Is there such a thing as "extinct" names which will never be used again? When my son was born some 35 years ago (in the heyday of Heather), I would have said that these names would never be fashionable again: Emma, Ruby, Sadie, Sophie, Phoebe, Hazel, Mabel--and I would have been wrong.  Whoever compiled the names in this article does not have her finger on the pulse, because some of the names she lists are well on their way, e.g., Beatrice, Josephine, Eleanor, Rose (gee, Rose is everywhere albeit usually in the middle).  I even heard of a young Barbie recently.

Are (some of) these names (e.g., Mildred, Blanche, Agatha, Ethel, Gertrude) so 'bad' that we will really never see them again?  These names are the names of my mother's generation.  My mother was Sylvia Eleanor, her sisters Blanche and Mildred, her cousin Gertrude.  So this is the great-grandmother generation, and I expect we will be seeing at least some of these names rolling around again.  Phyllis? Opal? (If Ruby and to some extent Pearl, why not Opal?) Gretchen?

I would say never say never.


By EVie
January 20, 2014 12:23 AM

Funny about Emma—I'm just a few years younger than your son, Miriam, and I must have been in an Emma pocket or something, because I've known a ton of them my own age. It was the only repeated name in my very tiny elementary school class (we maxed out at 17 students in second grade, if I recall—they were Emma A. and Emma M.) I knew at least one other in high school, and there were two in my extended social circle in college. I remember being surprised to hear about its resurgence in the late 90s, because it's a name that I've always thoroughly associated with my own generation. Similarly, Lydia—there was one in my elementary school class, two in middle school (one my grade, one above), and I've met one about my own age as an adult. I was therefore surprised when my husband told me it was an "old lady" name.

That article certainly did miss the mark on a few names, but it seems to be one of those pieces that is just thrown together in the interest of creating as much "content" as possible for the Internet—the author clearly just listed a bunch of names she finds unappealing, rather than doing actual research. 

I can see Blanche coming back eventually. I began to find it quite attractive a couple of years ago after reading the novel Katherine by Anya Seton—I found the novel somewhat overwrought, but enjoyable, and the positive portrayal of Blanche of Lancaster changed my perception of the name. I particularly like it as middle name, a fresher one-syllable choice than Grace, Rose or Lynn. 

January 20, 2014 3:02 AM

Blanche was my mother's middle sister and a truly dreadful woman in every possible way (although I did inherit a lot of money from her), so as far as I am concerned Blanche need never come back, but that's just me.  I do like Blanchefleur though.

My son's cohort had no Emmas, no Lydias.  There were lots of Sarahs, and a bunch of Courtney/Ashley/Ainsley type names.  He grew up in New Orleans which does have its own naming style.  Although he grew up in New Orleans he was born in Lubbock TX, and every single girl born to my classmates in the childbirth preparation class was named Heather.  This is not hyperbole, every single one in a large class.  No Heathers in New Orleans.

As for Emma, in my high school graduating class(1962) there were twin sisters Emma and Lisa (very German surname--like Schmidt, but not Schmidt).  They were identical and very pretty natural blondes.  I remember feeling sorry for Emma for having such an ugly old lady name, while her sister had such a pretty fashionable name.  Nowadays the perceptions of their names would be just the other way round.

But the question remains: are there names so inherently ugly (for want of a better word) that they are absolutely revival-proof?  Like never again will we see a young Bertha?

By EVie
January 20, 2014 1:58 PM

I think it's probable that *some* names will eventually go extinct—but I guess it depends on how you define extinction. There will probably always be contrary, counter-cultural types of parents who are deliberately looking for the most unfashionable name possible. Is a name extinct if it's being used once or twice every few years? For that matter, a name could be used three or four times every year and not show up on the name data at all—if it's rare enough that we don't have data to show it exists, does that make it effectively extinct? Conversely, if a name was never common to begin with, but now is never used at all, does that count as a name going extinct, or does it have to meet some threshold of popularity to be counted in the first place? Looking through some of those medieval names archives that you posted earlier, I've come across such gems as Goldcorn/Goldcorna (various dates in the 13th c.), Finepopla (1203), Estrangia (1202-1203) and Husewyf (1317—how's that for an occupational name?) I've never heard any of these in a modern context, so we might consider them extinct, but considering that some of them have only been attested once or twice, maybe they were too rare to begin with for us to count. 

But in terms of predicting which names will eventually fall out of use, and which will enjoy big revivals—it's so hard to predict how fashions change. I think particularly about the German name trend in the early 20th century—even though names like Thelma, Bernice, Mildred, Erma, Ernestine etc. are in the right time frame for revival alongside names like Evelyn, Ruby, Violet, Vivian, Eleanor etc., absent the fashion for German things in general, I don't think those names will be coming back this time around. That's not to say that German will never come back into style, though. 

January 20, 2014 6:10 PM

Speaking of German names, I find it hard to imagine that Adolf will come into fashion anytime soon, although I'm sure there are white supremicists bestowing that name on their sons. A quick search shows that the name Adolfo still has some fans, however, so I guess not even Adolf is extinct. 

By mk
January 21, 2014 5:05 PM

In the past few months I have seen the names Bertha and Dorcas on young college-aged women. I have a hard time imagining either of those names becoming popular again to the extent that they once were. But extinct, as in no one ever uses them again? I doubt it.

I think this article was more about "old" name that the author doesn't like.

January 21, 2014 4:27 PM

If I could convince my husband, I would totally have a little Myrtle (has family meaning for me).

Beatrice is totally "cool" again and not heading for extinction any time soon.

I know several Ruths under the age of 10, most in the toddler set, so that one isn't going anywhere either (and I love it too).

Rose extinct? I think the author needs a dose of reality or something...

Eleanor is in the same category as Beatrice for feel to me. I know several little Eleanors and I wish DH would have caved on this one.

Josephine?!?!?! Ok, this author doesn't know what she's talking about.  

January 24, 2014 2:53 AM

Coincidentally, Miriam, my grandmother is Sylvia (no mn) and her (from all accounts horrible) sister is Mildred.

And similar to EVie, I went to school with at least four girls named Emma (that's just in my grade), and one Lydia. But Australian naming trends are often different to the US. 

When my husband and I started talking baby names nearly 13 years ago, we compiled a short list of what we thought would be decidedly unfashionable and old grandparent names, which probably would have made a similar list in a  similarly poorly-researched column. All of them are now top 50 (Sigh!). 

February 16, 2014 9:15 PM

How about George or Georgina... I wonder if the male or female version will come back in style I can hear ' Georgina '.  !!!

March 5, 2014 5:28 PM

I agree that a lot of the names on that list are off the mark! On my personal faves list are Agatha, Beatrice, Eleanor, & Josephine. One of my best friends (28 yrs old) is Rose (short for the even more uncommon Rosemary), my boyfriend's cousin who is also our age is Marjorie and often goes by Marge or Margie, and I know two little girls named Ruth & Gretchen!

Another oldie but goodie that I am absolutly in love with is Blythe and I think it flows beautifully with so many names as a middle name, too!

March 8, 2014 12:17 AM

They are all up for grabs. Adpated, respelled, expanded upon, pronounced a hundred different ways, and then pulled out of the dust again for another round, no name will ever be extinct.

March 8, 2014 12:23 AM

The names at your link are all excellent examples of the current naming trend. All of these names are on the radar for the near future. Even if they had managed to create a list of names no one would ever use, simply posting it and saying it could not happen would ensure that it does. They're just creating filler articles to get activity on there site. $$$