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18 Vintage Victorian Baby Girl Names That Are Now Rare

Marianne is a British writer and researcher who has always been fascinated by names and where they come from.

These names used to top the popularity charts, but today they're unusual!

These names used to top the popularity charts, but today they're unusual!

Looking for a unique baby name? Want a name with history? Consider some traditional baby names that are no longer as popular as they used to be.

Here is a list of pretty Victorian English baby girl names that were popular in the 1880s but have disappeared from common use and are now rare. None of these are even among the top 1000 US baby girl names.

The names are ordered by when they were last seen in the top 1000, as published by the US Social Security Administration.

1. Maude or Maud

Maude or Maud is a medieval version of Matilda which means "strength in battle." The name became popular in the nineteenth century due to the poem named "Maud" by the famous poet Alfred Tennyson (see the poem below).

Popularity of the Name Maude

Maude peaked in the US as number 20 in 1882, and it disappeared from the top 1000 in 1950. In recent decades the name has been most popular in France.

Maud is pronounced exactly the same way, but this spelling has always been slightly less popular in the US. It vanished from the top 1000 in 1933.

In 2016 only 17 girls were named Maude in the US, and less than five were named with the alternate spelling Maud (data is only available for five or more babies).

Come into the garden, Maud,

For the black bat, night, has flown,

Come into the garden, Maud,

I am here at the gate alone;

And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,

And the musk of the rose is blown.

— Alfred Tennyson, 1855

2. Lula

This was originally a cute nickname for Louise and other girls names starting with the Lou sound. Louise is the feminine form of Louis which means "famous warrior."

Popularity of the Name Lula

In the 1880s Lula was a popular first name for girls, peaking at number 36 in 1881. The name was last seen in the top 1000 in 1965, so I think it is about time for a revival.

In 2016 only 116 girls in the US were named Lula.

3. Gertrude

Gertrude means "spear of strength" and has Germanic origins and has been common in Germany. However the name was also used in England since the medieval period. Gertrude is the name of Hamlet's mother in the Shakespeare play.

Popularity of the Name Gertrude

This name was always in the top 30 girls names from 1880 to 1910. I'm not a fan of the sound of this name, but Trudie or Trudy is a nice nickname. The name was last seen in the top 1000 in 1965.

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In 2016, 36 baby girls were named Gertrude.

Illustration from 1890 Baby’s Annual Pictures and Stories for Little People

Illustration from 1890 Baby’s Annual Pictures and Stories for Little People

4. Myrtle

This is a pretty botanical name based on the plant. Unfortunately the association with moaning due to the Harry Potter character Moaning Myrtle might put you off using this name.

Popularity of the Name Myrtle

This name became popular in the nineteenth century peaking at 27 in 1894, but was last seen in the top 1000 in 1965.

In 2016 only 5 babies in the US were given this name.

5. Fannie

This name was originally a nickname for Frances or Stephanie, which mean "French" and "crown," respectively.

Popularity of the Name Fannie

The 48th most popular name in the 1880s, this was last seen in the top 1000 in 1967. This once-popular girls name is not one to use in the modern English-speaking world due to its slang connotations, especially in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

In 2016 42 babies were named Fannie in the US.

6. Harriet

Feminine version of Harry which is derived from Henry. This name means "noble ruler."

Popularity of the Name Harriet

This girls' name was number 73 in the US in 1880 and has declined steadily since, last seen in the top 1000 in 1970. Harriet is still popular elsewhere in the English-speaking world, in the top 100 in Australia, New Zealand and England and Wales.

In 2016, 174 babies were named Harriet in the US.

7. Minnie

Nickname for Wilhelmina, a feminine form of William which means "strong helmet" or "resolute protector." The most famous Minnie is the Disney cartoon character Minnie Mouse, who was created in 1928.

Popularity of the Name Minnie

This cute name was the 6th most popular name in the USA in the 1880s, but last ranked in the top 1000 in 1971.

In 2016, 65 little girls were named Minnie.

8. Agnes

This name comes from the Greek and means "pure" or "chaste." Saint Agnes was a famous virgin saint.

Popularity of the Name Agnes

Agnes was the 37th most popular name in 1899 and was last seen in 1972. Recently Agnes has had something of a revival in England and Wales, entering the top 400 in 2015.

Agnes is one of the more popular names on this list in the US, with 229 babies given this name in 2016.

9. Bessie

Often a pet name, most often based on Elizabeth, but also sometimes Beatrice or other similar names like Betsy.

Popularity of the Name Bessie

In its own right Bessie was the 13th most popular name in the 1880s, and peaked at number 9 in 1889. The name was last seen in the top 1000 in 1975.

Only 8 babies born in the US in 2016 were called Bessie.

10. Ethel

Ethel was first used in the nineteenth century, but was inspired by much older Anglo Saxon names like Æthelhard, Æthelred, Æthelwulf; Æthelburg, Æthelflæd, Æthelthryth. The Æthel means "noble."

Popularity of the Name Ethel

Some of these names continued to be used like Ethelred, and after they were used for characters in popular nineteenth century novels, Ethel became popular. From 1888 to 1903 it was in the top 10, but over the years it declined and was last seen in the top 1000 in 1975.

25 Ethels were born in 2016 in the US.

11. Nellie

This name means "shining light," or "bright one." Nellie is a nickname for Helen, Ellen or Eleanor (or other names with 'nel' like Petronella, Cornelia, Danielle, Chanelle, Janelle). However this has also been used as a name in its own right since medieval times.

Popularity of the Name Nellie

Nellie was the 19th most common name for girls in the 1880s, and in the top 100 under 1925. After this it fell into gradual decline disappearing from the top 1000 in 1979 in the USA. Nellie hasn't disappeared everywhere, in England and Wales it almost reached 300 in 2015 and 2016.

In 2016, 200 baby girls were named Nellie in the US.

12. Viola

This cute name comes from the Latin for "violet," and is also a name for a flower and a musical instrument. This is the name of the heroine in William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Popularity of the Name Viola

A top hundred name in the USA from 1880 to 1926 peaking at 42 in 1908. Last seen in the top 1000 in 1976.

In 2016, 221 baby girls were named Viola.

Botanical illustration of a viola

Botanical illustration of a viola

13. Florence

This name means "to blossom," "to flourish" and "prosperous." It comes from the Latin florentius. Famous namesakes: Florence Nightingale (1820-1920), who was named after the city in Italy where she was born.

Popularity of the Name Florence

This was a top 10 girls name in the USA between 1886 and 1904, but after a long decline it completely disappeared from the USA top 1000 in 1982.

Florence is not rare everywhere in the English speaking world, it is currently popular in the United Kingdom. In 2016 it was the number 20 most commonly used girls name in England and Wales.

246 babies were named Florence in 2016 in the USA.

14. Bertha

Bertha means "bright one" and was brought to England by the Normans. Berchta is also the name of the Germanic goddess of the wild hunt and spinning.

Popularity of the Name Bertha

The 8th most popular name of the 1880s, last seen in the top 1000 in 1985.

In 2016, 34 babies in the US were named Bertha.

15. Ida

Means "work" or "labour." This name was brought to England by the Normans, although it died out in the middle ages. It was revived in the nineteenth century, probably by Alfred Tennyson's poem, the Princess and the subsequent Gilbert and Sullivan play based on the poem called Princess Ida.

Popularity of the Name Ida

This name was last seen in the top 1000 in 1986 in the USA, although it is popular in Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Norway.

In 2016, 192 baby girls were named Ida.

1890 Baby’s Annual Pictures and Stories for Little People

1890 Baby’s Annual Pictures and Stories for Little People

16. Edna

This name comes has two separate origins. Edna is a Hebrew Old Testament name meaning "pleasure." However it is also an Anglicised version of the Irish/Gaelic girls name Eithne which means "grain."

Popularity of the Name Edna

Edna was very popular around the turn of the 19th century peaking at number 11 in 1899. Last seen 1991

In 2016, 80 baby girls were named Edna.

17. Dora

This name means "gift" from the Greek doran. Dora is a short version of Dorothy or Theodora or Isadora.

Popularity of the Name Dora

This was the 50th top name of the 1880s, and last seen in the top 1000 in 1992.

In 2016, 108 babies born in the US were named Dora. I'm not sure why this cute simple name is not more popular.

18. Jennie

Not originally a short form of Jennifer, which was very rare before the 20th century, but originally a medieval nickname for Jane, which ultimately derives from the same routes as John meaning God is gracious.

Popularity of the Name Jennie

This name was number 24 in 1880 and last seen in the top 1000 in 1997, although its use in the later part of the 1900s was undoubtedly often inspired by the popularity of Jennifer.

48 babies were named Jennie in 2016.

Here are some more popular Victorian names which almost made this list, which have recently entered the top 1000 in the US. They are still fairly rare though.

Mabel

Disappeared in 1964, but crept back in 2013. Means lovable.

Mattie

The 29 most popular girls name in 1880 dropped out of the top 1000 in 1972, but has re-entered a couple of times. It is either feminine form of Matthew, or a nickname for Matilda.

Hattie

A nickname for Harriet (see above). Number 27 in 1880, left the top 1000 in 1968, but reentered in 2011

Lillie

After the flower, Lillie peaked at number 33 in 1881, left the top 1000 in 1974, but reentered in 1998.

Louise

Consistently a top 40 Victorian baby name, although it peaked at 17 in the 1910s. Louise left the top 1000 in 1991, but in 2016 crept back in. Feminine version of Louis.

Pearl

After the precious gemstone. A top 30 Victorian baby name which vanished in the mid-1980s, but has reappeared for the last decade.

The Future?

I reckon some of the 18 names on this list will soon come into fashion, and be trendy too. Please comment if you have any theories.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do people still use these vintage baby girl names in 2018?

Answer: Yes, they are still used, just not very common.

Question: I had an aunt named "Winifred." I always loved that and the name "Chess." Do you think these two names will ever come back?

Answer: "Winifred" was last in the top 1000 in the United States in 1965, but most popular in 1917. My prediction is that it might come back in the next 20 years because names tend to go through cycles, but maybe "Winnie" which is a nickname for "Winifred" will become popular first!

Question: What is the origin of the name Sophie?

Answer: It comes from the Greek "Sophia" which means "wisdom."

© 2018 Anna Sherret

Comments

Lillie Moaniketri on June 16, 2018:

I love all of the names! I wish I had a name like this. you are so awesome you just like amazing!!!!!

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on March 04, 2018:

I rather like "Lula".

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 04, 2018:

Well, my name is Louise, so am glad I have such an old name. My Grandmothers were called Ivy and Doris. Again, these are dying names, which is sad. Harriet is becoming surprisingly common again, I have a friend called Harriet. Talking of very old names, I'm not sure about the USA, but here in England Noah is becoming a very common name amongst boys!

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