Marianne is a British writer and researcher who has always been fascinated by names and where they come from.
As someone fascinated by names, I decided to work out what baby names were popular in the Victorian era but are no longer used. What names were commonly given to our great-great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers but are rarely used today? Of course, how many "greats" will depend on when people in the relevant family had children, but there have been a lot of generations since the nineteenth century now.
Here is my list of these names from the late nineteenth century from 1880 to the turn of the century from the United States of America. Baby names statistics were first collected and published by the Social Security Administration in 1880.
Names on This List
I've broken my list down into three sections:
- Baby girls' names
- Baby girls' names ending in -ie (There are so many of these that I gave them a separate section.)
- Baby boys' names
The Popularity of These Names
By popular, I mean names that were in the top 300 baby names in the late nineteenth century. However, it's worth saying that some of these names were still pretty rare in the nineteenth century, as the most popular names are still used today. It was also harder to compile this list for boys than for girls as their names tend to go in and out of fashion and be less varied than baby girls' names.
Ed, one of the most popular baby boys' names on this list, was used for 328 names. In contrast, John, the most popular baby boys' name, was often given annually to over 7,000 baby boys. Mary, the most popular baby girls' name, was often used more than 6,000 times. In this period, more than half of baby boys born were given one of the top 19 names, whereas more than half of baby girls were given one of the top 45 names.
John, William, James, George and Charles were the most popular for boys; Mary, Anna, Margaret, Elizabeth and Helen were the top picks for girls. Most of the popular baby boys' names from this time period are still used today. Trends and fashions in girls' names vary more.
Victorian Names: Great-Great-Granny Names
A medieval French name meaning white or fair. This name was in the top 100 baby girl names from 1880 to 1919.
In the top 100 girl's names until 1891, Maud steadily became less popular. Maud means strong in battle.
A version of Esther meaning star which was the 203rd most popular baby girl name in 1893. This name seems like one that could come back into fashion.
Somehow this plant name has fallen out of fashion.
An old Norse name meaning hiding, Hulda was in the top 200 or 300 names in the late nineteenth century.
This is one of the few names of this list where I have met more than one person with the name. I actually know someone who has a baby called Bess. Although it is possible that the Bess's I have met are actually called Elizabeth on their birth certificate - I never asked. This was in the top 200 baby names until 1895.
Short version of Alfreda, Winifred or other Fred names. Freda means bright. Freda was in the top 200 names for girls from 1891 to 1918.
A short version of Margaret that was in the top 300 names until 1913. This means pearl.
A Greek name meaning forgetfulness or perhaps a short version of Aletha.
Sue, a short form of Susan or Susanna was actually most popular way later in the 1940s, but back in the late nineteenth century it was consistently in the top 300 girls names.
This is another short version of Margaret, probably mostly used by German, Danish or Swedish immigrants.
Possibly a version of Laura, that was in the top 300 names until 1895.
Girls' Names Ending in -ie
The names below are nicknames for more common names, but often appeared on birth certificates in that format in the late nineteenth century.
A version of Anna which means grace. It disappeared from the top 100 names in 1887, although stuck around in the top 1000 until 1950.
This version of Mary or Margaret was very popular. From 1880 to 1913 it was in the top 100 names for baby girls. It remained in the top 1000 names in the United States until 1966.
This version of William was in the top 100 names for both girls and boys. The name is still used for boys with 206 boys called Willie in 2019, but only 5 girls.
A version of the name Florence. Flossie was most popular in the 1890's peaking at number 129 in 1891. It remained in the top 1000 names until 1951.
This short version of Elizabeth was most popular in the 1880s at number 131.
I've always thought of this as a boy's nickname for Albert (or other Bert names like Herbert, but in the nineteenth century Bertie was more popular as a name for a girl. Up until 1894 it was in the top 200 registered names for girls each year. Bertie means bright.
This is a nickname for Henrietta, the feminine version of the name Henry. It can also be a shortened version of Hester or Harriet. Hettie was in the top 200 names for girls until 1886.
A shortened version of Augusta. In 1882 it was the 197th most popular name for baby girls.
Probably a short version of Matilda or Martha. This was in the top 300 names for girls until the 1890s.
This diminutive for Myrtle was also in the top 300 names until the early 1890s.
This version of the more famous Virginia was most popular in the 1890s.
This is a longer version of Pearl which was in the top 300 names for much of the late Victorian period.
This is probably an alternative spelling of Mamie, a version of Mary or Margaret. It was in the top 150 names for girls until 1891.
This was also in the top 200 names at this time. This is a nickname for Dorothy.
Victorian Names: Great-Grandpa Names
Means Earl. This spelling was in the top 300 for baby boys in Victorian times but has long since faded into obscurity.
French form of Claudius which has the unfortunate meaning of lame/crippled. A top 200 name throughout the Victorian period, although the spelling Claude was more popular in the top 100.
In 1887 a top 200 name and in the top 1000 up until the 1970s. Perhaps the association with the purple dinosaur has put parents off.
There's something cool about just having two letters in your name I think. Ed, just Ed not Edward, or Edmund was in the top 100 boy's names in the late nineteenth century.
This name was made popular by the US president James A Garfield who became president in 1881 until his assassination that same year. In 1881 Garfield was the 88th most popular name, but it dropped steadily in popularity in the following year.
An English place name which means meadow. This name also dropped steadily in popularity throughout this period.
In 1883 it was the 112th most popular name for baby boys. Not a name used much these days due to its association with a certain dictator.
This name means dove and is the name of a saint. This name has never been very popular but it was in the top 300 names in the USA.
Lon was probably derived from the Italian Alonzo, so perhaps many of the baby Lon's were the sons of Italian immigrants.
This first name is more commonly an English surname that means guardian of the mill.
I've never heard of this name, but it is in the top 300 baby boys name in the late nineteenth century. In 1883 it ranked number 185. It probably comes from the surname.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on December 06, 2020:
I like the name Hettie for a girl. It's a shame many of these are now non-existent. My Grandmothers were called Doris and Ivy. I love them names.