Do names define the generations – or do the generations define the names?
The Baby Boom Generation (1945-1965) – These are the children born after World War II (the babies of the Greatest & Silent Generations). The thriving manufacturing ventures undertaken in support of the war lifted our economy out of the Great Depression, and several new governmental programs offered ways for returning soldiers to more easily absorb back into society (education, housing). Space was created by the developing American suburbs and a middle class was forming. The number of babies being born annually jumped a whopping 27% from 1945 to 1950 – hence the name of their “booming” generation – they were growing up in a time of enormous educational, social and financial opportunities. Optimistic, confident and independent, the Boomers were the driving force behind the counterculture, anti-war, feminist and civil rights movements of the 1960s and 70s. The nation was transforming in significant ways and they were largely responsible for this change.
Common Girl Names in the Baby Boom Generation: Mary (beloved), Linda (soft, tender), Susan (Lily), Patricia (matriarch), Debra (bee), Barbara (foreigner), Donna (lady), Sandra (defender of mankind), Cynthia (Artemis), Nancy (chaste, pure)
Common Boy Names in the Baby Boom Generation: James (at the heel), Michael (who is like God?), Robert (famous, bright), David (darling), John (God is gracious), William (valiant protector), Richard (powerful, brave), Thomas (twin), Charles (free man), Gary (spear)
Commentary: One of the defining characteristics of Baby Boomer names is that most of the popular girl names of the time are very womanly and boy names are very manly – both in sound and meaning. They were also the babies named by members of the Greatest & Silent Generations, so they are traditional, time-honored and conventional.
Gen Xers (1966-1984) – Generation Xers (sometimes referred to as the MTV Generation) were mostly the children of Baby Boomers, although the older Xers had parents from the Silent Generation (the generation behind the baby boomers). Often characterized as disenfranchised slackers, Gen Xers inherited a complex world of political corruption (Watergate), health scares (AIDS), domestic instability (divorce), financial volatility (recessions) and fear (Cold War). Not exactly the most optimistic generation, and yet somehow they’ve managed to turn lemons into lemonade. Commonly called “latchkey” kids since they were left home alone during the work week, Xers were forced to be independent and self-reliant at an earlier age. They formed a lack of respect for authority early on which resulted in a strong sense of self-sufficiency and autonomy (the least coddled of modern American generations). They are fearless risk-takers, charitable volunteers, highly educated and entrepreneurially spirited.
Common Generation X Girl Names: Jennifer (fair, lovely), Michelle (Who is like God?), Melissa (honey bee), Amy (beloved), Lisa (short for Elisabeth, God is my oath), Kimberly (royal fortress in a wood clearing), Angela (angel), Jessica (foresight, clairvoyance), Heather (flowering plant), Amanda (worthy of love, loveable)
Common Generation X Boy Names: Michael (Who is like God?), David (darling), James (at the heel), Christopher (anointed), John (God is gracious), Robert (bright, famous), Jason (the healer), Brian (noble, strong), Matthew (gift of God), William (valiant protector)
Commentary: The Xer names seem to reflect the general optimism and positive attitudes shared among their Silent Generation and Baby Boomer parents. Many of the girl names possess a certain sweetness and modern charisma (Lisa, Melissa, Amy, Angela, Heather and Amanda). Names are becoming more distinctive and less traditional as the focus shifts to the importance of the individual (Jennifer, Jessica, Kimberly). Boy names tend to change more slowly over time compared to girls, but Christopher, Jason and Brian are fresh new choices for their time.
Y Generation (The Millennials / Echo Boomers) (1985-2004) – The Y Generation directly follows the X Generation. They are often referred to as the “Millennials” because their generation spans the transition from one millennium to the next (1999-2000), or the “Echo Boomers” because the annual birth rate of this generation jumped back up to the levels experienced by the Baby Boomers (peaking at almost 4.2 million babies in 1990). Generally speaking, the Y Generation kids were coddled, pampered and praised by their parents, so they’re generally viewed as having unrealistic expectations of what they deserve (with little to no effort exerted). The most ethnically diverse of all previous generations, the Millennials are tolerant and broadminded, although they are maturing more slowly and leaving the nest later. Because Gen Yers have grown up with a multitude of communication and technological gadgets, they are known for their skills at multi-tasking and adaption. Conversely, they crave constant change and have more difficulty committing.
Common Names of Millennial Girls: Jessica (foresight, clairvoyance), Ashley (ash meadow), Sarah (princess), Samantha (female form of Samuel), Emily (rival), Elizabeth (God is my oath), Brittany (Celtic place name in northwest France), Amanda (worthy of love, loveable), Taylor (tailor, to cut), Hannah (God has favored), Madison (mighty battler)
Common Names of Millennial Boys: Michael (Who is like God?), Christopher (anointed), Matthew (gift of God), Joshua (God is salvation), Andrew (man, warrior), Jacob (at the heel), Tyler (tiler), Daniel (God is my judge), Nicholas (people of victory), Brandon (broom hill), Austin (great, magnificent)
Commentary: Millennials are the children of younger Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers. Several new naming styles have emerged with this generation, demonstrating that parents are putting a lot more thought into their choices. Some of the main trends up-and-coming for Echo Girls and Boys are: place names (Madison, Brittany, Austin); unisex names (Ashley, Taylor), and Puritan-inspired names (Sarah, Hannah, Jacob, Daniel), surnames (Madison, Tyler, Brandon) with a peppering of saintly names (Elizabeth, Michael, Christopher, Andrew, Nicolas). The other dramatic shift in naming practices we see with this generation are the number of names in circulation which suggests more of a focus on the uniqueness of the individual. Between 1985 and 2004, the social security department reported a 100% increase in the number of given names in circulation. For girls it went from 10,000 to about 19,000 names and for boys it went from 7,000 to over 14,000. Sheer Madness.
Z Generation (2005-present) – We like to call this the #Generation (“Hashtag”) or the Minority Generation (the first generation without an ethnic majority). They are growing up in a highly disjointed society where there no longer exists a strong and common national identity. #Fragmented. They are the least likely to grasp onto the notion of the “American Dream”. #Pessimism. #Economic decline. #Corporate corruption. #Inept government. #Shrinking middle class. We hope things improve for these youngsters. The world is still their #oyster!
#Common Girl Names: Isabella (god is my oath, Elizabeth), Emma (whole, universal), Sophia (wisdom), Emily (rival), Olivia (olive tree, emblem of peace), Ava (birdlike, lively), Madison (mighty battler), Abigail (father’s joy), Elizabeth (god is my oath), Mia (mine, beloved)
#More recent: Chloe, Addison, Lily, Avery
#Common Boy Names: Jacob (at the heel), Michael (Who is like God?), Ethan (firm, long-lived), Joshua (God is salvation), William (valiant protector), Daniel (God is my judge), Alexander (defender of mankind), Matthew (gift of God), Anthony (uncertain), Andrew (man, warrior)
#More recent: Mason, Noah, Liam, Elijah
Commentary: What strikes us most about these girl names are two things. One, they are both feminine and flowery (Isabella, Sophia, Olivia) or sweetly old-fashioned (Emma, Ava, Mia, Chloe, Lily). Of course we still have the obligatory gender-neutral names for girls (Madison, Addison, Avery) and the Biblical oldies (Abigail, Elizabeth). But mostly we see a swing back to the traditional and time-tested names. Not your typical, ordinary traditional (Mary, John), but more like your fresh, new traditional (Jacob, Ethan, Isabella, Sophia). Parents are also going gangbusters for several of the masculine Old Testament names: Jacob, Joshua, Ethan, Noah, Elijah. Maybe this generation has its fair share of #problems, but at least they have #tasteful names.