Name trends are funny things: Sometimes, they’re so specific that you can pin down exactly what year someone was born, purely based on the name their parents gave them. Take, for example, these 14 popular baby names from 1990 — if you’re of a certain age, odds are that most people will be able to figure out when you arrived on this wacky planet of ours thanks to your distinctive moniker.
To be fair, if you have one of these names, you may not have been born precisely in 1990; name trends don’t always vary a ton from year to year, so generally speaking, if you’re within a few years on either side, there’s still a good chance these monikers were popular then. However, it’s unusual to encounter them in people born, say, after 2000 or before 1980. For people with these names, it’s pretty clear that they were either born in the ‘90s or grew up during them. The Social Security Administration's data on baby names backs it up; indeed, that's the source I mined to come up with this list in the first place. For the curious, you can check out the top 500 baby names of 1990 here, and the top baby names of the '90s in general here.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; if anything, it helps us ‘80s babies and ‘90s kids identify and bond with our fellow generational kin. Who doesn’t love reminiscing over their favorite childhood TV shows, toys, and activities?
Check out the most-‘90s-of-the-‘90s names below. Maybe it’s time for them to make a comeback…
“Jessica” was the number one girls’ name both in 1990 and throughout the entire decade. It made its first appearance in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice; Hebrew in origin, it means “rich” or “God beholds.”
“Justin” is one of those names that belonged to a ton of people I knew when I was a kid, but which I haven’t encountered much as an adult (beyond, y’know, Timberlake and Bieber, but they don’t really count since I don’t know them personally). The ninth most popular name for boys in 1990, it’s Latin-derived and means “just,” “lawful,” or “fair.”
Although “Ryan” is probably most frequently encountered as a boy’s name — it was the 11th most popular moniker for dudes in 1990 and the 14th most popular during the 1990s as a whole — I love it as a gender neutral pick. For the curious, it’s an Irish name meaning “kingly.”
Did you know a veritable army of Ashleys growing up? Because I sure did (even though they were mostly born in 1985 like I was, rather than 1990. See above, re: the relative speed at which name trends change). It was second in popularity for girls only to Jessica both in 1990 and during the entire decade; however, let’s not forget that it was historically a boy's name, so there are more than a few Ashes running around out there, too. It means — perhaps unsurprisingly — “dweller near the ash tree meadow.”
Names ending in –y were big in the ‘90s, with “Britanny” (and, to a lesser degree, “Brittney") being one of the most popular: It ranks third for the ‘90s in general and number seven for 1990 in particular. It may not have the most exciting meaning — basically it translates to “person from Brittany,” as in, the region in France — but sometimes the way a name sounds is more important than what it does or doesn’t mean.
There’s no hidden meaning to “Amber” unless you want to get all metaphorical about things being buried and/or fossilized in other things — but gemstone names are still pretty cool all the same. “Amber” ranked number 15 for girls in 1990.
“Brandon” is one of those names that will probably never go out of style; according to the SSA's data, it started to pick up in popularity around the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and has consistently remained as such pretty much ever since. English in origin, it means “from the beacon hill” or “from the broom hill.”
I’m honestly not entirely sure why, but “Cody” has always sounded aggressively ‘90s to me. Maybe it’s because of Step by Step. In any event, “Cody” ranked number 27 for boys in 1990, although I feel like it would make a good gender neutral pick, too; it means alternately “helpful,” or — somewhat hilariously — “pillow.”
Another terrific gender neutral option, “Jordan” ranked 29 for dudes and 59 for gals in 1990 — nearly exactly what it ranked for both during the entire decade (28 and 57, respectively). It can refer either to the River Jordan or to a word meaning “to flow down.”
The ‘90s played host to a surprising number of names that mean exactly what they say they do, didn’t they? “Heather" — a rather pretty-looking plant found in Scotland — was the 19th most popular girls’ name in 1990 and the 45th most popular throughout the ‘90s as a whole.
Although most of us probably associate the name with this very specific person, “Tiffany” has a somewhat surprising meaning: “Regal” or “lordly.” (Whether or not your version of regality includes blue eyeshadow is totally up to you.) It ranked 23 in terms of popularity in 1990.
An Irish Gaelic name meaning “a narrow strait or channel,” “Kyle” was super popular for boys in 1990; it ranks number 18 on the list. Like a lot of the other names on this list, though, I love it for girls, too.
No one really seems to know where “Kimberly” comes from; it’s thought that it might refer to a meadow belonging to someone named Kimber, but then again, it might also be the name of a South African village. Parents in the ‘90s loved the way it sounds, though — it was the 36th most popular girls’ name during the decade, as well as the 31st most popular one in 1990.
Yep. Definitely knew at least four Tylers in my grade during elementary school. What I didn’t know, though, is that it’s kind of the same kind of name as Taylor — that is, a name that refers to a specific profession. In this case, “Tyler” is of French origin, and it means “tile maker.” It ranked number 21 in 1990 and number nine during the entirety of the ‘90s.
Images: Saban Entertainment; Giphy (14)