WASHINGTON -- A lot of kids must look up when teachers call out ''Emily" or ''Jacob" these days. Those were the most popular babies' names last year -- and have been every year since the 1990s.
Emma and Madison were second and third for girls, just like the year before. Michael and Joshua for boys, like the year before.
The biblical name Jacob, the most popular choice for boys for the sixth straight year, was also at the top in the first count of names given to twins. Parents tend to pair it with Joshua.
Emily claimed the top spot among newborn girls for the ninth year, according to the Social Security Administration's tally for 2004, released yesterday.
The staying power of the top names may have something to do with appealing to multiple ethnic or religious groups and having no widespread negative connotations.
''Old Testament names are popular with both Christians and Jews," said Cleveland Evans, associate professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska and president of the American Name Society.
Emily has literary associations including Emily Dickinson and Emily Brontë. ''The images of Emily are such that you can think easily of a woman who is both beautiful and smart," Evans said.
None of the top names has a negative association that could hurt, the way Jason became unpopular after the ''Friday the 13th" movies featured a maniacal killer by that name.
New to the top 10 are Isabella and William, both rising from 11th. Alexis and Anthony dropped out.
The agency updates its most popular 1,000 names by tallying applications for Social Security cards each year just before Mother's Day.
In almost every state, the most popular names appear on the national top 10, but there are exceptions. Jose was the most popular boy's name last year in Arizona and Texas, which are heavily Hispanic.
The top 10 names for girls: Emily, Emma, Madison, Olivia, Hannah, Abigail, Isabella, Ashley, Samantha, Elizabeth.
For boys: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Ethan, Andrew, Daniel, William, Joseph, Christopher.