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Calling All ‘80s Kids: These Were the Most Popular Names from 1985

If you’re confused by some of the current baby-naming trends (dark academia, really?) and ready for a few nostalgic monikers to make a comeback then you’ve come to the right place. Just take a trip back in time to the ‘80s (we know we have your attention, millennials) with this roundup of the most popular baby names of 1985—straight from Social Security Administration (SSA) and Name Census records—and you’re sure to get all the feels the bygone decade has to offer.

The 10 Most Popular Girl Names of 1985

1. Jessica

This feminine name reigned supreme in the ‘80s and ‘90s but has since dropped in popularity—it only came in at number 481 in 2021. Jessica is thought to have been coined by Shakespeare as an anglicization of the Hebrew name Iscah, which means “God beholds” or “wealthy.”

2. Ashley

Many attribute this name’s meteoric rise in popularity in the ‘80s to the female soap opera character Ashley Abbott who made her debut on the still-running TV series The Young and the Restless back in 1982.

3. Jennifer

Jennifer Hudson is probably the most famous ‘80s baby bearing the name (Jennifer Lawrence was actually born in 1990), but we bet you knew quite a few of these at school.

4. Amanda

A spin on the Shakespearean name Miranda, this perky '80s moniker has Latin roots and a meaning of “loveable.” (And if the shoe fits…)

5. Sarah

In the '70s, this moniker wasn't even in the top 50 most popular girl names but fast forward one decade later and it was one of the most popular names around. This name of Hebrew origin means “princess” and boasts considerable biblical significance, being the name of Abraham’s wife and the matriarch of the Hebrew people.

6. Stephanie

Proving that name trends really do come and go, Stephanie reached its peak in popularity in the year 1986 and since then it has been on a decline, coming in at number 455 in 2021. The feminine form of the name Stephen, has Greek origins and a meaning of “crown” and “garland.”

7. Nicole

This French moniker—the feminine form of the name Nicolas—has Greek origins and a triumphant meaning of “people of victory” that’s derived from none other than Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory herself.

8. Heather

The 1988 dark comedy, Heathers, is both a cult classic and a testament to the popularity of this beloved '80s name, which has British origins and a botanical meaning that refers to the (namesake) evergreen flowering plant.

9. Elizabeth

Along with Jessica, we’re getting major Sweet Valley High vibes from this one. This biblical moniker—the given name of John the Baptist’s mother and the Virgin Mary’s cousin—has (you guessed it) Hebrew origins and a religious meaning of “God is my oath.”

10. Megan

This cute and sporty name is the diminutive form of the Greek name Margaret, which means “pearl.”

The 10 Most Popular Boy Names of 1985

1. Michael

No surprises here—Michael was the number one most popular baby boy name from 1961 until 1998. Although it's dropped a few spots, it still came in at number 17 in 2021.

2. Christopher

Christopher is the anglicized version of a name with many different variants across Europe. The one thing they all have in common? Greek origins (think: Christophoros) and a meaning of “bearing Christ.”

3. Matthew

In case you missed it, taking a page out of the Bible was a major baby-naming trend in the '80s. Case in point: This highly popular boy’s name of Hebrew origin, which means “gift of God” and has religious ties to a certain New Testament apostle.

4. Joshua

“God is my salvation” is the meaning of this unassuming and rather bookish moniker of Hebrew origin, which also appears in the Bible as the name of Moses’s assistant and successor.

5. Daniel

This sweet and melodic boy’s name of Hebrew origin has a weighty meaning of “God is my judge.”

6. David

More Hebrew here: David is a classic, sturdy-sounding name with biblical and historical ties to the second king of Ancient Israel and a tender meaning of “beloved.”

7. James

A popular pick for boys in the '80s that now has gender-neutral appeal—James is a variant of the Hebrew name Jacob, which means “supplanter.”

8. Robert

This classic name has German roots and celebrity clout (Robert Redford, Robert Downey Jr., and Robert Pattinson, to name a few) to match its meaning of “bright fame.”

9. John

This biblical name—derived from the Hebrew Yohannon, meaning “God is gracious”—is a timeless classic that, er, transcends its religious roots.

10. Joseph

This name of Hebrew origin is a pretty big deal in The Bible and boasts an auspicious meaning of “He will add.”

20 Millennial Names Due for a Comeback



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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...