What’s in a name? William Shakespeare posed that question more than 400 years ago and it’s still pertinent today. Names go in and out of style, and it’s not always clear why. Using data going back more than a century, 24/7 Wall St. set out to identify once-popular names that have been falling out of favor.
Some of the names on this list, such as Homer, are thousands of years old. Others, such as Latoya, are of recent origin but already declining in popularity. Some seem decidedly dated and possibly headed for total extinction. How many Deweys or Velmas do you know? Other entries might come as a surprise. Everybody knows an Ed and a Bob, and can probably name some famous ones, too, but both names are going out of style.
We also discovered some interesting quirks and coincidences. Several of the names we identified are also characters on the television show “The Simpsons.” One, Grover, was the first name of an American president. Another, Garfield, was the surname of a president. Both names peaked in popularity when these presidents were in office in the 19th century.
Some names have acquired negative associations entirely by chance. One of the most destructive hurricanes in history was called Wilma, which can’t have helped the popularity of the name. Similarly, Bertha, was the nickname of one of the most destructive weapons in World War I.
To determine the baby names going extinct, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 100 most popular boy and girl names each year between 1880 and 2017 from the Social Security Administration. We took the 1880-2010 average ranking of each name appearing on any of the SSA’s top 100 lists between those years. These names were highly popular for some significant period of time. We compared this earlier average level of popularity to the 2011-2017 average ranking of those same names.We selected the 50 names with the largest declines in average ranking between those two periods. The names are ranked by the drop amount.The SSA only collects data on names with at least five birth certificates. Alternate spellings of similar names were treated as discrete names.
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