Well, we made it to 2021! With the new year now clearly rung in, we decided to take a look back 100 years ago to the year 1921. It was a rather wild year in the US! The US-Germany Peace Treaty or The 1921 Berlin Peace Treaty was signed in the aftermath of WWI. There were some amazing births in the year including Astronaut John Glenn, Future First Lady Nancy Reagan, and Actors Carol Channing, Charles Bronson, and Jane Russell. New York Yankee pitcher Babe Ruth hit his 138th home-run breaking the record!
So, what names were new parents giving their babies in 1921? Were any of them of note? Would contemporary parents find some of these names attractive today, after a century has passed? We set out to answer these questions and we were pleasantly surprised to discover some very exciting, rare baby names for boys to share with you. Here are the 25 best, rare baby boy names from 1921 that modern parents should consider.
The perennial favorite David was the twenty-fifth most popular name for baby boys born in 1921. That should come as no surprise as the name has been one of the US’s most beloved names since 1880 when records began for baby names. We’re looking for something with a bit more color! Emile ranked 476th on the top 1000. Emile or spelled Emil is a Latin name that means “rival.” We wish this name for boys was as popular today as it was in the twenties!
Warren was the twenty-fourth most popular name for boys back in 1921. It’s fallen far from that height but it is still in the top 500 today. Let’s find a more retro name with plenty of character. Verne was the 483rd most popular baby name for boys of 1921. Verne is a casual form of Vernon (also great and very popular), an English name that means “place of alders.”
The twenty-third most popular name for boys 100 years ago was Ralph. There’s not a thing wrong with the name Ralph and it’s still fairly popular for new parents today. But, what treasures does 1921 hold for us? How about the 1999th most popular name for boys from the year? Lowell was a hot name then and now it is largely forgotten. This handsome name has French origins and means “young wolf.”
Kenneth was the twenty-second most popular name for boys a century ago. Kenneth is still very popular today and a fine name. However, what’s a spicier option from 1921? The surname-name, Coy was popular in the US from 1880 through 2003! We love how playful this name for boys is and hope it makes a big comeback.
The lovable name Harry was the twenty-first most popular name for boys 100 years prior. Harry is just great and it still sits in the top 1000 most popular names today! Let’s talk about a name that can be appropriate for both genders but hasn’t been widely used for boys since the thirties. Rosario would be a remarkable name for a boy today. The name has Italian origins and means “rosary.”
We’ve hit the top twenty of 1921 now! Albert was the twentieth most popular name in the US at the time. Now, the name is still in the 500 and we’d like to find something with a bit more shine. Fancy a touch of magic? Merlin was the 315 most popular name at the time, which is much more prevalent than today. Merlin has Welsh origins and means “sea fortress.”
Arthur (a good one to follow Merlin) was the nineteenth most popular names for baby boys 100 years ago. The name has already made a pretty remarkable comeback to let’s try and find something that might be below your radar. Junius was a favored name in 1921 and was the 560th most popular name in the US. Junius is a name of Latin origin that means “born in June.”
Jack is one of the US’s most popular names and that was certainly true in 1921. Parents today might be after something more original. We present Olin, a charming Swedish name that was 436th most popular name at the time. It was so popular that the spelling Olen also made the top 1000 list. Olin means “to inherit.”
Henry is yet another name that American have clung to for decades and it was the seventeenth most popular name of the day. Garnet was a name that was popular for both genders in 1921. Garnet has French origin and refers to the jewel. The name means “pomegranate.”
The lovely name Raymond was the sixteenth most popular in the US a century ago. It’s still a top 500 name today! Let’s find a moniker that’s waiting for us off the beaten path. Basil was a popular name for much of the early twentieth century before falling off the charts. Let’s bring it back, new parents. Basil has Greek origins and means “regal.”
Walter was a top 20 name in the US from 1880 until 1932. In 1921, it was ranked at the fifteenth spot. Walter remains a favorite today. How do you feel about the name Buster? Buster was the 398th most popular name in the US in 1921! Buster! It’s a modern invention that would be fun to bring back.
The perennial name Paul was in the top 20 in the US from 1880 until 1969. The name is still extremely popular for new parents today. Paul is timeless, but let’s find a name that’s more eclectic. Jules was the 590th most popular name for boys in 1921. Today, the name is in the top 10 in France but doesn’t even land on the top 1000 in the US. Jules is the French form of the Latin name Julius, which means “youthful.”
Unfortunately, the thirteenth most popular name in 1921 was Donald. We think it’s pretty safe to assume that the name won’t be on a ton of birth certificates in 2021. Art was the 992nd most popular name in 1921. The popularity of the name has bounced over the top 1000 list for decades before virtually falling from use in 1967. Bring back Art! Art is a shortened form of Arthur and means “noble one.”
Things are heating up for the names in 1921! Harold was in the top dozen and is an excellent name. But, may we find inspiration from the top 100 names of 1921 that you won’t hear often today, Virgil. The name of the greatest Roman poet and an early Irish saint who believed the earth was round, Virgil is a storied dream. Virgil sounds distinguished and has Latin origins. The name means “staff bearer.”
From the 1880s until the 1960s, Thomas was largely in the top 10 but slipped for the year of 1921 to the eleventh spot. Thomas is perfectly acceptable, but if you’re after something a bit more adventurous. Burl was a name that was exceedingly popular until the sixties. Today, the name is largely an afterthought. Burl has English origins and means “butler.”
Richard is the least popular it’s ever been in the US, but it’s still in the top 200. Richard is great and it’s no surprise the name near the top of this list. However, we think Cosmo is a far more attractive option. The name has not shown up on the top 1000 since 1926! Parents, we must change this! Cosmo has Greek and Italian origins and means “order.”
Frank is still a top 500 name in the US, but it nowhere near as popular as it was in the early half of the twentieth century. Now, we’d like to found something that sounds a touch more playful and younger. We think it’s time for Cecil to make a return. Cecil was the 80th most popular name at the time and we are sad that it’s fallen off the charts today. The Latin name means “blind,” but don’t let that stop you from choosing this gem.
Edward is another one of America’s most given names and continues to be today. Why don’t we explore another rare, but popular name of the time. Masao was on the top 1000 from 1912 to 1924. Masao is of Japanese origins and means “righteous” (among other meanings depending on the kanji used to construct it). We’d love to hear this name more often in the US.
The name Joseph has been in the top 25 in the US since records were kept in 1880. While we can’t deny the charms of the name we’d like to find something more unusual. Fritz was the 881st most popular name in the US in 1921. The name has not been popular in the US since the seventies. German has German origins and means “peaceful ruler.”
George is another one of the Western world’s most beloved names. In 1921, it was the sixth most popular choice. Today, George sits just outside of the top 100. Elroy was a top 500 name or better throughout the twenties. We love it! Elroy has English origins and means “the king.”
Charles is a favorite that’s the least popular it’s ever been in the US. It’s still just outside the top 50. Instead of Charles, you could go with Claude. It was the 96th most popular name in 1921. It’s fallen off the charts over the last twenty years and we’d enjoy a renaissance for this French name that means “enclosure.”
If you pick any year in the US, chances are James was in the top 10 for that year. It’s one of the most popular names in the World and 1921 was no exception. Kent was a name that was just beginning its climb in the twenties when it was one of the fastest-growing names in the US. Today, the name is absent from the top 1000. Kent has Scandinavian origins and means “edge.”
As with other names in its class, William is never far from the top. If you’re looking for something with a little bit more pizazz you could always go with Reno. Reno is a name that’s formed from Moreno and others similar. Reno stood all on its own in 1921 and throughout the decade in the top 1000. The name has Latin origin and means “brown-haired.”
The second most popular name in 1921 was Robert which is still hugely popular today. Instead of Robert, we find a hidden treasure from 1921, Noble. Noble was a popular name for both baby boys and girls up until the fifties. We think this name is so fun and sounds so stately on a baby. This Latin name means “aristocrat.”
The ubiquitous John was the number one name in 1921 for baby boys. Now, there’s nothing wrong with John, but we think parents today can branch out a bit further. Rufus was one of the most popular names for boys in the twenties ranking in the top 200. It hasn’t been in the top 1000 since the 1980s. This Latin name means “red-head” We’d love this name to come back more than most others!
1921 was a momentous year in the US that also saw the horrifying Tulsa Race Massacre, the Emergency Immigration Quota, and many other events that constitute some of the darkest days of this country’s history. Nevertheless, it is interesting to look back, 100 years later to see how naming trends have remained consistent and also changed dramatically. We hope you enjoyed these rare baby names for boys from 1921!
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
- 1 25. Emile
- 2 24. Verne
- 3 23. Lowell
- 4 22. Coy
- 5 21. Rosario
- 6 20. Merlin
- 7 19. Junius
- 8 18. Olin
- 9 17. Garnet
- 10 16. Basil
- 11 15. Buster
- 12 14. Jules
- 13 13. Art
- 14 12. Virgil
- 15 11. Burl
- 16 10. Cosmo
- 17 9. Cecil
- 18 8. Masao
- 19 7. Fritz
- 20 6. Elroy
- 21 5. Claude
- 22 4. Kent
- 23 3. Reno
- 24 2. Noble
- 25 1. Rufus
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