As a new school year gets underway, we’re surveying a century of baby names emblematic of each decade. The path from old-school John and Mary to today’s creative baby names like Anakin and Zendaya has not been a straight or direct one, but it’s certainly been educational. Scroll on to take a peek at some of the top baby names from the past century. We’re betting you might just spot a few that have managed to stay on top throughout the decades.


1915: The (Old) School of Baby Names. A century ago, compulsory education was finally becoming the law of the land in the US, with John and Mary the undisputed top names for children. John would remain number one through 1923; Mary, until 1946. But the more interesting Class of 1915 names are a mix of traditional names reappearing today, such as Frances, Evelyn and Ruth, Charles, Arthur and George, along with others still hovering in fashion limbo: Helen, Irene, Frank, Howard and Harold. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)

1925: Hi, Dottie; Hi, Bobby! “Hi!” was the “yo!” of 1925, when schools in the US were still largely segregated by race and sometimes also by gender. On the name front, Doris joined Dorothy in the Class of 1925, as did Lois, Jean and Gloria, as in Hollywood superstar Gloria Swanson. On the boys’ side, Robert toppled John, becoming the only non-Biblical name to ever hold the boys’ top spot in the US.


1935: Cheer Us Up, Shirley. The Great Depression belonged to the cheerful and charming ShirleyTemple. The Class of 1935 included many a little Shirley, along with the future women of Mad Men, Betty and Joan. Larry, Jerry and Raymond were the Mason, Logan and Oliver of their year. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)

1945: A Celebration of New Names. World War II was ending and the world was ready for a fresh start with a new generation of names. Linda, Carol and Susan were popular for girls; boys were Donald, Ronald, Larry, Gary, Douglas and Dennis.

1955: The Boom of Debbie and Michael. The Baby Boom Class of 1955, who at the height of the Cold War practiced Duck ‘n’ Cover in the classroom, included many a Debbie, with both Deborah and Debra among the most popular names of the decade. Barbara was big, and the iconic Barbie doll would be released in 1959. But shades of today’s trends can be seen in the Class of 1955 too, like modern innovation Cheryl. Boys’ names too start to look familiar. Michael took the number one spot in the US, and Paul, Kenneth, Jeffrey and Gregory all caught on.


1965: The Dawn of a Revolution. The mid-sixties saw the dawn of school integration and student revolution, and newcomer Lisa hit number one on the baby name list. Other novel entries at the top of the girls’ list included Kimberly, Tammy and Michelle, famously crooned by the Beatles in 1965. For boys, there was Brian, as in the Beach Boys, along with fellow surfer dudes Scott and Todd. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)

1975: The Rise of Jennifer and Jason. School became a more free-wheeling place by the mid-1970s, with more innovative teaching methods and adventurous classrooms. The names of 1975 were radically different from the stalwarts like John and Mary, yet there was a certain conformity amid the nonconformity, with Jennifer and Jason, Kimberly and Christopher, Amy and Eric all hugely popular. They would inspire the very first book by Nameberry’s creators, Beyond Jennifer and Jason, first published in 1988.

1985: Names in the Club. Ashley, Megan and Jessica were the cool kids of 1985. Kimberly gave way to Stephanie, Tiffany and Brittany. Class of 1985 members Amber and Crystal were early nature-inspired baby names. And while Michael remained the Class of 1985’s Prom King, the real story of the decade was the letter J. Evergreen Joseph, James and John were joined by Jason, Justin, Joshua, Jacob, Jeremy and the still-popular Jeffrey at the top of the charts.


1995: A New Class of Baby Names. As we watched the young British princes William and Harry move through their school years, the English-speaking world aspired to a new classiness in baby name choices. Upper-crusty surname-names such as Tyler (usually a boy) and Taylor (often a girl) rose to the top of the charts. Rachel was everybody’s favorite Friend, haircut and baby name. Pop culture influences included Alyssa and Samantha (Who’s the Boss), Alexis (Dynasty) and Kayla (Days of Our Lives), plus Disney’s Jasmine, from Aladdin. On the boys’ side, Andrew, Brandon, Zachary and Kyle were go-to choices. But the real story was the slow rise of Aidan, which started in the 1990s. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)

2005: The Vowels Have It. The class of 2005 is still in elementary school, but some of their names are already fading. Aiden and his brothers were heading toward their peak in 2005, with at least five –aiden names in the US Top 100. Girls’ names ranged from the literary and ladylike Emily and Emma to the modern Madison. And baby names that started with vowels earned an A+ from parents.


2015: A Global Mix of Names. As the 2015 school year gets underway, the most compelling news centers on the migrants streaming into Europe from the Middle East and Africa, along with children entering new schools and introducing their diverse world of names. While the top names in the US this year are Sophia and Isabella, Noah and Liam and Mason, the most interesting name stories are the global sensations and novel inventions increasingly heard here and around the world, from Anakin to Zendaya.

Did your fave baby name make the top name of the decade? Let us know in the comments below!

This was originally published on Nameberry by Abby Sandel and Pamela Redmond Satran.