Cool kids: The most popular baby names for boys and girls

oct. 25, 2021

Expecting a baby is an exciting time, and one thrilling element of anticipating your little one’s arrival is choosing the name your son or daughter will carry for the rest of their lives. While some parents-to-be try hard to pick a name that no one else will have, others love the idea of selecting a name that’s experiencing a surge in popularity. The popularity of certain names tends to be cyclical (like how the name Henry was incredibly popular in the 1880s and has seen resurgence in the last several years). In fact, names are so fascinating, there’s a whole field of academic study, called onomastics, dedicated to examining the origins and history of names.

Each year in the United States, the Social Security Administration releases its list of top baby names (10 top boy names and 10 top girl names), based on what names parents’ put on their children’s birth certificates. If you’ve found a name on the most popular list you absolutely love but you want to make your child stand out, don’t worry! There are still ways to be special. Some new parents will make a name unique with a slightly different spelling, a clever nickname derived from a popular name (like naming a baby girl Evelyn, but calling her Evie) or pairing a popular name with a less-common middle name.

No matter what name you choose for your baby, rest assured that your child will be absolutely unique, even if your Noah is on a baseball team with a few others who share his name.

Here’s the current list of top baby names for boys and girls in the U.S.

Most popular boy names:

  1. Liam

  2. Liam has been the top name for boys in the United States for four years running (it was in the top 10 for five years before that), and it shows no sign of slowing down. It’s a classic Irish name meaning "strong-willed warrior" or "protector," both great sentiments for a courageous young man. This baby boy name can be a given name or a nickname for William, another boy name that appears on the top 10.

  3. Noah

  4. After 4 years at the #1 spot, Noah has been holding steady at #2 for four years. The Biblical name with Hebrew origins means “peaceful,” “long-lived” and “comforter.” In the Bible, Noah was the visionary who built an ark in advance of the great flood, thus saving humanity. Those are big shoes to fill!

  5. Oliver

  6. This name has multiple possible histories, including an old Norse name that means “ancestor’s descendent” and also the French name for “olive tree.” The French spelling, Olivier, was changed to the current spelling to become a common name in medieval England. Regardless of the backstory, moms and dads love this name, since it’s been the third most popular name for boys for three years running.

  7. Elijah

  8. The second Biblical name in the top 10, Elijah’s Hebrew meaning is "Jehovah is my God." With the single-syllable Eli as a natural nickname, Elijah has been in the top 10 most popular boy names for five years now.

  9. William

  10. If you’re looking for a boy name that is classic and timeless, it’s hard to do better than William. It’s derived from Wilhelm, an Old German name that means "resolute protector" or "strong-willed warrior,” but it gained popularity in England after the Conquest of William the Conqueror. And, the world’s most famous present-day prince, Prince William, helps keep it top of mind. Looking for nicknames? Bill, Billy, Liam, Will and Willy all fit here.

  11. James

  12. Your little man might not always be a saint, but if you name him James, he’ll share his name with one. The name is derived from Jacomus, a Latin term meaning “God will protect.” There have been plenty of famous James, including five U.S. presidents (Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan and Garfield all had the first name of James).

  13. Benjamin

  14. Back on the top 10 list for six years running, this name with Hebrew roots means “son of my right hand,” which, in the ancient world, meant a place of favor. Looking for cute nicknames? Ben and Benji are both shorter and easier for little ones to say.

  15. Lucas

  16. This name has been in the top 10 list for just three years, but it has roots dating back to ancient history. It’s derived from Luke or Lucius, meaning "light-giving" or "illumination." Some parents choose to use their own twist on this name, such as Luca or Lukas.

  17. Henry

  18. Henry cracked the top 10 for the first time in more than 20 years, but its roots date back millennia. Meaning “ruler,” perhaps the most famous Henry was King Henry VIII, though Prince Harry of the United Kingdom is a present-day celebrity who shares it as his given name. Fun fact: the Spanish version is Enrique.

  19. Alexander

  20. Alexander is back on the top 10 list for boys after being on the list from 2008 to 2015. The name originated in ancient Greece and means “defender of the people.” If you’re looking for alternate spellings, there are plenty to choose from, including Alejandro, Alessandro, and Alexzander, while nicknames could be Alex, Xander or Sasha.

Most popular girl names:

  1. Olivia

  2. This baby girl name’s popularity is here to stay—it’s been on the top 10 list since 2001! It’s the female form of the (also popular) boy name Oliver, and it sports cute nicknames like Liv, Libby and Livvy. Did you know? Shakespeare likely helped cement the name in the English language by naming a character Olivia in his play, Twelfth Night.

  3. Emma

  4. Emma has been in the top 10 most popular girl names in the United States since 2002. The name has Latin roots and means “universal.” It can be both a nickname for other given names like Emily or Emmeline and can have its own nicknames like Em or Emmy.

  5. Ava

  6. This Latin-derived name means “like a bird,” which might inspire a cute nickname like Birdie. While it was the name of old Hollywood film star Ava Gardner, it’s also the name of current celebrities including Ava Philippe (the daughter of Reese Witherspoon). Some parents choose to pronounce the name the same way but spell it Eva or Avah instead.

  7. Charlotte

  8. This lovely girl’s name has French roots and means “free.” It’s the feminine of Charles, making it a sweet way to honor a relative, if you’ve got a Charles in your family tree. It’s been in the top 10 since 2014, likely boosted in popularity by Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the U.K.’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Nicknames for Charlotte include Lotte, Lottie, Charlie and Charli.

  9. Sophia

  10. The Greek word for “wisdom” is sophia, which is where this name got its start. Alternate spellings abound and include Sofia, Sofiya and Sofea. Sophie is a cute nickname if you choose this one for your daughter.

  11. Amelia

  12. This elegant name has Germanic and Latin roots, as it was originally derived from the Germanic name Amala, which comes from Amal, which means “work.” Perhaps naming your little girl Amelia will ensure that she has a great work ethic? Regardless, she’ll have a timeless name to call her own.

  13. Isabella

  14. This name has been popular for years now, landing in the top 10 for more than a dozen years. With Italian origins, it means “God is my oath.” There are plenty of nicknames if you name your daughter Isabella, including Bella, Belle, Izzy, Isa and Iz.

  15. Mia

  16. A diminutive form of the name Maria, this name has Scandinavian origins that mean “of the sea” or “bitter.” Mia has had a place on the top 10 list since 2009. Some famous women named Mia include actress and former model Mia Farrow, Olympic gold medalist and soccer player Mia Hamm and Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, who played the title character in Disney’s Alice In Wonderland.

  17. Evelyn

  18. This English-derived name means “beautiful bird” and is related to another top-10 name (Ava). Nicknames for Evelyn can include Eve, Ev, and Evvy, Evie and Lynn. Fun fact: though Evelyn is almost always a girls’ name in the United States, in England it’s considered equally appropriate for baby boys and girls.

  19. Harper

  20. The name’s meaning isn’t much of a mystery if you really think about it. It’s English roots mean “harp player.” Even if your little girl doesn’t choose to pursue music, she’ll still be the recipient of a terrific name.

Claire Bradley

Looking for more baby name inspiration? Try Huggies’ Baby Name Finder!