Top 25 Girl Names of the Last 100 Years

One of the biggest and most important tasks for expectant parents is to choose a name for their newest family member. There is no doubt today that parents are struggling to be unique. This seems to be even more challenging when baby girls are involved. Some parents are choosing alternate spellings or gender-bending options, while others are on the search for the perfect name that is both pretty and melodic.

When we consider popular baby girl name lists of late, we are definitely witnessing traditional names being pushed out in favor of the likes of Emma, Sophia, Mia, and Charlotte. Many of these names were unique five or ten years ago, but as more and more people choose them, we can’t say they are unique anymore. Will they still be in favor in 10, 20, or 30 years? It’s tough to say, but if history repeats itself, then the answer is probably “no.” Sometimes the overly popular names are the first to hit the dustbin. It seems in these cases being popular was the predicting factor in their demise.

If we take a retrospective look at popular girls’ names over a longer time frame, completely different names rise to the top. Here we reveal the 25 baby girl names that are the most popular from the last 100 years. Expectant parents might be surprised to find out which ones stand the test of time. It’s also interesting to note that even though these names place in the top 25, many have fallen out of favor of late, making them unique in their own right!

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25 Melissa

The name Melissa is the 25th most popular girl’s name of the last 100 years. This means that almost 750,000 American parents chose it for their baby girls. The name spent a good chunk of the ‘60s through the ‘80s in the top 10 names for baby girls and, although it never enjoyed the #1 spot, it has been such a consistent, popular name that it ranks as one of the historical greats.

Its most popular years were between 1977 and 1979 where it came in at #2. It has been losing popularity over the last 10 years or so, ranking in at spot #253 last year. Most people can say they've been to school with a Melissa or know one personally.

Melissa means “bee” in Greek. Cute short forms include Missy and Mel. We think this name is still cute today and would make a great moniker for any lucky girl.

24 Amanda

Seeing Amanda on this list surprised us a bit. It comes in as the 24th most popular girl’s name since 1916. In total, there were 770,793 baby girl Amandas born in the U.S. over the last 100 years. It was quite popular through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, but slipped to spot #316 in the most recent year.

By comparison, the name Amanda was more popular 100 years ago, holding spot #292. In Latin, it means “lovable” or “worthy of love." Even though Amanda isn’t super popular now, it doesn’t really feel like an old-fashioned name despite the fact that it’s been around since the turn of the century.

Amanda might be a little too common, but if you like the idea of the name you can consider one of the names close to this one. Names like Abbigail, Abriana, Adia, Christa, Danna and Elea are all great names that are also as well liked as Amanda is.

23 Helen

Helen is a very pretty name we don’t hear too much anymore. It was quite popular 100 years ago when it held spot #2 and stayed strong in the top 10 until 1936. That said, it’s been steadily dropping in popularity, ranking in at #419 in the past year.

All told, over the last 100 years, 786,569 American parents chose the name Helen for their baby girls. This airy name has Greek roots and means “torch.” Of course in Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was the cause of the Trojan war. Her beauty and favor was much talked about in the mediterranean.

Variants of the name include Ellen, Helene, and Helena. One of the most modern examples of a famous person who was named Helen would be Helen Keller who was a strong advocate for the blind and continued to educate and fight for  disabled people her whole life.

22 Emily

Emily is a very pretty name that means “hard working.” It has been in the top 10 since 1973 and held the #1 girl’s spot in the U.S. overall between 1996 and 2007. It has since slipped to #8. Over the last 100 years, there were 797,386 baby girl Emilys born on U.S. soil.

It has Roman and French roots and is the female version of Emile. Famous people named Emily include Emily Blunt, Emily Watson, and in the literary world, Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte.

Cute nicknames include Em, Emmy, and Millie. If you're not sure whether you're in love with this name or not, you should have a look at names that are a little similar. Names like Gabriella, Audrey, Elizabeth, Laura, Olivia and Sophia are all great alternatives and some are increasing in popularity recently.

21 Michelle

Michelle isn’t a name that parents are choosing all that often today, but it comes in at the 21st most popular girl’s name of the last 100 years. It spent 53 years in the top 100 between 1954 and 2007 and has since dropped to spot #192. Talk about a dive!

The nice thing about Michelle is that there is no confusion that it’s a name, how to pronounce it, or how to spell it, and 805,932 Michelles were grateful for this over the past 100 years. The only trouble would have been the popularity of the name would have meant being one of numerous Michelles in a classroom.

With French roots, Michelle is the feminine version of Michel. It is particularly popular in Italy and Mexico. Michelle means, "who is like God." If you're tossing this name around in you head, couple it with these names, Renee, Serina, Tamara, or Kacie.

20 Carol

The name Carol makes us think of our mom’s best friend. Every mom has a friend named Carol, right? Carol was in the top 10 between 1936 and 1950 and then stayed in the top 100 until 1973. That probably explains why it feels “older”. It hasn’t ranked in the top 1,000 girl names since 2006 where it came in at spot #972.

Despite its lackluster performance of late, Carol was bestowed upon over 810,000 little American girls in the last 100 years, making it the 20th most popular girl’s name since 1916.

Carol is actually a gender-neutral name and for a female, it’s the short form of Caroline, derived from the male name Carolus. While it seems counterintuitive, you would actually be quite unique if you named your baby girl Carol today.

19 Donna

Donna has Italian roots and means “lady.” It’s a solid girl’s name that enjoyed 50 years in the top 100 between 1926 and 1976. Since then it has grossly fallen out of favor, not even making the top 1,000 names for the past five years. Yikes! That's quite a drop in popularity.

If your name is Donna, you share your name with at least 826,031 other American girls/women of the same name born in the last 100 years. So it's not that the name is necessarily a bad name, it's just that couples aren't choosing this name quite as much as they once were in the past.

Donna as a given name would be a stand out now simply because nobody is choosing it today. Another strength is that it pairs nicely with many middle names, particularly monosyllabic ones. So think about names like Donna Eve, Donna Jo, or Donna Sue for starters. You may even like it so much that you want to use them together as a full name.

18 Kimberly

Kimberly is one name on this list that has a classic feel to it but is also well-suited to a little girl. It was most popular in 1966 and 1967 when it secured spot #2. Now it’s the 18th most popular girl’s name of the last 100 years. This means 830,784 parents chose it for their baby girl since 1916. It currently ranks at #107, which means it's one of those names that could be primed for a come back.

What’s particularly interesting about Kimberly is that it didn’t rank in the top 1,000 names before 1946, and yet it still makes this ranking. The name is said to have been inspired by the South African city of Kimberley in the early 19th century. It is also used for boys as well.

Kimberly is a unisex name believe it or not. For boys it could mean, a lifetime of bullying, so I would really think hard before bestowing this name upon my little boy if I were you!

17 Ashley

Ashley remains one of the prettiest girls’ names in existence and has been in the top 100 since 1978. Further, it secured a spot in the top 10 between 1983 and 2005 but has since slipped to spot #85. This is another airy name that couples love, and no wonder it's got such a lovely sound and rolls right off the tongue.

Ashley was favored by 837,521 parents over the last 100 years. It is English in origin and was inspired by a surname which means “lives in an ash grove.” In the ‘60s it was more common for boys but has switched to a girl’s name since then.

Possible nicknames include Ash or Leigh. Interestingly, this is another girl's name that some parents have given to boys, but again maybe think about it as a second name if it's one from a family heritage.

16 Sandra

Sandra isn’t a name that is in most parents’ consideration set these days and yet it comes in as the 16th most popular girl’s name from the past 100 years. It was quite popular in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, although it never ranked higher than spot #5. Although you might not know a Sandra personally, more than likely your parents or grand parents know one.

Over the last 100 years, 872,565 American parents named their baby girls Sandra. It is said to be the short form of Alessandra of Italian roots. According to Nameberry.com, Sandra means "defending men."

Famous Sandras include Sandra Bullock, Sandra Bernhard, Sandra Oh, and Sandra Dee. We can tell the name is slightly old fashioned when we don’t find any famous Youtubers of the same name. We kid, but Sandra is easy to read and say, not to mention the name just seems beachy. SO if you love the ocean, I would definitely put this on my top 10 list.

15 Lisa

Lisa made waves in the ‘60s, securing the #1 baby girl name spot between 1962 and 1969. Who knew? We bet you can think of at least half a dozen Lisas you know in their late forties or early fifties, right? And now we see there is a good reason why! This name is great for kids because it's easy to spell and easy to say and read. Great name for school!

In the last 100 years, 963,755 parents named their baby girl Lisa. That said, it isn’t very popular today. Last year it ranked in at spot #749. We predict that in another few years, it won’t even be on the top 1,000 baby girl name list anymore. What a shame!

It is said to have German, English and/or Dutch roots and is the short form of Elizabeth or one of its variants. Lisa is another odd girl's name that has been given to boys over the years. Lisa means, "pledge to God."

14 Dorothy

Dorothy comes in as the 14th most popular girl’s name from the last 100 years. It was very popular at the turn of the 19th century and remained solidly in the top 100 until 1962. It has continued to fall out of favor and in 2015 it ranked in at spot #714. One hundred years ago, it was the 3rd most popular girl’s name in the U.S. Since 1916, 965,414 parents chose Dorothy as the name for their baby girl.

We can’t help but think of Kansas when we hear the name Dorothy but this wouldn’t be something that would resonate with today’s children. The Wizard’s Dorothy was likely partly responsible for the name’s popularity so many years ago.

If you were to resurrect this name for your baby girl, you could call her Dot or Thea for short. Dorothy means, "gift of God." You might even remember Dorothy from The Golden girl's TV show played by Bea Arthur.

13 Betty

Betty is a diminutive of Elizabeth but also works as a standalone given name now. This name was very popular between the ‘20s and ‘50s. Although it never made #1, it held the #2 spot from 1928 through 1934. It hasn’t been on the top 1,000 baby girl charts since 1996 at which point it sat at #904.

We’d be surprised if Betty makes a comeback given it is so off trend today, but it remains popular in England and Wales. When we think of famous Bettys, Betty White comes to mind, of course, along with Betty Ford, and Betty Grable. Each of them was born between 1916 and 1922.

This is one of those old timey names that hipsters would love for their little girls. You might even be more familiar with Betty Draper form Mad Men. If you loved that show, you might even consider using Birdie as a nickname for your little Betty.

12 Nancy

We would like to see Nancy make a comeback. Although it’s been around a long time, it doesn’t have the same matronly feel to it like some of the others on this list do. It was quite popular through the ‘30s and ‘40s, but ranked in at #820 most recently. What this means is that 977,902 Nancys were born in the U.S. in the last 100 years.

Nancy is actually a nickname for Anne. Back in the 18th century, Nancy was a nickname for Annis. As Annis became Ann, the nickname carried over. It’s interesting that this nickname is longer than its proper long form. Of course, Nancy is now well recognized as its own standalone name.

The name Nancy means, "grace." It's the perfect name for a little girl who is tough yet beautiful. All the things every parent would want their little girl to be.

11 Karen

Karen comes in as the 11th most popular baby girl’s name in the last 100 years. Karen hasn’t dropped off the radar like some names on this list. In the most recent year, it ranked at spot #504. That said, it’s a far cry from where it sat in 1965 at spot #3.

All told, 983,705 baby girl Karens were born in the U.S. over the last 100 years. Karen is actually the Danish form of Katherine and was popularized in the thirties as the first name on American soil. Karen means, "pure." If you like the name, but think the spelling is kind of bland, you can spell it like, Karyn instead.

Karen doesn’t have a natural short form. But if you decided on it for your baby girl, she’d be in the company of Karen Carpenter, Karen Kain, and Karen Gillan.

10 Sarah

Sarah with an “h” is a name that has truly stood the test of time. It has been popular since the early 1900s. Despite this, it never held the #1 spot. Its best ranking ever was #3 in 1993. Most recently, it ranked in at spot #58.

Everybody knows somebody named Sarah. Some might even need two hands to count them all. As we consider all of the Sarahs born in the last 100 years, we are inching close to the big one million mark but Sarah doesn’t quite crack it. There were 997,487 of them born over the past 100 years on U.S. soil.

Sarah actually comes with some unconventional nicknames, including Sally and Sadie. Sally originated as a nickname for Sarah in England and France, where it wasn’t uncommon to replace “r” with “l” when forming nicknames. As far as Sadie is concerned, it’s possible that someone changed Sarah into Sarie and then to Sadie. Sadie is more common now as a standalone name rather than a nickname for Sarah.

9 Margaret

We aren’t surprised to find Margaret on this list. It’s a classic name that has never really gone out of vogue. Most recently it ranked at spot #154. One hundred years ago, it was #4. Over one million Margarets were born in the last 100 years and we can see why.

The name itself was derived from the Latin Margarita which means, “pearl” in Greek. Who doesn't love a Latin name. They seem so regal and dignified.

Margaret is a great name that also has some cute nicknames suitable for a little girl; think Maggie or Margie. More unconventional nicknames include Peggy and Daisy. Peggy is a fairly well-known nickname for Margaret but Daisy is a little more obscure. By explanation, “Marguerite” is the French form of Margaret. Marguerite also means Daisy in French, hence, it is another nickname for Margaret.

8 Jessica

Jessica rose to mass popularity through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. In fact, it held the #1 baby girl name spot between 1985 to 1990 and 1993 to 1995. Wow, talk about a long run. Now it sits pretty at spot #206. All told, there were 1.04 million Jessicas born to U.S. parents over the last 100 years. You probably know a Jessica yourself.

Jessica feels pretty on-trend with baby girl names of today. It ticks a couple of trendy boxes, including the fact that it ends in an “a” and that it’s multisyllabic. Cute nicknames include Jess and Jesse. While there isn't a known meaning for Jessica, the boy name Jesse means "gift" in Hebrew.

Famous Jessicas include Jessica Simpson, Jessica Biel, Jessica Lange, Jessica Alba, Jessica Tandy, oh and of course, Jessica Rabbit.

7 Susan

As the 7th most popular baby girl name of the last 100 years, we aren’t surprised to find Susan on this list. If you’re named Susan, you’re in the company of roughly 1.1 million other Susans born over the last 100 years. Currently, Susan ranks at spot #929, but its best years were 1957 through 1960 where it held spot #2.

The name has been pushed aside to make way for all of the Emmas, Sophias, and Mias born of today. It’s shocking to realize if you chose this name for your baby girl, she may very well be the only one in her class. Which has perks in and of itself.

Susan was developed as an English variant of Susanna and means, "lilly." Famous Susans include Susan B. Anthony, Susan Sarandon, Susan Lucci, and Susan Boyle.

6 Barbara

Barbara makes the list as the 6th most popular girl’s name of the last 100 years. In fact, this name was quite popular 100 years ago and stayed pretty strong until 1976. Its best years were 1937 through 1934 when it ranked in at spot #2. Presently it holds spot #865. All told, 1.4 million American parents chose Barbara for their baby girl since 1916.

Barbara has Greek roots, stemming from Barbaros meaning "foreign" or "strange." This really doesn’t provide a compelling reason to choose this name for your girl, but if you do decide on it, she’ll be in the company of Barbara Bush, Barbara Walters, Barbara Hershey, and Barbara Eden.

Common nicknames for Barbara include Bar, Babs, Bebe, Bobbie, or Barbie. Barbara means, "foreign woman." Although we're sure you'll love the nicknames almost as much as you do the name itself!

5 Linda

This name was popular between the ‘40s and ‘70s, but it’s fallen heavily out of favor of late, such that it held spot #670 most recently. That said, it ranked as the #1 baby girl’s name between 1947 and 1952. Linda is actually the name that toppled Mary from the four hundred year reign as the top name. Although Linda has fallen further than Mary in popularity today.

In Spanish and Portuguese, Linda means "beautiful," fitting because close to 1.5 million American parents chose this name for their beautiful baby girls over the last 100 years. It's such a great name since it's only real diminutive is Lynn, which makes another great name either as a first name or a nickname.

Linda is quite popular in Iceland (#32), Czech Republic (#43), Italy (#57) and Switzerland (#60). Famous Lindas include Linda Evangelista, Linda Blair, Linda Ronstadt, and Linda Cardellini.

4 Elizabeth

Just missing the podium, Elizabeth takes the spot as the 4th most popular baby girl’s name from the last 100 years. Elizabeth’s run has been very impressive. Its worst ranking was #26 in 1945. That said, it’s never been #1. Pretty decent for a name that is pretty well known amongst English speakers.

Elizabeth is Hebrew in origin and means “oath of God” or “God is satisfaction.” We're pretty sure you'll love this name too. It has such a lovely sound to it and it's been a favorite name amongst royal families for generations.

One really nice feature of Elizabeth is it provides a wealth of options for nicknames: Liz, Lizzy, Liza, Libby, Liz, Lizbeth, Beth, Betty, Betsy, Bess, Bessie, Elle, Ellie . . . the list goes on. This means the name transitions very nicely from a little girl to an adult.

3 Jennifer

Taking the bronze medal for the third most popular girl’s name of the last 100 years is Jennifer. This name was incredibly popular through the ‘70s and ‘80s such that any little Jennifer was burdened with her last initial to identify her from the other throngs of Jennifers in her class.

Jennifer reigned supreme as the #1 baby girl name between 1970 and 1984. It wasn’t until 2009 that it fell off the top 100 chart. Naturally, a big drawback to choosing Jennifer for your baby girl today is that you probably know a dozen adult Jennifers so it will never feel unique to you, which is too bad because it is a pretty name.

Jennifer stems from the Welsh name Guinevere meaning “fair one.” The name remains very popular in Mexico where it takes spot #36. The great thing about Jennifer is that it has a great nickname as well, Jen or Jenn. These also make great short monosyllabic names as well.

2 Patricia

Edging out Jennifer by about 100,000 is Patricia. This name takes the cake as the 2nd most popular baby girl’s name in the last 100 years. All told, there were 1,565,942 baby girls named Patricia born in the U.S. over the past 100 years. Which is still pretty impressive for a name that isn't overly used today.

Patricia was never more popular than #3, a spot which it held for many years through the ‘30s and the ‘50s. Most recently, it ranked at spot #808 demonstrating that it has fallen out of favor of late. We think you'll love this name because of the adorable nicknames you can use with this great moniker. Names like Pattie, Tricia, Pat, and Trish are all great diminutives of Patricia.

Patricia means “noble” and has Spanish roots. It also affords many nicknames, including Pat, Patty, Patsy, Trish, and Tricia.

1 Mary

Well, there is definitely something about Mary! Here we have the number one baby girl’s name in the last 100 years. It is so popular that there were almost two million more Marys born in this time frame than there were Patricias, the #2 name on the list. Wow. That definitely is something. Approximately 3.5 million parents chose Mary for their baby girls over the last 100 years.

Mary reigned supreme as the #1 baby girl’s for a whopping 47 years between 1900 and 1946, and then again from 1953 through 1961. In the past 100 years, it’s never been less popular than it was most recently, coming in at spot #124.

This name naturally has strong biblical connotations and means “wished for child”. It also makes a wonderful middle name should you want to include Mary in your daughter’s name but aren’t sold on it as a first name.

Sources: Behind The Name, She Knows, United States Social Security Administration

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