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Most popular baby names for boys the year you were born

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Evgeny Atamanenko // Shutterstock

Most popular baby names for boys the year you were born

One of the most stressful decisions new parents face is choosing the perfect name for their newborns. First names rarely get changed after being assigned and carry with them a wide range of meanings and associations. This creates a lot of pressure on expectant parents to pick the perfect moniker for their little ones.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many parents end up choosing the same names over and over. Research suggests that we pick specific names implying desired characteristics about our children, selecting names for boys and girls intended to shape them. Male monikers are commonly inspired by political, cultural, and personal influences that suggest good, masculine, and well-rounded people.

Stacker has rounded up the most popular baby boy names from the year you were born, using data from the Social Security Administration. Check out the list and find out where your name falls—and what characteristics your parents may have been hoping you’d develop. We’ll tell you everything from which name remained in the top three for 35 years to which moniker means “firm.”

RELATED: Most popular baby names for girls the year you were born

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Zdenka Darula // Shutterstock

1915–1919

#1 boys' name: John

#2 boys' name: William

#3 boys' name: James

John topped the list for most popular baby boy name from 1915 to 1919. Hebrew in origin, the name means “God is gracious.” President John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was born in 1917 right at the beginning of John’s popularity.

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FamVeld // Shutterstock

1920

#1 boys' name: John

#2 boys' name: William

#3 boys' name: Robert

John remained at the top of the list in 1920, with William following close behind as the second most popular name. William is English in origin and means “strong-willed warrior.” Newspaper magnate and publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst was at the height of his career in 1920, with 1 in 4 Americans reading a Hearst paper. Parents with major business aspirations for their sons may have chosen this name hoping Hearst’s success would rub off on their offspring.

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Pakhnyushchy // Shutterstock

1921–1923

#1 boys' name: John

#2 boys' name: Robert

#3 boys' name: William

From 1921 to 1923, John and William held as top contenders for male monikers while Robert increased in popularity and took over the second spot. Robert is also an English name and means “bright fame.” Poet Robert Frost was wildly popular in the early 1920s, earning his first Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1924. Parents with artistic aspirations for their boys would have been particularly attracted to the name.

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riggleton // Shutterstock

1924–1925

#1 boys' name: Robert

#2 boys' name: John

#3 boys' name: William

For the fifth year in a row, Robert, John, and William topped the list for most popular baby boy names. Ever on trend, the Kennedys chose the year’s most popular name for their third son, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, former U.S. attorney general.

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Krisda Ponchaipulltawee // Shutterstock

1926–1928

#1 boys' name: Robert

#2 boys' name: John

#3 boys' name: James

The name James regained its popularity in 1926 for the first time in almost a decade. Another Hebrew name, James means “supplanter.” The resurgence in popularity may be due to the publication and overwhelming popularity of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” a couple of years prior in 1922.

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Africa Studio // Shutterstock

1929–1939

#1 boys' name: Robert

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: John

Throughout the 1930s, Robert, James, and John held on to the top name spots for newborn boys. It seems that parents were eager to retain some sense of constancy with the country in the throes of the Great Depression.

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Oksana Kuzmina // Shutterstock

1940

#1 boys' name: James

#2 boys' name: Robert

#3 boys' name: John

1940 brought the end of the Great Depression, the beginning of World War II, and the return of James to the top of the popular names for baby boys list. Legendary Hollywood actor James Cagney was at the height of his career in 1940, leading many new mothers to name their sons after the on-screen dreamboat.

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Lipatova Maryna // Shutterstock

1941–1952

#1 boys' name: James

#2 boys' name: Robert

#3 boys' name: John

For the next 11 years, James held on to the #1 spot, with Robert a close second, and James rounding out the list at third. Robert Plant, who would become the lead singer of ‘70s rock group Led Zeppelin, was born during this time in 1948.

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burlakova_anna // Shutterstock

1953

#1 boys' name: Robert

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: Michael

In 1953 a new name made its debut on the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular baby boy names. Michael is a Hebrew name that means “who is like God?”

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FamVeld // Shutterstock

1954

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: Robert

A mere year later, Michael had rocketed to the top spot on the list. Famous Michaels born in this year include Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony.

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pratan ounpitipong // Shutterstock

1955

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: James

For the first time in 35 years, Robert did not make the cut as one of the top three most popular boys’ names. It was instead replaced by the name David. Hebrew in origin, David means “beloved.

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Africa Studio // Shutterstock

1956

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: Robert

The following year, Robert was back, with David sliding down in popularity. James Dean released one of his final movies, “Rebel Without a Cause,” in 1955, shortly before passing away in a car accident. The movie’s wild popularity and the media attention surrounding Dean’s death are likely reasons for the uptick in the name’s popularity that year.

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Lopolo // Shutterstock

1957

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: David

The ‘50s and ‘60s were the last decades during which the majority of households attended church services every Sunday. It would appear the influence of organized religion was definitely rubbing off in 1957: In the Christian tradition, Michael is an archangel, James was one of the 12 disciples, and David an Old Testament hero.

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Alena Vostrikova // Shutterstock

1958–1959

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: James

Some of entertainment’s most recognizable faces were given these years’ most popular names. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was born in 1958, and David Pierce of “Frasier” was born in 1959.

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STANZI // Shutterstock

1959

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: James

“Ben-Hur” was 1959’s biggest box office hit. And while none of its main characters were named Michael, David, or James, the film—undeniably religious at its core—was surely a motivating factor in parents choosing Biblical names for their newborn sons.

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Anna Grigorjeva // Shutterstock

1960

#1 boys' name: David

#2 boys' name: Michael

#3 boys' name: James

The 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first Republican to hold office in almost 20 years. A popular president in his time, many conservative parents would undoubtedly have named their son’s after him. If Dwight didn’t strike their fancy as a perfect name, then David (the former president’s middle name) may have fit the bill.

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Minnikova Mariia // Shutterstock

1961–1962

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: John

John spent most of the ‘50s off the list of most popular baby boy names, but in the early 1960s it made its triumphant return. John F. Kennedy won the presidential election in 1960, which may have attracted parents with political aspirations for their sons to the less-trendy name.

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Anna Grigorjeva // Shutterstock

1963–1965

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: John

#3 boys' name: David

Beatlemania was in full swing in 1964. The band had just begun attracting attention in America, and the group’s songs were getting hours of airplay on radio stations across the country. John Lennon was at the head of the group, and many new mothers were choosing to name their sons after the dreamy singer.

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Oksana Kuzmina // Shutterstock

1966–1967

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: James

Not one, but two James Bond movies came out in 1967 (“Casino Royale” and “You Only Live Twice”), bringing the name back into popularity for parents who hoped their sons would have thrilling lives. The name David was also having its day: Beloved “Friends” actor David Schwimmer was also born in 1966.

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FamVeld // Shutterstock

1968

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: John

1968 was a wild year in American history. Between the Vietnam War, race riots, and the Apollo 7 mission, things were changing—and changing quickly. Parents were eager to choose tried-and-true names for their sons that had stood the test of time for the last 20 years.

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Voiceboks // Wikimedia Commons

1969

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: David

#3 boys' name: James

Popular music label Motown had a huge influence on baby boy names in 1969. The Jackson 5 released back-to-back hits that year, with singles “I Want You Back” and “Who’s Loving You,” eventually selling 2 million copies. With Michael Jackson the dominant voice of the group, more and more parents found themselves choosing this moniker for their own newborns. The godfather of soul, James Brown, also released a whopping four albums in 1969, leading other parents to give their sons the famous crooner's name.

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PxHere

1970–1971

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: James

#3 boys' name: David

1970 and 1971 mark the last years of David topping the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby boy names. Will it return to popularity over the next decade? Or has America said goodbye to this name for good?

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Pixabay

1972

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Christopher

#3 boys' name: James

Christopher cracked the top three in 1972, marking the first time in 15 years that the list included a name other than Michael, David, James, or John. Christopher is a Greek name that means “Christ-bearer.”

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Pexels

1973

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Christopher

#3 boys' name: Jason

In 1973, another new name rounded out the Social Security Administration’s top three. Like Christopher, Jason is a Greek name that means “healer.”

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Max Pixel

1974–1978

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Jason

#3 boys' name: Christopher

The early ‘70s were big years for future country music stars with popular baby boy names. Jason Aldean was born in 1977, and Grammy Award-winning Christopher (“Chris”) Stapleton was born in 1978.

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Pixabay

1979–1980

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Christopher

#3 boys' name: Jason

One trend we see over and over again with popular baby names is the same top three stealing top spots for several years, with only minor shifts in their order. That’s definitely true of 1979–1980, with Michael holding the #1 spot, and Jason and Christopher taking turns at second and third.

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Pixabay

1981–1994

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Christopher

#3 boys' name: Matthew

The early 1980s brought a new name into fashion. Matthew, an English moniker meaning “gift of God,” crept up into the third spot in 1981.

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Pexels

1995

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Matthew

#3 boys' name: Christopher

In 1995, Michael Jordan announced his return to the NBA following a brief retirement and stint in the MLB. Jordan was a cultural icon whose athletic and financial successes surely had an impact on parents who made Michael the most popular name in the mid-’90s.

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Pixabay

1996

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Matthew

#3 boys' name: Jacob

Christopher was out by 1996 and Jacob was very much in the game. Another name with a Hebrew origin, Jacob means “supplanter.”

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PxHere

1997–1998

#1 boys' name: Michael

#2 boys' name: Jacob

#3 boys' name: Matthew

The late ‘90s and early ‘00s saw a lot more parents naming their children after celebrities and characters than previous decades. For example, season five of “Friends” in 1998 was the second most popular show on television. Two of its main stars, Matthew LeBlanc and Matthew Perry, may have drawn more parents to the name.

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Max Pixel

1999–2001

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Michael

#3 boys' name: Matthew

The turn of the century brought a panic—remember Y2K? But while many things did change, the most popular names for newborn boys remained the same. Jacob became the most popular, with Michael dropping to #2 and Matthew holding on to #3.

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Pexels

2002–2006

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Michael

#3 boys' name: Joshua

In 2002, Joshua made its debut appearance on the Social Security Administration’s list. The name has Hebrew origins and means “God is Salvation.”

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Max Pixel

2007–2008

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Michael

#3 boys' name: Ethan

Five years later in 2007, Joshua slid in popularity to make room for Ethan. Meaning “firm” or “strong,” Ethan is also a Hebrew name.

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Rowena of the Rants // Flickr

2009–2010

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Ethan

#3 boys' name: Michael

2009 and 2010 were the last years that Michael was one of the most popular names for newborn boys. It definitely marked a turning point in U.S. culture, as Michael had been in the top three since 1953; a whopping 57 years.

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Public Domain Pictures

2011

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Mason

#3 boys' name: William

There were two new names joining Jacob on the list in 2011. Mason is French and literally means “stone worker” or “bricklayer.” And America sees the return of the English name William, which saw much popularity throughout the ‘20s.

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PxHere

2012

#1 boys' name: Jacob

#2 boys' name: Mason

#3 boys' name: Ethan

Jacob steadily gained popularity, eventually rising to the top of the most popular baby boy names list. As of 2017 it was no longer in the top three, but the fact that everyone seems to know at least one Jacob is a testament to the name’s ability to stand the test of time.

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Pexels

2013

#1 boys' name: Noah

#2 boys' name: Jacob

#3 boys' name: Liam

For the first time in a long time, Jacob wasn’t the most popular name for baby boys. Instead, the Hebrew name Noah (meaning “rest” or “peace”) took the #1 spot.

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Thomas // Flickr

2014–2015

#1 boys' name: Noah

#2 boys' name: Liam

#3 boys' name: Mason

Noah remained the most popular name for boys throughout 2014 and 2015. Liam became the second most-used name. Stemming from Ireland, Liam means “strong-willed warrior.”

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PxHere

2016

#1 boys' name: Noah

#2 boys' name: Liam

#3 boys' name: William

Liam is actually just a shortened version of the name William. Both names have the same meaning, which makes sense given their origin from the same geographical region of the world. 2016 was the first year that both the longer and shorter version of the name made the top three.

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Max Pixel

2017

#1 boys' name: Liam

#2 boys' name: Noah

#3 boys' name: William

As of 2017—the last calendar year data was collected—Liam, Noah, and William remained the most popular baby boy names on the Social Security Administration’s list. What names will take the top spots over the next decade? A quick look at pop culture, world leaders, and cultural values might give us some clues.

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