Some parents, like myself, gravitate toward popular baby names. Ones that have been around since the English name was put in place and stand the text of time. Others argue that unique names are the only way to go. I'm a member of both camps. My daughter Ever Elizabeth received both — Ever being an odd, unusual name given to both boys and girls, and Elizabeth being a timeless, popular moniker. Because there is just something about a classic name that you can't resist.
Every year, the Social Security Administration releases its list of the most popular girl and boy names from the previous year. If you look at the most popular American baby names since the list began in 1961, you find that certain names, even when they fall out of favor for years, rise back to the top of the list at some point. According to the SS data, the names Michael and Mary have been the most enduring of all American names. Take a look at some of the other classic names that parents return to year after year.
1. There’s Something About Mary
Meaning “sea of bitterness or sorrow’’, Mary is a beautiful and powerfully feminine name. The movie There’s Something About Mary created a central character that was lovely, strong, pure and feisty. According to an article in The Atlantic, Mary was the most popular name since the beginning of record-keeping, through 1961, where it has since fallen 94 percent.
2. The Star Of The Name David
From David Bowie to David Beckham, David Foster Wallace to David Lynch, many men have taken on this popular moniker and made it their own. David means ‘darling’ or ‘beloved’, and is a strong, classy name that somehow still allows a multitude of personalities to shine through.
3. Margaret, Maisie, Margie, And More
Margaret, meaning ‘pearl’, is a very proper sounding name that has sprung a multitude of nicknames, possibly accounting for its popularity over the hundreds of years. I myself was named Margaret, but have been called Maggie since the day I was born. Other popular nicknames for Margaret are Daisy, Meg and Marnie.
William as a name was sprung from William The Conquerer, who invaded England. Composed of the elements willeo (will, determination) and helm (protection, helmet), the name means "resolute protector." Will and Bill share the spot of most popular shortening of William, a-la Will Smith and Bill Clinton.
5. Elizabeth, Betsy, And Beth
A name born from the Bible, Elizabeth is derived from the Hebrew elīsheba' (God is my oath). Elizabeth has made a transformation in modern times from an entirely proper name to one that carries a bit of spark and sass (Elizabeth Taylor surely had something to do with that cultural shift.) Nicknames for Elizabeth range from the darling Betsy and Bess to the more common Liz.
Patricia is the feminine form of Patrick, which is from the Latin patrician meaning nobleman, an aristocrat. Patty — think Peppermint Patty — was once a common nickname in the United States Trisha, Trish, Pat, and Cici.
Derived from the Hebrew mīkhā’ē‘l, Michael means ‘who is like God’. A timeless name with the well known and used nickname Mikey and Mike, Michael has been in the top names for boys throughout the 2000s, due in part to celebrities like Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Michael J. Fox.
Jennifer, which rose to popularity in the 70s, has always been one of the most popular names in the English-speaking world. A derivative of Guinevere, Jennifer means ‘fair spirit’. If Jennifer Garner is an accurate representation of the name, then we agree!
John is the number one enduring of the biblical names and remains one of the most popular names in the United States. The Biblical meaning of John is ‘the grace of mercy of the Lord’, while the Hebrew meaning is ‘Jehovah has been gracious’. Johnny, a very popular nickname for John, is often associated with “bad boys” — think of Johnny Knoxville or the song “Johnny B. Goode.”
The name Linda has a varied pedigree: it means ‘beautiful’ in Spanish but has a Germanic origin meaning soft, tender. It's also Old German for 'serpent' or 'lithe as a serpent'. In Afrikaans it means 'wait', and in Kiswahili it means to guard, protect or defend. Peaking in the United States in the 1940s, there are still plenty of Lindas out there and plenty of songs referencing this moniker, including “Lady Linda” by The Beach Boys and “The Lovely Linda” by Paul Mccartney.
Images: Courtesy of Maggie May Ethridge; Giphy (11)