Marianne is a history graduate from Scotland. She is interested in cultural history and how myths have developed over time.
Do you want to give your child a unique name, but not a name that is too modern and made up? I analysed the United States' top baby name lists from the early twentieth century to find names that were once popular but are now only ever used on a handful of babies. These lists are published each year by the Social Security Administration. Many vintage names have been coming back into fashion, so perhaps some of these names are next?
There are a lot more girls' names than boys' names on this list. That's because girls' names are a lot more varied and different.
Here are the names divided into the decade they were most popular. Maybe there is a reason they are no longer in fashion. Please comment below with your thoughts.
Presumably a nickname for Leslie and other names starting with Les-. Leslie comes from a Scottish place name that means garden of holly.
Pronounced like Yoo-la. Short version of Eulalia which means sweet speaking, the name of a 4th-century Spanish saint.
Feminine version of Albert that was the 104th most popular name for girls in 1910. This means noble and bright.
This girls' name means forgetful according to some sources. Alternatively it might be a short version of Aletha which comes from the Greek meaning truth. It was the 231st most popular name in 1903.
This boys' name hasn't always been associated with 'the frog'. It comes from the Irish surname MacDermott which means son of Diarmaid. It was the 175th most popular name in 1909.
This girls' name comes from the plant. You have probably heard of it from the character Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter books, but despite the publicity for the name it's hardly used today.
This name is associated with the Latin for bird, which is avis. However it may originally derive from the same routes as the Old German name Hedwig which means battle/fight.
Most likely a version of Wilma which is a version of William. From 1905 to 1917 this name was in the top 100 in the United States.
Willie (for girls)
From 1881 to 1933 Willie was in the top 100 names for girls.
Willie is more popular for boys as it was in the top 100 until 1968—it's still used for a few hundred boys a year in modern times.
A nickname for the Italian Concepion which means conception. This was the 299th most popular girls' name in 1914.
This is a Yiddish boys' name meaning man. It was most popular in 1911 at number 214.
This girls' name means bringing victory. It was the 291st most popular girls' name in 1918. It is more commonly spelt Bernice. It comes from the same route as the name Veronica.
The name Laverne was once popular for both boys and girls. It peaked in popularity in 1928 when it was the 165th most popular girls' name and 275th most popular boys' name. Laverne comes from a French surname that means alder.
This is a nickname for Elizabeth. The spelling 'Bette' was most popular in 1923 when it peaked at 148. The most famous Bette was the actress Bette Davis who starred in many Hollywood films in the 1930s and 1940s and beyond, although Bette Davis's actual name on her birth certificate was 'Ruth Elizabeth'.
This is another surname name. It means owner of triangle land and was in the top 300 names from 1910 to 1941.
An English surname meaning brave and hardy. The 288th most popular boys' name in 1934.
A Germanic name meaning north and bright. Norbert peaked in popularity at 206 in 1922.
This is an alternative spelling of the Welsh surname Lloyd which means grey. It was most popular in 1919 at number 206.
This boys' name from the surname was most popular in 1924 at 182 in the baby name charts.
This short form of Richard was most popular in 1934. Its slang connotations led many people to stop using this name.
A unisex name, either short for Patricia or Patrick. Pat was in the top 200 names for girls between 1932 and 1947. While less popular for boys it was still in the top 300.
This short form of Donald was the 50th most popular names for boys in 1934. Top 100 from 1926–1949.
Another spelling of Betty, short for Elizabeth.
An alternative spelling of Dolores which was a common name in the 1920s and 1930s. Dolores means sorrows.
This baby girls' name was the 264th most popular in 1939. There are lots of different theories about where this name comes from. It might be a version of Nell. However others say it means by the alder tree, or it's a female version of the Gaelic name Nell. It also could be a short form of many Scandinavian names that end with 'nelda' or 'nilda', for example Esmerelda.
This is the female version of Ernest which means serious.
This version of Yvonne enjoyed some brief popularity in the 1930s.
A feminine version of the name Earl which means Earl (as in a nobleman). This name has disappeared from the baby name charts as it was last in the top 1000 in 1962. It can also be spelt Earlene.
A different spelling of the much more common Dorothy. This name means gift of god.
This is the female version of Bernard which means brave bear. This name had some popularity in the 1920s and 1930s but no longer.
Stephanie Purser from Australia on July 13, 2020:
An interesting article. Lots of great ideas for anyone looking for a unique but not new name for their baby. Naming babies is so hard! Took me most of my pregnancy to find the perfect name for my daughter.