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The Most Popular Baby Names of 2022 

Social Security reveals latest list, and Liam and Olivia continue to reign


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If you were born 50 years ago, you probably went to school with quite a few kids named Jennifer and Michael, the two most popular baby names of the early 1970s. Kids born last year — and in the past several years, actually — will likely have a lot more friends named Liam and Olivia.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released its roster of the most popular baby names of 2022. For the fourth straight year, Olivia topped the list for girls, while Liam reigned among boys’ names for the sixth straight year.

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Olivia — Latin for “olive tree” and the feminine form of Oliver — ranked 504th among girls’ names 50 years ago. It cracked the top 100 in 1990, the top 10 in 2001 and muscled Emma aside to hit No. 1 in 2017.

Liam is an Irish name meaning “strong-willed warrior.” Short for Uilliam, the Irish equivalent of William, Liam’s climb was even steeper than Olivia’s — it wasn’t among even the 1,000 most popular boys’ names in 1972. After a steady, decades-long rise, Liam entered the top 10 in 2012 and quickly reached No. 1.

There were 20,456 Liams born in 2022, according to the SSA, representing 1.1 percent of all male births. The 16,573 Olivias represented 0.92 percent of newborn girls.

There was only one new entry on either top 10 list for 2022, with Luna dislodging Harper to make the girls’ top 10.

Top Baby Names of 2022

Rank 
Male Name Female Name
1 Liam Olivia
2 Noah Emma
3 Oliver Charlotte
4 James Amelia
5 Elijah Sophia
6 William Isabella
7 Henry Ava
8 Lucas Mia
9 Benjamin Evelyn
10 Theodore Luna
Source: Social Security Administration

The most common names of 50 years ago have slipped in popularity, particularly on the girls’ side.

Jennifer, an Anglicized version of the Welsh name Guinevere and meaning “fair complexion,” reigned as the top girl’s name from 1970 through 1984, when it peaked in popularity with 50,561 Jennifers being born. In 2022, it slipped out of the top 500, dropping from 494 to 502. Among the 10 most popular girls’ names of 1972, the highest-ranking now is Amy, then No. 5, now No. 205.

Michael, a biblical name meaning “who is like God,” dominated the boys’ list for nearly four decades, ranking No. 1 from 1961 through 1998, when it peaked with 36,617 births. It ranked 16th in 2022, between Jack and Alexander.

For soon-to-be parents on the cutting edge, the fastest-rising names of 2022 were Dutton for boys, making its first appearance in the top 1,000 at No. 835, and Wrenlee for girls, coming in at No. 712 (not to be confused — or, perhaps, often to be confused — with Wrenley, No. 284).

The 'Yellowstone' effect

As is often the case, the latest SSA list shows the pull of pop culture on new parents. For example, Yellowstone fans will recognize Dutton, the boy's name making the biggest jump last year, as the surname of Kevin Costner's brood in the hit TV western. The second fastest-rising male moniker, Kayce, is sported on the show by one of the Costner character's sons.

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Similarly, from time to time a hit song will inspire a popular baby name. Rosanna, for example, shot up from No. 821 to 439 in 1982, the year Toto released its smash “Rosanna.” Similarly, Windy hit the list of the 1,000 most popular names in 1967, the year The Association had a hit of the same name. (Both names have long since dropped out of the top 1,000.)

A popular person will also inspire parents. Elvis, for example, peaked at No. 404 in 1978, the year after Presley's death; it last made the list in 2011, at 904. Britney jumped from No. 452 in 1998 to 137 in 2000 as Britney Spears took over the pop charts. Jesus has been in the top 500 names since 1900; Muhammad has been steadily gaining in popularity since 1976.

The movie Rocky was released in November 1976. The name Rocky rose from No. 383 that year to 328 in 1977, and peaked at 302 in 1979. It actually hit its peak in 1955, at No. 240, up from 954 in 1942. One possible explanation: Boxer Rocky Marciano, the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, held the world title from 1952 to 1956.

Where you live can have a bearing on what you’ll name your children, too. Parents in the Northwest are the least likely to choose the most popular names for their kids. In Oregon, for example, Oliver and Evelyn outpaced Liam and Olivia in 2021 (the SSA won’t have updated state-by-state info available until later this month), and in Montana, the top 10s include Asher, Jackson, Hazel and Willow. States with large Latino populations such as Texas and New Mexico are home to many a young Mateo and Santiago.

Other names tend to reflect the age. A 2003 paper by Matthew W. Hahn and R. Alexander Bentley argues that unusual times bring unusual names. The popularity of new and unusual names rose in the 1920s, they say, but plummeted in the 1940s and 1950s.

Still other names may have fallen out of use because they seem old-fashioned. Homer was a reasonably popular name in the early 20th century, ranking 80th in 1900, according to the SSA. Its last appearance on the list was in 1983, well before the debut of The Simpsons, which probably doomed the name for decades. (For completists, Maggie was the No. 295 girl’s name in 2022, Lisa was at No. 933, Bart last made the top 1,000 in 1987; and Marge dropped off the list in the late 1940s.)

The SSA began compiling and annually publicizing its list of the most popular baby names in 1997, but its database has nomenclature information going back to 1880, when the most popular names were John (now No.26) and Mary (136).

You can disappear down a very deep rabbit hole (or into a very large stork’s nest, if you prefer) of naming data at the SSA’s baby names website. You’ll find links there to other Social Security information for parents, such as how to get your baby their all-important nine-digit number.

 

John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 1998 financial crisis. Waggoner’s USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.

 

Andy Markowitz is a writer and editor for AARP, covering Social Security and fraud. He is a former editor of The Prague Post and Baltimore City Paper. 

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