Boomer Life: What’s in a name?

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It used to be you could imagine what age someone was just by hearing their name. How many contemporaries do you know named Linda, Mary, Patricia, Barbara, Deborah, Susan, Karen, or Lisa? Or some manner of William, Richard, John, Robert, James, or David (although William and James remain in the top 10 today). Those, dear friends, are among the top five male and female names of babies born during the Boomer years, according to the Social Security Administration.

Or names you just knew were those associated with individuals our parents’ age: Mary, Betty, Shirley, Dorothy, Joan, Helen, Margaret, Doris, Ruth, Joyce, or Evelyn. Men’s names of those decades seem to be pretty similar to those of our generation: Robert, James, John, William, Joseph, Richard, and add Charles.

Even before the annual report of top names for 2022 was released by the Social Security Administration, I had been hearing names of youngsters that harkened back many decades: Evelyn, Hazel, Agnes, Dahlia, Lisbeth and Mae. Or Abraham, Archie, Bruno, Clark, Hunter.  What goes around comes around, I guess.

However, it often appears that the most recent top names can be associated with current culture — or not. Take a look at the top 10 names for 2022 below. 

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

On the girls’ side, Evelyn (my own mother’s name!) and Luna popped out at me. And on the male side, Liam is No. 1 once again for the second consecutive year. Of course, at my age, I wonder if this is due to the popularity of action guy Liam Neeson, born in 1952. The name Liam’s popularity seemed to boom in the mid to late 2000s. The Social Security Administration showed its dramatic leap from the No. 75 spot in 2008 to No. 15 in 2011.

Around this time, the enormously popular movie franchise, “Taken,” debuted, starring Irish actor Liam Neeson, certainly contributing to the name’s sudden popularity. Actor Liam Hemsworth may have also played a role after his debut in the 2012 movie “The Hunger Games,” based on the popular novel by Suzanne Collins.

Liam became the No. 2 most popular U.S. boy’s name in 2014, staying there until its triumphant transition to No. 1 in 2017. Since then, it has remained the most popular boy name in the United States—but its newfound fame doesn’t stop there. Parents around the world have started to recognize the appeal of Liam, including those in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, and Switzerland.

Conducting a Google search of the name Liam, not only did I learn that it can be used as a girl’s name (join Robin, Avery, and Cameron), but there are many millennials and Gen-Z’s with the children they’ve named Liam whom they named after current popular Liams I have never heard of (but I’m sure my kids have!) Besides Liam Hemsworth, think of Liam Payne (One Direction) and Liam McIntyre, among others. 

Olivia is a popular name for baby girls, not just in the United States but throughout the UK, Australia, and Canada. It has ranked in the top 100 U.S. names since 1990. After the 2012 premiere of Scandal, Olivia’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to the television show’s powerful lead character, Olivia Pope. 

In 2014, Olivia made the jump from #3 to the #2 spot in the U.S., remaining there until its successful transition to #1 in 2019. According to the Social Security Administration, Olivia was also the most popular girl name in 2020.

Want to find out the top names in the year you were born? Click here.

And not to make anyone feel bad, believe it or not there is a list of the male and female most unpopular names from 2020, which just means that there are far fewer babies with those names, not that there is something inherently wrong with a name. But don’t worry. Over the next couple decades, many of them will most likely rise in popularity again.

Top 10 most unpopular boys’ names

  1. Hadrian
  2. Stewart
  3. Hank
  4. Melvin
  5. Bill
  6. Graham
  7. Stuart
  8. Dale
  9. Gary
  10. Tarquin

Top 10 most unpopular girls’ names

  1. Chelsey
  2. Janet
  3. Katharine
  4. Kristen
  5. Catriona
  6. Donna
  7. Jordan
  8. Lorraine
  9. Rhian
  10. Suzanne

To conclude this column, remember that nothing is forever. Even for celebrities who decide to change their child’s name for a variety of reasons I can’t even begin to explain. If you are interested, check them out here.


About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”