The Social Security Administration (SSA) has been tracking baby names ever since 1880. It has recorded the most popular baby names each year since then. As we enter the new year, we were curious about the baby names that were popular 100 years ago, in 1923. We also wanted to know how those names match the most popular appellations today. There were some names we expected to see in both data sets like Elizabeth and James. But what names were popular then that have fallen from fashion today, not ranking in the top 1000 most popular names? What we uncovered was a set of names that have a vintage feel that we believe parents today should be using more often!
Below, we have included the top 20 names for girls and boys from 1923 next to those from 2021 (the latest year the SSA has released its data). You will see both striking similarities and glaring differences. Then, we share with you the names that were popular way back when but are virtually unused today.
Most Popular Names for Girls in 1923
Popular Names for Girls Continued
Most Popular Names for Boys in 1923
Popular Names for Boys Continued
Popular Names for Girls 100 Years Ago That Are Rare Today
Minnie was the 99th most popular name for girls in the US in 1923. Today, it does not rank in the top 1000. The name is a diminutive form of Minerva (also a fun appellation), a name of Latin origin, meaning “mind.”
Jeanne was the 90th most popular name for baby girls born in 1923. It has gone virtually unused since the 1990s. Jeanne is a feminine form of the French name Jean, a form of John, of Hebrew origin, meaning “god is gracious.”
Myrtle was the 84th most popular appellation for girls in 1923. You won’t find it landing on many birth certificates today. It originated in Greek as a botanical name for a plant with pink and white berries. We think this grandma name has its charms.
Dolores was the 83rd most popular baby appellation for girls in 1923. It was last popular in the 1980s. This name is of Spanish origin and means “lady of sorrows,” a reference to the Virgin Mary as Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores, translated to Our Lady of the Sorrows.
The 81st most popular name for girls in 1923, Bessie could be primed for a comeback. Bessie is delightfully antique and would be a really fun choice for the right child. Bessie is a diminutive form of Elizabeth, from Hebrew, meaning “pledged to God.”
Viola was the 79th most popular name for girls in the US in 1923. It’s rare today and has been since the late 1970s. The appellation is of Latin origin, meaning “violet.”
Wilma was the 74th most popular name for girls in 1923. This name fell from favor thanks to The Flinstones. However, in Europe, especially in German and Sweden, the name has become extremely trendy. Wilma comes from a Germanic root, related to William, that means “determined protector.”
One name that we really wish would make a return is Ida. In 1923, it was widely popular and ranked as the 69th most-used name for girls. Ida originated in German and means “prosperous one” or “industrious one.” It’s a trendy choice across Europe today and we hope American parents follow that lead.
Lois was the 27th most popular name way back in 1923. The name hasn’t been applied to many birth certificates since the 1980s. Lois is a name of Greek origin, meaning “most desired.”
Doris was the 11th most given name for girls in 1923. It completely fell from favor by the late 1990s but we think it has a lot to offer. Doris is a name of Greek origin that means “gift of the sea,” which is just fabulous. In Greek mythology, Doris is the daughter of the sea god Oceanus.
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The 100th most popular name for boys in 1923, Virgil, is not getting the attention it deserves from new parents today. Virgil is of Latin origin and means “staff bearer.”
Arnold was the 93rd most given name in 1923. Arnold is the English form of a German name that means “ruler” or “eagle strength.”
Cecil was the 87th most popular name for boys in 1923. It’s considered dated today but we feel there’s a lot going for it. The name originated as an ancient Roman clan name, meaning “blind.”
Milton fell from favor a decade ago but in 1923, it was the 81st most popular name for boys. Milton is an appellation of English origin that means “mill town.”
Vernon is a name of English origin that means “of the alders.” It was the 67th most popular name in 1923 but by the 2000s, it had completely fallen off the popularity charts.
Herman was last mildly popular in the 1990s. In 1923, it was the 66th most popular name for boys. Herman is a name of Germanic origin and means “soldier.”
Elmer was the 57th most popular name for newborn boys in 1923. Elmer is a name of English origin that means “renowned noble.” Today the name is treated as an old man’s name but we think it can sound fresh once more.
Gerald was the 54th most given name for boys in 1923. This name is of English and German origin and means “ruler with a spear.” It very recently fell out of the top 1000 and we wish it would come back.
Bernard was the 46th most popular name for boys in 1923. We have always been fond of the Bernie nickname but understand why some parents feel this name feels dated. Bernard is a name of German origin meaning “strength” or “brave as a bear.”
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Clarence is a beautiful name that has soured thanks to a certain Supreme Court Judge. But, we think it’s so handsome and more parents should consider it. In 1923, it was the 29th most given name for boys. It is of Latin origin and means “clear.”
There you go! What do you make of these popular names from 1923? Do you want to see any of them make a comeback? For even more baby name history, keep reading. We’ve got names that were popular 50 years ago to share with you.
Most Popular Appellations for Girls 50 Years Ago
Jennifer was found to be the most popular for girls born in the US in the 1970s. The name was given to 581,759 girls, according to the SSA. That’s a lot of Jennifers! The name Jennifer is a Cornish form of the Welsh name Guinevere, meaning “white wave” or “white shadow.”
Amy was reportedly given to 269,000 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. It was the second most popular name in the decade for girls. Amy is a French name of Latin origin (a form of Amata), meaning “loved.”
Melissa was reportedly given to 253,285 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. That means it was the third most popular name trailing Amy by just a few thousand. Melissa is an appellation that originated in Greek and means “honeybee.”
Michelle was reportedly given to 249,143 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Michelle is a French feminine form of Michael, a name of Hebrew origin, meaning “who is like God.”
Kimberly was reportedly given to 229,108 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Kimberly is technically a unisex name, but it has always been more popular for baby girls in the US. Kimberly originated as a surname and place name associated with Norfolk. The appellation means “Cyneburga’s field.”
Lisa was reportedly given to 228,689 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Lisa is an English diminutive form of Elizabeth, a name that originated in Hebrew and means “pledged to God.”
Angela was reportedly given to 225,261 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Angela can be found in Greek, Latin, and German naming traditions, and, of course, it means “angel.”
Heather was reportedly given to 203,917 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Heather is an English botanical name that describes the flowering plant Calluna vulgaris.
Stephanie was reportedly given to 160,469 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Stephanie is a feminine form of Stephen, a name that originated in Greek and means “laurel” and “crown.” Unlike other names on this list, Stephanie remained popular throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Nicole was reportedly given to 144,668 girls born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Nicole had taken hold in the 1970s but grew even more popular in the 1980s. Nicole is a French feminine form of Nicholas, another name of Greek origin, meaning “people of victory.”
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Hottest Names for Boys 50 Years Ago
Michael was the most popular name for boys born in the US in the 1970s. The name was reportedly given to 707,588 boys, according to the SSA. Names for boys tend to remain more static than those for girls. You will see this reflected in the totals, which are much higher for the top ten names for boys than for girls. Michael has been among the top 75 most popular boys’ names since records began in the 1880s. Michael originated in Hebrew and means “who is like God.”
Christopher was reportedly given to 475,597 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Christopher had been rising in the US since the 1930s before completely dominating in the 1970s. Christopher originated in Greek and means “bearer of Christ.”
Jason was reportedly given to 462,916 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Jason enjoyed its most popular years in the US in the 1970s and early 1980s. The storied name can be found in Greek myth and the Bible. Jason is of Greek origin and means “to heal.”
David was reportedly given to 445,926 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. David has been in the top 50 most popular names for boys in the US since records begin in the 1880s. David is of Hebrew origin and means “beloved.”
James was reportedly given to 444,900 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. James is one of America’s most treasured names, never falling out of the top 20 since records begin in 1880. James is of Hebrew origin and means “supplanter.”
John was reportedly given to 402,813 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. John was a top 10 name in the US from the 1880s (when records begin) through the 1980s. It had an incredible 100-year run. John is of Hebrew origin and means “God is gracious.”
Robert was reportedly given to 397,376 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Robert and John have followed the same trajectory in the US. It also began to decline by the 1980s. Robert is an English name of German origin that means “bright fame.”
Brian was reportedly given to 322,803 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Brian has a much different story than the previous names for boys. It only came into use in the 1930s and did not go mainstream until the middle of the 20th century. Brian is an Irish name from an Old Celtic root related to nobility. The name is taken to mean “virtuous” and “honorable.”
William was reportedly given to 283,522 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. William is similar to other names that have always been very popular for boys in the US, just like James, John, Robert, and the like. The name is of German origin and means “resolute protector.”
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Matthew was reportedly given to 277,918 boys born in the US during the 1970s, according to the SSA. Matthew was a somewhat middling name in the US until the 1970s, when it first came to dominate. It remained extremely popular through the 2000s and is still in the top 50 today. Matthew originated in Hebrew and means “gift of God.”
There you go! Did any of these popular appellations from the 1970s surprise you? We hope you found this list informative and as revealing as we did. If you’d like to keep reading about baby names, we have some popular options that are actually way older than you’d expect. Take a look!
Andrew is an Assistant Editor for Mamas Uncut with over ten years of experience as a writer in the creative, marketing, and blogging spaces. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a passion for telling stories in a variety of mediums. Obsessively making lists, reporting celebrity news, and diving into emerging pop cultural topics are a few of his interests.
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- 5 Most Popular Appellations for Girls 50 Years Ago
- 6 Hottest Names for Boys 50 Years Ago
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