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Category: past name trends

arika

By Arika Okrent, mentalfloss.com

The Social Security website has data on the thousand most popular baby names for boys and girls going back to 1880, when John and Mary came in first. A look at the old lists shows that the most popular names are always changing, but some of the naming trends have been around for longer than it might seem. Here are 11 naming trends of the past.

1. IMPORTANT TITLES

The current list has some names that carry a grand sense of importance (Messiah, King, Marquis), but the 1880s and 90s also had its grand titles in the 200 to 400 range of ranked popularity. For the boys, there was General, Commodore, Prince, and Major. For the girls there was Queen, which hovered around the 500 mark until the 1950s.

2. CITIES & STATES

Cities as names are not a new thing, however. Boston was a boy’s name in the 1880s. Dallas and Denver have been around since the 1880s, as has Cleveland (though it peaked in popularity during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, so perhaps should count as a president name instead.) Some of our state names come from women’s names, so it is expected that states like Virginia, Carolina, and Georgia should be represented on name lists. But other state names have made the list too. Missouri made the girl’s name list from 1880 until about 1900 and Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas also showed up a few times as girls’ names in the 1800s.

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Woman with baby

If you were naming a baby in 1911, you certainly wouldn’t be thinking about the hottest baby name trends or what was cool or hip.  Ah, those were the days!

But it is interesting to look back and see what patterns were in evidence then, which names—some of them really surprising—have obeyed the hundred-year-rule and already made a comeback, now sounding completely modern, and what undiscovered treasures might be lurking in the list,.  (We do have to bear in mind that some near the bottom of the Top 1000 in 1911 were given to only around twenty babies, whereas on today’s list, due to the growth in population, the lowest name on the list belonged to 249 girls.)

The Top 10 on the 1911 boys’ list were the expected classics: John, William (the only one still standing in the current Top 10), James, George, Robert, Joseph, Charles, Frank, Edward and Thomas, while there was somewhat more period-related variety for the girls: Mary, Helen, Margaret, Dorothy, Ruth, Anna, Elizabeth, Mildred, Marie and Frances—none of which is in today’s Top 10—Elizabeth being the closest at Number 12.

This was still the heyday of flower and gem names, so we’re not surprised to see Rose, Ruby, Pearl, Daisy, Flora, Garnet, Iris, Jewel, Opal, Pansy, Lily and Violet all on the list.

Another trend in girls’ names was the use of three- and four-letter names ending in a and often beginning with a vowel– most of which (with the exception of Ava, Eva and Ada) have not reemerged and still feel a little musty.  These others include:

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