Basic names are nothing to scoff at! Appellations that have been popular for decades or even centuries prove especially attractive as they are time-tested and will serve your family well. In today’s terms, “basic” has gotten a bad wrap. But, it’s important to remember that baby names that seem commonplace are such because they’ve been favored by parents again and again.
We wanted to discover the best basic names so we took a look at baby naming data to compile a list of popular baby names that have consistently ranked well over the last 100 years. These basic names are essentially the “greatest hits” of appellations that should appeal to a wide range of expecting parents. Let’s take a look at some of the most cherished names in America to find one that will be perfect for your child!
Basic Names for Girls
The Most Popular Basic Names
- Deborah – Deborah is a classic Hebrew name that means “bee.”
- Melissa – Melissa is such a beloved name that it’s remained in the top 500 most popular names for girls since 1947. Coincidentally, this is another name that’s got a bee meaning in “honeybee.”
- Amanda – The name was a top 10 choice for new parents throughout the eighties and nineties. Amanda is a name with Latin origins that means “she must be loved.”
- Sara – This Old Testament classic has been in use for centuries and has Hebrew origins that mean “princess.”
- Ruth – The name Ruth is a girl’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “compassionate friend.” It’s been a common choice for centuries.
- Elizabeth – Elizabeth has a noble appeal as it has belonged to two of the most influential Queens of England, Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. It’s been a top choice for girls in the US since record-keeping began. Elizabeth is of Hebrew origin and means “pledged to God.”
More Popular Basic Names for Girls
- Carol – Carol is an English name with French origins that’s a feminine form of the name Charles. The name meaning “free man.”
- Michelle – This attractive name also has French origins and is based on a Hebrew name that means “who is like God.” We imagine Michelle Obama will continue to inspire new parents to choose this name for their daughters.
- Donna – Donna dates back to at least the late nineteenth century, reaching the top 100 in 1926 and the top 20 in the 1940s. In 1960, Donna was the fifth most popular name in the United States. The name means “lady.”
- Emily – Emily was derived from the Roman name Aemilia, which may have evolved from the Latin word aemulus, meaning “hardworking” or “rival.”
- Kimberly – Kimberly is an English name that means “Cyneburga’s meadow.” Kimberly was very stylish in the sixties and seventies and it enjoyed a top five ranking. It’s still extremely popular today.
- Dorothy – Dorothy is an English name with Greek origins that means “gift of God.” In the US, parents have been smitten with the name especially in the earlier part of the 20th century.
Other Basic Names for Girls to Consider
- Ashley – It’s an excellent English name that means “dweller near the ash tree meadow.” Ashley was a sensation in the 1980s and 1990s; it hit number 1 in 1991.
- Sandra – With Greek and Italian origins, this name means “defender of men.” This name dominated the popularity charts for 30 years before falling from favor. Sandra’s still got it, in our opinion.
- Margaret – No one can deny the appeal of this majestic name. Margaret was in the top 10 from 1880 until 1940. Margaret has Greek origins and means “pearl.”
- Lisa – While Lisa was wildly popular in the US, it now is more favorable to German, French, and Dutch families. The name was most popular in the US in 1970 when it ranked at number four. The name is a diminutive form of Elizabeth.
- Nancy – Nancy is an English form of Ann that can be traced back to the Middle Ages as a pet form of Agnes. It’s not as popular as it was in the 1950s, but it still has plenty of charm to offer.
- Karen – Karen is a Danish diminutive of Katherine, an English name derived from the Greek name Aikaterine. It means “pure.” Unfortunately, this delightful name has become a meme.
Even More Basic Names for Girls to Explore
- Jessica -Jessica was a name with a middling prospect until 1940 when it began its meteoric rise to the top. Jessica became a ubiquitous moniker in the eighties and nineties. The name was coined by Shakespeare and inspired by a Hebrew name that means “vision.”
- Susan – Baby Susans were everywhere from the thirties to the sixties but the name has since fallen out of fashion. Susan comes from Hebrew and means “lily.”
- Barbara – Barbara entered the top 100 in 1913, and then the top 10 a decade and a half later. She held the number 2 spot from 1937 to 1944. The name comes from Latin and means “foreigner.”
- Linda – Linda will live forever remain in baby name history for toppling Mary from its 400-year reign as number 1. Linda is a Latin name that means “pretty” and you’ll find it in a variety of naming traditions.
- Jennifer – Jennifer was the top name of the seventies when there were close to 800,000 Jennifers born. Jennifer is a girl’s name of Cornish origin meaning “white shadow, white wave.”
- Patricia – Patricia began not in Ireland, as some believe, but evolved in Scotland, going on to become mega-popular in Britain after the christening of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught. The name has Latin origins and means “noble.”
Other Basic Names That You Can’t Go Wrong With
- Mary – Mary was the most popular and enduring female name in the English-speaking world, as were Maria and Marie in Spanish and French, until the 1940s. The name comes from Hebrew and means “pearl.”
- Hannah – Hannah comes from Hebrew and means “grace” or “favor.”
- Anna – A form of Hannah, Anna has historically been a very popular option in the US.
- Zoey – The name Zoey has its origins in Greek and means, simply, “life.”
- Lillian – Like Lily, the name Lillian references the lily flower. It is a Latin name taken from the word “Lillium,” which means “lily.”
- Aubrey – The name Aubrey has its origins in German and is derived from “Alberic,” which means “Fair ruler of the little people.”
Even More Basic Names for Girls
- Lily – If Lillian presents too much fuss for your tastes, consider the concise Lily. This flower name for girls is a time-tested classic.
- Natalie – Believe it or not, Natalie is a perfect name for a Christmas baby. Though derived from Latin, it’s the French or English version of the Russian name Natalia, which means “born on Christmas.”
- Victoria – Victoria is, and probably always will be a very popular girls’ name. The name comes from Latin origin and means “victory.”
- Grace – Grace follows in the vein of other virtuous-sounding names like Hope and Faith that mean exactly what they say. The name was made popular by 17th century Puritans.
- Evelyn – Evelyn was very popular in the early 1900s and then resurfaces 100 years later. is English in origin and means “wished for.”
- Ella – Many celebrities that have named their daughters Ella: John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, and Mark Wahlberg. The name means “light.”
Even More Basic Names to Keep Popular
- Chloe – Of Greek origin, Chloe is another name for Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility. Some people spell Chloe with a “K.” The name means “blossom.”
- Amelia – Amelia is the English version of Amalia derived from the Germanic word amal, which means ‘work’.
- Charlotte – Charlotte is French in origin and means “free man.” And, the name dates back to the 14th century.
- Abigail – Abigail is first seen in the Bible as King David’s third wife. A bit of an old-fashioned name, Abigail is coming back with the retro-cool vengeance of other “vintage” names like Beatrice and Violet.
- Mia – Mia is also Hebrew in origin and means “bitter.” It also has origins in Italian, Spanish for “mia” meaning ”mine”. Mia is commonly used as a nickname for Maria.
- Ava – The name Ava has become very popular in the last two decades for girls and is more commonly seen spelled as Eva. The name means “bird.”
Other Basic Names for Girls to Consider
- Isabella – Isabella is a Romance language name and originates from Hebrew Elisheba or medieval Elizabeth. Isabella was originally used in France, Spain, and Portugal.
- Olivia – Olivia is the female form of Oliver and was made popular by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night and has been popular in the English-speaking world since the mid-1990s. This mega-popular appellation means “olive.”
- Sophia – Sophia is a very old Greek name whose origin dates back to the 4th century. In more modern times, it was popularized in Britain by the German House of Hanover in the 18th century. The name means “wisdom.”
- Emma – Emma tops the U.S list as the most popular name for girls over the past decade after becoming a top 10 name in the early 2000s. Emma comes from German and means “industrious.”
- Alyssa – Alyssa was in the top 20 baby names from 1997-2010 and peaked as the 11th most popular girls’ name in 1998 and 1999 but has become less widespread in recent years. The name means “noble.”
- Brianna – Brianna might sound like an invented name, but it has Irish origins as a form of Brian which means “honorable.” It entered the US popularity list in 1976, rose to the top 100 in 1988, then got as high as number 14 in 1999. It’s still a top 200 pick today!
More Popular Basic Names That Deliver
- Gabrielle – It’s been a firm top 500 name since 1978 and its beauty and elegance will keep there for years to come we imagine. Gabrielle is the female form of Gabriel that was invented in France though it comes from Hebrew origins that mean “God is my strength.”
- Hailey – Hailey has English and Scottish origins and means “Hay’s meadow.” The spelling Hailey achieved the most success in 2010 when it cracked the US top 10 list.
- Jade – Jade has been rising in popularity since the seventies. The name has Spanish origins and means “stone of the side.”
- Jasmine – Jasmine was derived from the Persian word yasmin, referring to the jasmine flower. The name has been popular in the US since the seventies. It’s now a top 500 baby name for new parents.
- Kayla – A hot name from the 1980s that deserves a revival is Kayla. In Arabic tradition, this name means “wise child.” In Hebrew, you get “laurel” or “crown.”
- Luna – A name that’s commonplace today, Luna comes from Latin and means “moon.”
More Winning Basic Names for Girls
- Scarlett – An English name that means “deep red,” Scarlett is a wildly popular choice to this day.
- Nora – One of the most cross-cultural basic names, Nora can mean “light” or “honor” or “Norman.” You will find this name in Greek, Scottish, Irish, and English tradition.
- Hazel – A name that took some time off from the 1970s to the 1990s, Hazel is back and bigger than ever before. The name has English origin and means “hazelnut tree.”
- Violet – The same is true for Violet, an appellation that rebounded following the 1990s, meaning “purple.”
- Leah – A perennial favorite in the English-speaking world, Leah comes from Hebrew and means “weary.”
- Heather – A hugely popular name that emerged as an American favorite in the 1930s, Heather comes from English and means “heath.”
Unisex Basic Names
Gender-Neutral Basic Names That America Loves
- Avery – A most popular unisex name today, Avery comes from English and means “ruler of the elves.”
- Ryan – Emerging as an option for girls in the 1970s, Ryan is a popular gender-neutral choice today. The name is of Irish origin and means “little king.”
- Jordan – Another option that’s been preferred since the 1970s, Jordan comes from Hebrew origin and means “flowing down.”
- Cameron – Originally a Scottish surname, Cameron is a fabulous choice for any baby. The name means “crooked nose.”
- Parker – Emerging as a favorite in the 1990s, Parker is an English occupational name that means “park keeper.”
- Harper – Only reaching popularity in the US for girls in the last two decades, Harper comes from English and means “harp player.”
More Basic Names That Work for Any Baby
- Peyton – A name that gained traction in the 1990s, Peyton comes from English and means “fighter’s estate.”
- Angel – A name that has long been popular among Hispanic families for boys, Angel also works fabulously for girls. This English word name is one of the basic names that really feels fitting on a newborn baby.
- River – Who doesn’t love a nature name? River has been a popular unisex option for a couple of decades now. It’s got a flow to it.
- Hayden – Hayden is an English name that has different meanings when applied to boys than girls. For girls, Hayden is taken to mean “heather hill.” For boys, its meaning is “fire.”
- Quinn – Quinn has been a favored option for boys since the 1970s and later for girls beginning in the 1990s. The name is of Irish origin and means “descendent of Conn.”
- Taylor – A popular choice for boys since at least the 1880s, Taylor began being widely used for girls in the 1990s. It’s one of the gender-neutral basic names that’s most popular today.
Other Unisex Basic Names to Consider
- Blake – Blake emerged as a choice for girls in recent decades. This English name somehow means both “fair” and “dark.”
- Casey – Casey has been considered a great name for girls since the 1960s. Before then, it was mainly reserved for girls.
- Hunter – Hunter has been a popular choice for boys for decades but in the 1990s, things changed. Now, it’s a popular choice for both. Hunter is an English occupational name that means “one who hunts.”
- Riley – Riley originated as both an English and an Irish surname. Depending on who you ask, Riley means “rye clearing” or “courageous.”
- Miller – Another English occupational name, Miller means “grinder of grain.” It’s currently more popular for boys but the nickname Millie seems pretty irresistible for girls.
- Madison – Today, Madison is one of the most popular choices for baby girls. Before the 1990s, the opposite was true. The name means “Matthew’s son.”
Even More Basic Names for All
- Addison – An English name and one of the most versatile basic names, Addison means “son of Adam.”
- Brooklyn – Many place names make for excellent given names for both boys and girls. One huge example of this is Brooklyn. The name comes from Dutch and means “marsh.”
- Kennedy – An Irish surname that’s now beloved as a given one, Kennedy means “misshapen head.” However, that’s not stopping parents from choosing this beloved moniker.
- Reagan – Pick a president, any president! Reagan is another Irish surname, meaning “little king.”
- Mackenzie – Over the last thirty years, Mackenzie has transitioned from being a name given mostly to boys to primarily girls. This Scottish surname means “son of Kenneth.”
- Remi – This name is often spelled Remy for girls, but either spelling remains gender-neutral. Remi is a French occupational name that means “oarsman.”
A Final Batch of Unisex Basic Names
- Alex – A diminutive form of Alexander and Alexandra, Alex is the go-to choice for an adored unisex name.
- Emerson – Emerson has long been a popular option for baby boys and in the early 2000s, the name began being widely given to girls. The name comes from German and means “son of Emery.”
- Pat – Like Alex, Pat is short for Patrick or Patricia. This name fell out of fashion in the 1970s, but we consider it one of the most basic of basic names.
- Bailey – Bailey was once a boy’s name but now, parents are choosing it more for girls than boys. The name comes from English and means “bailiff.”
- Sloane – An Irish name that’s increasingly being used, Sloane or Sloan means “raider.”
- Morgan – Morgan is a Welsh name that originated as a name for boys but today, parents love it for their girls as well. Morgan means “born of the sea.”
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Basic Names for Boys
Popular Basic Names for Boys
- Edward – Edward is a boy’s name of English origin meaning “wealthy guardian.” The first year baby-naming records were kept in the US in 1880, the name ranked at number 11.
- George – This name has Greek origins and means “farmer.” The name has been a top 200 choice for boys since those records began.
- Brian – Brian has Celtic origins and means “honorable.”
- Kevin – Like Brian, Kevin is a trusted Irish name that’s been a favorite for decades. It means “handsome.”
- Joshua – One of the most beloved basic names, Joshua remains a popular Jewish baby name today. The Hebrew name means “the Lord is my salvation.”
- Kenneth – In this country, Kenneth was a top 20 name from the 1920s through the 50s. However, Americans didn’t invent this name. It has Scottish and Irish origins and means “handsome” or “born of fire.”
More Basic Names for Boys
- Andrew – Andrew was firmly in the top 10 for more than two recent decades and has been in the top 100 since naming records were recorded in the US. The name has Greek origins and means “manly.”
- Steven – An English form of Stephen, which means “garland.”
- Paul – Even if a little boy doesn’t get this as a given name, it’s one of the most popular choices as a middle. Paul means “small.”
- Mark – After Michael, Mark is the second most popular M-name in the US. Mark is a Latin appellation that means “warlike.”
- Anthony – Anthony now sits at the 38 most popular name for baby boys in the US. It has consistently ranked in the top 50 since 1880. This classic Roman name means “priceless one.”
- Matthew – Matthew was the third most popular boys’ name in America throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and is still one of the top names that starts with M. The name has Hebrew origins and means “gift of God.”
More Basic Names for Boys
- Daniel – Daniel is a boy’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “God is my judge.” It’s a perennial favorite that’s been in the top 50 since 1880 and in the top 15 every year since 1972.
- Christopher – A Greek name that means “bearer of Christ,” Christopher has slipped in popularity in recent years but it soared high from the 1980s – 2010s.
- Charles – Charles is a French name that means “free man” which might explain why it’s so popular among American parents. Charles was in the top 10 for almost 100 years.
- Thomas – Thomas has been one of the most commonly used classic basic names in both England and the US over time and is still firmly in the top 100. The name comes from Aramaic and means “twin.”
- Joseph – Joseph is seen as an all-American classic and its nickname Joe is now associated with an everyday “regular” guy. This Hebrew name means “Jehovah increases.”
- Richard – A classic old Norman name popular for a thousand years, Richard was the sixth most popular US boys’ name in 1925, and was still number 8 in 1950, but is now much less popular. This German name means “dominating ruler.”
Even More Basic Names for Boys to Love
- David – David is a classic with a lot going for it. While no longer in the top 10, it still ranks second to Daniel among boy names starting with D. This Hebrew name means “beloved.”
- William – William is one of the most enduring of basic names. It’s among the most popular boys’ names, as American parents see it as being ideally conservative yet contemporary, and hands-down the most popular baby name beginning with W of all time. This English name from German means “resolute protector.”
- Michael – Michael was the number one American boys’ name for almost half a century. The name has Hebrew origins and means “who is like God?”
- Robert – Robert was Number one in both 1925 and 1950, and in fact was in the top 25 for an entire century. Like William, Robert is an English name from German. It means “bright fame.”
- John – John is still one of the Top 10 boy names starting with J of all time. The name was the most popular Christian name for 400 years after the Crusaders introduced it to Britain after returning home. John has Hebrew origins and means “God is gracious.”
- James – James, which reentered the top 5 in 2016, for the first time since 1980, is a current favorite among stylish parents looking for a baby name that has both charm and substance. This name is English from Hebrew meaning “supplanter.”
Even More Basic Names to Consider
- Felix – This name is prevalent in Spanish-speaking families today, and perhaps we have those families to thank for its rise in 2020. Felix has Latin origins and means “fortunate.”
- Miles – One of the basic names that feels both fresh and classic at the same time, Miles comes from Latin and means “soldier.”
- Emmett – Emmett originated in England as a masculine diminutive of the German Emma, but it also has origins as a Hebrew name that means “truth.”
- Jackson – Jackson is an English surname that means “son of Jack.”
- Lucas – It’s the Latin form of Luke and means “man from Lucania.” Also spelled, Lukas, this is one amazing appellation.
- Levi – Levi is set to remain in the top 25 most popular names for boys for years to come. The name comes from Hebrew origin and means “joined.”
Basic Names for Boys Continued
- Leo – Casual and cute, Leo is a splendid name that has origins in both Latin and German and means “lion.”
- Greyson – A name that emerged as a popular choice for boys in the 1990s, Greyson has English origins and means “son of a steward.”
- Caleb – Caleb is a name for boys that’s steadily climbed since the 1970s. The Hebrew name means “devotion to God.”
- Owen – Owen is a pleasant Welsh classic that means “young warrior.” It is a top 25 choice for parents today.
- Henry – Henry has been at the very top since records of baby-naming have been kept in the US. This very old German name means “estate ruler.”
- Elijah – Elijah is one of the most appealing basic names on the planet. It has Hebrew origins, meaning “Yahweh is God.”
Check Out Even More Basic Names for Boys
- Finn – Finn is an adventurous boy’s name of Irish origin meaning “fair or white.” This name has only been popular as a given one in the US since 2000.
- Gabriel – Gabriel is expected to become more popular than ever before if trends hold. This charming Hebrew name means “God is my strength.”
- Benjamin – Americans can’t get enough of the name Benjamin and there’s no mystery as to why! This handsome classic has been in the top ever since the data’s been collected. The last two years have seen Benjamin as a name that’s more popular than ever before here and expect that trend to hold. Benjamin is a Hebrew name that means “son of the right hand.”
- Ethan – Ethan derives from the Hebrew name Eitan which means “strong.” The name has taken a rollercoaster ride on the charts through the years, but since the sixties, it’s become a reliable choice.
- Theodore – Remaining in the top 500 for nearly two centuries, Theodore proves a steadfast pick.
- Oliver – This Latin name for boys means “olive tree.” It’s an extremely popular choice today.
More Time-Tested Basic Names That Parents Should Consider
- Samuel – Samuel is another old name with roots in Hebrew. It is said to mean “God heard” or “name of God,” which makes it fairly similar to Joshua.
- Logan – Logan has become one of those “cool kid” basic names like Carter and Jackson. This appellation has Scottish origins and means “little hollow.”
- Noah – Noah is Hebrew and means “rest and “to comfort” and is derived from the Biblical Noah of Noah and the Ark.
- Mateo – Mateo is the Spanish form of Matthew that has become wildly favored. It also means “gift of God.”
- Asher – A vintage Hebrew favorite that made a comeback after decades of disuse, Asher means “fortunate.”
- Carter – A steadfast name, Carter is an English occupational name meaning “person who transports goods.”
- Ezra – A most popular choice today, Ezra comes from Hebrew and means “help.”
- Lincoln – Presidential names are really popular in America. Lincoln is an English surname-name that means “town by the pool.”
- Hudson – A trendy option today, Hudson comes from English and means “Hugh’s son.”
- Dylan – We could have easily put this with the unisex names, but Dylan remains one of the most popular basic names for boys. Dylan comes from Welsh and means “son of the sea.”
- Isaiah – More popular today than ever before, Isaiah comes from Hebrew and means “the Lord’s salvation.”
- Nathan – Another Hebrew classic, Nathan means “given.” This name has more consistently remained popular in the US than many other basic names on this list.
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More Basic Names to Fall Parents Love
- Adrian – A Latin name that’s on the rise again, Adrian means “man from Adria.”
- Eli – A name that gained plenty of steam in the 1990s and 2000s, Eli has Hebrew origin and means “uplifted.”
- Christian – A name dating back to Greek antiquity, Christian simply means “a Christian.”
- Aaron – Aaron has been in and around the Top 50 for nearly half a century now. The name has Hebrew origins and means “high mountain.”
- Jonathan – Jonathan was derived from the Hebrew name Yehonatan, eventually contracted to the modern Yonatan, meaning “gift of Jehovah.” Parents have been liberally using this name since the 1930s.
- Ezekiel – Ezekiel used to be reduced to its nickname Zeke, but modern parents now embrace it in full for its power and dignity. It’s more popular today than ever before! Ezekiel means “to strengthen.”
There you go! We hope you enjoyed these basic names for babies and have saved some safe-bet names to potentially use. Choosing a baby name does not mean you have to reinvent the wheel. Time-tested classics like the appellations found on this list remain popular today because they truly can’t be beaten. Happy baby name hunting!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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