Clancy and I were talking about baby names the other day. We already have a consensus name if we have a daughter (whenever the time comes, of course). We’re at odds with male names, though. So I was looking up names.

I ran across a couple sites (boys and girls) that had some interesting data on name-frequency rankings. It’s no surprise that you have traditional names that have fallen somewhat into disuse and you have names that came out of virtually nowhere and became prominent. I was curious which names were at the top of each list. So I found a site that has names that keeps track of the most popular names last year, in the last five years, the last twenty-five years, and the last 125 years. The most interesting distinction for me was last 25 vs last 125. I created a spreadsheet and created lists of names that are in the top-100 for the last 125 years and ordered them by what percentage of those occurred in the last 25 years. The list of names will be at the bottom of the post.

I guess it’s no great surprise that female naming is apparently a much more fickle art than male naming. Female names seem much more likely to both suddenly surge and die off. Notably, 13 of the top 100 female names are “dead names”. Only one of male name is dead, and even that name (like one of the 13 female names) may just be on life support because it’s only the last year that it wasn’t used).

The most surprising to me was Jacob, which I don’t associate with being a “trendy name”. I was surprised at the trendiness both ways on Biblical names, which I consider to be more immortal. Part of me would love to dust off some of these unused names. While names like Mildred and Doris seem dated, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the name Beverly and I think Carol is a fabulous name. Interestingly, prior to even seeing this list, the name Walter was mentioned.

Before I get to the names, a little bit on the limitations of the data. First, only names that made the list are counted. That includes names that are in the top-100 in the last 125 years. I’m sure that there are a lot of dead names that were never as big as the ones listed. Similarly, there are obviously names now that did not exist 25 years ago. So it’s a limited sample. And it’s a bit outdated. By “last year”, I mean 2004. The last five years encompasses 1999-2005. And so on. Lastly, these names are spelling-specific. So a name like Theresa takes a hit because it competes with Teresa. Catherine has three spellings, which dilutes its significance. The dead names are names that have not been used in the last five years. Names that have not been used in the last year are also listed, but with an asterisk.

The trendy male names: Tyler (96.5%), Zachary (94.3%), Austin (92.5%), Brandon (89.1%), Jacob (87.4%), Kyle (86.41%), Justin (85.4%), Joshua (84.8%), Ryan (80.1%), and Nicholas (78.9%).

The dying male names: Fred (2.38%), Harold (3.03%), Ralph (3.42%), Howard (3.59%), Harry (3.63%), Earl (4.3%), Clarence (4.43%), Eugene (4.98%), Walter (5.53%), and Stanley (5.95%).

The dead male name: Fred*

The trendy female names: Brittany (99%), Ashley (96.9%), Samantha (91.3%), Lauren (88.9%), Megan (88.9%), Amber (84.3%), Jessica (83.5%), Amanda (77.9%), Danielle (77.6%), and Emily (76.9%)

The dying female names: Florence (.09%), Mildred (.14%), Lois (.2%), Doris (.68%), Betty (.72%), Joan (.9%), Dorothy (1.16%), Jean (1.31%), Shirley (1.48%), Carol (1.86%)

The dead female names: Florence, Mildred, Lois, Doris, Betty, Joan, Jean, Judy, Debra, Beverly, Cheryl, Tammy, Lori*


Category: Coffeehouse

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

15 Responses to Interesting Name Data

  1. Webmaster says:

    Interesting. Fred struck me as a pretty common male name. Is it just “Fred”, or “Frederick” (with “Fred” being the “shortened” form) that’s dying?

    I’m also surprised at Walter and Dorothy… mostly because those are “generational” names in our family (one kid or another gets named after their grandparent, then the cycle repeats).

  2. Peter says:

    I’m surprised at some of the “dead” names for girls. Ones such as Judy, Debra, Cheryl and Lori don’t seem dated, at least not in the sense of Mildred or Doris.

  3. a_c says:

    The dying female names all seem pretty sensible to me, but I know several people with the male names.

  4. Webmaster says:

    It might be interesting to see if there are certain names that move in waves – one very popular method for naming children, after all (aside from “Junior” for boys”) is to name them after a maternal or paternal grandparent, making it plausible that there are names that simply tend to “skip” a generation every now and again.

  5. Becky says:

    If I ever have a daughter, I like the name Elizabeth which is an old name that’s now coming back in popularity. I loved the name Emily about 12 years ago and now I think one out of every three girls that’s been born since then has been named Emily. Perhaps some of the “dying names” also come from association of someone that’s much older? I hear the name “Doris” and I think of my much older great aunt Doris, rather than a young baby.

  6. trumwill says:

    Web,

    The names are all separated, so Fred and Fredrick are listed separately. It’s possible Fred is simply being replaced my Fredrick. Interestingly, Alexander is becoming less common as Alex (as a full name) and Jack, which to me was always a nickname for John, is apparently an oft-used name in its own right.

  7. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    Maybe for our grandkids, they will be considered extremely dated. I suspect Cheryl and Lori mostly a matter of spelling change. Lauren is one of those names that has become super-popular, so maybe people are naming their kids that instead of Lori. Debra and Judy do seem, somewhat dated to me, though.

  8. trumwill says:

    AC,

    I initially had the same though, though on further reflection most of the people I know that have those names are older than I am.

  9. trumwill says:

    Web,

    I imagine that some names do ebb and flow. I have to imagine that Walter and Stanley have some staying power. I think Beverly may be due for a comeback, too. Other names probably won’t.

  10. trumwill says:

    Becky,

    If I had been female, my name would have been something that shortly after I was born became ridiculously popular. She and I were both glad that never came to pass.

    It is about as hard to imagine a Baby Mildred as it is a Grandma Brittany… though maybe 40 years from now that’ll all be reversed.

  11. Peter says:

    Names that may sound cute on babies and children may not sound quite so appropriate on adults. Case in point: a couple of jobs ago, around 1990, I had some fairly extensive telephone dealings with a young woman at another company named Bambi. Leaving aside the fact that Disney’s Bambi was a male deer, it was quite difficult to take an adult woman with that name entirely seriously.

  12. Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever met, or even heard of, another Brandon who was more than a few years older than me.

  13. Kirk says:

    It’s funny, that “Kirk” hit its peak right around the time the original Star Trek was out. My folks swear I’m named after some dead relative, but I have my suspicions.

  14. Barry says:

    After looking at that list, I wonder if some of the reason certain names have disappeared has less to do with the “Old Aunt Mildred” effect and more to do with old TV/movie characters and actresses having those names.

    When I saw the name “Carol” I immediately thought of Carol Brady. For “Beverly”, myself, it was Beverly Crusher but that’s just a Trek fan talking.

    But still, I can’t imagine a baby with the same name as the Brady mom, or a red-headed Star Trek doctor.

    Other names that evoke TV character flashes for this 40-ish guy: “Alice” (the Linda Lavin character). “Florence” makes me think of the maid from the Jeffersons, Flo from the aforementioned Alice series, and Florence Henderson – again a Carol Brady recall. Joan makes me think of Dynasty-era Joan Collins, Shirley is Shirley Booth from Hazel. And so on.

    Odd that Lori and Cheryl would be “dead” after Cheryl Ladd and Cheryl Teigs – yes, 70’s era actresses and models but young, attractive ones. Not housewives, waitresses and maids.

  15. Kirk says:

    After seeing “My Darling Clementine” on tv, I got the idea that a good name for a boy would be “Wyatt.” You don’t see too many of those around nowadays.

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