The coolest, oddest and funniest baby names from a century ago

By Carolyn Menyes, The Active Times

What names were popular in 1919

There are some names that are truly timeless. Monikers like James, Elizabeth and William have pretty much never gone out of style. There are other names, like Evelyn and Henry, which were popular 100 years ago, faded from popularity and then saw a resurgence in recent years. But there are plenty of names from 1919 that were so popular at the time but dropped in relevance and have yet to rise back up on the baby name charts. What are those names? And are they cool, odd or funny? Are they poised for a comeback? Should they be?

To find out the most interesting names from a century ago, we went to the Social Security Administration’s website and combed through the top 500 names of 1919. We then compared them to the biggest names from 2017 (the latest year data was available). While some of these names are truly dated (hello, Kermit!), others are actually worth considering again.


Pronounced “byoo-luh,” the Hebrew name Beulah means “married” and actually peaked in popularity at the turn of the 20th century, but as of 1919 it was still the 108th most popular name. This beautiful name reminds us of other vintage names that are popular today, such as Olivia, Amelia, Aubrey and Bella.


Primarily seen as a nickname for Carolyn and Caroline today, Carrie actually surpassed both of those monikers in 1919, clocking in at No. 111 (to Carolyn’s 165 and Caroline’s 169). Shortening names was a prevalent practice 100 years ago. Betty, Willie, Susie and Katie were all top 200 names back in the day.


With a dictionary definition of “shy” and “modest,” Coy doesn’t have a traditionally masculine sound or meaning. And we like that! Defying gender expectations with names may feel so 2019, but parents have been doing this for centuries. Not only does Coy have a meaning we can appreciate, it also feels in line with modern, snappy monosyllabic names such as Jace, Cole, Kai and Beau.


You may think that unconventional spelling — like swapping an F for P and H, a Z for an S, or a Y for an I — is a modern naming trend, but looking at data from 1919 proves that parents have been getting creative with how they spell names for a long time. In addition to Elinor (as opposed to Eleanor) ranking in the top 500 names for girls a century ago, Berniece, Aileen, Mathew, Evalyn and Alyce also made the cut.


We’re sure you’ve heard of many girls and women named Emily, but have you heard the masculine version Emil? Alternatively spelled Emile or Émile, this Germanic name meaning “industrious” hasn’t cracked the top 500 names since the 1950s, but with names like Liam, Ezra, Noah, Owen, Wyatt and Lucas all in the top 25 (as of 2017), we’re thinking Emil is poised for a comeback.


This derivative name of Florence is so wonderfully vintage, we’re obsessed. Inspired by nature and the spring, Flora is pretty and feminine without being stuffy or overly complicated. If you love names like Violet, Hazel, Savannah or Aurora but are scared to be too trendy for modern times, this fresh moniker could be a good fit.


Grady feels like a name that popped up and peaked in the 2000s, but it was actually far more popular at the turn of the 20th century than the 21st century. Meaning “noble,” this name only ranks in the mid-300s for the modern era but peaked about 110 years ago. With names like Grayson, Henry and Jayden popping today, we think this cute name feels right on trend.


Today, the dreamy name Imogene may be best known for singer Imogen Heap, but in 1919, this moniker was just as popular as Beverly and Sue (ranking No. 241). With roots in Shakespeare, this name feels regal yet ethereal and would serve well as an alternative to popular names such as Isabella, Sophia, Amelia and Genesis.


Why bother naming your kid Joseph when you’re just going to call him Joe? That seemed to be the rule in 1919, when shortened versions of popular names ruled the rankings. Jack, Willie, Fred, Leo, Ray and Sam all ranked among the top 100 names for baby boys. Today, only Jack and Leo remain as top 100 names for boys, while lengthier monikers with common nicknames such as Benjamin, Jacob, Alexander, Michael and Daniel reign supreme.


No, we don’t mean a baby boy who shares his first, middle and last name with his father. We mean the actual name Junior. This title has no meaning beyond “young,” but that didn’t deter parents in the 1910s and ‘20s, when Junior ranked regularly in the top 150 names for boys, peaking at No. 117 in 1926.


Some names become popular because of pop culture, such as Bella, Beckham, Arya and Monroe. But other names take a major dive after a certain pop culture figure emerges. See: Kermit. As in the Frog. This moniker, which means “free man,” was moderately popular at the turn of the 20th century, peaking in 1909 at No. 125 but holding strong throughout the next decade or so, landing as the 256th most popular name in 1919. Today, it’s basically nonexistent — except for one Muppet.


It’s trendy today to give girls traditionally male names. Think of Blake Lively’s daughter James or Jessica Simpson’s daughter Maxwell Drew. But 100 years ago, baby boys were given what we see as female names, too! In fact, one of the most popular girls’ names of all time, Mary, was also given to boys a century ago. It ranked No. 482 in 1919. Guadalupe, Shirley, Jean, Carmen, Laverne, Clair and Cleo are other names we  think of for girls that also ranked for boys in 1919.


You may think that giving your child a title like Saint, King or Maverick is so 2010, but people have been doing this for at least a century. Major wasn’t majorly popular in 1919, but it did make the top 500 of that year. That makes a modern name like Messiah feel a lot less wacky.


Gemstone-inspired names like Ruby and Jade may be trending, but Pearl has yet to make a resurgence. We’re not sure why. A lot of today’s top names are “old lady” names (see: Evelyn, Grace, Eleanor, Lucy), so it’s not like it feels dated in a modern era. This name is sweet, easy to spell, easy to pronounce and definitely needs to be bigger in 2019.


Baby boys weren’t the only ones to get titles as names in 1919. Queen ranked as the 433rd most popular name for little girls that year. In general, royal names were as big then as Charlotte and Elizabeth are today. George, Victoria, Mary and other regal names were popular in America as well. Titles such as Prince and Royal also ranked in 1919.


Perhaps best known today as the name of a murderous prisoner in the musical “Chicago,” Roxie is a spunky name with a precious meaning behind it: “dawn.” Evocative, perhaps, of flappers, we think this unique name sounds fabulously modern. A Roxie would fit in well with similarly sharp and cute girl names such as Ava, Zoey, Paisley and Alexa.


Perhaps this name is a mouthful, but Wilhelmina, which is derivative of William, is simultaneously flowery and flowy yet strong. It reminds us of similar girl names such as Penelope, Valentina and Josephine in the way that it is masculine and feminine.


Presidential names and names inspired by world leaders have always been in vogue, and the 1910s were no exception. Woodrow, styled after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, was the 91st biggest name of 1919. Turn-of-the-century presidents were well represented. Theodore and William were in the top 60 of that year, as well. Presidents continue to inspire parents today, but today they’re more likely to go for surnames. Kennedy, Reagen, Carter and Nixon are all in the top 500 names for babies.


Z names may also feel like a modern invention, with monikers such as Zayden, Zander, Zoe, Zane and Zara gaining popularity. But a throwback Z name Zelma was big in 1919; it was ranked the 287th most popular girl name of that year. If you want more names with unique letters from a century ago, consider Zella, Zelda and Quentin.



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U.S. Daily News: The coolest, oddest and funniest baby names from a century ago
The coolest, oddest and funniest baby names from a century ago
U.S. Daily News
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