Popular names for girls and the 100 year rule.


Today I was looking at some lists of the most popular names for girls in the past few years, and was quite shocked at how old-fashioned some of them sound.  Isabella and Sophie, both wildly popular right now (and both which have reached and probably passed their peak of popularity),  sounded old about 10-15 years ago but no longer do.  The same thing happened with names like Emily and Grace in previous years.

Supposedly there’s a 100-year rule,which means names become popular again for a new generation of babies after about 80-100 years (around the same time the generation that was given those names has nearly died off).   So there are names now in the Top 100 like Cora, Evelyn, Vivian, Lillian, Esther, and Lucy.   I also read that Betty (not Elizabeth, which has always been popular and never becomes dated) is just beginning to come back and experienced a huge uptick in 2014.    So is Jane (I really like this name because of how simple and feminine it is).  These names haven’t been popular long enough to stop sounding like old-lady names yet but soon they won’t anymore.  Boys’ names tend to change less frequently so I’m not focusing on those here, but this can be seen to some extent in the boys’ lists too.   Following the 100 year rule, I’d guess that names like Helen, Joyce, and Dorothy will begin to get popular again very soon, if they’re not already, since few people under the age of 70 or 80 have these names (plus, all three have a great legacy and are attractive names in their own right).

If you’re naming a baby girl  and don’t want to risk them being one of 5 other girls in their class with the same name (which is what happened to me) and want to stay away from trendy or “creative” names (PLEASE go away, Neveah and any names ending in –aiden) , may I suggest a cute mid-century name like Karen, Susan, Deborah, Lisa, Linda or Patricia.   It’s too soon for these names to be making a comeback yet, so they will seem somewhat exotic and uncommon when the girls are young, and by the time they reach midlife and these names are due to be popular again (following the 100 year rule), their names will seem very “young” and not date them.

My daughter’s name is fortuitous for her.   She was born in 1993 and her name didn’t even enter the Top 1000 until 2003, and has been growing more popular every year since.   In fact, when she was born it was so unusual that most people had never heard of it used as a first name before, but now girls (and some boys) much younger than she is have this name (and no, her name is NOT Madison!).   It’s analogous to a girl who was born in the late 50s/early 60s having a name like Heather or Jessica, so when she’s older she will seem to have a very “young” name that won’t “date” her (but I don’t think it will ever be as popular as Heather or Jessica, thank goodness).   I think it’s a very strong name, and she loves it, which makes me happy. My son’s name is very ’70s even though he was born in 1991, but it was never that common in the United States so it just seems classic.

3 thoughts on “Popular names for girls and the 100 year rule.

  1. Hee-hee, I love name popularity lists 🙂 They’re so fun. We were just sort of discussing this last night, when the topic of the name “Megan” came up. My dad was pointing out that it must have been popular back in the ’90s, because suddenly all these Megans are turning up, but my mom said no, it was popular back in the ’80s, in her day she knew a lot of girls named Megan.

    My name is Mary and I’m eighteen, so I almost never meet anyone my own age with my name (although the name is reasonably common here in the South). I guess I should be glad about that, it sounds kind of old-fashioned but I like that about it. And, according to the 100-year rule, maybe I’ll see a new crop of Marys turn up when I’m only middle-aged and I can say, “Ha, I got to see it and almost no other Mary did.” 😉

    Anyhoo, fun little post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that’s cool that you’re called Mary, and you’re right it doesn’t seem to be popular anymore with people under age 40 or 50, which makes it unique in your age group. I think it’s a pretty name. One of my best friends (who posts here) is called Mary. As for the name Megan, it sounds SOOOOO dated now, very 80s-90s.


  2. I HATED my name when I was growing up, because it was so old-fashioned and weird (I was the only person in my entire school who had it), and because it’s a name that’s very easy to pervert into unflattering nicknames. I used to get so mad at my mother for having stuck me with such an awful name! All of my siblings had nice normal ordinary names, which made it seem even more unfair that I had to be stuck with a weird one.

    It wasn’t until I finally grew up and quit trying to be one of the cool kids that I was able to make peace with my unusual name. Now I see that it has become one of the more popular names for baby girls. It will be to this generation what Nancy and Barbara and Linda and Debbie were to mine. 😉


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