When trying to find a name that brings to mind a certain period of time, the first stop will likely be an official Social Security Administration tally of the decade’s most popular monikers. And while that’s certainly efficient if you’re looking for a vintage baby name, naming inspiration from more recent decades can come from more modern sources. For example, if you’re looking for a totally awesome ‘90s-inspired baby name, 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.
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, love for this decade runs deep. Read from a roll call circa 1994, and you’ll likely hear popular holdovers from the ‘80s like Andrew, Amanda, Megan, and Joshua. But there are certainly other interesting top-10s to revisit from the heyday of Lisa Frank stickers and boy band fandom.
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.
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 Last Dance. The Hebrew name Jordan also means “flowing down” if you want to mix in some nature vibes when naming your little one.
If you grew up in the ‘90s, you probably recall knowing more than a few boys with the name Justin as a kid. From N*SYNC’s Justin Timberlake to pop star 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, Matthew is another name that enjoys a fairly stable top-20 popularity. With religious ties, Matthew can be a timeless choice if you’re in the market for a boy name that starts with “M.” Bonus: Nicknames like Matt or Matty also have ‘90s vibes.
You likely won’t find a decade-inspired name list from which Michael 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 choosing a name with a religious aspect is important to you.
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? Also, if you’re looking for a name with a biblical connection, Rachel can be found in the Old Testament.
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 SATC, to name a few. So this moniker might bring different pop-culture recollections from everyone who hears it today. Bonus: Samantha Parkington was one of the original American Girl dolls, a classic ‘90s vibe.
Inspired by the comically wicked sisters from the classic 1993 film Hocus Pocus, starring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the moniker sounds cool and unique. Plus when people hear it has a Hocus Pocus inspiration behind it, they’ll run amuck! (Amuck! Amuck!)
Ranked number four by the SSA among the decade’s top female names, this classic, Sarah, dates back to biblical times and has been reported to mean “princess.” Lovers of the ‘90s will no doubt think of singer Sarah McLachlan and the popular music festival Lilith Fair when they hear this baby name.
Though tragedy took the Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla too soon, today her enduring songs still 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.”
Though more frequently heard in the ‘70s, if you’re relying on naming data from the SSA, the name feels more 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 ‘90s Boy Meets World bad boy Shawn Hunter.
Tyler broke into the decade’s top 10 baby boy names, and does retain a certain nostalgic quality when it’s heard today. The name itself means “maker of tiles,” and can be a gender-neutral baby name choice. (Plus, Ty is just such a cute nickname.)
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, so it’s a baby name sure to spark memories of that time period.
Debuting at the top of the ‘90s, Will Smith’s star show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air will always bring alive the decade to our eyes, ears, and hearts. And the name Will is a cool take on the SSA’s 18th most popular male name of the decade, William.
There’s no doubt that the popularity of Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher in Clueless spawned an entire generation of girls sporting her iconic yellow plaid outfit for Halloween. Though it has plenty of ‘90s appeal thanks to Silverstone, the name Alicia means noble, so it’s a beautiful choice that has a strong meaning.
If you want a baby name that will pay homage to a classic ‘90s TV show without being too obvious you can always go with a longer name like Josephine or Joseph and use Joey as a nickname. This gender-neutral Friends character name can also be tied to the likes of another celebrity heartthrob of the time, Joey Lawrence.
If you’re looking for a ‘90s-style baby name that doesn’t necessarily align with any particular celebrity, but gives you the same overall vibe as popular choices like Brittany, Stephanie, or Tiffany, the name Bethany is a great option. The name peaked in popularity in the late 1980s, so there were plenty of Bethanys lining the halls of elementary schools throughout the ‘90s.
It’s hard to think of the ‘90s without imagining the Jonathan Taylor Thomas poster that I carefully ripped from a magazine and taped to the wall in my childhood bedroom. The name Jonathan means “gift of Jehovah,” and while it’s a cute name for a little kid, it also has several options for more grownup nicknames like John or Jim.
One ‘90s baby name that can’t possibly be left off of any baby name list from this decade is Zack. Made popular by Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s Saved By the Bell character Zack Morris, the name is short for Zachary and can also be spelled Zach. So, you’ve got some options to work with if you like the name.
Though it was the ninth most popular for girls born in the decade, Taylor is actually a unisex baby name that works well for either gender. Take, for example, Twilight actor Taylor Lautner, who was born in 1992. The name Taylor originates from the word “tailor,” an occupational name for someone who cuts cloth.
If you grew up in the ‘90s, you likely lived through the decade alongside many girls with the name Kayla. It was in the top 16 names for girls all 10 years of the decade, according to the SSA. Trendy baby names like Kaylani and Mikayla have Kayla in their roots, but the OG name is less popular today.
Anthony was a top 20 name choice for boys born in the 1990s, according to the SSA. Tony, a nickname for Anthony, was also the name of the lead character on the Sopranos, which first aired in 1999 and played on many parents’ TV screens after ‘90s kids went to bed for the night.
The height of Lauren’s popularity in the U.S. was in 1989, when the name ranked ninth with the SSA. The name ping-ponged around the top 20 from 1985 to 2004, but the name really does ring true to the ‘90s decade when literally everyone was wearing Ralph Lauren everything.
This moniker may immediately transport you back in time to the days of TRL on MTV when Carson Daly became a household name. The name Carson is of Scottish origin and means “son of marsh-dwellers,” but it’s also a fitting choice if you want to name your baby after your favorite ‘90s VJ.
A popular ‘80s holdover moniker, Amanda was the sixth most popular name for girls born in the ‘90s, according to the SSA. Anyone who watched Nickelodeon in the ‘90s will remember Amanda Bynes’ rise to fame on All That and The Amanda Show, a legend of the era. Amanda means “lovable” or “worthy of love,” so it’s a sweet choice for your girl.
Whether you choose a baby name inspired by the decades biggest pop culture icons or your 3rd grade BFF, the retro ‘90s names on this list are ready for a reboot.
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