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Classic Baby Names That Have Become Uncommon

How Baby Names Have Changed in the Last 70 Years

When the United States census data from 1940 became available online (amid all the resulting chatter about comparing that decade to the present one), we started wondering how the passage of 70 years has influenced something that fascinates us as parents. Yep, we're talking about baby names!

Just for fun, we took a look at the most popular baby names for girls and boys in 1940, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) and then checked how popular they are today. The comparison revealed some interesting insights into how our baby name preferences have changed over the years.

Click through to keep keep reading.

Top 10 Baby Boy Names in 1940

  1. James
  2. Robert
  3. John
  4. William
  5. Richard
  6. Charles
  7. David
  8. Thomas
  9. Donald
  10. Ronald

With the exception of Donald, Ronald, and perhaps Richard, these names should actually seem pretty familiar and current to most of us. There's good reason for that; according to the SSA, the remaining seven names all ranked among the 65 most popular baby names in the United States in 2010 (among thousands and thousands of names). And William is virtually just as popular — it now ranks #5, just one place behind its 1940 rank. Apparently, classic or traditional boys' names have never lost their charm for many parents.

Top 10 Baby Girl Names in 1940
The girl's baby name data from 1940 tells a different story, however. Here's the list of 10 most popular girls' names from 1940.

  1. Mary
  2. Barbara
  3. Patricia
  4. Judith
  5. Betty
  6. Carol
  7. Nancy
  8. Linda
  9. Shirley
  10. Sandra

Other than Mary, which was ranked #109 in 2010, none of these names even made it into the top 500 girls names in 2010. Several (Betty, Carol, and Shirley) even failed to reach the top 1000. We parents have essentially completely replaced popular names of the past with new ones. The upside? If you're looking for a pretty and edgy girl's name, the best place to look now may be to your grandmother's girlfriends!

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
BonitaHall BonitaHall 3 years
My son has three names. One from the bible, though people choose the wrong "S" all the time. A classic name. And a name from my favorite book/movie. I think people are in general more creative with girls name than boys name that's why they tend to alter more over time.
TinishiaMontague TinishiaMontague 3 years
My daughter's name is Bryanne (pronounced Brian) Zahra Davonna Kelly. Her father picked Zahra and Davonna is a spin-off of one of my middle names (Daveen). If I had another girl I would have named her Michael. I like boy sounding names on girls. She loves her name but it rubs me wrong when we get Brianna. There is NO "a" at the end of her name.
CoMMember13631041355504 CoMMember13631041355504 4 years
i have two girls their names are lexonna ray-lynn and emmajade grace.....yeah a little extreme on the names but i wanted something different but my little girl emma is named after my little cousin emmalee who has faught leukemia
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 5 years
We have five kids. We like traditional, yet unique first names. Unique in that they are hardly used anymore. Well, most of them anyway. For their middle names, they were each named after a great-grandparent. We have Westley Brady (Brady was my dad's mother's maiden name), Caleb Hansen (Hansen was my husband's father's mother's maiden name), Travis Ives (Ives was my husband's mother's mother's maiden name), Eliza Helen (Helen was my mother's mother's first name) and Jonah Robert (Robert was my husband's father's father's first name). We'd like to have one more. If a boy, it will be Nathan George (George is MY father's father's first name) or a girl will be Audrey Martha (Martha is the first name of both our moms). We are also keenly aware of how our kids' names sound with our last name and any potential nicknames. That went into the naming game as well.
Amyhrynyk Amyhrynyk 5 years
My son, who's three, is named Thomas. We call him Tommy. He is the only Tommy in his school, and the only Tommy I even know in this whole town, as far as kids go. There are, however, appx. 300 variations of Aiden, Jayden, Cayden, and Brayden. Should be interesting when they all get to elementary school.
Dana2680225 Dana2680225 5 years
I have 3 beautiful little ladies, 7,3 & 1. I really wanted names that were simple and easy to spell. But with so many crazy names out there now everyone still asks how to spell them. And I wanted really feminine girl names. But I like the uniqueness of some names so we went more odd with the middle names. That being said, our girls are Hailey Awna, Sienna Reese, and Alice Monroe.
LindsaySilzer LindsaySilzer 5 years
My sons name is "Jacob" little did his dad know when he gave our son the first name that I had an old great uncle Jake, after some research by my mom we found out my Jacob shares his first name as well and last name and birthdate w his great great uncle Jake! Had I still been w my sons dad and we had had another child I was going to name that child "Shirley" or "Gerald" after my now ex's step mom and father who we lost tragically last year a week apart!
AmandaJamieson AmandaJamieson 5 years
My husband and I both have common names (Amanda and Trevor) and we named our girls very unique names. Our oldest is Zanthee Leda and our youngest is Tayanita Niemi. We have had people call our youngest Tatiana, and yes it drives me nuts, cause there is no T where they are putting the T. I think if people just took the time to look at the name, they may be able to pronounce it correctly. My girls love their names ( and yes I've asked them if they do) and they suit their names.
JenniferV11891 JenniferV11891 5 years
My name is Jennifer Lynn. I was always 1 of about 3 or 4 growing up. I have 3 girls...Arianna Lynn (less popular before we chose it), Genevieve Elizabeth (turned out to be family names though didn't know at the time,definately more classic, yet not as popular so she is the only one her age), & Martha Lucia (named after 2 aunts, we call her Luci) and my son, Mark Anthony Jr.
susanlouiseshepard susanlouiseshepard 5 years
my daughters name is cara barbara ann
ZuzanaLaBuff ZuzanaLaBuff 5 years
Me being from Slovakia and my husband American, we try to name our boys with the names similar in both countries. Our oldest son is Lucas Adam, middle one Eric Marcel ( Marcel - after my Dad) and the youngest one Samuel Thomas ( Thomas - after my husband's Father)
RachelCooper20034 RachelCooper20034 5 years
My name is Rachel I named my children Samantha Hazel (Hazel after her grandma), Tony Michael (Michael after his grandad) and Harry John (Harry his grandad and John his dad) surnames are Regan and Cooper for Harry :)
jentrimble jentrimble 5 years
I have 4 girls Anna-Rae Alizabeth, Teeghan Maris, Maddix Averee, & Berlynn Kassidy. I have had more positive comments then I can count on my children names & how my friends wish they could've come up with unique names like I did. I'm a fan of very old style names like Hazel, Gretta. Not a fwn of Tom, Nicole, Julie etc way to common
AimeeGardiner AimeeGardiner 5 years
Ok some comments below are straight up rude. but anyways. It's not about not doing what your grandparents did it's about being an individual of what you want. As far as I'm concerned there is nothing in this world that is gender specific and I teach my children the same. If anyone say's something is "girly" or "for boys" my son proudly says there is no such thing. I think traditional names especially ones with preset nicknames are horrible. That is how I look at it. I like shorter names that dont' create auto nicknames so the child is referred to by the name that was given to them. Making up all new names and being creative is a great part of life, and an opportunity more people should take advantage of. There is no need to keep in the same group of a couple hundred names and rotating them. We are individuals there is nothing wrong with setting yourself and your child with an individual name.
MelliHart MelliHart 5 years
My daughter's name is BetseyAnn, a combination of a name my husband and I loved as well as his Mother's name (Ann). The first thing most people say is what a beautiful, old fashioned name. She is guaranteed to be the only BetseyAnn in her class.
KateBeem KateBeem 5 years
We chose family names for our kids: Joseph Patrick, Margaret Anne, Thomas Henry. I think they'll stand the test of time. Both my husband and I have family names: Matthew Joseph and Katharine Nell.
MarlaHolder MarlaHolder 5 years
I love my name and one of my names is made up. It's different. I love my childrens' names; my mom helped me to choose their names. My names are Marla Rowanne Julia. My daughters names are Zara Maike Olivia and Janayah Nora Olyssa, my son's name is Brendan Nicholai. Maike is pronounced Mae-e-ka and Olyssa and Rowanne are made up
MistyBowen45872 MistyBowen45872 5 years
It's funny that they mentioned Richard, that's the name of my 6y/o. One of the reason's I like it is it's not very popular in his age group (he's the only one I've ever heard of) but everyone still recognizes the name and knows how to spell it. My other son, Emmett, has an old name too. It wasn't popular when we picked it out, but is quickly rising in popularity.
ChristySchiller ChristySchiller 5 years
My daughter's name is Helen Marie, after her paternal great-grandmother. When we were dating and my husband told me how close he was to his Grandma Helen, I just knew that if we had a daughter that would be her name. It's pretty and girly and you don't hear it very often :-)
AnnabelCowley AnnabelCowley 5 years
Here in the UK old girls names have become pretty popular, but you need to go back another generation ... here names like Eleanor, Hannah and Elizabeth are big in my daughters class (2 Ellie's, 2 Hannahs including her, 3 Elizabeths (known as Lizzie, Libby and Elizabeth)
KarenEnglishby KarenEnglishby 5 years
*named. Ooops. :D
KarenEnglishby KarenEnglishby 5 years
My 5 and 2 year old are names Josephine and Felicity. You can go old school without going daggy. I definitely am not a fan of the made up/misspelt names.
JessicaDunn20287 JessicaDunn20287 5 years
My Grandmothers name is Judith and so is my daughters......we have already chosen the names for our next children we have Thomas, Carolyn, Barbara, and Paul. I guess I'm old school.....
ClariceOBrien ClariceOBrien 5 years
I don't know why but as a culture we feel like we need to stay as far away from all things related to our grandparent's generation. I usually cringe when I hear about someone giving their children a name that they think is "original", but it's really doing the child a disservice. I know that probably sounds very harsh and dramatic but here is one for example: Sheannassy, his nick name is Shea. Poor kid. You think when he gets to be of an age when he realizes what his name is that he is going to think it's as cool as mom and dad did when they gave it to him? Um, probably not. Besides, isn't that a girls name?
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 5 years
Instead we're naming our kids stuff like Daebron and Madysin. Our poor children of today. Parents forget that their name is their LABEL for the rest of their life.
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