12 Vintage Baby Names From The 1920s To Bring Back Today
Everything always comes full circle, including old names in new baby bottles. These vintage baby names from the 1920s are so old, they're new and would make fine choices for your little darling today. Though some names from the '20s have a definite "grandparent" kind of vibe, not all of them do, and your baby won't know the difference anyways.
The original bearers of these vintage baby names were born or came of age during the Great Depression. But before that recession hit, the 1920s really roared. So whether they were born just before the Depression or just after, the children of the '20s certainly saw interesting and challenging times. If you are lucky enough to meet some of them today, they have much to teach.
Unlike the names of fairly recent decades, the names of the 1920s are old enough by now to seem cool again (instead of merely passé). And though extremely old names were popular in 2015, the 1920s are basically 100 years ago by now, so surely that's old enough for some everything-old-is-new-again appeal.
I've hand-selected some 1920s favorites for you as a starting place, but if nothing strikes your fancy, you might check out the whole list of popular 1920s names here, courtesy of the United States Social Security Administration. Vintage baby names: Because our country only needs so many Madisons. Not that there's anything wrong with the name "Madison," but, well... variety is the spice of life, right?
My dearly departed grandmother was named Irene, and she was born in 1920. This name, a Greek one meaning "peaceful," will definitely always be my favorite girls' name from that era.
My grandmother Irene's close friend at her retirement home was named Harold, a fine vintage choice for a boy of today. "Harold" is a name for someone courageous, having Old English and Germanic roots meaning something along the lines of "army ruler." And the Harold of off-kilter classic Harold and Maude would make a fine namesake.
Although "Dorothy" was the second most common girls' name of the 1920s (right after Mary), I've never known one myself. The main Dorothy that comes to mind is, of course, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a positive enough connotation. With the happy meaning "gift of God," this would be a great name to bring back.
The popularity of the name "Ralph" has plummeted from 25th for boys in the 1920s almost down to nothing, but I don't know why. You could do worse than give your kid the same name as Ralphie of perennial holiday favorite A Christmas Story. Meaning something like "counsel of the wolves" in Old Norse, Ralph will be a badass. Just don't let him near any icy poles in the meantime.
I met a 1-year-old named Ruby in our pediatrician's office a few months ago and have loved that name ever since. Because ruby is the birthstone for July, it'd be an especially great name for your summer baby girl. Though "Ruby" has become slightly more popular in recent years, it's nowhere near its early 20th century heyday. And this name has no "old person" feel to it either, in my opinion.
"Clarence" has such a dignified feeling to it, again without sounding super old. Having peaked in the 1890s, the name "Clarence" was still holding a respectable 30th place in the 1920s, but has fallen into obscurity today. The name's upbeat meanings include "bright," "clear," "shining," and "gentle."
As a child, I had a hamster named Shirley; my reasoning was that it just sounded nice. Like Clarence, "Shirley's" roots come from words for "bright" and "clear." It's also a gender crossover, turned female by an 1849 Charlotte Brontë novel by the same name. The late 1970s television series Laverne and Shirley didn't resuscitate the popularity of either name, but you sure can!
Don't let The Donald have this one! "Donald," coincidentally meaning "world ruler," is a perfectly good name, and "Donnie" is a cute nickname for a kid, too. Think Donald Duck, not Donald Trump.
"Alice" peaked in the 1880s, but held strong at number 15th for girls in the 1920s. Meaning "noble one," this charming name has become a bit more popular in recent years but is nowhere near common again yet. Obviously, Alice in Wonderland gives this choice a bit of a fantastical touch. Perfect.
"Frank" is another one of these names that hasn't been popular for a while, but still doesn't have too much of an "old" connotation. And for someone my age (born in the '80s), it is difficult to think of any famous Franks, so there's hardly a connotation at all (except maybe Frank Underwood). "Frank" has various innocuous meanings in French and German, including a derivative of the name for a kind of spear and the word for "freemen." Little Frankie will get a clean slate with this name.
OK, so "Doris" does sound a little bit old... but not in a bad way. Having hit its all-time peak in the 1920s, the popularity of "Doris" has fallen basically to zero. It doesn't sound especially Greek to me, but its origin is from a part of Greece that goes by the same name and also shared by a Greek goddess of the sea.
Either hit series Breaking Bad didn't have much of an effect on the popularity of the name "Walter," or people are actually avoiding it now — but that would be a shame, because "Walter" is a perfectly good one. Your little Wally will grow into Walter's meaning ("ruler of the army") in time.