The list of generations names just grew as ‘Generation Z’ was added to Dictionary.com. But that’s not the only name for our youngest generation.
As a society, we love our generation names. We use them, sometimes unfairly, to characterize people born within certain timeframes. Just ask millennials, who are often blamed for everything that’s going wrong with society, just how fair such terms are.
Hello, Generation Z!
Dictionary.com now officially defines “Generation Z” as people born after the mid-1990s. If you’re of a certain age, that thought hurts a bit. I was out of school, a college graduate, and out in the workforce when Generation Z folks were born. But my godson and his two siblings are all Generation Z and they’re all really good kids.
But people disagree over whether Gen Z should be the appropriate term. Some prefer iGen, a play on Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iMac, and the rest of the endless list of iSomethings. Some use the name “Homeland Generation,” which Forbes explains refers to people born during the time of 9/11, the War on Terror, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, “and a sense that the homeland was no longer safe.”
Where did the letters come from?
For years, people focused on the group known as Baby Boomers, those born between roughly 1945 and 1965. The “baby boom” in question, of course, happened right after World War II when we experienced what seemed to be American prosperity at its finest.
When it came time to name the next generation, one of the most popular names became “Generation X.” Douglas Coupland in his 1991 book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, explained that the letter “X” was meant to signify his generation’s desire “not to be defined.”
Personally, I think that’s a little silly, but I’m just one member of that group, born between 1965 and roughly 1979. “Generation X” is also known as the “Latchkey generation” because it’s the generation that began to not be left in daycare and found some independence and responsibility being left alone at home while both parents worked. We’re also called the “MTV Generation,” a name I rarely use.
But once we had X, it was easy to keep the pattern going, at least for a couple of generations. The “Millennials” are also known, then, as “Generation Y.” Millennials are considered to have been born between 1980 and 1994.
And those born after them are “Generation Z.”
Of course, no two sources actually agree on the precise years that separate generations. Some sources say that anyone born when I was, back in 1969, might actually be among the last “Baby Boomers” instead.
Who came before the Baby Boomers?
Before the “Baby Boomers,” we had what is called the “Silent Generation.” It’s a curious name but one that makes sense if you know the justification. The Independent explains they got this name because of the belief that those born in that era “were taught to remain silent and not speak openly about their views on current affairs.” Ironically, though, despite their perceived silence, they were the ones who led the Civil Rights movement in America.
The “Silent Generation” is generally considered to have been born between 1925 and 1945. My folks, by birth year, would belong to the “Silent Generation,” though I suspect they consider themselves among the earliest of the “Baby Boomers.”
The generation before the ‘Silents’ is best known by the title given to it by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw: the “Greatest Generation.” They were born between 1910 and 1924 and grew up during the Great Depression. Those of this generation learned to make due with little and taught those lessons of thrift to their children. They were the generation that fought in World War II.
Though, for obvious reasons, there are very few people still among us born before the “Greatest Generation.” But the oldest known living people, as of this writing, are 116 years old, which would put them in the “Interbellum Generation.” The unusual term, meant to apply to people born between around 1900 and 1910 or so, refers to the notion of being “in between wars.” They were generally two young to fight in World War I and just out of age range to be drafted into World War II.