Baby names that have faded into obscurity

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November 11, 2020
Australian National Maritime Museum // Flickr

Baby names that have faded into obscurity

Thank the duke and duchess of Sussex for the name Archie skyrocketing to the top of the baby name charts for 2019. Before the birth of Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, the moniker was associated with a comic book character with a best friend named Jughead—and a blue-collar loudmouth in the television series “All in the Family.” Only 49 sons in 1998 were named Archie; classrooms will be brimming with Archies soon.

The scenario demonstrates how names, like fashion, pop in and out of popularity over the years, and got Stacker thinking about aliases that have fallen into obscurity over the last century. Every day scores of parents-to-be research baby names to check out which monikers are trending.

Stacker used the Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Names database to explore names that were once popular, but have since fallen out of favor. Each name on the list was one of America’s 100 most popular names in at least one decade between 1900 and 1950, but was given to less than 50 newborn babies in 2019. Of the 39 names that fit both of these criteria, 32 are female names and only seven are male names. The names are ranked in this slideshow by how many babies were given this name in 2018, from most enduringly popular at #35 to most obscure at #1.

This list showcases the now-unpopular names and illuminates some salient facts about them, including people (both real and fictional) that have kept names in the spotlight. Ask Aunt Dolores or Uncle Bob about the story of their name, or better yet, click through the slideshow to find out.

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MIA Studio // Shutterstock

#39. Pauline (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #55, 13,310 babies), 1910s (Rank: #34, 50,076 babies), 1920s (Rank: #37, 64,072 babies), 1930s (Rank: #74, 33,682 babies) 
- Number of babies born in 2019: 49 (Rank: #3,202)

The name Pauline means little or small. Fans of Ninetendo’s Donkey Kong will recall Pauline as Mario’s first love interest. The first female network newscaster, journalist Pauline Frederick was the first woman to garner a Peabody Award.

 

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#38. Hilda (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #99, 6,783 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 48 (Rank: #3,251)

The name Hilda is of German origin and means “war and battle.” St. Hilda, however, was known as a patron saint of culture, learning, and poetry, which may have inspired mothers to name their daughter after her in the 1900s. Anyone who was reading the comic strips in the 1970s may recall Broom-Hilda, the 1,500-year-old witch that loved men and beer.

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Africa Studio // Shutterstock

#37. Willard (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1910s (Rank: #83, 15,364 babies), 1920s (Rank: #97, 18,442 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 45 (Rank: #2,750)


The name Willard has English and German roots and means strong, brave and valiant. Broadcast media personality Willard Scott is better known for his voice than his moniker. Willard Van Orman Quine made an indelible imprint in the field of philosophy and was the author of three books: Word and ObjectThe Roots of Reference  and an autobiography, "The Time of My Life."

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Marlon Lopez MMG1 Design // Shutterstock

#36. Sherry (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #97, 32,757 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 43 (Rank: #3,533)

Was it Colette’s novel “Chéri,” published in 1920 that inspired mothers to name their daughters Sherry or the fortified wine from the Spanish sherry triangle? Former Paramount Studios CEO Sherry Lansing got her name when the handle was at its height and brought it to the forefront when she became the first woman to be head of a major movie studio.

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REXI IMAGES // Shutterstock

#34. Claude (tie) (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #69, 3,704 babies), 1910s (Rank: #92, 12,792 babies) 
- Number of babies born in 2019: 42 (Rank: #2,878)

The name Claude conjures up images of the famous French painter Claude Monet. The moniker is of French origin and means lame, Another French artist named Claude was the famous composer Claude Debussy. 

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PorporLing // Shutterstock

#34. Kay (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #98, 32,651 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 42 (Rank: #3,588)

Kay is derived from the name Katherine and means pure. Fans of the Eloise book series think of Kay Thompson when they hear the name Kay. Actress Kay Panabaker is best known for her role in the remake of Fame and now works in Disney as a zookeeper.

 

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Pixabay

#32. Dolores (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1920s (Rank: #48, 51,987 babies), 1930s (Rank: #25, 77,127 babies), 1940s (Rank: #93, 33,099 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 41 (Rank: #3,647)

Topping the charts in the 1930s, Dolores may have been brought to fame by Hollywood siren Dolores del Río. Author Vladimir Nabokov may have contributed to the name’s decline by naming his character Humbert Humbert‘s 12-year-old stepdaughter Dolores.

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#32. Jeanne (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1920s (Rank: #98, 29,119 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 41 (Rank: #3,647)

The name Jeanne has a regal ring with its connection to Jeanne (or Joan) of Arc. Those who were moviegoers in the ‘70s may uncomfortably recall Jeanne from Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Last Tango in Paris” while fans of “I Dream of Jeannie” will smile when they remember Barbara Eden’s title character.

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Darren Baker // Shutterstock

#30. Cheryl (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #43, 70,959 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 40 (Rank: #3,701)

The name Cheryl means darling or beloved. Fans of the television series Charlie’s Angels recall Cheryl Ladd playing Kris Munroe. Another famous Cheryl is supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.

 

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#30. Marcia (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #90, 34,394 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 40 (Rank: #3,701)

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! The name Marcia conjures up the image of the elder sister on "The Brady Bunch," but it’s also an ancient Roman moniker derived from the god of war, Mars, used in Dante's "Inferno" and by novelist Thomas Hardy. Marcia is also associated with actress Marcia Gay Harden.

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#29. Jim (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #88, 2,718 babies), 1930s (Rank: #94, 20,824 babies), 1940s (Rank: #84, 35,627 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 39 (Rank: #3,030)

Although only 39 babies born in the United States in 2018 were named Jim, the name has been a favorite in fictional works and in the celebrity world. Remember Jim in “Huckleberry Finn,” “Lucky Jim,” or “Lord Jim”? Although America treasures Jims including Morrison, Henson, Carrey, and Parsons, there’s a slim chance this year’s parents will be naming their sons Jim.

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#28. Wilbur (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1910s (Rank: #96, 12,411 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 36 (Rank: #3,180)

Co-inventor of the airplane with his brother Orville, Wilbur Wright is one of the most famous people associated with the name Wilbur. Baseball fans may think of the Pittsburgh Pirates leftie Wilbur Cooper while those with a talkative inner child may conjure up the famous pig from E.B. White’s beloved “Charlotte’s Web.”

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#26. Peggy (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #37, 56,268 babies), 1940s (Rank: #42, 72,114 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 35 (Rank: #4,060)

Although the name Peggy was most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, there have been many famous Peggys in decades since. Peggy Fleming was an Olympic figure skater in the late 1960s while Peggy Lipton was acting as Julie Barnes in the TV show “The Mod Squad,” and the name was belted out by singers like Buddy Holly in his ode to “Peggy Sue.”

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Pixabay

#26. Wilma (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1910s (Rank: #90, 21,383 babies), 1920s (Rank: #68, 39,125 babies), 1930s (Rank: #75, 33,187 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 35 (Rank: #4,060)

Long before it became synonymous with Fred’s wife on "The Flintstones," Wilma was a popular name in the early 1900s. Track and field star Wilma Rudolph put the name in the spotlight in 1960 when, despite being told as a child she may never walk again due to illness, she won three gold medals. She was the first American woman to win triple gold in track and field at the same Olympics.

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Pixabay

#25. Jo (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #90, 28,653 babies), 1940s (Rank: #60, 48,447 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 34 (Rank: #4,129)

Jo is the name for the protagonist in “Little Women” as well as the motorcycle-riding character played by Nancy McKeon on “Facts of Life.” But these references have fallen out of fashion, as it has not appeared on the baby name list for decades.

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#24. Gertrude (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #26, 23,607 babies), 1910s (Rank: #35, 49,566 babies), 1920s (Rank: #64, 42,458 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 33 (Rank: #4,233)

Gertrude, the moniker of a seventh-century saint, is not a name that’s frequently associated with the young. Novelist Gertrude Stein, born in 1874, is one of the most famous women with the name, and Olympic swimmer Gertrude Ederle made a splash when she became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

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#23. Bertha (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #20, 24,247 babies), 1910s (Rank: #43, 40,120 babies), 1920s (Rank: #70, 38,571 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 29 (Rank: #4,624)

When Bertha von Suttner became the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, there may have been a bevy of Berthas who swelled with pride that their namesake was lauded. Today it’s more likely to be uttered by a golfer looking for his Big Bertha golf club.

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Atulkr2412 // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Bill (tie) (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1920s (Rank: #87, 22,292 babies), 1930s (Rank: #62, 32,329 babies), 1940s (Rank: #75, 37,757 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 28 (Rank: #3,780)

Perhaps it was tennis legend “Big Bill” Tilden that inspired folks to name their babies after him or maybe a nod to tradition. Back when Bill Clinton’s parents decided to call their son Bill, the moniker was still popular. Bill Murray and Bill Gates may have been dubbed Bill while the name was still in fashion, but there aren’t many Bills in preschool today.

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#21. Beulah (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #77, 9,716 babies), 1910s (Rank: #95, 18,874 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 28 (Rank: #4,743)

It’s unusual to find many nonfictional Beulahs today. Beulah McGillicutty was the wrestling ring name of Trisa Hayes, but the name appears more frequently in the Bible and the works of poet William Blake.

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#20. Maude (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #96, 7,142 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 25 (Rank: #5,141)

Maude was most likely in vogue in the 1900s thanks to the celebrated actress Maude Ewing Adams Kiskadden, who played a myriad of famous roles including Peter Pan. The name would be made famous again by Bea Arthur’s character in Norman Lear’s sitcom “Maude.”

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#18. Homer (tie) (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #82, 2,915 babies), 1910s (Rank: #100, 11,470 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 23 (Rank: #4,312)

The Greek poet Homer is presumed to have penned the epic poems "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," but how did the moniker make the baby lists centuries later? What would the poet have to say about his name living on in the character of Homer Simpson?

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Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#18. Ethel (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #12, 34,868 babies), 1910s (Rank: #22, 63,663 babies), 1920s (Rank: #41, 62,802 babies), 1930s (Rank: #80, 31,584 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 23 (Rank: #5,413)

Actresses Merman and Barrymore popularized the name Ethel in the Hollywood spotlight, but it was Lucy’s sidekick Ethel Mae Mertz in the 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy” that made the name synonymous with laughter. Coined in the 19th century, it was made popular by William Makepeace Thackeray’s “The Newcomes” and C.M. Yonge’s “The Daisy Chain.”

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#15. Glenda (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #92, 33,347 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 22 (Rank: #5,572)

Movie actresses Glenda Jackson and Glenda Farrell kept the moniker in the spotlight. The meaning of Glenda is “fair and good”—appropriate for a name reminiscent of the good witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”

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Pixabay

#15. Mamie (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #68, 10,618 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 22 (Rank: #5,572)

The name Mamie is most often associated with former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Another famous Mamie was performing artist Mamie Smith, whose 1920 performance “Crazy Blues” is thought to be the first blues recording. Actress Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep and Don Gummer, was born in 1983. 

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Pixabay

#15. Thelma (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #41, 18,265 babies), 1910s (Rank: #28, 57,011 babies), 1920s (Rank: #34, 68,769 babies), 1930s (Rank: #63, 36,249 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 22 (Rank: #5,572)

British writer Marie Corelli brought the name Thelma into the mainstream with the titular heroine in her novel “Thelma” in 1887. Now, people are more likely to think of the title characters Thelma and Louise, from the 1991 movie starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, when they hear the name

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AdinaVoicu // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Delores (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #56, 37,601 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 21 (Rank: #5,759)

This variation on “Dolores” may also have risen to prominence due to parents in the 1930s hoping their daughters would share the beauty and fame of Mexican actress Dolores del Río. She shared the name with another more recent celebrity, former Cranberries’ frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan.

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Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

#13. Dianne (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #100, 32,294 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 18 (Rank: #6,365)

California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, actress Dianne Wiest, and singer Dianne Reeves share a name that has not been popular since World War II. It is the French form of the name Diana, shared by the Greek goddess of the moon and the Princess of Wales.

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Pixabay

#11. Gail (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #53, 53,138 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 15 (Rank: #7,300)

Hollywood star Elizabeth Russell changed her name to Gail Russell in the 1940s, a nod to the name’s cache at that moment. Best-selling novelist Gail Godwin also brought fame to the name, while the character Gale Leery on “Dawson's Creek” represented an alternative spelling of the name.

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#11. Phyllis (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1910s (Rank: #99, 17,885 babies), 1920s (Rank: #42, 61,867 babies), 1930s (Rank: #27, 73,802 babies), 1940s (Rank: #38, 76,135 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 15 (Rank: #7,300)

The name Phyllis was used in ancient literature, but when people hear the name today they’re more likely to recall comedian Phyllis Diller or think of the character on the TV show “The Office”; the TV character is played by another Phyllis, Phyllis Smith.

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#10. Bob (for boys)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #85, 23,291 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 14 (Rank: #6,065)

Famous Bobs aren’t hard to find: singers Bob Marley (born Robert) and Bob Dylan (born Robert), actors Bob Hope (born Leslie) and Bob Saget (born Robert), and game show host Bob Barker (born Robert) are just a few. Only 17 parents chose to name their boys Bob in 2018; likely, in part, because Bobs are usually born Robert. 

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Pixabay // Pexels

#8. Velma (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #100, 6,558 babies), 1910s (Rank: #96, 18,631 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 13 (Rank: #8,094)

“Scooby-Doo” fans know Velma as the girl who keeps losing her glasses, while theatergoers may associate the name with Velma Kelly of “Chicago.” In a nonfiction context, the name is also shared by serial killer Velma Barfield.

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#8. Wanda (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1920s (Rank: #76, 36,005 babies), 1930s (Rank: #50, 43,074 babies), 1940s (Rank: #56, 50,772 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 13 (Rank: #8,094)

The name was used in 1883 by when author Ouida bestowed it upon the heroine of her novel “Wanda.” Today it’s more likely to bring to mind comedian Wanda Sykes.

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Mariia Boiko // Shutterstock

#7. Myrtle (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #35, 19,691 babies), 1910s (Rank: #59, 32,432 babies), 1920s (Rank: #90, 30,567 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 12 (Rank: #8,549)

The name Myrtle means evergreen shrub and is symbolic of victory. Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s  Great Gatsby will think of the character Myrtle Wilson when they hear the name. Actress Myrtle Stedman got her start in silent films in 1913.

 

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#4. Bessie (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #22, 23,984 babies), 1910s (Rank: #55, 33,859 babies), 1920s (Rank: #89, 32,158 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 11 (Rank: #9,050)

This name may occasionally be more associated with cows than people, but pilot Bessie Coleman, blues singer Bessie Smith, and actress Bessie Love give the handle a different spin. Fictionally, there’s also Bessie Potter of “Dawson’s Creek” to lend the name extra time in the spotlight.

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#4. Carole (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #94, 26,766 babies), 1940s (Rank: #57, 50,304 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 11 (Rank: #9,050)

Songwriter and singer Carole King's parents kept the 'e' at the end of the moniker, which has French roots and is derived from the name Charles. Parents of other Carols like actresses Carol Burnett and Carol Channing elected to drop the 'e' in the name’s more common variation.

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#4. Patsy (tie) (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1930s (Rank: #61, 36,469 babies), 1940s (Rank: #74, 40,277 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 11 (Rank: #9,050)

The name Patsy may conjure up images of pig-tailed Irish girls jumping rope in the 1930s and 1940s, or of singer Patsy Cline.

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#3. Sue (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1940s (Rank: #72, 40,942 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: 6 (Rank: #13,710)

It’s hard to imagine famous Susans like social reformer Susan B. Anthony, actress Susan Lucci, or crooner Susan Boyle being called Sue. Novelist Sue Grafton and "Glee" character Sue Slyvester keep Susan’s nickname alive, though just 15 babies lin 2018 were named Sue.

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#2. Willie (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #61, 12,357 babies), 1910s (Rank: #66, 28,178 babies), 1920s (Rank: #72, 37,814 babies),
- Number of babies born in 2019: 5 (Rank: #15,442)

Willie Mays hit a home run with the name in the world of Major League Baseball and Willie Nelson has ridden his way to country fame. Coming in tied for #1, only five girls were named Willie in 2018. 

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#1. Blanche (for girls)

- Decades this name was popular: 1900s (Rank: #63, 11,730 babies), 1910s (Rank: #87, 21,977 babies)
- Number of babies born in 2019: Less than 5 (not ranked)

French royals help popularize the name Blanche. Decades later, Blanche DuBois would give the name a different twist in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

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