All the Generation Names Explained: Millennials, Gen Alpha, and More

There's a lot to unpack as to how generations get their nicknames, why, and where each generation starts and ends.

There's Generation X, and there's Generation Z, which is also sometimes called the iGen. You've also maybe heard of the G.I. generation, along with the Alphas and the Joneses. But are you familiar with the Lost Generation or The New Silent Generation?

If you're feeling confused, read on. Below, you'll find a thorough breakdown of who belongs where and how these generational classifications got started.


Who Comes Up With Generation Names?

A generation is a group of people born around the same time who are often referred to collectively. Those given the same generational label are believed to share cultural traits and live under similar financial conditions.

Generational theorists Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote the book Generations: The History of America's Future, which was first published back in 1991. The seminal text offers a breakdown of generational cohorts within the United States.

The Pew Research Center periodically updates the age ranges it uses to define the generational groups, and that includes the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. In 2019, the organization officially added the birth years for Gen Z. Since then, other sources have weighed in on the suggested age ranges for Gen Alpha.

What Generation Am I? Check out the latest definitions for each generation below:

Gen Alpha: Early 2010s to 2025, 0-approx. 11 years old

The official birth years for Generation Alpha are still strongly up for debate, with some contending that they start in 2010 (syncing up with when the first iPad was released) and end in 2025, while other sources cite 2012 (or just the early 2010s) as the jumping off point for this group.

What is clear is that any babies born right now definitely belong to Generation Glass, a nickname they've gotten thanks to how omnipresent technology has been in their formative years. Another huge factor in shaping these youngsters will be COVID-19—kids born at the start of the pandemic in 2020 will be turning 4 this year and will have no memories of life before quarantine.

As they gain influence, you can expect to hear a lot more about Gen Z and Gen Alpha, plus the industries they may or may not be blamed for "killing" into the 2020s and beyond.

Gen Z: 1997 to 2012, 12-27 years old

Gen Z has since grown into an economic and cultural force that's hard to ignore. The world's teens and young adults have been behind many of the biggest fashion trends, political movements, and memes of the last several years.

Gen Z is also notable for being the first generation to be totally immersed in the world of the internet since birth.

Millennials: 1981 to 1996, 28-43 years old

People born between 1997—the cutoff point for Millennials—and the present year were simply called "Post-Millennials."

Most American Millennials were shaped by 9/11, the Iraq War, and the economic recession of 2008, while members of Gen Z may have little to no memory of these events.

Gen X: 1965 to 1980, 44-59 years old

After Baby Boomers but before Millennials is Generation X, the people born between the period of 1965 and 1980. With an age range of 41 to 56, these folks were the first to get hip to the internet, wear parachute pants, and who may have worried Y2K was going to ruin the world.

Baby Boomers: 1946 to 1964, 60-78 years old

The Baby Boomers were the first generation to be named, and arrived after their parents returned home following World War II, which sparked a literal baby boom.

The Silent Generation: Born 1928 to 1945, 79-96 years old

Silent Generation, generation of people sandwiched between the "Greatest Generation," which fought World War II, and the "baby boomers," the generation born during the surge in births in the United States and other countries in the years immediately following the war. The range of birth years ascribed to the Silent Generation varies slightly according to the generational scheme employed, beginning with either 1925, 1928, or 1929 and ending with either 1942 or 1945.

In the early 2020s the Silents were mostly in their 80s and 90s.

The Greatest Generation (GI Generation): Born 1901 to 1924

Greatest Generation, generation of Americans born between approximately 1901 and 1924, who came of age during the Great Depression and the 1940s, many of whom fought in World War II.

The Greatest Generation is estimated to have had about 63 million people.

It gained the moniker after the publication in 1998 of the best-selling book The Greatest Generation, by NBC News journalist Tom Brokaw.

The Lost Generation: Born 1883-1900

The idea of naming each generation didn't take hold until the 20th century when author Gertrude Stein began referring to people who came of age during the First World War as "The Lost Generation." Her intention was to capture the disillusionment present in post-World War I society.

According to friend and fellow author Ernest Hemingway, Stein picked up the phrase in conversation with a French farmer, who dismissed the younger generation as a "génération perdue." Hemingway later used the same epigraph in his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises.

Other famous names from this generation include James Joyce, C.S. Lewis, and Ezra Pound.

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