Girl Names in Limbo: Can they escape?
by Linda Rosenkrantz
They were once the belles of the ball. But then they gradually lost their luster and found themselves in baby name limbo.
Most of these girls’ names aren’t vintage enough to benefit from the 100-year rule. And many are recent enough to still bring up images of moms and aunts and grandmas. A few of them can be considered semi-classics, once as high as in the Top 15, yet none of them makes it even into today’s Top 1000 baby names.
But if you can manage to shake off the dust and look at them with fresh eyes, re-imagine their original appeal, I think you will find choices here that still have a lot of intrinsic life.
Anita and Rita, two quintessential Exotic Lite names that still retain some Latin of their brio. Anita has jazz and Disney cred and a notable namesake in Anita Hill; it’s been off the list since 2004, was at its highest in 1963 at #77.
Beverly—Everly with a B. And Everly is currently at #82! Can we bring back Bev? She’s been off the list since 1998, was high up at #14 in 1937, and has recently squeezed onto the Nameberry Top 1000. Beverly Hills contributes an upscale image.
Francine—A card-carrying member of the once popular ine/ene/een sorority (Christine, Marlene, Arlene, etc), Francine could benefit from both the new attention to other Fran names like Frances and Frankie, and the emergence of such ine names as Emmeline, Amandine and Adeline. Francine has been off since 1988, peaked in 1946 at #216. Not surprisingly, there was a Francine on Mad Men. Berries are ahead of the game here, ranking her at 525.
Gail—When Abby became the diminutive of choice for Abigail, Gail got left behind. Also spelled Gale and Gayle and even Gael, it could come back, if only as a middle. Gail’s been off since 1985, at her highest in 1951 at #36. Most prominent current rep: TV journalist and Oprah bestie Gayle King.
Geraldine—Josephine is hot, so why not Geraldine? Maybe she just needs a cooler nickname than Gerry. She’s been off since 2012, peaked in 1931 at #38, and was worn by the first female vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro.
Jill—Could Jill follow Jack back up the hill? She’s a perky one-syllable possibility ripe for renewal, currently represented by Jill Biden. Popular now in Germany and the Netherlands, and #884 on NB, Jill has been off the national list since 2000, her highest year being 1977, at #41.
Loretta—If it was cool enough for fashionista Sarah Jessica Parker to choose for one of her twins, it’s good enough for us to reconsider. Another name with old Hollywood allure via the lovely, long-popular Loretta Young and re-glamorized by Cher in Moonstruck (who can forget Nic Cage saying her name?) Loretta has been off since 1990, peaked in 1938 at #62.
Lorraine—A sweet name with French geographic ties. Selling point: in the film Uptown Girls, Dakota Fanning’s Lorraine character was nicknamed the modern sounding Ray. Lorraine’s been MIA since 1995, peaked in 1928 at #39. Berries are already seeing its potential, ranking it at #512.
Margery—Is Margie vintage enough to join Maisie, Mamie, Millie and Minnie? The medieval Margery has been off the list since 1958, was most popular in 1921 at #280; Scottish spelling Marjorie is hanging in now at #946.
Marcia—The quintessential Brady Bunch name (‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’) actually dates back to ancient Rome. It has stayed away since 1993, after peaking at #74 in 1951; alternate spelling Marsha, gone since 1993, at its high point of #68 in 1950, dodges the dated nickname Marcy.
Muriel—If only we could get back to seeing Muriel as the poetic Celtic name it once was. She has tons of literary cred as well, including as the name of acclaimed novelist Muriel Spark. Away since 1964, Muriel peaked at 112 in 1922.
Pauline—Classic Paul has several feminizations, including Paula and Paulette, but I think sweet Pauline (or Paulina/Paolina) has the strongest potential. Vin Diesel named his daughter Pauline in honor of his late friend and co-star Paul Walker. Off the charts since 1997, Pauline peaked at #32 in 1997
Roxanne—Nickname Roxy has a lot of moxie. The name of Cyrano’s beloved, to whom he says “Your name is like a golden bell,” has been missing since 2013, was most popular in 1953 at #158. Current rep writer Roxane Gay spells it with one ‘n’.
And now a few other once popular names now stuck in list-less limbo, hoping for their second chance:
Which of these do you hold out the most hope for?
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on September 16th, 2018 at 11:13 pm
Roxanne, Francine, and Lorraine could all will come back into style to a certain extent soon. I really like Roxanne for some reason. It’s spunky. Francine has that classic Frankie nickname potential. And Lorraine is just aesthetically pleasing. For nicknames, go with the more current Raine.
on September 16th, 2018 at 11:27 pm
I really like Rita and Muriel, and I’m also a big fan of Myrtle.
on September 16th, 2018 at 11:28 pm
I somewhat recently added Roxanne and Roxy to my list. I think they’re fun and feisty with a hint of mischief. I don’t know if they’ll come back into style any time soon, but I love them (especially Roxy).
on September 16th, 2018 at 11:31 pm
I know a young Beverly. It’s…strange. I still do a double take when I hear her name!
I like Pauline nn Polly, Marjorie nn Jory, and Dolores nn Dolly.
Roxanne and Loretta are totally cool. And I had a very elegant donkey named Muriel 🙂
Peggy intrigues; it’s an honor name for us and I feel like a cute little baby could almost pull it off. Almost. And I love rhododendron flowers; I’ve always thought the name Rhoda could be a nod to them.
on September 17th, 2018 at 12:02 am
A great list! I think most of these are great, and all are usable. My least favorites are Muriel, Gail, and Beverly. Something about Beverly I find particularly unattractive but I could still see it having a bit if a comeback.
on September 17th, 2018 at 1:30 am
Rita and Lois are both names I’d consider.
I think the thing with most of these names, is that they are the current naming generations mothers (the names that were common/popular/familiar in the 60’s/70’s), and that generation is looking more towards grandparents/great-grandparents/family trees, when it comes to inspiration or honouring family. In a couple of baby-making generations time, I suspect these will make a reappearance, as I suspect a few more generations after that, will be considering the 90’s top ten list to be the new vintage.
on September 17th, 2018 at 1:53 am
I love Pauline and Francine and like Beverley. I thought for sure Lorraine would spike in popularity after the song “Sweet Lorraine” swept the internets a while back.
on September 17th, 2018 at 4:02 am
Roxanne, Lois, Janet & Selma
All of them can stand on their own, but Roxie, Lo, Jan & Sel are all great nicknames just in case. I also like Lori & Raine for Lorraine 🙂
on September 17th, 2018 at 4:36 am
I think every one of my female relatives from my parents’ generation and older is somewhere on this list…
on September 17th, 2018 at 4:52 am
I think this phenomenon only works in the US where these names were actually used a few centuries ago and sound dusty now but for me as a European a lot of these names sound like lovely alternative vintage names that I would consider using. My favourites are Francine (I was an avid The Nanny fan lol), Dolores, Anita, Fern, Rita and Thelma.
on September 17th, 2018 at 7:11 am
I actually met a 3 year old girl the other day named Roberta, but her parents call her Berry as a nickname. I thought it was the cutest thing, and the greatest nickname update!
on September 17th, 2018 at 7:41 am
My mother’s name is Marcia, so my family has always (jokingly) hated the spelling Marsha, haha!
on September 17th, 2018 at 7:48 am
I love the name Francine. I met a little one at my son’s dentist’s office several years ago, and found it so refreshing. We have people named Francis/Frances in our family that this name could honor.
This was in the early 2000s, so a bit of a while back, but, to my surprise, my son had a little Susan and a little Joanne in his kindergarten class! There was also a Nancy his age, at our church. These kids were all born circa 1997, and it was delightful to meet little girls with these sweet retro names.
on September 17th, 2018 at 9:36 am
My middle name is Pauline, after my great-grandmother whose name was Nellie Pauline, but went by her middle. I never liked the name, but it goes what I think is best with my first name.
I live Roxanna, but Roxanne is just ok. I also think Loretta is AMAZING. So many nicknames!!! Lettie, Lottie, Lorie, Ettie, Etta, Rett, Rettie, and my favorite, Lore.
on September 17th, 2018 at 9:54 am
I love the name Lorna! Hopefully it doesn’t have revival, I’d like it to stay as a hidden gem. Lots of these names are fantastic, and I agree with @Eliane, I feel like some of these names would be quite cute and trendy in the UK. At school, I knew a Loretta, a Roxanna and a couple of Ferns!
on September 17th, 2018 at 10:54 am
There are some really cute names in this list. I really like Jill, Lorraine, Roxanne, and Selma.
I like Dolores too, tons of nickname potential. I know a toddler named Dolores, but she’s gone exclusively by Dolly since birth. It suits her perfectly.
I’d really like to see Nancy name a comeback too.
on September 17th, 2018 at 11:22 am
I’ve been watching for Beverly to start her comeback! Beverly can easily ride the popularity coat-tails of Beatrice & Everly! And the character from Stephen King’s IT is fresh in our minds from the new movie(s) release.
I’ve recently taught a little Joan, called Joanie. And a Jillian. And an acquaintance named her baby Mabel Fern last year. A friend named her baby Roxanne in 2005.
I think folks who are trying to think outside the box w vintage style WILL arrive at this category.
on September 17th, 2018 at 4:02 pm
I know a young Yvette, nn Yvie. I don’t see why that couldn’t work for Yvonne as well.
My faves are Marjorie, Jean, Joan and Dale.
on September 17th, 2018 at 6:17 pm
I know a little Beverly. She’s five, and I think the name is super cute on her! I definitely think it has the potential to make a real comeback. Pauline also has charm enough to find favor again. Some of the others, though…they’re rough. Most either still feel quite dated or just don’t sound pretty. Geraldine, for example, (no offense to anyone with the name) has kind of an ugly sound to it. Whereas Josephine, which it’s compared to above, has a soft, French sound and a classy, elegant vibe. Geraldine has such a stuffiness about it, and your mouth twists weirdly to say it. That is, of course, my opinion. I just have a hard time seeing many people finding it a nice name for their baby girl.
on September 18th, 2018 at 1:32 am
My favourites are Anita, Rita, Beverly, Francine, Loretta, Peggy, and Thelma!
on September 18th, 2018 at 6:37 pm
My favorites of this list are Beverly, Margery, Pauline, Lois, and Peggy.
There is a professional women’s soccer player named Beverly Yanez, nn “Bev”. Ever since I heard her name, I have loved it. I think it is just as sweet sounding as Everly, so I am surprised that this one has not begun to climb in popularity as well.
I like the name Margery, and significantly prefer this spelling to Marjorie.
There is a girl I teach at a theater camp named Pauline, and I am normally not one for the feminine version of male names, but somehow this one works well.
on September 19th, 2018 at 5:43 am
My Grandmas names are both Phyllis and Roberta.
And I absolutely LOVE them. I mean, I didn’t at first but since I barely hear anything about them anymore, I’d definitely consider them! Roberta is my favorite. It’s so strong, lovely and unexpected. Roe or Bertie could be nicknames. Phyllis is elegant and rustic feeling. Lissy or Phyllie could be great nicknames. 😉
on September 19th, 2018 at 9:05 am
I want Rita to come back. Lovely Rita!
on September 19th, 2018 at 9:24 pm
I love Joan.
on September 21st, 2018 at 3:38 am
I adore Fern! My favourite F name. Like Anita and Rita too.
on August 1st, 2019 at 12:03 pm
I think Dolores has been tarnished by the Harry Potter character…
We’re thinking of Marcy as a nickname, but Marcia or Marcel as the legal name.
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