Thursday, July 17, 2014

Girls' Names

My family recently welcomed a new member, a baby girl.  It got me to thinking about trends in baby names.  (I'm not talking about Katniss or Ava or Layla or Chloe; we know about the unusual names these days.)  I was curious about the most loved names of each period.

It turns out these have shifted over time.  At the bottom of this post, I have listed the top 10 girls' names, according to Social Security reports, for each decade from the 1900s to the 2000s, plus the 2013 favorites.

Here are some changes I noticed:

1.  "Mary" is so over.  It was by far the most popular name, probably forever, then fell to second place in the 1960s and has not been in favor since then.

2.  "Elizabeth," popular from 1900 through the 1910s, returned to the top10 in the 1980s and has stayed there.  "Betty," a diminutive of Elizabeth, also was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

3. Many names trend for two or three decades and then become less popular.  "Patricia" from the 1930s through the 1960s, "Margaret" from the 1900s through the 1930s.  "Helen" from the 1900s through the 1920s.  (I think "Helen" is a pretty name.  I'm rooting for it to make a comeback.)

4. "Emily" has been cresting for almost 30 years, "Madison" and "Olivia" and "Isabella" for almost 20.

5.  "Jane" and "Ann" don't show up at all.  In the latter case, maybe "Ann" and "Anne" together would rate a mention.  Same with "Catherine" -- "Katharine," "Kathryn," "Cathy" and "Kathy."

Actually, names do not matter. Once you know someone, the name attaches to that person's unique identity, and you cannot think of the name without associating it with the man or woman you know.

Perhaps Juliet (whose name did not make the rankings below) said it best in the Shakespearean play when she said to Romeo,

"What's in a name?  that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"

2013                  2000s                1990s             1980s           1970s          1960s        1950s

Sophia               Emily                Jessica            Jessica          Jennifer       Lisa           Mary
Emma                Madison            Ashley           Jennifer        Amy            Mary         Linda
Olivia                 Emma               Emily             Amanda       Melissa        Susan        Patricia
Isabella               Olivia               Sarah              Ashley         Michelle      Karen        Susan
Ava                    Hannah             Samantha       Sarah           Kimberley   Kimberley Deborah
Mia                     Abigail             Amanda         Stephanie     Lisa             Patricia      Barbara
Emily                  Isabella            Brittany          Melissa         Angela        Linda         Debra
Abigail                Samantha         Elizabeth       Nicole           Heather       Donna       Karen
Madison              Elizabeth          Taylor           Elizabeth       Stephanie    Michelle    Nancy
Elizabeth             Ashley              Megan           Heather        Nicole         Cynthia      Donna

1940s                 1930s                1920s             1910s             1900s

Mary                  Mary                 Mary              Mary               Mary
Linda                 Betty                 Dorothy          Helen              Helen
Barbara              Barbara             Helen              Dorothy          Margaret
Patricia               Shirley              Betty               Margaret         Anna
Carol                  Patricia              Margaret         Ruth               Ruth
Sandra                Dorothy            Ruth                Mildred          Elizabeth
Nancy                 Joan                  Virginia           Anna             Dorothy
Sharon                Margaret           Doris               Elizabeth        Mary
Judith                  Nancy               Mildred           Frances          Florence
Susan                  Helen                Frances           Virginia          Mildred


  1. An interesting name article:

  2. Great article, and so true. Maybe instead of getting facelifts, middle-aged people should changes their names to Ashley and Josh; problem solved.