Sometimes it feels like baby names go in and out of style faster than a jeans trend — and it can be hard to keep up with the constant cycle. At the same time, some parents want their kids to have truly unique names while others want their kid’s names to be trendy and fit in.
But while some names tip in and out of popularity — like Iris and Ruby — and other stay classic for decades — like Charlotte and James — there are other monikers that blow up but then fade away forever.
This week, language learning platform Babble created a list of baby names that they believe have gone “extinct,” at least for now. How did they do it? They looked at the Social Security Administration’s baby name data from 100 years ago and then researched which of the top 100 names of 1923 no longer make the list of top 1,000 baby names in the 2020s.
The result is 25 boys names and 36 girls names that used to be the cream of the crop but that now barely make waves.
The list is pretty surprising. And while some names, like Milton and Bertha, certainly don’t sound that cute anymore, there are plenty of surprises on the list that might eventually make a comeback, like Clifford and Thelma.
For boys, the “extinct” baby names are: Arnold, Bernard, Bill, Billy, Cecil, Chester, Clarence, Clifford, Dale, Earl, Elmer, Ernest, Floyd, Fred, Glenn, Herbert, Herman, Lester, Lloyd, Milton, Norman, Ralph, Vernon, Virgil, Willard.
While I can see why Lester and Elmer might not have staying power, some of these are super cute, like Dale, Glenn, and Willard.
Ralph, Fred, and Earl were all super-common in 1923, but now you’d have a hard time finding a Ralph in any kindergarten class across the country.
For girls, the “extinct” baby names included Agnes, Ann, Bernice, Bertha, Bessie, Betty, Dolores, Doris, Edna, Ethel, Geraldine, Gertrude, Gladys, Ida, Jean, Jeanne, Juanita, Lois, Lorraine, Marian, Marion, Marjorie, Mildred, Minnie, Myrtle, Norma, Patricia, Pauline, Phyllis, Rita, Shirley, Thelma, Viola, Wanda, Willie, Wilma.
Again, some of these sound like they will remain pretty dusty, like Ethel and Mildred, but others are really quite lovely and vintage, like Ann, Ida, and Marjorie.
Some of the 1923 girls names were wildly popular, like Shirley, Doris, and Betty, and now it’s hard to even imagine running into a baby Shirley (although that’s a cute name!).
“These names show how dramatically American name style has changed. 100 years ago, the fashion was for rich, heavy names dense with consonants. Letters like L, D, R and N would cluster together for a sound that felt elegant at the time,” explained Laura Wattenberg, creator of namerology.com and author of The Baby Name Wizard, said in a release about the findings. “In the 21st century, name style has turned smooth and light. Just try saying aloud today’s top three top names — Liam, Noah, and Olivia — and compare that feeling to pronouncing Mildred, Herbert and Myrtle. The style transformation is so complete that parents today can hardly imagine most of the 1923 names as babies. But many of them were wildly popular. In fact, Mildred was far more popular in 1923 than any baby name is today.”
Wattenberg explained that even the most popular names can fall from grace quickly once they’ve worn out their welcome.
“Names rise fast, but they fall even faster,” she said. “Incredibly, the ‘80s favorite Krista is now less common than Edna, and boys are more likely to be named Elmer than Brad. Some of the departed 1920s names may even sound fresh enough for a comeback soon.”
It will be fascinating to see which of these names rise again and which ones will fade into history.