As more girls’ names return from the dead, they point in a new direction.
My favorite zombies aren’t monsters. They’re baby names that return from the dead, or at least from fashion oblivion. After generations of obscurity they come back packing a fresh style punch.
Parents don’t just stumble onto such long-buried names. They have to go digging for them. That makes new zombie names great indicators of styles that parents are actively seeking: trends on the brink. Today more names are reanimating than ever before and they point to a wave of retro cuteness ahead for girls.
The New Zombie Uprising
All names rise and fall in popularity over time, but zombies take it to the extreme. To qualify, a name must be familiar and at least moderately popular for a period of decades. Then it has to fall out of American name culture altogether, dropping off the top-1000 name lists for generations before returning.
Girls’ names make up most of the zombie population. Parents used to name boys more conservatively, so boys’ names simply didn’t go out of fashion. That leaves a much smaller pool of vanished names to revive. But even the girls’ names are a rare breed—at least they used to be. As parents today press harder for fresh and creative ideas, the revivification rate is rising. You can see the trend in this 25-year chart of new zombie names for girls.
The past four years have delivered a 16-name zombie bonanza:
Those names cover a wide style range, from mini to maxi and from casual to formal. Many of the choices flow naturally from current trends. For instance, the recent popularity of Eleanor and Nora places Eleanora and Flora right in the fashion stream.
A few of the names, though, leap out as something different. Birdie, Winnie and Goldie showcase a kind of cuteness we haven’t seen in a very long time. While all three are diminutive nicknames, they are seldom “short for” anything today. Parents take them straight, making their sunny playfulness their essence.
Beyond the Zombie-Cute Trio
The rise of Birdie, Winnie and Goldie made me wonder if a broader style movement was at work. I scanned for other traditional names with a similar spirit, and the trend was unmistakable. The diminutive (or at least diminutive-sounding) girls’ names that are rising most reliably today are those with a merry charm that approaches whimsy. Names like:
The style’s appeal is powerful enough to boost names from the neglected mid-20th-century era like Penny, Bonnie and Barbie. It has also swept up some words that fit the sound and spirit but aren’t traditionally names, like Pixie and Moxie.
Individually, the names project different images: quaint, bubbly, cheeky, sweet. Together, their cuteness feels defiantly optimistic. In a name era of bold, modern formality, and a global era of pessimism and strife, parents have decided that playful sweetness is worth bringing back.
More sunny names are waiting in the wings to join the revival. Keep an eye out for names like these in the years ahead: