Names on the verge of extinction

By Pamela Redmond Satran & Linda Rosenkrantz

Gary was widely trumpeted this week as being a name on the brink of extinction, but with 442 baby boys named Gary in the US in the most recent year counted, the reality is: Far from it.

But there are other names, once popular, with centuries-deep roots, that truly are about to become extinct.  These 15 names were given to only five babies each in 2013, the lowest number counted by the Social Security Administration.  Once usage dips below that, they become the dodo birds of baby names.

GIRLS

AlphaAlpha may be the first letter in the Greek alphabet, but it’s one of the last names modern parents consider for their baby girls.  Not so in 1880, the first year baby name records were kept in the US, when Alpha was Number 301.  It dropped off the Top 1000 in 1944 and is about to disappear for good.

Barbra – Singer Barbra Streisand made her unusually-spelled, condensed name famous in the 1960s, when it peaked at Number 511, only to drop off in the Top 1000 in 1971.  Barbara, a Top 10 name for three decades, hangs on in the Top 1000, but Barbra is about to vanish.

Claudine – This feminization of the ancient Roman name Claudius ranked in the Top 1000 for first half of the 20th century, then blipped to a new height in 1970 on the popularity of singer Claudine Longet, only to fall off the charts in 1975.  Claudine along with most other once-popular –ine and –een-ending girls’ names are now out of favor.

NanetteNanette ranked among the Top 1000 until 77, peaking in 1956.  But today, most parents say no, no to Nanette.

ShebaSheba is the short form of the Biblical Bathsheba, disappearing from view with only five baby girls named Sheba in the US in 2013.  The original Bathsheba fared even worse; it’s no longer recorded at all.

SondraSandra’s exotic sister Sondra ranked in the Top 1000 from the 1920s through the 80s, peaking in 1939.  But the devastating Hurricane Sandy took a lot of wind out of all forms of this name, given to only five girls in 2013.

ThisbeThisbe was never ranked in the Top 1000, but this ancient mythological name – she was a doomed young lover whose tale inspired Romeo & Juliet – is about to vanish from the modern lexicon.

ZelmaZelma nearly broke the Top 200 in 1902 but fell off the list in 1955.  Selma, Thelma, and even Velma might be hanging on by the tips of their antiquated fingernails, but Zelma is about to lose her grip on modern usage.

BOYS

ElmoJust over a century ago, this short form of Guglielmo, the Italian form of William, stood at a respectable Number 247, hanging in there until the 1950s, when it disappeared from view. Any hope of revival was shattered by the ticklish toy from Sesame Street.

Icarus—A dramatic Greek mythological name, Icarus is known for flying too close to the sun with dire consequences. His name has never broken into the national Top 1000, probably due his rash reputation and the icky sound of the first syllable of his name.

InigoInigo is another name that’s never ranked here, though it’s admired enough on Nameberry to make it Number 261. It’s the medieval Spanish version of Ignatius, which has ranked as high as Number 602 on the national list and was used by Cate Blanchett, but Inigo is a no-go.

Llewellyn—A common name in Wales, with the distinctive Welsh double-l beginning, Llewellyn appeared on the US list for six decades, ending in the early 1940s. But despite its rich Welsh history, literary cred and quirky nicknames, Llewelyn seems headed for extinction.

Remus—With his twin brother Romulus, he was a legendary founder of Rome. But the stereotypical image of Uncle Remus, plus the unpleasant first syllable, have kept him permanently off the Top 1000.

Sherwood—The stiff surname Sherwood, which does have the distinguished namesake of influential novelist Sherwood Anderson, managed to make it onto the list from 1897 to 1963, peaking at Number 533 in 1938, Anderson’s heyday.  But in 2013, it was given to only five baby boys.

Waldo— Where’s Waldo? He’s nowhere to be found except on the birth certificates of a scant five boys last year. Waldo actually reached as high as Number 347 in 1881 and remained on the list till 1941, when it became a victim of anti-German sentiment.

 

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47 Responses to “Names on the verge of extinction”

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lesliemarion Says:

March 11th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Interesting idea, name extinction.

Gary, to me, should be relegated to an ash heap (sorry, those who love a Gary). I know a few nice ones, a lot of creepy ones, and the name reminds me of Gary, Indiana.

Barbra and Claudine, OK, bye bye. Icarus I never knew anyone used as a name (parents who weren’t readers?).

But I adore Waldo (and Walden, Wally, Walt, Walter, Wallace, Walton)! It is CUTE, like Chester, Grover, Kermit, and ELMO! I like Elmo as a nickname, along with Elmer and Elm, for Kenelm.

And Llewellyn is beautiful, as are most Welsh names.

Sherwood is probably a guilty pleasure.

The good thing about name extinction is that ANY name can come back. Look at Edith.

lesliemarion Says:

March 11th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Interesting idea, name extinction.

Gary, to me, should be relegated to an ash heap (sorry, those who love a Gary). I know a few nice ones, a lot of creepy ones, and the name reminds me of Gary, Indiana.

Barbra and Claudine, OK, bye bye. Icarus I never knew anyone used as a name (parents who weren’t readers?).

But I adore Waldo (and Walden, Wally, Walt, Walter, Wallace, Walton)! It is CUTE, like Chester, Grover, Kermit, and ELMO! I like Elmo as a nickname, along with Elmer and Elm, for Kenelm.

And Llewellyn is beautiful, as are most Welsh names.

Sherwood is probably a guilty pleasure.

The good thing about name extinction is that ANY name can come back. Look at Edith.

lesliemarion Says:

March 11th, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Oops. Sorry for computer problem and two same entries.

headintheclouds Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 1:09 am

Some of these names are just lovely! Waldo, Llewellyn, Inigo, Nanette and Claudine are ones that really stand out to me.

On the other hand, I am glad to see a few on this list go- like Barbra and Gary. :S

mckaylalove Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 1:50 am

Remus and Llewellyn surprise me.

When I hear Inigo, all I think is “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

rie Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 2:09 am

I can see why some of these left… the others are okay, but nothing special. Like the previous poster said, luckily a name is never truly extinct! :p All it takes is a famous Nanette and it’s #50, lol.

MauveBird Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 2:14 am

Alpha was one of the names my dad wanted to call me,.
Inigo reminds me of the Princess Bride, I would probably use Igantius out of the 2 though

CaitlinBrittin Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 7:49 am

I love the name Remus but of course I am a big Harry Potter fan so I would love that name.
For girls I think Claudine is the best on this list. I like the name Claudia a bit better but Claudine is not so bad.

mermuse Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 7:51 am

Wow, I guess I am safe on using one of my favorite names of all–Llewellyn!

And, yeah, I actually would expect to see more of Remus as more of the Harry Potter generation comes of age.

ThistleThorn Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 9:20 am

I actually like some of these, except I prefer Elmer to Elmo and Sherman to Sherwood. I don’t know who would name their daughter Alpha. It seems like she would be destined to be an “Alpha” mean girl.

joel613 Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 10:35 am

Some I can see dropping out of permanent use like Icarus and some like Sheba have the feeling of a pet name. Barbra was always just a variant on Barbara that Streisand adopted to make her stand out from the crowd so has always seemed like a one performer name, along the lines of Cher, Charo and Liza. Same goes for Sondra.

The one that has the best chance of a rebound is Claudine. Trends are cyclical so eventually names with the ine ending, probably along with een, like Claudine, Pauline, Maureen etc. will come roaring back. I actually know a young girl about 15 with the name.

flamingo Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 11:19 am

Interesting about Bathsheba being extinct, because in my circles, the biblical Hebrew pronunciation ‘Batsheva’ is quite popular. Many are known as ‘Shevy’ or ‘Shevi.’

Myosotis Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I heard about Gary being almost extinct. In fact on the radio station I listen to, apparently no babies have been called Gary in the UK since 1992 (which I’m pretty sure isn’t true- unless the UK name rankings site I use isn’t accurate). I love Icarus (but is a GP for obvious reasons), Remus (HP had a lot to do with that :p), and Llewelyn (or Llywelyn) too. All unusual, interesting and brilliant! I can kind of understand some of the girls’ names. Barbra and Sondra especially seem a bit like they’d be all too easily confused with Barbara and Sandra; whether it be by sound or spelling. I think Zelma might have a certain appeal to it. Along the lines of Alma or Zella.

Saracita00 Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I’d love to use Inigo if anyone could convince me that the boy wouldn’t hear, “You killed my father: prepare to die!” every time he meets a new person for the rest of his life.

Addie88 Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 1:32 pm

I had a great uncle Llewellyn, the brother of my grandfather (Donald).

laurelrobyn Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 2:44 pm

My father’s middle name is Lewellyn (yes, misspelled.) and I’ve always loved it. I don’t know if I would use it as a first name, personally, just because of family ties. I’m not one to use family names, oddly enough.

I love Icarus (guilty pleasure) and with the show Sleepy Hollow becoming popular it might just stay popular enough to squeak past extinction.

Claudine is really nice, actually. I can see that one making a comeback. Maybe a star baby will have this name in the future. That’s all it would take!

I knew a girl named Alpha in elementary school. She was very sweet and quiet. I didn’t think much about it as a kid. It was her name, I had no idea when I was 6 that it meant anything else. 🙂

And I’m really surprised by Remus! What do you mean “unpleasant first syllable?” Ree? How is that unpleasant? Reese, Reed, Regus, Reegan…etc. Same syllable. I see nothing unpleasant about it. Or did you mean Reem? Confused. I’ve always liked the name.

nanimal Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Wait! Nanette is not headed for extinction! That’s my name. I’m still here. Honest.

Though I was named a while ago. Hmmm. And I’ve only met about three others my whole life. Though truthfully, I like it better that way. It freaks me out if there is another Nanette in the room. I’m used to being the only.

For those people looking for unique baby names, congrats, you’ve found it. It has served me well.

The only other name on the list that I like is Claudine.

And I wouldn’t rule out any names extinct because if names like Edith are making a comeback, well, anything is possible.

indiefendi2 Says:

March 12th, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Barbra is a one person name to me. Barbara is “old lady” but Barbara Palvin is a young stunner.

I thought about Alpha earlier today, I like Aleph more though. Alpha sounds too jokey on either gender.

Claudine and Claudette are too clunky clunky clunky. Claudia can be pretty.

I like Selma but Zelma is so early 1900s sounding. Z doesn’t always make a name better.

Pretty much all names on this list I see facing extinction. Yikes!

flora_kate Says:

March 13th, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I’ve always had a crush on Thisbe! So cute.

niteowl13 Says:

March 15th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

One of my cousins is named Nanette. She was born in the 60s though.
Sherwood and Llewellyn should be saved from extinction! So handsome!
The Princess Bride ruined Inigo.

SimoneKadele Says:

March 15th, 2015 at 8:08 pm

My name is “extinct”. At least, I doubt it’s been used in the US for five babies in the past year, if at all.

Interestingly enough, I know an eight year-old Llewellyn!
And I think Inigo was far from ruined by The Princess Bride. I think maybe it did it some good!!

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anyagreenwich Says:

March 16th, 2015 at 10:17 pm

You will see Remus make a comeback as Harry Potter fans age and become parents themselves. Llewellyn is such a great name, I hope more people choose it.

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iwillpraise Says:

April 30th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Honestly, this list causes me to wonder if I adore Claudina and Llewellyn simply BECAUSE they are almost extinct… the ones we don’t hear all that often cause a sort of mysterious awesomeness that otherwise would not exist…

Sisters I know have a mother named Zelma – it’s the only one I’ve ever heard of ..EVER!

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goddess_patreice Says:

June 29th, 2015 at 6:55 am

The only two name I love on this list is Alpha and Bathsheba! However I would most definitely combine them with another name to balance them out, or use as a middle name. It’s the only way they can attract some attention, in a positive light…

Alpha Lyra – a white star
Alpha Jonesy – the first from the family of John

Eve Bathsheba – has a nice sound to it!
Ruthe Bathsheba – companions of the oath

sackofnachos Says:

February 18th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

I think a sibset of Thisbe and Remus would be delightful.

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