No One’s Naming Their Daughters Mary—Should You?

It’s not entirely true that no one is naming their daughter Mary—in fact, my daughters share a best friend named Mary. But that’s the lament of sociologist Philip Cohen in a recent article in The Atlantic. The name Mary was the most popular girls’ name for decades, but it’s fallen to 112th place and is still on the decline.

He cites several reasons for Mary’s fall from baby-name grace. There’s the well-documented rise in interest in choosing unique “individualized” names for your children—and the fact that devout Christians are eschewing the name of Mary for more offbeat choices like Nevaeh (which is “heaven” spelled backwards, in case you didn’t know).

But Mary’s a name worth saving—even if its meaning, bitter, isn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows. For those who don’t feel religious enough to want to name their daughters after the Biblical mother of Jesus, the name still has plenty of historical and pop culture gravitas: There’s a slew of Queen Marys, Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and pop-culture wise, Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey, and the magical nanny Mary Poppins.

It’s sad to see any name fall so precipitously from popularity—my own name, Lisa, was tops on the charts in the 70s, but now has fallen to #703 and is still on the way down. But Mary, somehow, seems a little bit sadder, since it was such a powerhouse name for so many years, and has such a wonderful history. You can expect to see both Mary and Lisa—and fellow fallen-from-grace names like Linda, Barbara, Harold and Gerald—continue to fall for a while before being rediscovered by a later generation. Maybe my grandchildren will have a Lisa or a Mary in their class.

What do you think? What names do you think are on their way out of popularity? And do you think Mary or another of these names deserves a second look?

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Photo: Stained glass window image of Mary by AJE / Shutterstock.com

 

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  1. by Kim

    On December 6, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I`ve noticed a HUGE trend lately is avoiding naming your child after relations. I suspect that is a big reason some of these previously popular names are dropping so fast.
    We preffer to avoid naming our kids after relations that are still alive, to avoid the whole `your parents loved her more than me` issues my family is known for. But we`ve never seen the harm in using a name shared by a great grandmother long since deceased. Especially if its someone we never knew personally.

  2. by m. Bullard

    On April 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Its a load of rubbish i have seen many parents name their baby girls Mary this year alone.