Baby Names: Once so hot, now so not

The history of baby names is littered with former stars that burned brightly for a decade or two, only to fade from view.

It’s hard to believe, from this vantage point, that Gladys or Edna ever made the Top 20, that names such as Harold or Larry were ever popular enough to dominate an entire decade.

It’s difficult to see Irene and Albert as the Isabella and Alexander of their day, to view Tammy or Tiffany as the height of cool.

Many of these once-hot names are lovely, even classic.  They’re just not as stylish as they once were (although some, especially from the earlier decades, are on their way back in).

We looked at the Top 25 baby names for each decade of the 20th century to pick out choices that were hot back them, and are not today.  Included here are Old People Names like Bertha and Clarence, Baby Boomer names such as Karen and Gary, today’s mom and dad names such as Jennifer and Jason, and names like Taylor and Tyler that are beginning to be heard much more often on babysitters than on babies.

Our choices, with their ranking for the decade when they were most popular:

1900s

girls

Mary, #1
Helen, #2
Margaret, #3
Anna, #4
Ruth, #5
Dorothy, #7
Marie, #8
Florence, #9
Mildred, #10
Gladys, #14
Bertha, #20

boys

George, #4
Robert, #6
Frank, #8
Willie, #14
Clarence, #17

1910s

girls

Frances, #9
Virginia, #10
Irene, #17
Edna, #19
Gladys. #21

boys

Walter, #11
Harold, #12
Paul, #14
Raymond, #16
Albert, #17
Arthur, #18

1920s

girls

Betty, #4
Doris, #8
Jean, #16
Shirley, #17
Lois, #22

boys

Kenneth, #19

1930s

girls 

Barbara, #3
Shirley, #4
Joan, #7
Joyce, #12
Marilyn, #16
Beverly, #20

boys

Jack, #18
Billy, #20
Gerald, #21

1940s

girls

Linda, #2
Carol, #5
Sandra, #6
Nancy, #7
Sharon, #8
Judith, #9

boys

Ronald, #10
Donald, #12
Gary, #14
Jerry, #19

1950s

girls

Patricia, #3
Susan, #4
Deborah, #5 and Debra, #7
Karen, #8
Donna, #10

 boys

Richard, #7
Mark, #9
Larry, #18
Steven, #11 and Stephen, #20

1960s

girls 

Lisa, #1
Kimberly, #5
Michelle, #9
Cynthia, #10
Tammy, #13
Lori, #15
Brenda, #19

boys

Michael, #1
Jeffrey, #10
Timothy, #13
Kevin, #14
Scott, #15

1970s

girls 

Jennifer, #1
Amy, #2
Melissa, #3
Angela, #7
Heather, #8

boys

Jason, #3
Brian, #8
Eric, #14

1980s

Jessica, #1
Amanda, #3
Stephanie, #6
Nicole, #8
Tiffany, #11
Amber, #13

boys

Joshua, #4
Justin, #12
Ryan, #14

1990s

girls 

Ashley, #2
Brittany, #7
Taylor, #9
Megan, #10
Kayla, #12

boys

Andrew, #7
Tyler, #9
Brandon, #11
Austin, #22

 Illustration from the hilarious Awkward Family Photos.

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17 Responses to “Baby Names: Once so hot, now so not”

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augusta_lee Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 12:14 am

Jack and Florence are back with a vengeance. I see possibilities for Arthur among the dusty-cool hipster set. Personally, I have a soft spot for Walter — no doubt due to being a Renaissance studies buff. I see him as a dashing aristocrat, not somebody’s grandpa.

Ezras_Mama Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 4:06 am

George, Florene, Jack, Jessica, Amy, Arthur, Joshua, Austin, Amber… These names are still popular in the UK

Personally I would use Timothy, I’ve got a soft spot for that name

tori101 Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 6:16 am

As Ezras_Mama said a lot of these names are still popular in the UK and I wouldn’t associate names like Jessica & Jack with certain eras because these names are still so popular.
From the 1900s I love
Mary, Anna, Ruth, Dorothy, Florence and for boys Robert and Frank.
From 1910s I love
Walter and Arthur so adorable!
From 1920s I love
Jean & Kenneth
From the 1930s I love
Marilyn & Jack
From the 1940s I love
Nancy such a retro classic!
From the 1950s I love
Karen & Mark even though I associate these names with the a later decade.
From the 1960s I love
Lisa & Timothy I like Lisa is a sweet nickname for Elisabeth
From the 1970s I love
Jennifer, Melissa, Jason & Eric
From the 1980s I love
Jessica, Amber, Joshua, Justin & Ryan
From the 1990s I love
Ashley, Taylor, Tyler & Austin

Jinxgirl Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 7:05 am

I know several young Annas, Jacks, and just had two coworkers name their babies Frances. I know young Patricias, Stevens, several Timothys, and several Michaels. I know young Amys, one Heather, and a few Jasons. Jessica, Joshua, and Ashley are still sometimes used for young children in my area. I know a few young Ambers too. Ryan, Austin, Megan, and Brandon are still popular here

ejs82 Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 7:17 am

Jack isn’t cool? As an elementary teacher, I see tons of young Jacks! Lots of them are actually Jackson or John, but I would definitely consider it to be “in” right now.

Pam Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 7:37 am

You’re all right, Jack is absolutely hot (and cool) again. While in the US he’s not as high as #18, he’s much higher than that in many other countries.

caitypete Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 9:04 am

I was surprised to see some of these! Jack, Ruth, even Taylor seem to be super hot in my area!

name-obsession Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 9:56 am

I love Marie and Florence, and know an Anna, Helen and Jack at my Midwest daycare (all under the age of 5).

jpruitt76 Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 10:54 am

Names I still hear quite a bit on little ones:
Jack, Ryan, Tyler, Megan, Kayla, Anna, Joshua, Jessica, Andrew, Michael, Timothy, Brandon, Eric, Austin, Ashley.

Names that I still absolutely like and/or see as resurgence material:
Mary
Helen (in fact, I really wanted to name #3 after my aunt Mary Helen who goes by both names)
Margaret (know several of varying nicknames)
Florence
Anna (know several)
Dorothy
Frances (adore this name, esp. nn Frannie or Francie)
Irene
Virginia (know a little Virgie…my faves are Ginny or Ginger)
Ruth
Marie (there is a 5 year old on my block)
George (my best friend has a 1 year old George)
Amy
Cynthia
Lisa
Judith
Betty (my 1 yo niece was almost named Betty…she is Margaret/Maggie instead)
Jean
Walter
Arthur
Susan
Joan
Joyce
Marilyn
Beverly
Deborah/Debra (know a few)

I don’t care for Mildred and Edna but I could go for a little Millie or Edie. And Gladys is kind of growing on me, but you’re right, I don’t ever hear it on little ones anymore.

peach25 Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 10:56 am

What about Kathy/Cathy? I remember it as insanely popular at the time of Linda, Susan, Debbie and Nancy (and Pam). More recently, Kate’s been the favorite as nn for Katherine or Kathleen,or as stand-alone.

LadyCap Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 11:11 am

I’ve been kind of thinking about Raymond a lot lately, oddly enough.

maggiemary Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

This isn’t a biased comment, but I think Margaret is having a mini-revival, as I’ve seen several in birth announcements in the last few months.

authorintraining Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Ah! My name is on the list. Yikes!

RubySophia Says:

March 9th, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I love Margaret, Helen (but more so Helena), Mary, Florence, Marie, Virginia and Lois. Not so fond of the boys names.

MimiOttawa Says:

October 25th, 2013 at 6:48 pm

It’s both comical and intriguing the way a handful of names each decade just become like kryptonite for future generations. I can’t see any common denominators at first glance that would explain it.

Netta5187 Says:

October 26th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I really like:
Helen
Frances
Edna (in a clunky but cool sort of way)
Frank
Arthur
Patricia
Nicole
I’m not really big on 30’s, 40’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s names, so it seems.

littlewren Says:

November 12th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I have Irene (1910s) and Judith (40s) on my list!
Hm. Irene fits the 100 year rule, right?
And Judith will be close to it by the time I have kids, probably.

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