Are classic names really becoming extinct? The short answer is no. We still love classic names in America, as proven by many of today's top 10 hits like Alexander, Michael, Charlotte, and Emily.
But there are a few classic names that have been nearly abandoned. Since today's naming trends focus heavily on sounds, some of the clunkier American standards have been deemed less appealing. If classic names are your thing, you may be interested in helping with the rescue effort for these recently cast aside favorites from the past.
Endangered Classic Girls' Names
Ann: The once-beloved Ann, a classic that used to be a top-100 pick, started slipping in the ‘90s. It's now at a depressing rank of 945. Anne (with an "e") is doing better, though it's also hit a rough patch and ranks in the 500s. This simple and quick name may be doomed to the middle spot, while some parents may be abandoning Ann in favor of Hannah, a top 25 favorite.
Barbara: The celebrated Saint Barbara gave this name lots of staying power through different seasons in America's history, while a few cultural sparks made it truly stylish. It had been a top-200 staple up until the ‘90s, but today it's been banished to the low 800s. The fault lies in short forms and variations like Babs, Barbie, Barb, and Babette, which helped this ancient name adapt throughout the years, until now.
Carolyn: You're much more likely to meet a newborn girl named Caroline than Carolyn, a fact we credit to today's changing tastes in sound. While Caroline, the name that "came first", has a chic long "i" with southern belle sensibilities, Carolyn has fallen to the mid 700s as it has struggled to keep up with the trends.
Christine: This French form of Christina has always experienced a certain amount of success in the US, though its true heyday was the ‘50s-'70s. While it once made us think classic, today it's hitting parents as dated, thanks to its surging popularity in the middle of the last century. These days we'd rather find a gem from the early 20th century, so Christine may have to wait before experiencing another high.
Diane: This French form of Diana is pretty and simple, but most of us have left Diane behind, either in favor of the princess-worthy Diana, or something altogether different. In other words, if John Mellencamp wrote a little ditty today about two American kids growing up in the heartland, it probably would be about Jack and Cheyenne.
Ellen: The change in how we see the classic name Ellen has only happened in recent years. Even in the '90s, this name was still doing pretty well and sitting in the 200s. But these days, Ellen has plunged somewhere between 600-800 for seven years in a row. One thing that can revive this name is the ever-popular Ellie, and we think parents looking to honor a relative and/or lengthen Ellie may find that Ellen isn't quite so out of touch.
Martha: This name has almost always done well in America. Then the new millennium hit, and some lost their interest in the name. We blame the sound of the name for the most part, though the housework-happy biblical namesake is getting to some parents as well. Today Martha has suddenly found itself in the 700s, a far cry from the top 100 rank that it held for more than 90 years.
Pamela: The nickname Pam is what killed this classic, as it's just too blunt for our tastes today (even after The Office). It has a literary history, being invented by a poet and picked up for the protagonist of a classic novel, but it may be some time before we see this name in a romantic light once again.
Paula: Poor Paula's ready to be quietly laid to rest after a good, long life of popularity. Celebrities like Paula Abdul and Paula Deen have added their share of controversy to this otherwise tepid name, and many are avoiding Paula and other Paul-inspired feminine forms altogether.
Susan: This girl-next-door name used to be a reliable favorite, but sweet little Susie and company has continued its downward spiral over the past few decades. It's been a slow, steady descent. In 1980-84, Susan was still in the top 100s, but today Susan is ranked at 851 and it only looks like it will continue to drop.
Endangered Classic Boys' Names
Carl: This short and sweet form of Charles comes to us through the German Karl, both of which are falling from favor quickly. We're much more interested in the elegance of Charles and pet forms Charlie or even Chase.
Craig: A Gaelic name meaning "rocky," Craig used to be very fashionable and a strong choice for a boy. We still love earthy, sturdy names like Craig, and especially ones with Gaelic roots. But these days, Craig is really struggling, ready to disappear from the top 1,000 altogether.
Donald: We could blame the duck or "The Donald" himself for this one, but the truth is that this former red-hot classic has a dated sound that many of us can't quite get on board with any longer. It has a proud Scottish heritage, associated with the name Macdonald, and the nicknames Don and Donnie are stylishly passé, thanks to Mad Men. Donald doesn't have as dismal an outlook as others listed here, but it's a fading classic that's seen much better days.
Eugene: As modern parents would have it, the dignified, royal name Eugene is ready to take a bow. It's hit an all-time low, and even though it has a certain amount of "old man" appeal, we aren't expecting Eugene to be resurrected anytime soon. That being said, it has survived on our TV screens via The Walking Dead, where it seems fitting for a scientist sporting a mullet and fighting to stay alive.
Fred: Once a shining star, Fred is a Victorian classic that's also an unparalleled dancer wearing Shoes with Wings. But that star has fallen far from its top spot in the 1880s, with Fred falling out of the top 500s in the ‘90s and out of the top 1,000 twelve years ago. We've proven again and again that Americans prefer longer names, so those who adore this chipper vintage pet name can look no further than Frederick, which has been hanging around the 500 mark for ten years now.
Gilbert: The idea of this name is perfect for today, but in reality its heavy consonants make Gilbert an unlikely choice. On the upside, Gilbert is a famed saint, a surname, and a literary name most famously worn by the love interest in Anne of Green Gables. We'll be holding our breath to see how Gilbert does this year, after many are remembering their love for "Gil" upon the death of actor Jonathan Crombie, who portrayed Gilbert Blythe.
Harold: Another name that feels classic and stately, Harold was once a charming gent who went by the nickname Harry. It's been a big struggle for this name over the past couple of decades, landing Harold in the 800s. We'd love to see the tide turn for Harold, but as the Baby Name Wizard recently pointed out, names ending in -d are, rather appropriately, a bit doomed.
Howard: And that brings us to Howard, the no-longer-fashionable classic that is barely hanging on to the top 1,000s at a rank of 987. It's not The Big Bang Theory's fault; a geek named Howard has been, for a long time now, not a stretch at all for us to imagine. By the time the name had dropped out of the top 500s in the mid '90s, it was already making a speedy descent in popularity.
Lawrence: Compared to the other names that made this list, Lawrence really isn't doing that bad. It still has its classic edge and it's got a strong masculine vibe with the "law" spelling we favor in the US. One thing that may continue to hold Lawrence back is its lack of easy nicknames, aside from the lackluster Larry.
Wayne: It seems the new cowboy favorite Wyatt is trading places with the once hotter-than-a-branding-iron Wayne. To find Wayne at the kind of popularity Wyatt is now experiencing, you have to travel back in time to the ‘50s, when actor John Wayne was starring in hits like The Quiet Man and The Searchers.
Meet the "100 Club," the year's brand-new crop of baby names. In terms of style, these names range from antique (Jethro) to futuristic (Ender); from American-grown (Arizona) to Bollywood-bred (Viaan). In numerical terms, though, the names all share a key milestone. Last year, they were given to 100 American boys or girls for the first time on record. That makes them part of the new sound of the times.
Noteworthy trends among the girls' names:
U.S Place Names: Arizona, Denver, Hudson, Memphis, Salem
Traditional Male Names: Bennett, Jude, Lincoln, Noah
Dramatic Meaning Names: Amor, Indigo, Legacy, Reign, Royal
Noteworthy boys' trends:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Names: Ender, Hansel: (note the film "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters"), Loki, Thorin (see also The 21 Most Geektastic Names of the Year)
Traditional Names That Have Been Rare in the U.S.: Gareth, Jethro, Lev, Montgomery
Both Halves of a Country Music Duo: Montgomery, Gentry
A single name registered on both the boys' and girls' lists: Salem. The new tv series "Salem," inspired by the infamous witch trials, surely had a hand in that.
The full 100 Club lists:
There are geek names, and then there are geek names. Plenty of fanboys and fangirls take baby name inspiration from favorite characters, but for most the choice is subtle. You can name your son Malcom after Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds and your in-laws will be none the wiser.
Today, we acknowledge those parents who have taken a bolder step into fandom, daring to go where few names have gone before. Each of the proudly geeky names below was given to at least five American babies last year.
Image via kazz.0/Flicker
NAME (SEX, NUMBER BORN IN 2014)
Anakin (M, 218) : Darth Vader now ranks among the top 1,000 names for boys. The Empire has won.
Eevee (F, 24) : A genetically flexible fox-like Pokemon. A Pokemon!!!
Ender (M, 118) : Naming after Ender Wiggin of Ender's Game gives your child an early introduction to life's moral complexities.
Stark (M, 20) : This name could solve baby-name arguments in mixed marriages between a Marvel loyalist and a Game of Thrones fan: "Iron Man wants you to know that Winter is Coming."
Sephiroth (M, 7) : The archvillain of the game Final Fantasy VII, with his long black coat and flowing silver hair, is the epitome of evil fashion.
Kal-El (M, 257) : Phew. In a baby-name faceoff of good versus evil, Superman (born Kal-El) outranks Darth Vader (born Anakin).
Tron (M, 11) : The 1982 film TRON transports us into the heart of a computer, where an artificial intelligence called Tron takes the form of a glowing Bruce Boxleitner.
Quorra (F, 26) : In the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, Quorra is a skilled pilot and warrior -- unusual skill sets for an algorithm.
Draco(M, 42) : A Death Eater with a name that means "dragon." Don't mess with this infant.
Garrus (M, 9) : Most names from action games are more macho than geeky, but it helps that Mass Effect's Garrus Vakarian is a raptor-headed alien.
Jadzia (F, 19) : Jadzia Dax of Star-Trek: Deep Space Nine shares her mind with a symbiotic organism. Two for the price of one! (On Earth Jadzia is also a Polish nickname, but its American usage started with Deep Space Nine.)
Korra (F, 87) : The element bender of the animated series "The Legend of Korra" nearly dies fighting for peace, but does gain a cute girlfriend along the way.
Tidus (M, 43) : The protagonist of Final Fantasy X, Tidus is the rare video game hero who is regularly described as "cheerful."
Lando (M, 9) : In the original Star Wars trilogy, Lando Calrissian is a charming gambler and smuggler -- basically like Han Solo, but way better at it.
Tyrion (M, 60) : The "imp" Tyrion is the heart (or perhaps the brain) of Game of Thrones.
Winry (F, 32) : If you need a prosthetic limb repaired, Winry Rockbell of Fullmetal Alchemist is your woman.
Xena (F, 71) : Xena the Warrior Princess injected the familiar underdressed-warrior-woman trope with a new element: humanity. This is a name that kicks butt, with feeling.
Tauriel (F, 20) : Ooh, we're off canon! This attractively named elf from The Hobbit movie wasn't in Tolkein's book. And in other Hobbit book vs. movie news...
Thorin (M, 112) : ...note that these babies were named for dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield before the final installment of the movie came out. Hopefully the parents read the book and knew what they (and Thorin) were in for.
Loki (M, 111) : The trickster god Loki is an age-old fixture of Norse myth, but nobody named after him until he became a snazzy Marvel supervillain.
Jedi (M, 21) : The force is with these youngsters.