Baby Name Meanings: Top 50 Boy & Girl Names of All Time

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I’ve been fascinated by baby names and baby name meanings for a long time, and here’s the thing: There’s a reason why names like James and Mary top the all-time popularity list. Not only do they have a long and storied past, but they have interesting baby name meanings as well.

While trendy names like Mason and Nevaeh come and go, if you’re looking for a tried-and-true classic name, you won’t do much better than one of the ones on this all-time favorites list. And because baby name meanings are important — the thing that can make or break what you name your kid — I included those as well.

Check out the top 50 baby name lists for both girls and boys over the past century, and find the perfect baby name for your kid!

Top 50 Baby Girl Names

1. Mary
The mother of Jesus inspired millions of parents to give this name to their own daughters. It has a less-auspicious baby name meaning, though—it means bitter.

2. Patricia
Patricia comes from the Latin word for noble (aka patrician), and it reigned in the top 10 throughout the Baby Boom generation.

3. Jennifer
This variant spelling of medieval Guinevere ruled the 1970s—as you may know if you were one of the 800,000 girls given the name during that decade. It means white shadow.

4. Elizabeth
This Biblical classic comes with a slew of great nicknames that help keep it fresh and timeless—and a wonderful baby name meaning, “consecrated to God.”

5. Linda
You don’t hear that many baby Lindas being born these days, but this name was red-hot during the baby boom of the 1940s and 1950s. It means lovely.

6. Barbara
It sounds a bit outdated, thanks to its ubiquitousness from the 1920s to the 1960s, but Barbara has roots all the way back to ancient times—it means “foreign woman” in Latin.

7. Susan
A sweet floral name (it means lily), Susan reigned supreme from the 1930s to the 1960s.

8. Margaret
I picked this tried-and-true classic for my own daughter, as I love its versatility of nicknames and the fact that it was also the name of my beloved aunt. It means pearl.

9. Jessica Jessica was the hot girls’ name for much of the 1980s, and was an invention of William Shakespeare’s. There’s no attached meaning, but Jesse/Jessie means wealthy.

10. Sarah
This Hebrew name means princess, and was one of the top 10 names from the late 1970s through the start of the 21st century.

11. Dorothy
The beloved book Wizard of Oz helped rank Dorothy, which means gift of God, in the top 10 names for much of the early 20th century—it actually started its decent from its peak right after the legendary movie was released.

12. Karen
Karen is one of those “trendy” names that had a meteoric rise in popularity in the 1930s and 40s, peaked in the 1960s, and has since dropped below the top 500. It’s Katherine’s Danish cousin, and shares its meaning, pure.

13. Nancy
You don’t see too many baby Nancys anymore. But this variant of Ann, most popularized by the classic teen detective Nancy Drew, was red hot from the 1930s to the 1960s.

14. Betty
This old school nickname for Elizabeth was popular last century as a name in its own right. It shares Elizabeth’s meaning, consecrated to God.

15. Lisa
Yet another testament to the popularity Elizabeth—this nickname became a red-hot name in the 1960s and 1970s. It also means consecrated to God.

16. Sandra
A feminized variant of Alexander, Sandra shares its meaning, defender of men, but not its popularity—it’s fallen to the #800 spot in popularity today.

17. Ashley
Ashley started out as a boys’ name, but became a red-hot pick for girls in the 1980s. It means ash tree meadow.

18. Kimberly
Kimberly comes from the name of a South African town. It reached its peak of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.

19. Donna
This popular name means lady in Italian.

20. Helen
The face that launched a thousand ships, if Greek myth is to be believed, Helen means shining light.

21. Carol
A Baby Boomer staple, Carol is a feminization of Charles and means free man.

22. Michelle
How popular was Michael? So popular that it raised the profile of this feminization of the name, which was a consistent top 10 throughout the 1970s. The name shares Michael’s meaning, “Who is like God?”

23. Emily
Emily was a top baby name pick for much of the last decade or two—it means rival.

24. Amanda
Spurred to the top by the Barry Manilow ballad Mandy, Amanda comes from the Latin word for “loved.”

25. Melissa
A top choice in the 1970s and 1980s, Melissa is a Greek name that means honeybee.

More: Top Baby Girl Names 26-50 & Top 50 Baby Boy Names

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