The 80-Year-Rule: Which 1930s names will come back first?

posted by: upswingbabynames View all posts by this author

by Angela Mastrodonato of Upswing Baby Names

There’s a theory that baby names come back in style about every 80-100 years. Names that come back in style after 80-100 years are often called vintage or revival names.

Based on that theory, baby names from the 1930s (about 80 years from time of writing) should be the next wave of vintage revival names, poised to appear on monogrammed nursery accessories within the next 10-30 years.

But here’s the thing: the biggest revival names aren’t usually the mega-hit top 10 names from 80-100 years ago. The biggest revival names are usually the names that were moderately popular the first time around.

A perfect example of the 80-100 year rule is 2012’s top girl name, Sophia. Sophia had been somewhat popular over a century ago and then gradually declined, only to turn around in the 1990s when it rapidly climbed the Social Security list. However, Sophia is a lot more popular now than it was during its first peak back in 1882 at #116.

Based on that knowledge I set out to find names from the 1930s that weren’t always super common top 10 names, but rather names that peaked during that time and seem to represent the style of the decade.

Summarizing the decade’s style is challenging because fashions were in a state of flux at the time. As the provocative dress of the 1920s flappers was replaced by more sensible depression era attire, homespun names of the early 20th century such Emily, Ruby, and Sophie were stepping aside for Betty and Sally.

Feminized versions of popular boy names were also coming into fashion. Think of Geraldine and Roberta.

1930s name can be described as a mix of elegant / refined names such as Franklin, Marilyn and Sylvia, boyish nicknames such as Billie, Patsy, and Robbie, and (by 21st century standards) geek-chic names, such as Doyle, Gilbert and Norman.

Some of the names on this list didn’t even make the top 500 in the 1930’s but these names all peaked around that time.




These names were picked because they are very uncommon now, making them unexpected on modern babies and prime revival candidates. A few of these names, such as Betty and Joan, went from top 5 status to not even the top 1000 in the course of 80 years. The only name still in the top 200 is Kenneth.

Perhaps many modern parents have a hard time imagining what their great-grandparents saw in these names. However names that were once ridiculed become revered and vice-versa–often in the matter of a few short years.

One of the first names to come back on this list might be Marilyn. Marilyn was one of the biggest climbing names of 2012, rising 119 places from #545 to #426.

Besides Marilyn, which names on this list do you feel have the best comeback potential?

Will the 80-100 year rule still be in practice in 15-30 years?
Revised for Nameberry from UBN article Name Inspiration: The Funky, Eclectic, 1930’s.

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022.

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About the author


Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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39 Responses to “The 80-Year-Rule: Which 1930s names will come back first?”

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hixtwin4 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:24 am

I think Franklin and Sylvia will be two that will comeback first. Sylvia isn’t too far from Sophia in sound, and Franklin has a bit the same feel as Jackson or Hudson to me.

KateMP91 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:26 am

Ramona is a guilty pleasure of mine. Hubby thinks it stinks, but I think it has a glamorous feel to it!

I can see the following rising significantly in popularity soon:



Of those names, I would love to meet a baby named Boyce or Ramona, of course!

tararyaz Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:35 am

How about tough vintage names for girls, like Joan & Geraldine? I think it would be a great trend & very 1930s.

I also love Marjorie & Edna but don’t know if they work today.

I could really see Beatrice & Lucille getting more popular though.

dandelion Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:56 am

I know a little Ramona and 3 little Arden’s in the small community we live in! One boy, two girls. Never realized it was unisex before.

sara_a Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:57 am

I think there’s at least a 5 year wait on this list. They need to air out a bit more, they still smell of mothballs.

sweet201 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 12:59 am

I have loved Ramona since I was a little girl, and Greta was on my short list (along with Elsa) for my baby girl, who ended up a Clara Jane. A male friend of mine has chosen Arden for his future daughter. I know of both a baby Marvin and a baby Donald within my extended family/social circles. And while I don’t personally care for names like Delores or Geraldine (my DH’s grandmother, who has never liked her own name), I can definitely see these being among next generation of hipster baby names.

sarah89clark Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 1:13 am

Yummy! I am SO in favor of the thirties comeback.

Beverly and Lois are already on my list of favorite girls names, but I’m loving Greta and Sylvia right now. Gene, Huey, and Gilbert are catching my fancy too.

grackym Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 5:07 am

Ooh, Greta! I’d like to see a bit more love for her.. Considering her more and more.

upswingbabynames Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 5:57 am

@KateMP91: Those are most of the names that I see coming back first too. I would add Greta to the girl list.

@tararyaz: I’ve always had a soft spot for Geraldine. To me, the name seems loosely similar to Eloise, which is rising in popularity. There is a children’s book written by Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music) about an unconventional “princess” named Geraldine. The book seems like a modern take on Eloise. Ever since I read that book, I have grown to like the name.

upswingbabynames Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 6:01 am

@sarah89clark: I see so much potential with Huey. And I love Huey but only as a nickname for Hugh, one of my favorites.

Guest Blogging News: 1930s Names | Upswing Baby Names Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 6:32 am

[…] On Nameberry I write about which 1930′s names might come back first. […]

danshamaya Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 8:55 am

I absolutely adore the name Geraldine and it’s been my favorite for years. I think she deserves more love.

I also love:

Betty – also honors my great grandma

Huey – as a nn for Hugh (so cute!)
Gene – love Eugene so Gene is a fave

Caitibait Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 9:21 am

Both of my grandmothers are on this list, Geraldine and Joyce. My husband’s grandmother Beverly as well! Joyce has a soft spot for me and will be a middle for a girl. I also love Sylvia.

AmityGranger Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 9:52 am

I have a 2 year old nephew named Marvin! 🙂 I dislike feminized versions of male names so I’m okay if none of those come back! I like Gene, Beverly (Everly is trendy right now so why not Beverly?), Marilyn and Marlene, I’d like to see those in birth announcements!

roseate6 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 9:56 am

My two year old daughter’s name is Sylvie, so she’s a letter off this list! 🙂

I don’t care for full-on Donald so much, but I love nns Don and Donnie.

Tina_and_Bert Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 10:00 am




These are the names that feel “usable” to me. I know of a toddler named Ronald and another named Harold, so those might be in the same vein. I also like Gerard, rather than Gerald. For girls, I love Delores, Roberta, Sylvia, and Ramona, but they may still be a few years off from ready-to-wear.

lindsW Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 10:13 am

I wonder if the popularity of Huey in the 30s had anything to do with Louisiana’s popular and populist governor Huey Long? He was at his height in the late 20s/early 30s.

I can see Gene, Gilbert (nn Gil) and Huey coming back, along with Betty, Beverly, Joan, Greta, Marlene, Roberta and Ramona coming back. I was a big Ramona Quimby fan a child, although my kid will probably receive her sister’s name — Beatrice.

Ana106 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 10:32 am

Gerald, Kenneth and Franklin

Greta, Ramona and Sylvia…though I am not a fan of this one. Also, possibly Beverly.

Madelyn Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I think Beverly, Greta, Joan, Lois, and Ramona could make a comeback, but I would love to meet more Robertas.

For the boys, I could see Franklin, Gilbert, and Huey coming back into style. Oh, and maybe Rudy too.

upswingbabynames Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

@lindsW: When I featured Huey on UBN I touched a little bit on the possibility that Huey Long could have been responsible the name’s peak in the 1930’s. I think Huey spiked in popularity in 1935, the same year Huey Long as assassinated.

mermuse Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Greta has the most comeback potential, for sure! It’s so lovely!

sweet201 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Another name I feel is ripe for a comeback that peaked in the 1930’s-40’s is Gloria.

iamamiam Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 5:32 pm


nanonian Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 8:13 pm

My favorites from the list are Gilbert, Marlin, Ramona, and Greta. I had a cat named Marlin Brando so it is off my personal list but would love to see more of those 4 names.

mmljar1 Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I have met 2 little Elizabeths who are called Betty – I think that will come back here as the nickname of choice.

Personally I love Ramona because of the Beverly Cleary books but hubby hates it.

I did smile because some time ago I posted about the name Roberta and some comments were very strong! One poster went so far as to imply that it would cause an irreversible rift between my child and myself. LOL. Personally I like it.

katybug Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I know a little Greta! It’s darling. I see Sylvia recommended on this site as the “next” Sophia, and I think that’s about right. I would love to see ends-in-s names like Delores, Lois, Phyllis, Mavis or Gladys come back into fashion. Such a distinctive sound!

EmilyVA Says:

November 20th, 2013 at 11:28 pm

No offense meant to the writer of this post, but 1882 is not 100 years ago (or 80 for that matter). It’s 130 years. That’s a long time and 50 years beyond the 80 year rule.
That being said I like looking at names from the 1930’s. I love the boys particularly Donald (bad association makes it unusable for me), Franklin, Gilbert, Kenneth, and Gerald.
From the girls, I love Geraldine, Joyce, Marilyn, Roberta and Sally.
From the unisex I like Rudy (boy), and Billie (girl).
I like the names featured in this post and I like the post in general.

MilenaViolet Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 2:20 am

From the boys I can see: Donald, Doyle, Franklin, Gilbert, Huey
From the girls possibly: Betty, Greta, Joan, Lois, Marilyn, Peggy, Phyllis, Sylvia
My favourite of all the names listed is Sylvia

CsprsSassyHrly Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 7:51 am

I have a niece whose middle name is Arlene. I love it.
I also adore the name Geraldine, ever since I was a teacher’s assistant for my aunt’s church class. That had to have been around the time I was 12, thirteen years ago.
I am in love with the name Greta. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to use it as an actual name, though. I would like it as a nickname for Margaret. I almost want to have two daughters so I can name them both Margaret and then I can have a Maisie and a Greta!

LuMary Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 10:52 am

I’ve seen a Rita and a Beverly in use in recent years at a nearby preschool. I’ve actually warmed to Norman a few years ago.

I don’t care for the -lyn ending, so I don’t expect to like Marilyn. I don’t see the appeal of currently revived Evelyn, either, unless spelled Eveline.

Lo Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I was just thinking about the name Patricia last night. For me that is the ultimate 1930s name. It probably hung on too long into the 40s and 50s to be ready for a revival just yet.

jtucker Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Some really neat names on this list! I sure hope some of them are due for a comeback.

For boys, I would really like to meet little Gilbert’s. I mean who doesn’t love the character of Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gable’s books?

Fro the girls I would like to see Greta and Ramona gain a little in popularity. Greta is so pretty!

XmintieX Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I love Sheldon and could see it rise due to the “80-year-rule” and The big bang theory.
Other favourites from the list are Donald(I love the NN Don), Doyle (My little brother has this name), Franklin (I could see the fathers suggesting this as this is a main character in Grand Theft Auto 5 and I’ve seen a couple game bloggers say they like the names in this game but hype needs to cool down so give it a few years maybe), Gene (I have known a Gene in Highschool) and Marlin.

Sylvia is in the mid 500s (?) so I can see it rising, super cute and the NN silvie or silver is adorable.
Other favourites Arlene, Greta, Joan, Marilyn, Marlene, Norma, Sally.

I dislike nickname first names so Arden is my only favourite Unisex name, I do prefer it on girl over a boy.

loislane1222 Says:

November 21st, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I taught an 8-year-old Greta in one of my gymnastics classes. She was adorable, tiny and blond. Greta and Sylvia (and the oh-so-cute Sylvie) are definitely my favorite names mentioned.

I honestly can’t see Sheldon making a comeback. It makes me think of THAT boyfriend mentioned in “When Harry Met Sally.”

My mother’s name is Marilyn. She was born in 1947. I just can’t picture Marilyn on a newborn. But I’m sure it will eventually rebound.

liviparsons Says:

November 22nd, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Beverly, Ramona, Marlin, and Kenneth I can see definitely making a comeback!
With the popularity of Everly, I’m especially surprised Beverly hasn’t followed.

megane Says:

November 23rd, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I have friends named Marlene and Shirley that are my age (15)!

Video Presentation: Visiting The 80 Year Rule | Upswing Baby Names Says:

December 13th, 2013 at 1:16 am

[…] I shared with Nameberry readers which names from the 1930’s are most likely to come back in style within the next couple of […]

Anaxandra Says:

March 8th, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I named my daughter Sylvia last year, I too think it might be the next Sophia but hope it won’t hit the top ten. I’m of the opinion that naming trends will be speeding up a bit since people care so much these days about uniqueness. Also:

And I agree about Gloria. Many of these names are on the list for my next

explorach1 Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Is Dorothy a thirties name? I see it coming back, with the nickname Dot, or Dottie.

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