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Top 1940s Baby Names

Top 1940s Baby Names
Names from the 1940s' Top 100 may be one generation shy of sounding cool today. Today’s grandparent names such as Brenda and Barbara, Roger and Ronald, each peaked in this decade.

Along with Barbara and Ronald, other 1940s baby names that remain in the US Top 1000 include Bonnie, Dorothy, Eugene, Frank, Judith, Larry, Roy, and Virginia. The names that have dropped the farthest in popularity include Phyllis, Gail, Peggy, and Cheryl.

Many of the names from this decade are classics that were revived for the first generation of post-World War II babies, the oldest Baby Boomers. Expect to start hearing them on babies again in 20 years, when baby names from the 1940s will be a century old and so ready to return to style.
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ArthurHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    " bear"
  • Description:

    Arthur, once the shining head of the Knights of the Round Table, is, after decades of neglect, now being polished up and restored by some stylish parents, emerging as a top contender among names for the new royal prince.

HenryHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Henry was derived from the French Henri, which ultimately comes from the Germanic name Heimrich, made up of the components heim, meaning “home” or “estate,” and rich, meaning “ruler.” The most famous wearer is Henry VIII of England, best known for having six wives—two of whom he beheaded for not bearing him sons. It’s been used in the British royal family many times since.

AliceHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "noble"
  • Description:

    Alice was derived from the Old French name Aalis, a diminutive of Adelais that itself came from the Germanic name Adalhaidis. Adalhaidis, from which the name Adelaide is also derived, is composed of the Proto-Germanic elements aþala, meaning “noble,” and haidu, “kind, appearance, type.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland popularized the name in modern times.

JackHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of John
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Jack is a derivative of John that originated in medieval England. The name went from John to Johnkin to Jankin to Jackin to Jack. The name was so common in the Middle Ages that Jack became a generic term for a man.

ThomasHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic
  • Meaning:

    "twin"
  • Description:

    Thomas is the Greek variation of the Aramaic name Ta’oma’. It came about because there were too many apostles named Judas; Jesus renamed one Thomas—meaning "twin"—to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and the Judas also known as Thaddeus. At first, it was used only for priests.
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CharlesHeart

  • Origin:

    French from German
  • Meaning:

    "man, free man"
  • Description:

    Charles derives from the Germanic name Karl, meaning "man" or "freeman", and is a royal name in multiple European countries. A famous early bearer is Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Lombards and then Roman Emperor in the 8th-9th centuries. The word for “king” in several languages came from Charles, including Slavic, Russian, and Polish.

LouisHeart

  • Origin:

    German and French
  • Meaning:

    "renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    Kate and William shocked the world when they announced that they'd named their third child Louis -- Prince Louis Arthur Charles, to be more precise. But we've been predicting a comeback for this classic name for a long time.

JaneHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    No, we don't consider Jane too plain. In fact, for a venerable and short one-syllable name, we think it packs a surprising amount of punch, as compared to the related Jean and Joan.

CatherineHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Catherine is one of the oldest and most consistently well-used girls’ names, with endless variations and nicknames. The Catherine form feels more gently old-fashioned and feminine than the more popular K versions. Most stylish nickname for Catherine right now: Kate...or Cate, a la Blanchett.

JohnHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    John is an English derivative of the Hebrew name Yochanan via the Latin name Iohannes, itself coming from the Greek Ioannes. John was a key name in early Christianity, borne by John the Baptist, John the Apostle and John the Evangelist, plus 84 saints and 23 popes, as well as kings and countless other illustrious notables. Contrary to popular belief, the names John and Jonathan are unrelated, the latter being an elaboration of Nathan.
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DavidHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "beloved"
  • Description:

    David is derived from the Hebrew name Dawid, which evolved from the element dod, meaning “beloved.” It is the name of the Old Testament second king of Israel who, as a boy, slew the giant Philistine Goliath with his slingshot. He grew up to become a wise and highly cultivated leader who enjoyed music and was a poet, later providing inspiration to such great sculptors as Michelangelo and Donatello.

MargaretHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Margaret is derived from the French Marguerite, which in turn came from Margarita, the Latin form of the Greek Margarites. Margarites was based on the Old Persian word margārīta, meaning “pearl.”

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.

DianaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "divine"
  • Description:

    Diana, the tragic British princess, inspired many fashions, but strangely, not one for her name. For us, Diana is a gorgeous and still-underused choice.

FrancesHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from France; free man"
  • Description:

    Frances is the feminine form of Francis, the English variation of the Latin name Franciscus. Franciscus, meaning “Frenchman,” was taken from the Germanic tribe the Franks, which got its name from the francisca, the axe they used in battle. Until the seventeenth century, the spellings Frances and Francis were used interchangeably for both sexes.
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PeterHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "rock"
  • Description:

    Peter is derived from the Greek Petros, meaning “rock” or “stone.” One of the most important figures in the Christian hagiography is Saint Peter, keeper of the Gates of Heaven. Born Simon bar Jonah, he was given the nickname Peter by Jesus, to signify that he would be the rock on which Christ would build Christianity. Centuries later, there was Peter the Great, the czar who developed Russia as a major European power.

RuthHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "compassionate friend"
  • Description:

    Ruth, with its air of calm and compassion, was the third most popular name in the 1890s, remaining in the Top 10 through the 1920s. It's still in use today as some parents tiring of Rachel and Rebecca are giving Ruth a second thought. Some see such Old Testament girls’ names as Ruth and Esther rising on the heels of boy equivalents Abel and Moses.

WalterHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "army ruler"
  • Description:

    Walter was seen as a noble name in the Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Walter Scott era, but it then spent decades in baby name limbo. Now quite a few independent-minded parents are looking at it as a renewable, slightly quirky, classic, stronger and more distinctive than James or John, second only to William among the handsome classic boy baby names starting with W. The recent popularity of Breaking Bad has brought us Walter White, conferring on the name Walter a new kind of cool and prompting a fresh wave of popularity.

EdwardHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "wealthy guardian"
  • Description:

    Unlike perennials William, John and James, Edward is a classic that moves in and out of fashion. This royal Anglo-Saxon standard has benefited in recent years from the popularity of the hot hero of the vampire sensation Twilight -- Edward Cullen -- who has given his name a new infusion of cool.

RobertHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "bright fame"
  • Description:

    Robert was derived from the ancient Germanic name Hrodebert, from the elements hrod, meaning “fame” and bertha, “bright.” Robert was the name of three kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce, who freed Scotland from English rule. The name was brought to England by the Normans.
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MaryHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    Mary is the English form of Maria, which ultimately was derived from the Hebrew name Maryam/Mariam. The original meaning of Maryam is uncertain, but theories include "drop of the sea" (from Hebrew roots mar "drop" and yam "sea"); "bitter" (from Hebrew marah "bitterness"); and "beloved" (from the Egyptian root mr).

LawrenceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from Laurentium"
  • Description:

    Lawrence has survived from Roman times, when Laurentium was a city noted for its laurel trees (the laurel is a symbol of wisdom and achievement). It was in the Top 50 from the 1890s through the 1950s and the Top 100 for decades longer, always among the most popular boys' names starting with L, but Lawrence is now used less for babies than Landon or Lorenzo. Nickname Lauro perks it up while Larry feels terminally dated. The Laurence spelling was popularized by Sir Laurence Olivier and is also attached to fellow actor Laurence Fishburne.

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.

HarryHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Henry
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Harry is the medieval English form of Henry, which derived from the Germanic name Heimrich, meaning “estate ruler.” Harry was the nickname of all eight King Henrys; it is also a diminutive of Harold and Harrison.

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.
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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.

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.

RalphHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "wolf-counsel"
  • Description:

    Ralph has two diametrically different images: there's the suave Ralph Fiennes-type Brit (often pronounced Rafe), and then there's the Jackie Gleason blue-collar, bowling blowhard Ralph Kramden bus driver. It's all in the eye of the beholder, though its hip factor did rise when it was chosen for his son by cool U.K. actor Matthew Macfadyen.

PhilipHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "lover of horses"
  • Description:

    Philip, the name of one of the 12 apostles, is still favored by parents in search of a solid boys' classic that is less neutral than Robert or John and more distinctive than Daniel or Matthew and has many historic, royal ties.

GeorgeHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "farmer"
  • Description:

    Iconoclasts though we may be, we like Fred, we like Frank, and we like George, which was among the Top 10 from 1830 to 1950, when the number of little Georges started to decline. Solid, strong, royal and saintly, yet friendly and unpretentious, we think that George is in prime position for a comeback, especially since it was chosen by Britain's royal couple.
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DorothyHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Greek Dorothea
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    In the 1930s, Dorothy left Kansas and landed in the Land of Oz; by the '80s she had become a Golden Girl, living in Miami with roommates Blanche and Rose, giving her a decidedly older image. But parents today seeking a quiet classic are bringing Dorothy back—she reentered the Top 1000 in 2011 after almost completely disappearing.

RaymondHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "wise-protector"
  • Description:

    Now that the show has gone into reruns, does anybody still love Raymond? Though it's been long dormant, some parents -- including Jack Nicholson -- are finding its cool name component, largely through the nickname Ray.

AlbertHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "noble, bright"
  • Description:

    Albert has acquired a new gloss as one of the top royal baby boy names, a serious upgrade from its serious, studious image (think Einstein, Schweitzer). Albert remained popular for 80 years, and though it's far less fashionable today, it's still a widely used choice. Still, along with such stalwarts as Walter and George, it could now make an unusual yet classic choice. It became especially popular in Britain following the 1840 marriage of Queen Victoria to the German Prince Albert. Enlivening nickname Bertie is popular on its own in England.

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.

HelenHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining light"
  • Description:

    Helen is a name that has connoted beauty since ancient times – Helen of Troy was the the mythological "face that launched a thousand ships," over whom the ten-year Trojan War was fought.
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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.

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.

EugeneHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "wellborn, noble"
  • Description:

    Eugene is a classic that has rather lost its way. On the one hand, it's a grandpa, even great-grandpa name that hasn't been one of the cool kids recently—or to quote Jim Carrey, who bears this name in the middle spot, "You can never get too cool with a name like Eugene." The hero of Disney's Tangled felt the same way, when he changed his birth name of Eugene to the more romantic Flynn.

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.

JoeHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Joseph
  • Meaning:

    "Jehovah increases"
  • Description:

    Joe is still the ultimate good-guy name, not at all diminished by its longevity or popularity or its everyman rep as Regular Joe, Cowboy Joe, G.I. Joe, Joe Exotic, Joe Blow, Joe Millionaire, Average Joe -- and now President Joe (Biden).
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MarthaHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic
  • Meaning:

    "lady"
  • Description:

    The name of our first First Lady still has something of a prim and proper image, academic and efficient. That quiet, traditional, and tasteful gestalt is exactly what makes Martha appealing to some parents today.

StephenHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "garland, crown"
  • Description:

    Stephen, also spelled Steven, is a strong and likable classic, with the he's-a-great-guy short form Steve. Though not as well-used or fashionable as it was in its heyday -- it was a Top 25 name from 1946 to 1957 -- it's still a widely used name. It remains an even more popular in Ireland.

LoisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "most desirable"
  • Description:

    The eternal fiancee of Superman turned sweet gray-haired lady who's always available to babysit her grandkids. Lois is actually a New Testament name of Greek origin: she was converted by Paul and was the grandmother of Timothy, who became one of Paul's disciples. Other s-ending names are making a comeback, as is Louise, so why not Lois?

BobbyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Robert
  • Meaning:

    "bright fame"
  • Description:

    Bobby is the quintessential mid-century nickname, the name of the son on Mad Men and overused to the point of cliche. Though Robert is still a highly popular choice, most Roberts today are called by their full name or Rob or Robbie rather than Bob or Bobby.

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.
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MarieHeart

  • Origin:

    French variation of Mary
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    The ubiquitous French version of Mary came into the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century. In the United States, Marie was a huge hit at the turn of the last century and for the ensuing fifty years, becoming the seventh most popular name in the country for three years, from 1901 to 1904.

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.

StevenHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Stephen
  • Meaning:

    "garland, crown"
  • Description:

    Steven, the phonetic and now predominant spelling of the classier Stephen, has finally dropped out of the Top 100 after seventy years. Steve has become one of the ultimate regular-guy names, right up there with Dave and Joe. and there have been innumerable pop-culture role models among its bearers--from Steven Spielberg to Steven Soderbergh to Steve Jobs.

AnnHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of Hebrew Hannah
  • Meaning:

    "grace"
  • Description:

    Ann, the name of the sainted mother of the Virgin Mary, was among the top girls’ names for centuries, in both the original English Ann spelling and the French Anne. Both left the Top 100 around 1970 and show no signs of returning, with Anne is the middle of the US Top 1000 and Ann dropped out of sight. Once a go-to middle name, Ann has lost its stature in that position as well. Still, it's one of the most common names for girls of the 20th century.

VirginiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "virginal, pure"
  • Description:

    Virginia is a lovely place name starting with the fashionable V and having deep historical roots, yet, unlike some other other girls' classics, has been sorely neglected in recent years.
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