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These are the Most Millennial Baby Names

September 14, 2023 laurawattenberg 7 Comments

These are the Most Millennial Baby Names

September 14, 2023 LauraWattenberg 7 Comments

Meet the Queen and King of a Generation

Image showing the word Millennials with GenX and GenZ on either side. Under the word Millennials is a pile of names including Ashley, Megan, Cody, Courtney and Amber

Every generation has its own look and sound. Distinctive clothing, hair, music, movies…and baby names. What names define millennials?

The Millennial Generation

The Americans we call millennials were born from 1981 to 1996. That covers a lot of cultural ground, from Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 to the Macarena. Yet there’s enough shared experience and outlook to make the generational identity meaningful.

Which baby names best capture that identity? I’ve identified the names that were most disproportionally popular from 1981-96, with a bonus for large numbers born.

The Queen and King of the Millennials are:

Brittany and Justin.

The pairing feels right, doesn’t it? Can’t you picture the two together in your mind? (Perhaps in the form of young stars-to-be Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake as “Mouseketeers.” Spears and Timberlake were both born in 1981.) Browse the rest of the oh-so-millennial list for a fuller generational portrait.

Most-Millennial Girls’ NamesMost-Millennial Boys’ Names
#1BrittanyJustin
#2AshleyKyle
#3AmberDustin
#4MeganCody
#5CourtneyTaylor
#6DanielleCasey
#7Tiffany 
#8Chelsea
#9Whitney
#10Lindsey
#11Krystal
#12Brittney
#13Kelsey
#14Cassandra
#15Sheena
#16Caitlin
#17Casey
#18Rachael
#19Lacey
#20Alisha

Chelsea and Kelsey; Brittney and Whitney; Casey and Lacey; Justin and Dustin. That’s the sound of an era. The patterns are even stronger than they appear, because I included only one spelling for each sound. Variations like Kasey and Lacy are just as millennial.

If the boys’ list seems short, that’s another sign we’re looking at a generation of adults. In the 20th Century, boys’ names were steadier and less trend-driven than girls’. That has started to change. When the time comes to tally the defining names of the next generation, expect to see more evenly balanced lists.

For now, though, it’s female names that best represent their times. So Ashley, Megan, Amber, Courtney, take a bow. You are the millennial generation.

LauraWattenberg
LauraWattenberg

Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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7 Comments

  • Christian S. September 14, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    This post surprised me with how those names are a reflection to this generation. If I have to add some extras for the boys; I can picture Michael and John as going steady for Millennial boys as well, as far as I know. And perhaps with other names like Zachary, Christopher, Tyler, Christian, Matthew, Joshua, Ryan, and Nicholas. I wonder if some of those names are also reflected on millennial cusper generations like Xennials and Zillennials, too?

  • Penguinmom September 15, 2023 at 6:14 pm

    As someone born in the first 5 years of the Millennial generation, I can confirm that Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, and John were pretty ubiquitous. But after looking at the NameGrapher, John and Christopher are multigenerational – particularly John.

    Matthew and Joshua actually have surprisingly similarly shaped graphs as Justin, and were even more popular. I suspect, though, that because they’re bible names, they sound less trendy?

    Though one trendy name I was surprised didn’t make the list is Jessica. Maybe it’s too niche Xennial?

    • LauraWattenberg
      LauraWattenberg September 15, 2023 at 8:05 pm

      @Penguinmom, yes, Matthew, Joshua and Jessica came close to making the list! They were all enormously popular during the Millennial generation, but a little bit too popular pre- and post- to qualify as “oh-so-millennial.” 🙂

  • HungarianNameGeek
    HungarianNameGeek September 17, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    I’m somewhat surprised that Megan made the list, because (a) I’m about half a generation older than millennial, but had many Megans (in various spellings) as classmates, and (b) of the two Megans in my current acquaintance, one is in high school.

    (I am not at all surprised by Justin. Of the three male millennials in my immediate acquaintance [that I can think of], two are named Justin.)

    • Clara September 17, 2023 at 4:33 pm

      I was also surprised by how high Megan ranked, but because I’m several years younger than millennial and still knew a bunch of Megans/ Meghans. It was probably the most popular girl’s name in my school after Emily and Emma.

  • Penguinmom September 22, 2023 at 7:41 pm

    I was looking at the NameGraphs for some of the names in Laura’s list, and came across an interesting pattern:
    Names that contain “yl”.

    It seems like it started as a mid-late Millenial trend with Kayla, Taylor, Kyle, and Taylor, but as those names declined, myriad other less-popular names using those two letters together became popular in Gen Z (Dylan being an exception in popularity). It’s interesting comparing the “Total” vs “Compare” charts, too – it really shows how it became less about the names and more about the sound, which I’m pretty sure is a subset of the ‘liquid name’ sound that Laura has written about for years now.

  • Kenny December 13, 2023 at 3:16 am

    As someone born in 1980, I was sure this was going to be Michael/Matthew on the boys side, and Jennifer/Jessica on the girls side. When I saw this list, I immediately thought of people several years younger than me – but I suppose that’s the core millennial! (I suppose I’m really the “Oregon Trail generation” or whatever we’re calling it these days).

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