Hottest Baby Name Trends: a century ago

July 29, 2011 Linda Rosenkrantz

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:

…plus similar consonant-starters Lena, Lula, Lela, Leta, Lona, Zora, Zola,Vida, Vada, Viva, Nona, Nola, Neva, Nova, Mina, Myra, Reba, Rena, and Sula.

Nicknames that went straight onto the birth certificate, also a trend today, were rampant in 1911, and it wasn’t just the predictible Annies, Lizzies, Rosies and Katies.  Here are some female nickname names of that era that are rarely encountered today:

For boys, there were several more title  names than we see today, e.g. King, Doc, Lawyer, Judge, General, Prince, Bishop, Duke, and Royal, some hero names like Darwin, Emerson, Millard, Cleveland, Mckinley“>Mckinley, Dewey, Sherman, Woodrow and Edison, also color names Green and Brown. (Interesting aside: Bishop, Duke, General, and Judge were all on the list of names recently banned in New Zealand for being too similar to titles.)

On the other hand, here are some boys’ names popular in 1911 that would be perfectly at home in today’s sandbox:

And, finally, here are some other names on the centenary list that are not to be found in the current Top 1000, but just might be worth dusting off and bringing into the 21st century.





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