Every Single 1920s Baby Name with Comeback Potential

Mar 29th 2017


As the 21st Century marches ahead, the names of the early decades of the 20th Century have renewed appeal as "antiques." 1920s favorites in particular are finding a new life: names like Vivian, Iris and Max have come charging back into style. What '20s names might yet be waiting in the wings, undiscovered?

Here's an attempt to answer to that question as thoroughly as possible. I've combed through the historical name stats and tried to identify every popular name of the Roaring '20s that hasn't yet come back but maybe, possibly could.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

To qualify for my list a name had to be:

• At or near its popularity peak in the 1920s
• Much less popular in the second half of the 20th Century, so that it now sounds suitably old-fashioned
Not among today's top 500 names for boys or girls
• A feasible fashion choice based on contemporary tastes

The last item is the tricky one. Taste is subjective, but I followed current style by ruling out names that are particularly dense with consonants, like Bernice and Durward. Next to go were names that are so unfamiliar today that they sound merely surprising rather than antique, like Hulon and Trula, and names that have crossed the gender divide since the '20s, like Meredith for boys. Other factors were less cut-and-dried but could tip the balance against a borderline name, like the "yoo" sound in Buford and Eunice.

The end product is a list of well over 100 uncommon throwback names worth thinking about. Not every one hits the fashion bullseye. Chances are that most will still sound outmoded to you. But if you're drawn to old-fashioned names, I'm guessing that a few on this list will strike you as pleasant and intriguing surprises. I certainly have my favorites, and I'm curious to hear yours. 

1920s Names with Comeback Potential
GIRLS BOYS
Adele Albin
Althea Alton
Antoinette Alvin
Antonia Arden
Avis Boyd
Bette Buck
Betty Burton
Billie Carlyle
Clarice Clyde
Cleo Conrad
Delta Cosmo
Dorothea Dempsey
Dorothy Denver
Eloisa Earl
Faye Edison
Fern Elden, Elton
Garnet Ellsworth
Geneva Emory
Harriet Florian
Iola Forrest
Iona, Ione Gardner
Irene Garland
Jean Gaston
Josefina Giles
Lenora, Lenore Glendon
Leora Hardy
Lois Harlan
Lorraine Harris
Louise Haskell
Maida Herschel, Hershel
Margery, Marjorie               Hollis
Marguerite Howell
Marian, Marion Jennings
Marietta Jules
Mavis Kermit
Maxine Lambert
Millicent Lawton
Odessa Lionel
Opal Llewellyn
Petra Lowell
Reba, Reva Lyle
Roma Mack
Rosemary Mahlon
Sibyl, Sybil Manley
Theda Merrill
Theodora Merritt
Thora Meyer
Una Ned
Verona Newell
Virginia Newman
Vita Olin
Winifred Orin
 Zenobia Otis
  Palmer
  Raleigh
  Regis
  Roland, Rowland
  Roy
  Rupert
  Stanton
  Sumner
  Talmadge
  Truman
  Vito
  Wallace
  Walton
  Ward
  Warner
  Wiley
  Wilton
  Winton
  Worth

 

Comments

1
March 30, 2017 5:23 PM

There are so many great names on this list! I only know two children with any of these names: Avis and Louise, both affiliated with the Waldorf preschool my youngest attends (no surprise there).

2
March 30, 2017 10:48 PM

Well, we all know a little Rupert.

3
March 30, 2017 11:01 PM

Well, yes, and one day I hope to meet him in person!

4
March 31, 2017 6:14 PM

I know a family with two daughters, both with names on this list. 

I'm pregnant and at least one of the names we're seriously considering -- Wiley -- is on this list.

I also saw someone elsewhere on the internet asking if Kermit was an acceptable baby name option, and everyone was flipping out, clutching pearls, and completely losing it re the idea of that name. Which, to me, means that Kermit will be the Aiden of 2025.

5
By GPU
April 1, 2017 12:55 AM

Fern, Maxine, Opal, Una, Winifred, Edison and Ned are among my favourites.

6
April 1, 2017 1:10 AM

I know several millennial Leoras, but I've only heard the name in Jewish community.

Names I've seen coming up a lot in baby name forums: Harriet (I always liked this one especially as a lifelong Harriet the Spy fan), Opal, Edison, Louise, Delta, Hollis, Forrest, Emory/Emery, Merritt

I know a baby Orin, a baby Arden and a 40 something female Arden. I know a preschool age Harrison, nicknamed Harris. I've known 30 somethings named Lorraine, Dorothy and Theadora. And I think Adele will be very popular given the singer. 

7
April 1, 2017 10:09 AM

Oops! I missed Wiley. I do know a four-year-old boy with that name, also affiliated with the Waldorf home nursery.

8
April 1, 2017 3:38 PM

I disagree that Bernice is not a possibility! I can totally imagine it being a hit, especially with the cute nickname option of Bernie, which might appeal to the millennials who were Bernie supporters. 

I agree that Harriet is one of the most likely to make a comeback...it really surprises me that it hasn't come back more by now. It has the great nickname Hattie, which is in the top 1000 on its own.

9
April 1, 2017 6:58 PM

The name I've picked out for my little girl due in May isn't on the list but fits all your statistical requirements: Rosemary! 

I know another little girl born this year named Rosalie, I wonder if the "Rose" prefix is going to be the next Ella/Ellie! 

10
April 1, 2017 8:27 PM

Well, it seems that the 1920s were not my era for style. There are a select few that I like, several that I don't mind, and a majority that I would never, ever, ever consider using ever. 

Oh, and I felt like Leora was out of place because of its frequent use in a Jewish context. I also know several Leoras in their 20s and 30s, all Jewish.

11
April 2, 2017 4:13 PM

I have friends with a toddler-aged Bernie. Short for Bernadette, and she was born just as Bernie was announcing his run (and her parents are Hillary supporters, either way), but, yeah, I predict that any name that can be shortened to Bernie will rise in popularity. There's also the character of Bernard in Westworld, which might also cause "Bern" names to rise. Maeve is definitely on my radar because of that show.

12
April 3, 2017 6:43 AM

My husband and I are trying for our first, and if we end up with a girl she will be Betty. 

I think Betty could become more popular as people consider the names of their grandmothers for their children. But I wonder if it is likely that it will take longer for Betty to truly revive because it was so popular then and is still well known now. What do you think? What happens when massively popular names near the century mark?

I also think that people who want to call their daughter Betty are much more likely to choose Elizabeth for the birth certificate, so maybe it will be hard to see a rise in baby Betties.

13
By Amy3
April 3, 2017 1:01 PM

Lots to love here! These are my very favorites: Betty, Harriet, Lois, Marjorie, Mavis, Maxine, Opal, Petra, Una, Alvin, Conrad, Cosmo, Ned, Oti, and Roy. 

14
April 3, 2017 1:25 PM

novemberrember, Rosemary was definitely on the list but somehow disappeared in the cut-and-paste process! Thanks for mentioning it, I've put the name back in.

15
April 11, 2017 12:21 PM

Be aware, Talmadge in the surname of two bad racist governors in Georgia. Avoid.

16
April 11, 2017 12:34 PM

Oooh, I was just thinking about Rosemary again this morning.  Such a lovely name.

17
April 11, 2017 12:47 PM

I love Winifred and Lionel. But who is little Rupert?

18
April 11, 2017 4:34 PM

We have a Ned, but it's short for Edward, as it should be. (Or for any of the other Ed- names. An Eddie in Ned's brother's Cub Scout pack is Edmund, after an ancestor.)

 

His great-granduncle was Charles Edward, but went by Ned because Charles was his father's name as well.

19
April 11, 2017 7:25 PM

Oh no. My 3 and half year old granddaughter is Úna, a family name in ireland. I hope your predictions are incorrect on that one!

20
April 12, 2017 10:07 AM

@xtinamarie, I kinda agree with Laura that Bernice is not likely to make a comeback, because that sort of collision of consonants is not currently in style, but Berenice might. (Of course, that wouldn't really be a comeback, or at least not a 1920's one.)

21
April 18, 2017 1:08 PM

My younger daughter's name is Marian for these exact reasons! It's a classic name with a long history that hasn't been popular since our grandmas were born and is very uncommon today, but doesn't sound dated in a bad way like "gertrude".