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Category: name history

Popular Girls Names: Their ups and downs

inoutgirl

If I were a cookbook writer, I think my first title would be: “100 Ways to Dice and Slice the Social Security List.”  There is so much information to be found embedded in it and so many ways to look at it, that there seems to be no end of different and intriguing ways to parse the data.

Pam will be writing later about the startling number of names that have been in the Top 1000 consistently—which is to say every single year– since score-keeping began in1880.  Today I’ll take a look at the patterns followed by the names that have moved in and out of fashion.

First, the girls, grouped by the decades they first came into favor, followed by the specific years when they were included in the Top 100. (This does not include names that have been up there every single year.)

You may be surprised at when some of the names initially appeared—sometimes earlier, sometimes later than you might have guessed.  Zoe and Chloe, for example, were both strong in the 19th century, as were Savannah and SamanthaAlexis was already up there in the 1940s, but Alexa didn’t break through till the 70s; Kayla was there as early as the fifties, while—and this may not be such a surprise– Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Kaylee and Makayla all broke through as a group in the eighties, along with Hailey and Bailey.

1880s-90s (and possibly earlier)

  • Abigail: 1880-1897, 1901-1903, 1906, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1949-2009
  • Andrea: 1880-1881, 1884-1887, 1889, 1901-1904, 1907-2009
  • Ava: 1880-1972, 1974-1975, 1984, 1986-2009
  • Bella: 1880-1931, 2000-2009
  • Chloe: 1880-1943, 1982-2009
  • Ella: 1880-1983, 1988, 1990-2009
  • Faith: 1880-1882, 1884-1886, 1888-2009
  • Isabella: 1880-1948, 1990-2009
  • Isabelle: 1880-1954, 1957, 1991-2009
  • Jessica: 1880-1893, 1895, 1898-1900, 1903-1912, 1914-1918, 1935, 1937, 1939-2009
  • Lily: 1880-1964, 1966, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1979-2009
  • Madelyn: 1893, 1895-1965, 1986-2009
  • Mariah: 1880-1908, 1910-1911, 1913, 1973, 1975-2009
  • Melanie: 1886, 1938-2009
  • Samantha: 1880-1902, 1907, 1964-2009
  • Savannah: 1880-1922, 1924-1925, 1928, 1983-2009
  • Sofia: 1881, 1881, 1886, 1888-1889, 1891-1892, 1895, 1898, 1900-1901, 1906-1914, 1916-1917, 1920-1925, 1927-1931, 1935, 1969, 1971-2009
  • Sophie: 1880-1955, 1984-2009
  • Sydney: 1886, 1905, 1932-1957, 1959-1961, 1963-1967, 1981-2009
  • Valeria: 1881-1944, 1946-1976, 1983, 1985-2009
  • Zoe: 1880-1912, 1914-1926, 1928-1929, 1931-1941, 1951-1955, 1957-1961, 1966, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1983-2009

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cornwall

The distinguished British name expert Julia Cresswell is the author of several books on the subject, the most recent of which is Name Your Baby.

The British Prime Minister recently chose the Cornish name Endellion as the middle name for his new daughter.  The baby was premature, and born while the family was on holiday in Cornwall, and Endellion was chosen because the family regularly holidayed at the little village of St Endellion, so strictly speaking the name belongs with the growing trend to use place names (such as Dakota, Savannah) as first names.  However, it is also a traditional Cornish name.

But first a bit of background.  Cornwall is a popular holiday place because of its unspoilt beauty. Its unspoilt beauty comes from the fact that its position at the extreme south west of England makes it isolated.  This isolation protected it in the past, and led to the preservation of a uniquely Cornish culture.

1500 years ago, when the rest of England was being taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, Cornwall remained independent and retained its own language, descended from the language of the ancient British and closely related to Welsh,  into the 18th century.  This language is the source of many of the specially Cornish names, while the distinctive West-Country way of pronouncing English has been another source. 

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Antiquarian Names: Colonial craftsmen names

antiques2

For a number of years, when I wasn’t writing about names, I was writing about antiques and collectibles for a syndicated newspaper column.  But of course when I was thinking about antiques, I was still also thinking about names.

Looking at the field of antique furniture, for example, I found that when it came to early British cabinetmakers, the names were relatively unexciting.  George Hepplewhite. Robert Adams. Thomas Chippendale. Thomas Sheraton.  Nothing too juicy there.

But with the Early American cabinetmakers and clockmakers it was quite a different story.  Lots of antiquated Biblical names, more than one Chauncey, Ebenezer and Lemuel, a few virtue names rarely heard in modern times (Prudent, Noble), a couple of Latinate names and a Greek god—in other words a variegated picture of American Colonial and Federal era nomenclature:

Some prime examples:

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Occupation Names: A Labor Day Salute

child workbench3

With Labor Day upon us, it seems like the perfect moment to focus on the original pre-barbecue meaning of the holiday and celebrate hard-working occupational names.  So we’re looking back to wtoe we wrote on the subject in our book Beyond Ava & Aiden, but here focusing on the less used, fresher sounding examples, and those with less obvious meanings, so no Archer, Shepherd or Baker.

Have you noticed how many of the boys’ names climbing up the ladder end in the letters ‘er’? They sound really new and cool, but in reality a large proportion of them actually originated in medieval England as occupational surnames, when Timothy the Tanner morphed into Timothy Tanner—as if in our day Pete the Programmer became Pete Programmer. And even if a large proportion of these are trades that no longer exist in this Digital Age, and some of their meanings have been lost to time, part of their appeal as a group lies in their throwback reference to basic concepts of honest labor, adding some historical heft to their appeal, and giving them more weight than other fashionable two-syllable names.  They offer the parents of boy babies a comfortable middle ground between the sharper-edged single syllable names (Holt, Colt), and the more ornate longer names (Gregory, Jeremy) of the recent past.  Here are some of the most usable ones, together with their original, sometimes arcane, meanings.

The er-ending names

  • Banner– flag bearer
  • Barker –stripper of bark from trees for tanning
  • Baxter– a baker, usually female
  • Beamer — trumpet player
  • Booker — scribe
  • Boyer — bow maker, cattle herder
  • Brenner — charcoal burner
  • Brewster — brewer of beer
  • Bridger — builder of bridges  
  • Carter — cart maker or driver, transporter of goods
  • Carver — sculptor
  • Chandler — candle maker
  • Chaucer — maker of breeches, boots or leg armor
  • Collier — charcoal seller, coal miner
  • Conner — inspector
  • Cooper — wooden barrel maker
  • Coster — fruit grower or seller
  • Currier — leather finisher
  • Cutler — knife maker
  • Decker — roofer
  • Dexter — dyer
  • Draper — woolen cloth maker or seller
  • Duffer — peddler
  • Farrier– iron worker
  • Fletcher — arrow maker
  • Forester — gamekeeper, forest warden
  • Foster — sheep shearer
  • Fowler — hunter of wild birds
  • Glover — maker or seller of gloves
  • Granger — granary worker
  • Harper —  harp maker or player
  • Hollister — female brothel keeper!!
  • Hooper —  one who makes or fits hoops for barrels
  • Hopper — dancer, acrobat
  • Hunter — huntsman
  • Jagger — a Yorkshire name meaning peddler or carrier
  • Keeler — boatman or barge builder
  • Kiefer — barrel maker or overseer of a wine cellar
  • Lander — launderer
  • Lardner — servant in charge of the larder
  • Lorimer — a spur maker
  • Mercer — merchant, especially in luxury fabrics
  • Miller — grinder of corn
  • Nayler — maker of nails
  • Parker — gamekeeper in a medieval private park
  • Porter — gate keeper, carrier of goods
  • Potter — maker or seller of earthenware pottery
  • Quiller — scribe
  • Ranger — game warden
  • Rider/Ryder — cavalryman, horseman, messenger
  • Sadler– saddle maker
  • Salter — worker in or seller of salter
  • Sayer –several meanings:  assayer of metal, food taster, woodcutter (as in Sawyer)
  • Slater — roofer
  • Sumner — court summoner
  • Thatcher — roofer
  • Tolliver — metal worker (Anglicization of the italian Taliaferro)
  • Turner — turner of wood on a lathe
  • Webster — weaver, originally female
  • Wheeler– wheel maker

 Other occupational names

  • Baird– minstrel or poet  
  • Beaman– beekeeper
  • Chaplin– clergyman
  • Farrar– blacksmith, metalworker
  • Fisk– fisherman
  • Reeve– bailiff, chief magistrate
  • Smith– metal worker, blacksmith
  • Steele– a steel worker
  • Todd– a fox hunter
  • Travis– gate keeper, toll collector
  • Ward– watchman, guard
  • Wright– carpenter, joiner

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476px-Cassatt_Mary_Baby_John_Being_Nursed_1910

Do you want a vintage name for your daughter but are hoping to uncover a hidden treasure from the past?  We combed the popularity lists in search of cool vintage names you may not have heard before.

We’ve written a lot about the names of 1910 that are coming back, thanks to the Hundred Year Rule: Alice and Florence, Lillian and Hazel and Ruby.

But what about the names in the Top 1000 of 1910 that are virtually unknown now? A hundred years ago, Helen was the number 2 name for girls, right behind Mary. Mildred was number 8, Ethel number 13, and the dubious Gladys hot on her heels at 15. You don’t meet many Ethels and Gladyses (Gladysi?) anymore outside the nursing home.

And I’ve never heard of a Ceola, Ozella, or Exie, yet those names and dozens of others now lost were in the 1910 Top 1000.

Several months ago we looked at the Lost Names of 1880, and were surprised by how many there were. We declare ourselves surprised anew by how many lost names we’ve located on the 1910 roster that are different from those we listed in the 1880 story.

The first group are not lost, exactly, as they’re still heard from time to time. A few — Blanche, Lula, Viola — may even make a comeback. But most of these names, popular in 1910, have been in mothballs for decades now and may never make it out.

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