Hottest Baby Name Trends: a century ago

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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24 Responses to “Hottest Baby Name Trends: a century ago”

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Elle Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 1:09 am

Oh my lots of favorites here!

Etta, Eula, Lena, Nola, Hazie(for Hazel), Afton, Geneva, Inez, Magnolia, Nova, Ophelia

Anderson, Cruz, Donovan, Cecil, Leander, Loyal, Otto, Perry, Smith

Lola Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 8:39 am

Maudie & Winnie! Royal & Rufus! I love this list! Well, I’d name the girls Maud & Winifred & call them Maudie & Winnie but Royal & Rufus are perfect exactly as they are. Lucretia & Garland are long time favorites. Awesome!

Chelsea Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 9:11 am

I see lots of my favorites, especially boys!

Geneva, Verona, Cleo, Inez,Iona

Leander, Otto, Rufus, Virgil, Anderson, Darwin

Those title names have caught my attention, I really like Lawyer

KatieB Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 10:30 am

My great grandmother was Dovie and there was a “General Green” way back on the family tree 🙂

Wiley is definitely one of my favorite boys names. Angus, Doyle, Rufus and Lemuel are some of my guilty pleasures.

And my favorite girl name, Edie, though not on your list, would definitely fit in with all the “nicknames.”

Nell Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 10:36 am

I know a baby Ola! She was named for her great-grandmother 🙂 This is a glut of amazing names. Thank you for a great post 😀
My favs are:
Ida, Etta, Ona, Elna, Ola, Sula, Olga, Rena

Dovie, Mamie, Hettie, Exie, Vernie, Gertie

Darwin, Edison, Brown, Donovan, Murphy, Owen, Reese, West, Wyatt, Jasper, Carson

Celestine, Ophelia, Delfina, Geneva, Ione, Leola, Magnolia, Izella, Nova, Odessa, Palma

Nell Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 10:38 am

Oops! forgot these:

Angus, Baxter, Burl, Doyle, Garland, Judson, Loyal, Otto, Rufus

klcalder2 Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 11:32 am

I know a Garland and I think his name is so cool and fresh! There are lots of gems here. Great list!

C in DC Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 11:52 am

Yes, these definitely would fit with my naming style. I’ve long liked Delia/Cordelia and Lucinda for the girls, and the hero names (Dewey, Edison, Woodrow, and Frank/Franklin) for the boys.

Lynae Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I really like this blog entry! It is so fun to see how names have come around over time. Several of the boys names ready to shake the dust of the last century are great. I like Urban, Perry and Doyle quite a bit.

But Early??? I doubt it.

Ruthy Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

My favorites from these lists are:

and I kind of like Houston

Macy Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I really like Cecil and Lyle, and Ophelia and Odessa.

Isnt Ira a boys name though?

Hard to believe names like Blake, Logan, Mason and Cruz where charting 100 years ago.

Elea Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

*sigh* There are so many fabulous finds on this list. You are so lucky in America to have Top 1000 name lists that go back all the way to 1880. A top 100 once every 10 years from 1904-1994 is, sadly, all we Brits get.

ycw Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I wonder if Green and Brown were surname-names? I’m betting more of the surname-type monikers on this list are actual family names than are today.

Love the top tens; I definitely want John, George, and maybe James, and William, Thomas, and Joseph are all handsome too. Of the girls I only dislike Mildred and Margaret, with 6 of the other 8 having been on my list. I would definitely want an Elizabeth, and maybe Helen and Mary/Marie.

I definitely want a Rose, maybe a Pearl. Ruby, Flora, Jewel, and Lily have all been on my list.

I also like Iola, Iona, Irma, Vida, Viva, Nova, Birdie, Flossie, Lettie, Linnie, Lottie, Easter, Geneva, Inez, Ione, Lucinda, and Petra. Lucinda used to be on my list, and I wish I could pull off Inez… maybe in the middle… hmm.

For boys:
Royal, Blake, Cruz, Felix, Levi, Murphy, Mason, Owen, West, Clement, Leander, Lemuel, Loyal, Lyle, Perry (Levi and Lemuel have been on my list, but I probably wouldn’t end up using any of these. I’d love to meet a Clement though.)

koryn78 Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I feel like I’m a brave namer, but I still can’t translate my love of Ophelia into actually naming a child by the name. <3 it though!

Same goes for my love of Aeneas. (Not on the list, but it's associated with Ophelia in my naming). Want to use it so bad, but the strange looks from people when I say it makes me more than hesitant.

Tara Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

So many gems!

My favorites:
Etta, Elva, Nova, Effie, Birdie, Lottie, Maudie,
Winnie, Ottie, Zenobia, Zelma, Ouida, Ione, Petra, Inez, Eugenia,
Edwina, Aurelia, Delfina

Boys: Dexter, Donovan, Felix, Avery, Baxter, Clement, Cecil, Floyd, Leander, Otto,
Marcellus, Garland, Darwin, West.

Ashley SP Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

My great-grandmother’s name was Chatty Rae. Her twin sister was Hattie Mae. I always assumed her name was Chatty, short for Catherine or Kathleen but no. Just the nickname and the horrible rhyming twin name.

Dayton Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I love almost all of these name! Some really nice ones have to be:

Girls: Ima, Ona, Ola, Etta, Iola, Iona, Linnie, Winnie, Avis, Celestine, Ione, Magnolia,and Zella

Boys: Avery, Cruz, Cullen, Dallas, Dexter, Felix, Hayden, Houston, Jackson, Milo, West, Wyatt, Wylie/Wiley, Angus, Baxter, Doyle,Garland, Loyal, Lyle, Marcellus, Otto, Rufus

Macy Says:

July 29th, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Wylie/Wiley definitely needs a comeback, lovely name.

Gabby Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 2:00 am

I can’t imagine Angus getting too popular. It’s a beef cattle breed and all of the 100% Angus burger and beef ads
could provide plenty of opportunity for teasing.

TRose Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 10:46 am

So many great names. For girls I love Iva, Ione, Nola, Rena, Geneva, Inez and Cleo (prefer the Clio spelling though). For boys, love Wylie/Wiley, Baxter, Perry, Judson, Lyle.

Bridgette Says:

July 30th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Yay! I’m glad to see the Angus love. We just named our son Angus and I knew it was a little bit out there but we just loved the name and the history behind it. Personally, I thought the Angus beef association added a brawny persona to the name which I liked.

pdxlibrarian Says:

July 31st, 2011 at 10:59 am

I’ve heard some love for Flossie recently and I have to admit I don’t get it. The name just reminds me of going to the dentist.

There are plenty of names here to love though. Gems include:



Olivia Says:

July 31st, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I adore this list! My favourites are:



Jennie Says:

July 31st, 2011 at 11:29 pm

My husband and I were just talking about bringing back the name Petra. Love it! It’s definitely on our list. Most of these are favorites anyway.

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