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Is There Any Hope for the Names of the ’40s and ’50s?

March 26, 2021 laurawattenberg 6 Comments

Is There Any Hope for the Names of the ’40s and ’50s?

March 26, 2021 LauraWattenberg 6 Comments
Vintage cartoon with the caption "Joyce means 'sportive'"
Image from 1940s baby name guide

These are strange times for Carol and Glenn. As hot baby names of the 1940s and ’50s, they’ve fallen into a black hole of fashion. They’re not yet antiques, and they’re not aggressively contrarian in style like Mildred or Floyd. They’re just invisible, a stylistic blind spot that parents don’t even notice enough to bother rejecting.

That will all change in a future generation, once Carol, Glenn and friends start sounding fresh again to young parents. But what about now? Do any ’40s-’50s names have what it takes to leap ahead of the pack and start an early revival?

I collected all of the names whose peak decades were the ’40s or ’50s and looked for signs of life. Collectively, they’re all still in the doldrums. The names’ combined popularity has continued to fall year by year—an impressive feat, given that many of them already disappeared from national statistics years ago. But a few names have beaten the odds. These nine vintage favorites are quietly on the rise.

NameSexNumber born in 2010Number born in 2019

The group is heavy on nicknames, which reflects the style of the ’40s and ’50s. The defining names of the era included Judy and Jimmy, Terry and Jerry, and Vickie and Ricky. Most of the nicknames that are rising, though, aren’t Judy-style simple trimmings of longer names. Ronnie and Dottie come closest, but I suspect it may take you a moment to think of the formal girls’ names they come from. (Spoiler: Veronica and Dorothy.) Rocky, meanwhile, is usually chosen as a symbol of toughness rather than as a pet form of Rocco. Mac mostly came from surnames, Robin has long since separated from Robert, and Bonnie is not really a nickname but a word name, from the Scottish term meaning “pretty.”

All of this points to the tentative way American style is embracing nicknames today. A simple diminutive is not enough: we want a hook. For girls, that can mean a boyish name like Charlie and Billie, or a quirky antique like Birdie or Hattie. For boys, a tough edge is the biggest draw. That means Jack, not Johnny; Bo, not Buddy.

The most unexpected and intriguing comeback candidate is Rosalind. Rosalind is bona fide medieval name; a name of impeccable literary heritage; a glamorous Golden Age Hollywood name; a neglected classic. It’s also a consonant-stuffed Germanic name, which is usually the toughest possible sell in our vowel-first style era. As Rosalind knocks at the door of the top-1000 name list for the first time in decades, there’s a new ray of hope for a whole generation of names.


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Jamie March 26, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    I suspect the key to Rosalind is Rosie. Rose by itself sounds more like a stodgy middle name than like a fashion-forward first name, but Rosie fits into the quirky nickname trend you’ve noted. I wonder if Rosamund, Rosalie, etc. also have a strong future.

    I also wonder if anyone is using Rosalind as a way to honor a Linda.

    • holey
      holey April 7, 2021 at 4:05 am

      It could also be that, even though “lind” has those two adjoining consonants, it sounds close enough to “lyn” to fit into current naming trends.

  • Elizabeth March 27, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    Bonnie was the name of the little girl in Toy Story 4. I wonder if that influenced these statistics at all? (Nope! I just checked. There were 417 girls named Bonnie in 2018, and the movie came out in March of 2019; so not much of a boost.)

    • Zita March 28, 2021 at 2:00 am

      Actually, she was in Toy Story 3, too, which came out in 2010! And it looks like 2014 is when it reappeared in the top 1000.

  • Katie March 27, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    Rosalind is one of my favorites! And actually the main reason I hesitate to use it is out of concern it would be shortened.

  • Zita March 28, 2021 at 2:20 am

    I definitely agree that Rosalind is probably riding on the popularity of Rosie. My personal favorite of that family of names is Rosalie, which I could definitely see myself actually using.
    Jane, Sylvia, and Teddy also feel very usable to me (speaking as an older Gen Z who’s seen most of my childhood favorites rocket into the top 100 in the last decade), and all appear to be rising at least slightly – although they also all had solid use before the 40s/50s as well, so maybe their perceived age is less likely to match their actual use. Gloria, Elaine, Anita, Ramona, Judith, Gerald, Rita, Priscilla, Gwendolyn, and Franklin also strike me as feasible, and most of those appear to have risen slightly or at least leveled out in recent years.

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