When trying to find a name that brings to mind a certain period of time, the first stop will likely be a government tally of the decade’s most popular monikers. And while that’s certainly efficient, it’s not the only way to go about it. Tap into the years’ pop culture by scanning poignant programming — both on screens and on the airwaves — to help conjure a moment in time. Another way to go about it? Talk with friends, both ones that were born in the decade and ones that came of age in it; no doubt people, places, and things will arise that’ll spur inspiration for a unique name.
Like the 1990s. There is just something about the ‘90s, whether you grew up in the height of dial-up internet and Stick Stickly on Nickelodeon, or were born just as neon windbreaker tracksuits were becoming a thing. Read from a ‘90s roll call, and you’ll likely hear popular holdovers from the ‘80s, like Andrew, Amanda, Megan, and Joshua.
But there are other interesting top-10s to revisit. Yes, you’ll find the greatest hits from the ‘90s here, but you’ll also discover names that bring a
feeling of the ‘90s. So get ready to relive the decade that brought us The Fresh Prince, a vampire slayer, and a prime-time teen drama so popular, it got a reboot just a couple of years ago. Are you ready to play the ‘90s name game? Duh. 1 Ashley
While the Social Security Administration (SSA) ranked it the decade’s second most popular female name, it bounced between
the top two spots for most of the early ‘90s and late ‘80s. Today, consider having fun with the spelling (try Ashlee, or Ashleigh), or use it as a jumping-off point for a slightly different take, like Ashlynn, Ashton, or even Ash. It once meant a meadow where ash trees were found, so it has a super rustic, #cottagecore kind of feel. 2 Brandon
Eleven, if you want to know its cumulative SSA ranking for the decade. One, if you want to know its relevance ranking from any
Beverly Hills 90210 fan. The name Brandon is also connected to names that once meant “prince” and also... “broom-covered hill.” I’d go with prince. 3 Britney
While not an SSA No. 1 moniker, it felt ubiquitous thanks in part to the enduring pop star Britney Spears. Today it’s unlikely to make every kindergarten roll call, so you might enjoy a renewed freshness. (And it has a whole bunch of spellings.)
Fans of the quirky, now-classic ‘90s
television show will need no further prompting. Though very rare (you’re not going to find it in the SSA’s top 100), it’ll totally resonate with lovers of the decade and give your kid a powerful role model. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5 Christopher
You might think it was the most popular name of the ‘90s — and you’d be almost right. When tallying the ranks of the decade, the SSA handed it the number two spot.
It’s said to have religious roots, and feels more stalwart than trendy. 6 Daniel
The Karate Kid to the famous PBS Tiger, the name feels nostalgic and timely. Perhaps it’ll get a boost from today’s Emmy-nominated Karate Kid reboot, ? Cobra Kai 7 Daria
MTV network’s cartoon just feels like the decade, though it debuted in its later half. The name carries a new cool vibe today, and you can pretty much guarantee there won’t be two Darias in your kid’s second grade class. 8 Elizabeth
The SSA gave it the decade’s 8
th most-popular-female slot, but the classic name boasts a top-20 status for over 50 years. How much of the ‘90s fame can be traced back to the wildly popular ‘80s book series, …? Sweet Valley High 9 Frasier
OK, so it may not have cracked the government’s count of the top-10 decade names, but who can think of ‘90s sitcom history without recalling
this Emmy-winner? (It was nominated over 100 times in its original television run.) You want ‘90s? You got it here with the baby name Frasier, and it even means “strawberry” which is kind of darling. 10 Jacob
Exceptional for its popularity in the ‘90s as well as its SSA-ranked
chart-topping surge in the aughts, this name can hardly claim under-the-radar status. But if you’re looking for one that evokes the decade and feels of-the-moment, Jacob, which means “supplanter,” might be your pick . 11 Jerry
If you don’t think of the decade’s (and perhaps one of history’s?) top television sitcoms,
Seinfeld, perhaps Tom Cruise’s sports dramedy Jerry Maguire comes to mind with the baby name Jerry. 12 Jessica
Say hello to the
decade’s number one female name, as per the SSA. Jess, Jessie, Jessy – however you call it, it belongs in the time capsule. To add some intrigue, the name doesn’t even have a well-known meaning. 13 Jordan
Is it possible to think of the ‘90s and not marvel at the extraordinary wins of basketball legend and businessperson Michael Jordan? Many people got an even deeper glimpse into the icon’s life in the famed 2020
documentary . The Hebrew name also means “flowing down” if you want to mix in some nature vibes. The Last Dance 14 Justin
From N*SYNC’s Justin Timberlake to YouTube popstar explosion Justin Bieber, the name continues to echo throughout recent pop culture. Justin also means “fair, righteous,” which gives it a bit of sweetness.
Number three for the decade, according to the SSA, this is another name that enjoys a fairly stable top-20 popularity.
With religious ties, Matthew can be a timeless choice, and also has a few nicknames like Matt or Matty. 16 Michael
Admittedly, you likely won’t find a decade-inspired name list from which this one is absent. In fact, the SSA ranked it the
most popular male name of the ‘90s. It’s cooled a bit since, so perhaps not so many kids today will have to add a last name initial to their classroom roll calls. Michael also means “who is like God?” if you want some religious aspects. 17 Rachel
Falling five spots short of the SSA’s top 10 for the decade, the name gets a pop-culture boost from the enduring TV show
Friends. Could there be any more reason to include it here? 18 Samantha
It seems you can recall a famous television Samantha from every TV decade: There’s Samantha Stephens from the ‘60s sitcom
Bewitched, Samantha from the ‘80s family love-fest Who’s The Boss, and Samantha Jones from the cable sensation Sex and the City, to name a few. So this moniker might bring different pop-culture recollections from everyone who hears it today. 19 Sanderson
Inspired by the comically wicked sisters from the classic
1993 film , starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the moniker sounds cool and unique. Plus when people hear it has a Hocus Pocus Hocus Pocus inspiration behind it, they’ll run amuck! 21 Selena
the Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla too soon; her enduring songs conjure memories of hot summers in the early ‘90s. Let the name bring fun, joy, and exuberance decades later, especially since the name Selena means “moon goddess.” 22 Shawn
Though more frequently heard in the ‘70s, as per the SSA, the name feels at home in this decade. Shifting the spelling to Sean does spike its popularity in the U.S. in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, but Shawn gives vibes of
Boy Meets World bad boy Shawn Hunter. 23 Tyler
Tyler broke into the decade’s top ten, and does retain a nostalgic quality. The name can even be gender-neutral.
The name Whitney reached a peak in the mid-80s but remained in our ears throughout the early part of the next decade.
The Bodyguard soundtrack to the 1992 hit film holds Whitney Houston’s biggest number 1 hit, “I Will Always Love You.” You couldn’t flip to a radio station that wasn’t playing this timeless song in the decade’s early years. 25 Will
Debuting at the top of the ‘90s, Will Smith’s star show
will always bring alive the decade to our eyes, ears, and hearts. And the name Will is a cool take on the SSA’s 18 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air th most popular male name of the decade, William.