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 girls to share with you. Here are the 25 best, rare baby girl names from 1921 that modern parents should consider.
the twenty-fifth most popular name given to baby girls in 1921 is Jean. Jean is great, but it’s pretty well-known and was popular through the 1980s. We thought Reva, ranking at 352 in the same year, was a thrilling option. It’s a multicultural hit these days as the name has origins in both Hindi and Hebrew traditions. In Hebrew, the name refers to one of the sacred rivers of India. In Hebrew, the name means “rain.”
The twenty-fourth most popular name for baby girls in 1921 was Gladys. What a dream of a name that conjures the powerful voice of Gladys Knight! However, we are after the more rare goods for the purposes of this list. Would you believe that the name Dimple was the 936th most popular baby name for girls in the year? From 1906 to 1937, new parents helped keep this cute, but questionable, name in the top 1000 for girls.
The twenty-third most popular name for baby girls in 1921 was a name you know and love, Catherine. This classic is one of the US’s most beloved names then and still today. A popular name in 1921 and throughout the early fifties, Nila (pronounced NEE-la) was a British import from India with Sanskrit origins that means “dark blue.” The name is found in a number of traditions which is why the name is so appealing.
The twenty-second most popular name for baby girls in 1921 was Louise. There is not a thing wrong with this classic French name, however, we did want to find one that was a touch more distinct. Let’s look at the 363rd most popular name of that year, Ione. Ione was a very popular name in the US until the 1940s. The name has Greek origins and means “violet-colored stone.” The name can be pronounced eye-OH-nee or ee-OH-nee. We absolutely love both and would love for this name to make a comeback.
In the twenty-first spot, you would have found the perennial favorite of the twentieth century, Martha. The name Kiyoko only made the top 1000 names in the US in 1920 and 1921. This fabulous Japanese name’s meaning depends on the characters used to build it. It can mean “rejoice child” or “pure child.”
In twentieth place in 1921, the lovely flower name Rose was the name of the day. Rose is an incredible name and would still be welcome today, but what name is a little off the beaten path? Avis would be a great vintage name that’s ready to shine once more. It was the 330th most popular name of the day, but it has not been on the charts since the 1960s. Avis has Latin origins and means “bird.”
In nineteenth place, Lilian was one of the hottest names of the twenties and beyond! It’s almost as popular today as it was back then. Ida was a hot name in 1921 and its diminutive form Idell was as well. Idell and Ida both have German roots and mean “industrious one.” With the popularity of Adele, we see this name appealing to many contemporary parents.
The eighteenth most popular name of 1921 was good old Irene. Irene is still a fairly popular given name today and we’d like something with a little more pizzazz. Another popular I-name from the twenties that’s fallen off the charts is Ina. Where are the Ina Garten fans of this world at? This name has Latin origins and means “lover of horses.”
In seventeenth place in 1921, you will find the sophisticated classic Florence. The name fell off the list in the eighties before rebounding to the top 1000 in 2017. Florence is a perfectly good name, but we think Roxie would be a really fun one that feels fresh today. Roxie is a pet form of Roxanne a name with Persian origins that means “dawn.” Roxie was in the top 500 in the twenties but it has since fizzled out.
The sixteenth most popular name for girls way back in 1921 was Marjorie. This sweet name has plenty of charm and a lot going for it which it has made a comeback, of sorts, in recent years. We propose Sybil a name that was widely popular in the twenties and thirties but hasn’t been a pick by new parents since the sixties. Both Sybil and alternate spelling Sybel were in the top 1000 in 2921. The name has Greek origins and means “prophetess.”
The fifteenth most popular name given to baby girls in 1921 was Alice. Alice is name that has always and probably will be one of the most beloved by parents in the US. We found a name in the 728th spot from the year that we’d love to see come back! Esta is a diminutive form of Estelle (another popular name at the time), that has French origins and means “star.” Esta has not been popular in the US since 1934! More Esta, please!
Moving right along to fourteenth place where we find the name Marie in 1921. Marie is still a fairly common name although it has been losing steam for decades. We love Philomena, a name that was the 393rd most given name to girls. The name fell off the charts after the forties, however. Philomena has Greek origins and a mythical past. The name means “lover of strength.”
You do not hear the name in thirteenth place often these days, Doris was a hot name for the majority of the early twentieth century. We would love to see the name in 395th place, Theda, mount a return. With the rise of its proper form Thea in recent year, Theda could be a fitting alternative option. The name has Greek origins and means “godly.”
In the twelfth place, you would have found sweet Evelyn. It’s even more popular today! So, we clearly need to find something much rarer for modern parents to try. We think it’s time to bring back Janis. The name began really taking off in the twenties and it sounds way more fun than the name it comes from, Jane. Janis means “God is gracious.”
Timeless Anna was the eleventh most chosen name for girls in 1921. We can find something a little more unique than that! Why not Petra? Petra actually did rank in the top 1000 every year from 1880 to 1951, reaching a high of 493rd in 1929. This name is beloved in Slavic tradition and it has Greek origins and is a female form of Peter which means “stone.”
It will come as no surprise that Elizabeth made the top 10 in 1921. It’s one of the most loved names in the entire world! A name that was popular in that same year that you do not heat as often is Twila. Twila was a hot ticket name that gained even more notoriety from the famed choreographer Twyla Tharp. Twila was 640 in 1921 and it peaked in the late thirties. This English name means “woven with a double thread.”
Frances was a name for very many girls in 1921 that’s no where near as popular today as it once was. However, we think we can find something with a bit more whimsy. If you can’t tell at this point, names with Greek origins were all the rage! Cleta is another example of that trend. The name means “the renowned one.” Cleta bounced around the top 1000 from 1880 until 1943. We think it’s ready for her to come back in a big way!
Here’s a name that seems extremely dated and retro now, but Betty was firmly in the top 10 for all of the twenties and through the forties. We’re not expecting many parents to go with Betty today! Instead, let’s look to Selma. Selma, like many of the popular names of the day, ended with the letter A. However, this one is German and means “godly helmet.” The name was the 251st most popular name for girls in 1921! We love it.
Mildred is name that offers a rare opportunity to revisit a name that was in the top 10 in 1921! Mildred was also a top 10 name from 1903 to 1926. Sadly, parents have fallen out of love with this delightfully blunt-sounding English name. We’d love to hear more from Mildred these days! The name means “gentle strength.”
While Virginia is not as popular today as it was in 1921, it’s still a commonly chosen name by new parents. We think a name that ranked at 346 that year is much more original! Bernadette would make for a great name and it hasn’t seen a tone of favor since the seventies. This German name means “brave as a bear.”
Ruth is a Hebrew name that was the fifth most popular option for parents in 1921. The name has been popular since records were kept and still ranks highly today. It’s one of our favorite names! However, we want something a bit more surprising. We turn to Delphine, a name that was in the top 500 in 1921, for inspiration. This French name has Greek origins and means “dolphin.” The name hasn’t been popular since the sixties so it is ripe for a return!
Margaret was in the top 10 until 1936 and it is still an extremely popular choice today. We turn to the French alternative form of the name, Marion, as a better possibility. Marion was in the top 50 in 1921 but hasn’t been an it-name since the eighties. We love this form of Margaret that offers a touch more romance. Marion also means “drop in the sea” or “bitter.”
Helen was the third most common name given to baby girls in 1921. Helen is a name that will never fully go out of style. So, what was a rare name from 1921 that we think might be more thrilling for parents today? We suggest Linnie, a name that ranked at 532 in 1921. It had completely tanked by 1945. Time to bring Linnie back! This name is a pet form of Linda which means “pretty.”
Dorothy was the second most popular name for girls in 1921. It’s now the 563rd. We turn to the 311th most popular name from 1921, Merle for inspiration. The name was popular for both genders at the time, however, it hasn’t been popular in the US since the fifties! Merle has a casual and cool quality to it that’s fitting for a girl. The French name means “blackbird.”
The most popular name for girls shouldn’t rock your world. Mary was the number one name in the US from 1880 until 1946! Mary has its timeless charms, but we wanted something a little different that parents aren’t as familiar with today. Maude, Maud, and Maudie were all in the top 1000 in 1921. However you spell it, this name is a winner! The name hasn’t been popular since the sixties which is most unfortunate. It’s a German name and alternate form of Matilda which means “battle-mighty.”
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 girls 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. Reva
- 2 24. Dimple
- 3 23. Nila
- 4 22. Ione
- 5 21. Kiyoko
- 6 20. Avis
- 7 19. Idell
- 8 18. Ina
- 9 17. Roxie
- 10 16. Sybil
- 11 15. Esta
- 12 14. Philomena
- 13 13. Theda
- 14 12. Janis
- 15 11. Petra
- 16 10. Twila
- 17 9. Cleta
- 18 8. Selma
- 19 7. Mildred
- 20 6. Bernadette
- 21 5. Delphine
- 22 4. Marion
- 23 3. Linnie
- 24 2. Merle
- 25 1. Maude
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