Most Common Male First Names in the United States
In this section of the site we have data on the most common male first names in the United States.
Note: the data source for these names is the 1990 Decennial Census, and is very outdated. If you want to view more accurate data on the popularity of first names, please check the baby names section of the site, which has much more recent data of names registered on Social Security card applications.
The table below shows the most popular first names for the U.S. population for the 1990 Census.
You can use the links below to view more common first names. This page is currently showing male names ranked from 1 to 300.
The Most Common Male Names in the United States
Did you find your name on the list? Or maybe you were surprised by where you found it on the list. This could be because you have a name that is very popular or has been around for many years.
But why do people have names to begin with? And where did people get the idea to name themselves and their children? Keep reading to learn more.
Why Do People Have Names?
It’s easy to see why people have names, just picture a world without them. It doesn’t even have to be a world without names, just think of your family or your coworkers not having names. Rather than calling their name out to ask a question, you would have to physically gesture to them or just say ‘hey you.’
Emailing and texting would be just as difficult as you would never know who anything was from or who it was referring to—you get the point; names are a necessary part of society.
Unfortunately, historians aren’t sure when the practice of naming originated, as everything written in history talks about people using names. Therefore many speculate that names have been around since the time when humans first began using spoken language.
Where Do Male First Names Come From?
Even though the practice of naming has been around for thousands of years, the method of how parents come up with names for their children has remained relatively unchanged. Most names are derived from some basic aspects of life. These aspects will vary widely from culture to culture.
Names From Nouns
The main place where people derived names to name themselves is from nouns. These noun names would be the equivalent of naming someone ‘Tree,’ ‘Earl’ or ‘Hunter’ today. But because English wasn’t always the most prominent language on the planet, your name may be derived from a noun without you knowing.
Take the name ‘Jason’ for example, as it is the Greek word for ‘healer.’ If your name is Jason, it’s unlikely your parents really wanted to name you ‘healer’ but rather they just liked the sound of the name without knowing it’s origin.
Names From Adjectives
Names are also frequently derived from adjectives. Think of the name ‘Harry,’ although someone with this name may not necessarily be any harrier than anyone else, it’s likely that the name was once given to a child who was born very hairy, and the spelling changed over time.
It isn’t always obvious that a name is from an adjective either. Look at the name ‘Robert’ which actually means ‘bright’ in old German. No one speaks old German anymore, so if your name is Robert, you likely had no idea it was an adjective name even though it is one of the most common names for males in the United States.
Names From Compound Phrases
Other names which are popular are made of compound phrases. This would be the equivalent of naming your child ‘He who rides the wave’ or ‘The brave leader’ today. (This is still done in some cultures, such as in Hawaii). Of course, while this is no longer common, there are many popular names that entered the world in this way.
For example, ‘Benjamin’ , a very popular boy's name, is actually Hebrew for ‘Son of the Right Hand.’ Most people who named their son Benjamin have no idea of the meaning behind the name.
Names From Gods/Religion
Does your name not seem to come from any of these categories? Well, then it is likely you are named after a religious figure or god. These names are especially common among males. Take ‘Michael’ which is the name of a famous archangel and is one of the most popular male names.
‘Jesus,’ ‘John,’ and ‘Joseph’ are all names of religious origin that still remain popular today.
Why Are Some Male First Names So Common?
When looking at common first names for males, you will notice the top names are extremely common. Much more so than the top female names in the same places. Why is this?
Well, the practice of how people name their children is actually very difficult to track and even harder to explain. There are some naming phenomena that even scientists don’t understand.
Think about it this way, when parents are naming a child they are much more likely to come up with a unique name for a daughter, rather than for a son. Parents are also more likely to tweak a girl’s name with a spelling change than a boys. Why is this? No one is sure, but it could have something to do with the fact that parents fear a son will be judged much more harshly by his peers if he has a weird name than if their daughter does.
Therefore when faced with a choice between naming their son ‘David’ or coming up with something new like ‘Daviloen,’ many parents will take the easy way out and pick the simple name so their child doesn’t have problems in the future.
But besides just sticking to boring names, you have to account for the fact that people like to show respect to family members by naming their children after their parents/grandparents. Although this does happen with daughters too, it is increasingly more common in boys. Boys are much more likely to be named the same name as their father.
This means that a name like Robert, which has been popular for years, isn’t on the forefront of everyone’s mind, but rather it’s the parents passing on the family name as a sign of respect. Therefore the name remains popular as generation after generation continues the tradition.
Additionally, people often name their children after celebrities or famous people they admire. Thus as certain celebrities rise in fame, there tends to be a spike of children named after that celebrity. This is much more difficult to track in boys than girls (again, due to the lack of creativity) but you can see this in the name ‘Elon’ which has become more popular ever since Elon Musk became a household name.
Besides naming their children after the living, parents also like to name their children after characters in books. Recently, the popular book ‘Twilight’ has brought back many old names which were on their way to extinction such as ‘Edward,’ ‘Emmett,’ and ‘Carlisle.’ It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, or if it fades as the generation who enjoyed this book gets too old to have children.
Overall, it’s difficult to say exactly why some names are popular and others are not. It’s also hard to say for sure why so many male names have been popular for so long. It is likely a combination of all of the above aspects working together to keep names like ‘James’ and ‘John’ at the top of the list.
Why Do Some Male Names Go Out of Style?
There are times when a name will sink down the list, or perhaps be eliminated from it completely. This occurs for several reasons.
As previously mentioned, many people name their children after figures and characters. As these celebrities or stories go out of style, so too does the practice of naming them this way. And sometimes, there is negative publicity surrounding a name, causing people to stop naming their children after the individual entirely. Just look at the popularity of the name ‘Adolf’ for example.
Over time, it is becoming less and less popular to name a son after the father and grandfather. While the US was once filled with ‘Junior’s’ and ‘the seconds’ it is now becoming more popular to give your son a new name. Therefore it is possible names you see on this list today may not retain the same spot in the coming decades.
In conclusion, it’s almost impossible to say why some names go out of style while others remain popular so you’ll just have to keep wondering why there are still so many people naming their son ‘John.’
All of the data on this page is sourced from the 1990 Decennial Census survey, from the United States Census Bureau.
If you know of a more up-to-date source for first name data, please let us know. You can also use the baby name section for further research of common and popular first names in the United States.
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"Most Common Male First Names in the United States". NameCensus.com. Accessed on December 9, 2022. https://namecensus.com/first-names/common-male-first-names/.
"Most Common Male First Names in the United States". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/first-names/common-male-first-names/. Accessed 9 December, 2022
Most Common Male First Names in the United States. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/first-names/common-male-first-names/.