The Popularity Of Names

What makes names go in and out of style? I’m thinking about that after my trip to Florida and lots of contact with people whose names are artifacts of a bygone era.

My parents are Harold and Betty. How many Harold and Betty’s are there enrolling in kindergarten this week? The name Harold peaked in the mid-1920s, Betty around five years later. Both names have flatlined since. Shame.

Why have we stopped using Iris, Stan, Helene and Freddy–names of some of my parents’ lifelong friends? Why no more Miriam’s or Mona’s–two neighbors?

Growing up, our next door neighbors were Ridia and Sidney. Downstairs were Ceil and Herbie. I can’t tell you the last time I was introduced to anyone with any of those names.

There’s an Adolph at my folks condo complex. Bad timing for him. I get that one.

emma popularityNames can come back. Social Security says the top three names for baby girls are Sophia, Emma and Isabella. Emma is on the rise. The name hasn’t been this popular (see chart) since around 1900!

13 thoughts on “The Popularity Of Names”

  1. I can tell you it is not often I run into another Doris!!! We are few and far between. (could never write my name on the bathroom wall at school! LOL)

  2. It does seem that eventually most names do make a comeback. My younger son’s name is Zachary. I fell in love with the name in December of ’77. It was my Freshman year of high school and my friend had John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain Christmas” album which she let me borrow. The last song on the album was written for Denver’s son Zachary called “A Baby Just Like You” and it ended with “Merry Christmas, Little Zachary. Merry Christmas, Everyone”. For years, people looked at me like I had two heads when I said I loved the name Zachary. My son was born in 1990 and I swear you can’t throw a rock without hitting one now.

  3. While doing some family tree research I ran across a girl born in 1898 who was given the name Manilla. I wondered how popular a name that was. A bit of Googling later I learned that for the period 1898-1899 it was a popular girls name following the Battle of Manila and Battle of Manila Bay in the American-Spanish War. It quickly dropped off the charts after the end of the war. []

  4. I myself have a name that isn’t used often. Whenever I run into another Maureen she was born in the 50’s. My sister Siobhan was the only one we knew growing up until a soap opera made the name popular and now it is spelled all sorts of crazy ways. But her spelling is the correct gaelic way. The names in my family we don’t hear much anymore. Eunice, Priscilla, Denise, Elsie, Hazel. I could go on but will spare all of you. Geoff, my Mom’s name was Betty also. She was born in 1925 so that coincides with the popularity of it. Many people mistake it for a nickname of Elizabeth but its not.

  5. I love “old names”. I’ve been a labor and delivery room nurse for most of my life and I’ve seen it all when it comes to names. During the “Roots”mini- series way back when, every other baby girl was named “Kizzie”! I hated my name growing up, but its making a comeback…I was, however the only “Evelyn” in most of my classes…. We are a family of old names–Arlene, Martha, Genevieve, Elizabeth, Veronica etc….I was almost Sarah…. Old names are seriously fun! 😀

  6. My unique name finally broke into the top 100 a few years ago. I always swore I wouldn’t give my kids “different” names, then we had a girl and named her Colbie.

  7. I really hope that Virginia never becomes popular. I was horribly teased when I was in elementary school. I have only met 2 other women with the same name – a lunch lady in elementary school, and one of my 7th grade teachers. The teacher goes by “V”, and the lunch lady went by “Ginny”. No one, except for people at my doctors’ offices, call me Virginia – Well, one aunt does, but it’s just to be annoying. LOL

    I love names, especially old fashioned names. I know/knew, people named Harold, Freddy (Ferdinand/Frederick), Dottie (Dorothy), Stan, Herb, Sidney, and Ceil (Lucille). My grandmothers were Helen Mabel and Ethel Beatrice. My mother had cousins named Doris and Violet, and they had an aunt named Aurelia. My father had a cousin named Ellsworth, an uncle named Nelson, and his grandmother was Camille. One of my grandfathers was Aldo. I also knew a Hazel. My middle name is Elaine – You don’t see that much anymore, but I do occasionally see Elena. My older sister is Cindy, but it’s not short for Cynthia – I don’t hear either very often these days.

  8. I love this post Geoff! I have never met a younger Elayne. My children all have older (some say unusual)names, Emory, Heidi, Timothy, and Gideon. They are all the only one in their class with that name, even Timothy! I love old names!

  9. I think my name is going the way of those you mentioned. In the 70s every other girl was Lisa. I was never the only Lisa in my class. Now I rarely meet one younger then 35. And, my mom’s name was also Betty, not Elizabeth, she was born in 1949.

  10. In the last few months 2 of my daughters friends had babies. One was name Dorothy and the other Stella. Whispers my daughters baby is named Bailey but we call her “B”. In my mind I think of my favorite aunt, Aunt Bea.(for Beatrice) smiles “B” it is. I think you may be on to something!

  11. I love “older” names! When I hear the name Nancy I know she has to be mid-50s. I suspect we were all named after Frank Sinatra’s daughter. I’ve never come across the name for anyone younger.

  12. My lovely Granddaughter, who just celebrated her first birthday, is named Vera. I’m figuring that when she starts school in a few years, and her teacher yells “Vera !” that there will be no confusion who is being spoken to.

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