Throwback Thursday: 1880s Baby Names

Today we’re heading back in time to the 1880s, the earliest time when we have actual statistics on the top baby names. Back then, we stuck with the basics—John and Mary dominated the charts. As we found with the 1890s, nickname-names were surprisingly popular for girls, including Minnie, Nellie, Mamie, and Sadie—all names that might make sense with the trend toward nickname names like Millie and Maisy. But there were some unique names that might be worth mining for your baby. What do you think of these?

GIRLS’ NAMES

Effie peaked at #62 back in the 1880s, when people gave their daughters this shortened form of Euphemia as their whole name. With The Hunger Games‘ Effie Trinket bringing the name back out into the limelight, perhaps this name will make a comeback? (There were only 37 girls who were given the name last year!)

Lula was another sweet nickname name that topped the charts back in the 1880s—it was often used as a nickname for Tallulah or Lucy. It hasn’t hit the top 1000 since the 1960s, but makes a nice alternative to Lily and Lilah.

Martha topped the charts for nearly 70 years, finally starting to fall out of favor in the 1950s. But this name, which means lady, is just starting to make its comeback.

Della is a short and sweet name that was a favored variant of Adela. It peaked in the 1880s, at the 68th most popular name, and hasn’t been seen in the top 1000 since 1977. It might be a nice choice if you like names like Adele, Ella, or Isabella—and don’t want to use any of those uberpopular choices.

Harriet (#90 back in the 1880s) seems to be a name that name nerds like me absolutely love—but no one’s really using it. (Only 9 girls were given the name last year.) It has a regal meaning—ruler—and some great resonance, with historical figures like abolitionist Harriet Tubman and author Harriet Beecher Stowe, and pop culture references like children’s book character Harriet the Spy. But it hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 1970. Is it finally ready for a revival?

BOYS’ NAMES

Elmer was #38 back in the 1880s, and made a slow and steady decline to obscurity right after the 21st century. But it has a great name meaning—noble—even if it is associated with the bumbling Elmer Fudd from the Looney Tunes cartoons.

Milton followed a similar path—it was the 100th most popular name in the 1880s, and just fell off the radar after 2000. But it’s shown up in some new ways lately—including a character on The Walking Dead, so it might be worth revitalizing.

Grover peaked back in the 1880s, thanks to President Grover Cleveland. But it lost its top 1000 ranking back in the 1970s, around the time the Muppet appeared on Sesame Street. It’s a charming name, though, with a pastoral theme—it means living near a grove of trees.

Clyde is a name of a river in Scotland—and an infamous outlaw. It was a top 60 name back in the 1880s, and fell out of favor back in 1990. But I think it could be worth resurrecting for this century.

Emil was just outside the top 100 back in the 1880s, and only went downhill from there. It means rival, but makes a fun and funky alternative to some of the “e” names, like Evan and Ethan.

What do you think of these vintage names? Any ones worth adding to your short list? Don’t forget to try out our Baby Name Finder to find the perfect name for your son or daughter, and like In Name Only on Facebook to keep up with the latest in baby names.

Image: 1800s woman by Donna Beeler / Shutterstock.com

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  1. by Throwback Thursday: 1910s Baby Names | In Name Only

    On February 20, 2014 at 11:41 am

    [...] 1880s Baby Names [...]