What’s in a name?

It’s an age-old question: what’s in a name?  The answer:  it depends on what name you’re talking about.  Each one has a history and a story. You can learn a lot about many names at www.socialsecurity.gov.

That’s because as Social Security card applications come in for newborns, we keep track of baby names.  As a result, we know all about baby names, how popular they’ve been through the years, and how that popularity has changed.

For 2009, the top baby names are Jacob and Isabella.  Jacob’s been America’s most popular baby name for boys since 1999.  Isabella is new to number one, and just entered the top 10 in 2004.  She didn’t even make the top one thousand until 1990. 

On Social Security’s Popular Baby Names page, you can see the top ten names back to 1880.   (The top names in 1880 were John and Mary.)  You also can see the top 10 names of the past decade (Jacob and Emily rule!) or any decade. There’s a lot of interesting trivia in these lists.

For example, there’s something about Mary.  She remained in the number one slot for girls from 1880 until 1946, slipped to second for six years, then returned to the top spot.  Mary was in the top ten for nearly 100 years, from 1880 to 1971.  This marks the first year since we’ve been recording names that Mary slipped out of the top 100, to 102.

You also can search for the most popular baby names by state or the most popular twin names.  Another interesting feature on our Popular Baby Names page is that you can track your name, or any name, through the years.  How popular was your name over the last century?  Just plug it in and do a search.

Learn more about popular baby names, celebrity names, and even your own name at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/babynames.  While you’re on our website, be sure to learn what every parent should know about Social Security at the left side of the page, where you also find a link to our Retirement Estimator for a fast, personalized estimate of your retirement benefits.

What’s in a name?  If the name is www.socialsecurity.gov, a lot.