19th century baby names 28480

This week, we're taking Throwback Thursday way, way back in time, to the 1890s. We may no longer wear our hair up and our hemlines way down, but our current fashionable names bear a striking resemblance to the hot names of the 1890s. The girls' top 25 lists boasts currently chic names like Clara, Emma, Alice and Lillian; the boys' list features perennial favorites like Henry, William, and James. But the top names of the 189s, Mary and John, aren't quite as in vogue right now. Mary dropped out of the top 100 after decades of reigning supreme, while John is less unscathed, but currently resides at #28.

One intriguing trend I'm noting from the last century: Even if the fashion was all buttoned up, the names definitely weren't so stiff. Many of the top 100 names are shortened nickname names—names like Willie (for girls or boys), Mattie (also for either), Effie, Nettie and Nellie.

So what intriguing names haven't yet made their resurgence? Here are my picks from the 1890s for your consideration.


Ida was the 21st most popular name back in the 1890s, and it means industrious. It was in its heyday in the 1800s, and dropped out of the top 1000 entirely in 1980. Perhaps, as our friends at Nameberry noted, it's about time for a comeback, on the heels of red-hot names like Ava?

It took a little longer for Louise to drop out of the top 1000—after reigning in the top 50 names from 1880-1930 (it was the 36th most popular baby name back in the 1890s), it dropped out in the 1990s. It's a French name that means renowned warrior, and is a nice way to pay homage to a Louis in your family tree.

Esther reached its peak back in the 1890s, but it's never really gone away. This Persian name that means star is currently #242 here in the U.S.

Lena started a slow but steady decline after the 1890s, when it was in the top 50 baby names. This short form of Helena is the name of legendary singer Lena Horne and now known for Girls actor/creator Lena Dunham. It's starting an uptick now—but it's currently in the top 400 names, so it's still pretty unlikely your daughter would end up with another Lena in her class.

Alma is a Latin name that means soulful. It was most popular back in the 1890s, when it was the 54th most popular girls' name. It's a chic alternative to Emma, and one that's appeared in pop culture, including characters on Desperate Housewives and The Hunger Games.


The 17th most popular name back in 1890 was Clarence—you'll probably remember it as either the name of George Bailey's guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life, or as the legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. It's a lovely name that means bright and clear, and could make a cool comeback name.

Roy seems like it should be a short name that means royal, but it actually means red-headed. It was the 19th most popular name back in the 1890s, and it's currently in the top 600 names.

Archie, a nickname for Archibald, means brave. This casual name was #89 in the 1890s, and fell out of the top 1000 back in the 1980s. It's more commonly associated with the comic character or the grumpy Archie Bunker from All in the Family, but maybe it's time for Archie to have a reboot—especially since it's becoming more popular over in the UK?

Ernest peaked in the 19th century—perhaps the 21st century is ready for it? It's a name that means serious, and it's barely charting in the top 1000 these days. Legendary author Hemingway is the most famous bearer of the name, followed by Ernie of Sesame Street.

I think the silly Simpson dad is keeping Homer—which was #72 back in the 1890s—from staging a comeback. This name has a cool vibe and a cool history, as the author of the Odyssey.

What do you think of these 1890s choices? Anything on there you might consider? If you're still searching for a baby name, don't forget to check out our Baby Name Finder for some great suggestions!

Image: 19th century woman by  Dolgin Alexander Klimentyevich/