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R Names Then and Now: Ralph vs. Ryder

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By Kelli Brady of NameFreak!

A couple of months ago, I attended a Sock Hop with my daughter. It was loads of fun and inspired me to delve into the 1950s and, of course, its most popular names.

As I looked at the Top 100 names of the decade, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the amount of baby names that began with R. Thirteen of the Top 100 boy names of the decade began with an R; nineteen of the Top 100 boy and girl names together began with an R. There were actually more J names in the Top 100 for both genders, but the amount of R boy names outnumbered the amount of J boy names. As a comparison, while J names are just as popular if not moreso nowadays, there were only three boy names that started with R in the Top 100 for the 2000s decade and six boy and girl names combined. What is it about R names that made them less popular? Let’s take a look at the names themselves:

1950s Top 100 (Rank for the decade)


Ralph (66)
Randall (58)
Randy (33)
Raymond (38)
Richard (7)
Ricky (47)
Robert (3)
Rodney (71)
Roger (37)
Ronald (15)
Ronnie (78)
Roy (63)
Russell (60)

Rebecca (28)
Rhonda (74)
Rita (73)
Robin (53)
Rose (66)
Ruth (69)

2000s Top 100


Richard (90)
Robert (36)
Ryan (15)

Rachel (33)
Rebecca (71)
Riley (67)

And because the new data is out, here is a look at the R names in the 2012 Top 100:
Robert (61)
Ryan (26)
Ryder (100)

Reagan (97)
Riley (47)

Out of the entire group, Richard, Robert and Rebecca are the only names that stuck around the top after fifty years, and Richard and Rebecca have fallen since. While the R names may have fallen out of the top tier, none of the boys names have dropped out of the Top 1000. The girl names, however, have suffered a different fate: Rhonda fell out of the rankings after 1994, Rita after 2002, and Robin after 2004.

Another interesting observation: Look at the names that begin with Ro (or Rho). Whether the sound is “row” or “raw”, it seemed to be the most popular beginning combination for R names in the 1950s but over time it has almost disappeared from the top. And the R names that are at the top in the 2000s but were not in the 1950s (Ryan, Rachel and Riley, and now the addition of Ryder for the boys and Reagan for the girls) have a completely different beginning sound than their older counterparts. So, is it a sound thing? Or have other names just overtaken the Rs?

What do you think? Are there any R names from the 1950s that you would like to see at the top again? Or do you think the R name is going to continue to fall?

Originally posted at NameFreak! on March 13, 2013 and revised for Nameberry.

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About the author

NameFreak!

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at https://gumroad.com/l/name-alytics!
View all of NameFreak!'s articles View all Berry Juice Bloggers

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7 Responses to “R Names Then and Now: Ralph vs. Ryder”

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alzora Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 12:00 am

I’m wondering how many of the names made big by famous figures of the 1950s, such as Ricky from I Love Lucy. Also, I think it was more popular in previous generations to name a son after his father, and a lot of those names (Richard, Robert, Ronald) are the old classic type that are passed down from grandfather to father to son. That tradition seems to have faded, at least from my own observations, and people seem to have gotten much more creative rather than just making their sons Juniors.

MollyCakes Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 2:01 am

I think @alzora is right in her theory of generations getting more creative. I personally am not a fan of R names, despite having over 4 in my family. However, with a lot of people choosing word names and nature themed names I feel like R names will be coming back. Such as River, Rain, etc…

My fear is that T-names are the next generation’s R-names. Everyone seemed to have T-names when I was in school. We had countless Tylers, Trevors, Taylors, Timothys, Traceys, Tammys, Trents, Tonias, Tobys, Tiffanys, etc… the list could go on forever. So I think the next generation will look back and be like “what’s with all the T-names?!” With so many parents and grandparents having T-names, I feel this next generation will consider them to be old and uninventive.

Personally as a Tracey, I find this idea to be sad. I just recently started to love my own name, and now to think that there will be generations that will consider it old, boring and what-not, is sad. It is a pretty name, and any young lady would be blessed to have it. I know I am!

-Mollycakes

Caitibait Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 8:42 am

I’m not sure if there are many R names from the 50’s that will come back, or that I’d necessarily like to see come back, but I do have a soft spot for R names, particularly Ro names. I think there are a lot of really great choices, like Roman, Rogan, Roscoe, Rory, Royce, Roland, Roxanna, Rosalie, Rosaline. I think they sound familiar, but distinctive and… crisp maybe? I definitely plan on using an R name for a future son. But maybe I’m just biased because my husband’s name starts with an R, as does a few other family names.

imogeneve Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 8:50 am

From the list I don’t mind Rita or Rose, and I know a couple of little Rose and Rosie’s. Other R names I enjoy include Reuben, Raphael, Rowan, Ruskin, Romy, Romilly, Remy, River and Rory. There are some great R names out there.

EmilyVA Says:

June 4th, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I really like R names.
My sister is Rachel. I know quite a few Ryans and Roberts in my family.
Ronald and Rebecca are both names from my family tree from the 50’s.
A cousin of mine has daughter named Rosemary.
I think Rose names could comeback. Rosemary has risen 100 slots in the top 1000 in 2 years.
Rosalie is nice. So is Rosamund. So is Rose.
Other favorites are Russell, Ronan, Rosalind, and Renata or Renate.
Ruby, which is another favorite, is about to break the top 100.
I also like the puritan Remember for a girl.
Ronald is a Harry Potter name, which could help it’s popularity.
Rowan is kind of popular.
I think this post is cool. Well done!

stripedsocks Says:

June 7th, 2013 at 9:39 am

Both my grandmothers went by R names in English – Ruth and Renee (pr. ree-knee, not ren-nay). My sister has dibsed Ruth.

One of them was a Rahel (Rachel) in Hebrew. Rachel is one I wish I liked, but don’t. I like Raquel better than Rachel, though it has itself a rather ’60s feel, probably due to Raquel Welch.

My favourite R’s for girls are Reina/Raina, Rosemary, Rosamund, Raziela/Razili, Raphaela, and Rue. File Ravenna under “guilty pleasure” right between Rosario and Ruchama. Of those, only Rosemary and Rue have what I would think of as a ’50s sound.

My favourite boy R’s are: Roland, Ronan, Rhys/Rhett, Reuben, and Raphael. Can’t use Reuben, which is my favourite, husband banned Raphael as a large mutated reptile (Philistine!) and Roland would involve an explanation about how Mummy likes Stephen King too much. Rhett, on the other hand, comes with the baggage of not liking GWTW even a little – there needs to be a balance between fangirl and hater – and a kreative form of Rhys has been used in my family, for a girl. So probably no R name for a boy aside from Ronan would ever get used by us.

My husband is pushing for Raven for a girl. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

orphanedhanyou Says:

June 21st, 2013 at 12:59 am

the correct spelling of Rebekah! as far as i can tell the k is used in the better translations as well as being used in all similar and predecessor names ie Rivka.

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