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Midcentury Baby Names

Midcentury Baby Names
Midcentury furniture may be in, but midcentury baby names, not so much. These are the names of the Baby Boomers, grandmas and grandpas of today, and their names feel old-fashioned to young parents. It doesn’t help that some of these names, such as Karen and Susan, have become meme-ified and turned into punchlines.

Many of these names no longer make the popularity rankings, but along with Karen, other midcentury baby names in the US Top 1000 include Bruce, Ellen, Gregory, Judith, Kevin, Linda, Richard, and Teresa. Among the names we expect to bounce back first are Bonnie, Russell, Gloria, and Billy.

Wait a generation or two, and given the hundred year rule, you might look for these midcentury names to make a comeback as baby names in the 2040s and 2050s. Well, maybe not Karen. Here, the top baby names in midcentury America.

Midcentury Baby Names

CynthiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "moon goddess or, woman from Kynthos"
  • Description:

    Cynthia is an attractive name -- in classical mythology an epithet for Artemis or Diana -- that was so overexposed in the middle of the twentieth century, along with its nickname Cindy, that it fell into a period of benign neglect, but now is ripe for reconsideration in its full form.

BonnieHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "beautiful, cheerful"
  • Description:

    Bonnie is a word the Scots really do use for pretty, thus the root of this name, from the French bonne. Bonnie is teetering on the edge of a comeback right now, along with Betty and Bea one of the girls' names starting with Bthat are so far out they're heading back in, especially in the UK.

ElaineHeart

  • Origin:

    French and Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining light"
  • Description:

    This old Scottish form of Helen has had quite a history, going from appearing as one of the shining heroines of the Arthurian legends, the princess who fell in love with Sir Lancelot and became the mother of Sir Galahad, referred to as 'Elaine the fair' and 'Elaine the lovable', to being the name of the most famous of New York's celebrity restaurants, to being the archetypal New York neurotic on Seinfeld.

FrankHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Francis or Franklin
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    A Top 10 name from the 1880s until the 1920s, Frank has fallen from favor but still has a certain warm, friendly real-guy grandpa flavor that could come back into style, like other such choices as Jake and Jack. Maybe thanks to Sinatra, it's become a new hipster favorite with such couples as Diana Krall and Elvis Costello.

BruceHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish and English from French
  • Meaning:

    "from the brushwood thicket"
  • Description:

    Bruce is a Norman place name made famous by the Scottish king Robert the Bruce, who won Scotland's independence from England in the fourteenth century. It's perennially popular in Scotland, but has been rarely used here for a generation -- though the impact of Bruces Lee, Springsteen, Dern and Willis, as well as Batman's Bruce Wayne -- still lingers. At one time Bruce was so widespread in Australia, it became a nickname for any Ozzie man. An interesting alternative is Brix, the Normandy place name where the Bruce family originated.

KarenHeart

  • Origin:

    Danish variation of Katherine
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Karen is a Danish diminutive of Katherine, an English name derived from the Greek Aikaterine. The etymology of Aikaterine is contested, but generally considered to have arisen from the Greek root katharos, meaning "pure." Kaja is a related name, as it is another Danish variation of Katherine.

KevinHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "handsome"
  • Description:

    Kevin was derived from the name Caoimhín, which originated from the Irish elements coém, meaning “handsome,” and gein, “birth.” The feminine name Caiomhe, anglicized as Keeva, comes from the same origins. Kevin was first popularized by the seventh century Saint Kevin, who founded a scholastic monastery near Dublin and was rewarded by being made one of that city's patron saints.

PaulHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "small"
  • Description:

    To the thousands of girls who screamed the name of their favorite Beatle in the 1960s, the boys' name Paul had a thrillingly unique image, but to the rest of the world, then and now, it's a name that's so simple and yet so widely diffuse that it could belong to almost anyone. Paul is an ancient name for boys -- popular in Roman and medieval times -- that's not very fashionable now, which can work in its favor, scarcity balancing simplicity.

SusanHeart

  • Origin:

    English short form of Susannah, Hebrew,"lily"
  • Meaning:

    "lily"
  • Description:

    Although Susan had her heyday from the thirties to the sixties, and is now common among moms and new grandmas, and though most modern parents would prefer Susanna/Susannah, we have spotted some flickers of interest in a revival. It still retains a certain black-eyed-Susan freshness.

KennethHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish and Irish
  • Meaning:

    "born of fire, handsome"
  • Description:

    Kenneth may have lost much of its luster now, but Kenneth has had its moments of glory. The first king of Scotland was Kenneth, and Sir Kenneth, a Christian crusader, was the hero of the Sir Walter Scott novel The Talisman.

MichelleHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Michael
  • Meaning:

    "who is like God"
  • Description:

    Michelle is the feminine form of Michel, the French variation of Michael. Michael was derived from the Hebrew name Mihka’el, meaning “who is like God.” The alternate spelling Michele, with one “L,” was the original version of the name. Michelle appeared as a later Anglicization in the 20th century.

JeffreyHeart

  • Origin:

    Spelling variation of Geoffrey
  • Meaning:

    "pledge of peace"
  • Description:

    The mostly Americanized version of Geoffrey was a trendy mid-century hit, with nickname Jeff the epitome of cool. Jeffrey entered the pop list in 1934 and was a Top 20 name from the mid-fifties to 1978.

RichardHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "dominant ruler"
  • Description:

    A classic old Norman name popular for a thousand years and favored for kings (Richard Nixon was named for Richard the Lionhearted), as well as the hoi polloi (as in every Tom, Dick and Harry), Richard was the sixth most popular US boys’ name in 1925, and was still Number 8 in 1950, but is now much less popular.

NancyHeart

  • Origin:

    English diminutive of Ann
  • Description:

    Nancy originated as a contraction of “mine Ancy,” with Ancy being a nickname for Annis, a Medieval English variation of Agnes. In the 18th century it began being used in its own right, as well as a nickname for Ann. Related names include Nan, Nance, Nanette, Nanny, and Nanou.

EileenHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish variation of Evelyn
  • Meaning:

    "desired; or water, island"
  • Description:

    Irish Aileen continues to be more popular than Scottish Eileen, though both names have seen an unexpected resurgence since 2012. Nicknames for Eileen include Isla, Lee and Lina. Eileen is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic Eibhlin or Aibhilin, which is technically a form of to Evelyn/Aveline, but is also sometimes considered part of the Helen family of names. It was quite popular in the early part of the twentieth century.

BrianHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish
  • Meaning:

    "strong, virtuous, and honorable"
  • Description:

    The origins of the name Brian are not entirely clear, but it is suspected that it evolved from an Old Celtic word related to nobility. In Ireland the name is associated with Brian Boru, the most famous of all Irish warrior-kings, credited with driving the Vikings out of Ireland. Bryan is a common alternative spelling.

TimothyHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "honoring God"
  • Description:

    A second-tier classic, the New Testament Timothy moves in and out of fashion more than John and James. But though it peaked in the 1960s, many modern parents still appreciate its familiarity and lively rhythm. And the short form Tim feels eternally boyish.

RussellHeart

  • Origin:

    French
  • Meaning:

    "redhead, fox-colored"
  • Description:

    One of many R- boys’ names that started as a nickname for a redhead, Russell had a measure of popularity from the early twentieth century through the 1950s. But it's now lost much of its color -- except for a few dynamic bearers, actors Russell Crowe and Russell Brand and sports stars Russell Westbrook and Russell Wilson.

KeithHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "wood"
  • Description:

    Strong but gentle, Keith is one of the Scottish surnames that, along with Douglas, Craig and Bruce, were considered the epitome of cool in the 1960s and early 1970s, when it was a Top 40 choice.

PatriciaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "noble, patrician"
  • Description:

    Patricia still sounds patrician, though its scores of nicknames definitely don't. Wildly popular from the forties (alternately Number 3 and 4 throughout the decade) to the sixties, Patricia has been fading ever since. But a comeback in its full form is definitely conceivable—just look at Penelope.