20 Most Popular Boys Names From the 1980s

The 1980s was a crazy time across the board, from music to hair to fashion. However, when it came to naming conventions, traditional names were more favored.

Some names, in fact, have remained perennial favorites throughout the century. The ’80s also saw an increase in the popularity of certain names thanks to their prevalence in pop culture.

All in all, the 1980s provided some great names, many of which continue to inspire today. According to the official website of the Social Security Administration, here are the 20 most popular boys’ names from the decade.

No. 20 – Anthony – 211,868 births

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The Anglicized form of the Roman Antonius, Tony (for short), is mostly associated with the Roman general Mark Anthony, who was in a relationship with Cleopatra before his tragic suicide.

No. 19 – Nicholas – 223,327 births

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The English form of the Greek Nikolaos, meaning victory of the people, the name has been famously used by five popes and two imperial czars of Russia. Nick or Nicky, for short, are common monikers.

No. 18 – Jonathan – 229,969 births

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Originally a Hebrew name meaning ‘God has given,’ the English name became common after the Protestant Reformation. Jon or Jonny are its diminutives. 

No. 17 – Brandon – 232,231 births

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An old English name derived from a place meaning ‘hill covered with broom,’ the name became popular in the 1980s and peaked in its popularity in 1992 with the character Brandon Walsh in Beverly Hills 90210.

No. 16 – Brian – 234,017 births

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The meaning of this name is uncertain, either coming from the old Celtic word for hill or high or the old Irish word for might or power. It lost popularity before regaining traction in the 1900s and is now a favorite name in the English-speaking world – famous Brians include singer Brian Adams and cartoon Brian Griffin.

No. 15 –  William – 248,305 births

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The Anglicized form of the German name Wilhelm, William, has been used across a number of royal houses, from William the Conqueror to William the current Prince of Wales. Famous Williams includes Shakespeare and Bill Clinton, former POTUS.

No. 14 – Ryan – 278,996 births

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The name’s provenance is uncertain, although it likely comes from an old Irish word meaning little king. It became popular in the US with the steady growth of immigration from Ireland and is regularly featured in top lists. Famous Ryans include Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds and Notebook heartthrob Ryan Gosling.

No. 13 – Andrew – 285,102 births

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The English form of the Greek name Andreas, Andrew means masculine. 

Famous Andrews include one of the twelve apostles and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

No. 12 – Justin – 289,832 births

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Derived from the Latin name Iustinus, meaning just. Famous Justins include singers Bieber, Timberlake, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. 

No. 11 – Jason – 292,129 births

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The English form of the Greek name meaning healer, Jason was famous in mythology from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. 

No. 10 – Joseph – 299,451 births

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The Anglicized Latinized Hellenized form of the Hebrew name Yosef, meaning he will add. Joseph featured heavily in the Old Testament (of Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat fame) and also belonged to the earthly father of Jesus. Variants include Jose (Spanish), Josef (German), and the diminutive Joe.

No. 9 – John – 321,185 births

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The English form of the Hellenized Hebrew name, meaning ‘God is gracious.’ The name features prominently in the New Testament with John the Baptist and the apostle John.

Several variants, including Jon, Johannes, Jens, and Jan, to name a few, exist and have also been used as the diminutive Jack.

No. 8 – Robert – 321,686 births

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Derived from a Germanic name meaning bright fame, the name is a mainstay in the American list of most popular names. Its diminutives Rob, Robby, or Bob are also commonly used. Robert the Bruce and Robert De Niro are famous Roberts.

No. 7 – Daniel – 345,574 births

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Another name derived from Hebrew, this time meaning ‘God is my judge.’ Daniel features prominently in the Old Testament. Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe is a famous Daniel, as is British actor Danny Dyer. 

No. 6 – James – 356,518 births

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The name derives from the Hebrew name Jacob, hence the term ‘Jacobite’ in relation to King James VI of Scotland.

James is also the most common first name for a U.S. president, used by no less than six US POTUS. It is also the name of the fictional British spy James Bond.

No. 5 – David – 383,739 births

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The Anglicized version of the Hebrew name Dawid, meaning beloved. David personifies the underdog – a reference to David and Goliath. It shares the roots of the Arabic name Daud and is the name of ex-Manchester United and England international soccer player David Beckham.

No. 4 – Joshua – 396,581 births

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Derived from a Hebrew name meaning God is salvation, Joshua is similar to the Aramaic form of Jesus’s name, Yeshua. A famous Joshua is American actor Josh Brolin.

No. 3 – Matthew – 459,019 births

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The English form of a Hellenized Hebrew name meaning ‘gift of God,’ Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. 

An American actor with the same name is Matthew McConaughey. Matthew is often abbreviated to Matt.

No. 2 – Christopher 554,909 births

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The Anglicized version of the Greek name meaning Christ-bearer. Saint Christopher is also the patron saint of travelers. In turn, a famous traveler was the explorer Christopher Colombus, who is credited with being one of the first Europeans to discover the New World, albeit hotly debated.

No. 1 – Michael – 663,827 births

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The English form of the Hebrew name Mikael, which means ‘who is like god.’ The name was given to one of the archangels in the Old Testament. It takes different forms in European countries, with the Iberian Miguel or the Romanian Mihai.


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