William 1900s and 2009-2013
Was the #1 name of the 1900s (previous history unknown, but in the UK was #1 for the second half of the 19th century). Left the Top 10 in the 1950s, sinking to its lowest level in 1980 at #50. The name began rising after the birth of Prince William in 1982, and reached the Top 10 in 1997 (the year of Princess Diana’s death, putting her eldest son in the public eye). The name went to #1 during William’s courtship of Catherine Middleton, remaining there during the years of their engagement, wedding, and the birth of their first child. Currently #2. William is the overall #1 name of the twentieth century.
John 1910s, 1920s, 1930s and 1940s
Was #2 in the 1900s, and the #1 name of the following four decades (previous history unknown, but in the UK was stable in the Top 10 for the second half of the 19th century). Left the Top 10 in 1972, and the Top 50 in 2001. It reached its lowest level in 2010 at #100, but then rose again. Currently #93. John is the overall #1 boys’ name in Australian history.
Peter 1950s and 1960-1961
Was #64 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 50 in the 1920s. Top 10 by the 1930s, it was the #1 name of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s; this correlates with the career highlights of British-Australian actor Peter Finch, who starred in A Town Like Alice and The Shirralee. Left the Top 10 in 1982 and the Top 50 in 1997. Left the Top 100 in 2007. 2011 position was #125.
Was #28 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 10 in the 1940s – rise coincides with the 1935 film version of David Copperfield, with Freddie Bartholomew as the young David, and the beginning of actor David Niven’s career. The #1 boys’ name for nine years, David was the overall #1 name of the 1960s. It left the Top 10 in 1990 and the Top 50 in 2004. Currently #92.
First charted in the 1950s at #290, the decade that the popular Italian film Hercules was released, with Fabrizio Mioni in the role of Jason. Joined the Top 100 in 1964 at #97, the year after the release of classic fantasy film Jason and the Argonauts, starring Todd Armstrong as Jason. Reached the Top 50 in 1966, and the Top 10 in 1970 (it may amuse some readers that Kylie and Jason were #1 in the same year, 1973). Left the Top 10 in 1978, the Top 50 in 1999, and the Top 100 in 2006. 2011 position was #133.
Michael 1974-1981 and 1983
Was #44 in the 1900s and joined the Top 10 in the 1940s. Was #1 for nine years, and the overall #1 boys’ name of the 1970s. It was paired with Michelle, the #1 girls’ name of that decade, making them the most similar boy and girl #1 names until Oliver and Olivia last year. Left the Top 10 in 1997. Currently #46.
Matthew 1982-1987 and 1989-1991
Was #89 in the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1940s at #161. It rose again in the 1950s, and by 1960 was #63. It joined the Top 50 in 1961 and the Top 10 in 1971, spending nine years in total at #1, and was the overall #1 boys’ name of the 1980s. Left the Top 10 in 2006. Currently #44.
Was #58 in the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1930s at #116. By the 1940s it had returned to the Top 100, and by 1960 was #72. Joined the Top 50 in 1967, and the Top 10 in 1974. Left the Top 10 in 2007. Currently #25.
Joshua 1992-1996 and 1998-2003
First charted in the 1960s at #283. Joined the Top 100 in 1971 at #78, and was in the Top 50 by 1975. Joined the Top 10 in 1982, spending eleven years in total at #1. Not only the overall #1 boys’ name of the 1990s, it is the longest-serving #1 boys’ name since 1960. Left the Top 10 in 2013. Currently #17.
Jack 1997 and 2004-2008
Was #24 in the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1960s at #277. Rejoined the Top 100 in 1986 at #88 (a year after rocker Ozzie Osbourne welcomed his son Jack) and was in the Top 50 by 1989. Joined the Top 10 in 1994, and spent six years in total at #1, the overall #1 boy’s name of the 2000s. Currently #4.
Was #83 in the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1960s at #418. It began rising in the 1970s – surge in popularity corresponds with the 1968 release of the award-winning musical film Oliver!, with Mark Lester as Oliver Twist. Rejoined the Top 100 in 1986 at #100, and was Top 50 by 2000. Joined the Top 10 in 2008, and reached #1 last year.
You only need a quick glance at the post to see how it differs from the one on the #1 girls’ names. For a start, it is much shorter, with just 11 #1 boys’ names as opposed to 18 for girls. And although different types of boys’ names got to the top of the charts, nearly all of them are classic names. Jason and Joshua stand out as the only #1 names which were new to the charts before their rise.
Not only are nine of the names classics that have never left the charts, nine of them were Top 100 names in the 1900s, and six of them were in the Top 50 of the 1900s! That extreme conservatism in popular boys’ names tempts one to look at the 1900s Top 100 to see if any more of the popular names of that era could become future #1 names. Could names such as George, Alexander, Harry, Patrick, Edward, Henry, or Samuel be destined for the top spot?
The main trait that #1 boys’ names tended to share with #1 girls’ names is the speed with which they got into the Top 50 (although this is made more difficult due to the fact so many boys’ name started out already in the Top 50). This would make names such as Hudson and Flynn look like possibilities for future #1 names.
The notable exception to this is Oliver, which took 14 years to get from the bottom half of the Top 100 into the top half. Interestingly, Olivia was the exception amongst the girls, taking 12 years to get into the Top 50 once in the Top 100. Both these names made #1 in 2014, which may be a sign that things are changing.
There was a very definite break in the pattern in the girls’ name, which became evident around the mid-2000s. That there is no such obvious break in the pattern of the boys’ names may mean that boys’ name popularity is so much more conservative than girls that they will continue on as they have done so far – or it may mean that change is just slower coming. It may even have already started. We will just have to wait and see!
People’s favourite #1 boy’s name was William, gaining 21% of the vote, and Jack was very close behind on 20%. The least favourite was Michael, which only one person voted for.