and Florida. Baby boomer and singer Kenneth “Kenny” Logins, and famed fashion doll and companion of Barbie , Ken Carson helped make the name extra famous among their generation.
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15. Girl: Kathleen
– Total baby boomers with this name: 389,111
This name may be No. 15 on the list, but the actual first baby boomer, according to NPR , is Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, who was born one second past 12 a.m. on Jan. 1, 1946. One famous baby boomer named Kathleen is J.K. (Joanne Kathleen) Rowling, the English author of the famed literary series Harry Potter . Another baby boomer with the name is Academy and Golden Globe Winner Kathleen “Kathy” Bates.
15. Boy: Donald
– Total baby boomers with this name: 485,417
A popular Scottish moniker, Donald means “ruler of the world” and was the name of many kings throughout the early ages. Walt Disney ‘s Donald Duck brought the name into common use during the 1930s and again while helping defeat Nazis in the early 1940s. Some of the most famous baby boomers with the moniker are actor Don Johnson and President Donald J. Trump.
14. Girl: Cynthia
– Total baby boomers with this name: 400,675
The name Cynthia comes from a Latinized form of Greek, meaning “woman of Kynthos,” and was an epithet toward Artemis, the goddess of the moon. In the 1930s, the moniker rose in public awareness thanks to sculptor Lester Gaba, who created a mannequin of that name for Saks Fifth Avenue. The imperfect statue would become so popular that it attracted fan mail, along with a newspaper column and radio show.
14. Boy: Ronald
– Total baby boomers with this name: 514,894
A pair of Hollywood actors helped make this name popular among baby boomers. Ronald Colman was one of the hottest artists during the 1920s through the 1940s and the first to receive a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Long before he was President of the United States, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star and president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1930s and 1940s.
13. Girl: Debra
– Total baby boomers with this name: 402,356
The Debra naming boom of 1956 can be attributed to actress Debra Paget, who starred in a pair of blockbuster movies that year including Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender and the highly acclaimed The Ten Commandments . Also a variant of Deborah, who was an Old Testament prophetess, Debra means “bee.”
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13. Boy: Steven
– Total baby boomers with this name: 523,192
Originating from the Greek word for “crown,” the rise of Stevens among baby boomers can be associated with a few different factors including Captain America Steve Rogers. Bodybuilder Steve Reeves was making a name for himself as Hercules, and the “King of Cool” Steve McQueen was in full force during the 1950s and early ’60s. Other famous Stevens born during the era include Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and directors Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh.
12. Girl: Carol
– Total baby boomers with this name: 434,726
Short for Caroline and derived from the masculine name Carolus, Carol was the fifth most popular name at its peak in 1946. Comedic actress Carole Lombard was the highest-paid actress of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Her romance with actor Clark Gable and untimely death in a plane crash in 1942 kept the name in the public eye.
12. Boy: Gary
– Total baby boomers with this name: 545,323
The name Gary rose to prominence for baby boomers because of Oscar-winning actor Frank Cooper, a movie star who adapted the stage name Gary after his agent’s hometown of Gary, Indiana. The name’s usage has faded over time, falling out of the top 100 in 1989. Popular baby boomers with the name include Gary Sinise, Gary Oldman, and Gary Busey.
11. Girl: Sharon
– Total baby boomers with this name: 443,862
Sharon didn’t crack the top 1,000 as a name until 1925, but shot into the top 10 from 1943 to ’49, perhaps because of the heroine in the novel The Skyrocket and its subsequently lost film. The name traces back to the Old Testament regarding the Rose of Sharon tree. Sharon Stone and Sharon Osbourne are a pair of baby boomers who claim the name.
11. Boy: Joseph
– Total baby boomers with this name: 551,127
Like so many names on the list, Joseph’s roots trace back to the Bible. It remained consistently in the low teens as a name during the baby boomer era. It has been the name for kings, popes, prime ministers, U.S. presidents, Oscar winners, and countless saints. Not even notorious communist Joseph Stalin marred the name’s usage in the U.S., as boxer Joe Louis was shedding a positive light on it in the early 1940s.
10. Girl: Donna
– Total baby boomers with this name: 489,566
The Italian word for lady, Donna is also the feminine form of Donald, which means “ruler of the world.” Singer Ritchie Valens helped bring the name popularity with his hit tune “Oh Donna,” as did Joan Baez with “Donna Donna.” One famous baby boomer with the moniker is the fashion designer Donna Karan.
10. Boy: Mark
– Total baby boomers with this name: 634,671
Also the name of the second gospel in the New Testament, Mark, like many other baby boomer names, is derived from the Bible. The popularity of author Mark Twain and his novel Huckleberry Finn also lent weight to the moniker when baby boomers were being named. Additionally, the 1963 Hollywood hit Cleopatra brought recognition to the name when it depicted her lover Mark Antony.
9. Girl: Nancy
– Total baby boomers with this name: 504,734
Originally a diminutive of Ann, which means “grace,” Nancy is also the name of a fictional character in Oliver Twist . Though a popular baby boomer moniker, the name skyrocketed by 115.88 percent in 1936, according to Everything Birthday . Three famous women that have kept the name in the forefront are former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi , and singer Nancy Sinatra.
9. Boy: Charles
– Total baby boomers with this name: 666,134
Considered a royal name after the birth of Charles, Prince of Wales, the moniker which means “man,” gained popularity among baby boomers. It’s also the title of one of author Shirley Jackson’s short stories “Charles,” published in 1948. Nicknames for the moniker are Charlie and Chuck. Some of the most famous Charles’ include Darwin, Chaplin, Dickens, Sheen, and Barkley—not to mention Manson.
8. Girl: Sandra
– Total baby boomers with this name: 505,923
Often short for Cassandra or Alessandra, this name was first used as a standalone moniker by author George Meredith in the 1864 novel Emilia in England . Sandra was one of the most popular baby boomer names. Meaning, “defending men,” the name has remained popular over the years in part due to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. However, baby boomer and actress Sandra Dee may be the most notable of all Sandras.
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8. Boy: Thomas
– Total baby boomers with this name: 810,322
As one of the 12 apostles and the follower of Jesus in the New Testament who doubted the resurrection, Thomas became a famous baby boomer name among others derived from the Bible. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , authored by Mark Twain, also gave the name recognition during the baby boom. Two of the most famous men with the name are President Thomas Jefferson and inventor Thomas Edison.
7. Girl: Deborah
– Total baby boomers with this name: 541,809
Most famous for the Old Testament prophetess, the name Deborah means “bee.” A variant of the name includes Debbie, which has been made notable by actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Debbie Harry. “Deborah has suffered from the fact that in the mid-twentieth century there were so many Debbies on the block that the beauty and meaning of the original name got lost,” reports Nameberry.
7. Boy: Richard
– Total baby boomers with this name: 964,562
The German-derived name Richard, which means “brave power,” may have been the moniker of many rulers, but it became most famous for the 1950s singer Little Richard. His Billboard reign with the hit “Tutti Frutti,” in 1955 likely spurred the name on the baby boomer list. Also famous during the era, President Richard Nixon brought name recognition, even if the connotation grew notorious.
6. Girl: Karen
– Total baby boomers with this name: 566,563
The name Karen, of Danish origin, means “pure.” Nameberry reports the moniker “was so popular during the baby boom (Karen was No. 3 in 1960) that it’s locked firmly into fashion limbo today.” One woman who gave the name worldwide recognition in the 20th century was Karen Carpenter, the drummer and lead vocalist in the 1970s sibling singing duo.
6. Boy: William
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.08 million
The name William, which remains popular today, was booming for baby boomers. The name has been the second-most popular baby name for 400 years, according to Nameberry . While the most notable William would be Shakespeare, others who use the name’s variant Bill or Billy include Crystal, Joel, Clinton, Gates, Idol, and Ray Cyrus.
5. Girl: Barbara
– Total baby boomers with this name: 653,737
Barbara, meaning “foreign woman” in Greek, had gained traction as a name in the early 20th century, thanks in part to George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 play Major Barbara . Broadway star Barbara Stanwyck helped the name move into the top 10 from 1928 to 58. Subsequent actresses Barbara Hale and Barbara Payton helped keep the name alive in the 1950s, but it fell back outside the top 100 by 1977 and is nearly falling out of the top 1,000 today.
5. Boy: David
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.37 million
A popular Jewish name, David was the most well-known King of Israel, made famous in the Bible for his defeat of Goliath in 10 B.C. In the baby boomer era, director David Lean snagged Oscars for directing two of the era’s most famous movies: Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Rock ‘n’ rollers David Bowie and David Gilmour, as well as the television personality David Letterman, share the name as baby boomers.
4. Girl: Susan
– Total baby boomers with this name: 734,198
Adapted from Susanna, meaning “lily,” Susan rose into and remained in the top 10 the entire baby boomer era. Two actresses brought the name to the forefront during the era: Susan Peters, who was an established dramatic actress in the 1940s; and Susan Hayward, who starred in multiple major motion pictures during the early 1950s. Susan Lucci, Sarandon, Collins, and Rice all bear the name that nearly reached the top in the late 1950s.
4. Boy: Michael
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.42 million
Michael’s widespread use across religious and cultural groups helped it reach the top spot multiple times among baby boomer names. Meaning “who is like God,” it remained prominent from 1961 through 1998 and was given to athletes Michael Jordan and Mike Tyson, as well as actors Michael J. Fox and Mike Myers. The name has fallen from favor slightly since dominating the 20th century.
3. Girl: Patricia
– Total baby boomers with this name: 793,488
Patricia, the female form of Patrick, meaning “noblewoman,” cracked the top 10 from 1930 to 1967, peaking at third from 1946 to 1952. An influx of Irish immigrants to the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century helps to explain the name’s sudden rise in popularity. One famous baby boomer with the name is actress Patricia Heaton, who starred in Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle .
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3. Boy: John
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.54 million
The name John ranked in the top five until 1972 thanks to its Biblical ties and consistent heroes in society. John “The Duke” Wayne was captivating audiences on the screen in the early 1940s with his tough-guy westerns. The death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 precipitated the name rising back into the No. 2 spot until 1965.
2. Girl: Linda
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.12 million
Linda shot to the top in 1947 and is ranked as the “trendiest baby name in U.S. history.” Jack Lawrence had a smash hit song called “Linda” in 1947 about Linda Eastman, the 1-year-old daughter of his attorney, who would go on to become Linda McCartney. Linda Ronstadt, Linda Hamilton, and Linda Blair were all born during the Linda surge.
2. Boy: Robert
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.54 million
From the Germanic word meaning “bright fame,” Robert grabbed the top spot one last time in 1953, after reigning from 1924 until 1939. Some men who may have helped the name reach the pinnacle once again include actor Robert Newton, who invented the pirate voice in the 1950s Treasure Island , and Hollywood bad boy Robert Mitchum , whose arrest for marijuana possession in 1949 only made his films more popular. Boston Celtics great Robert Parish and musician Robert Plant are two famous baby boomers.
1. Girl: Mary
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.14 million
Mary ranked as the top girl’s name from the first released Social Security data in 1880 until 1946, and again from 1953 to 61. The name is revered in the Christian religion for the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. Popular Marys bringing the name further to the forefront at the time include Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein , and fictional nanny Mary Poppins.
1. Boy: James
– Total baby boomers with this name: 1.59 million
The Old Testament name James has been the given moniker of six U.S. presidents, four saints, and a trio of actors in the 1940s. James “Jimmy” Stewart and James Cagney both claimed Oscars in the early 1940s for their respective roles in The Philadelphia Story and Y ankee Doodle Dandy . At the turn of the 1950s, actor James Dean made the name super cool among baby boomers, although his death in 1955 saw the name’s use slow. After years in the teens, James has climbed back to the No. 4 position today.
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