Gen X and Millennial parents are often lambasted for giving their kids “weird” names, although I’d argue that “unique” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “weird.” If unusual names don’t really do it for you, though, there are plenty of baby names that were popular during the baby boomer generation that millennial parents might think about stealing for their kids. They’re not all “boring” or “stuffy” (to be fair, millennials do sometimes harp on boomers as much as they harp on us); I’d say “old fashioned” or “quaint” are probably better descriptors. They have some pretty fun meanings, too (wait ‘til you see what Brenda means. Seriously. Just wait) — so if you’re looking for names that might suit an “old soul” kind of baby, these monikers might be right up your alley.
The baby boomer generation is usually defined as anyone born between the years 1946 and 1964, so when it comes to boomer-inspired baby names, we’re mainly talking about names that were popular during the ‘40s, ‘50s,and ‘60s. Where does one find such information? I’m glad you asked: The Social Security Administration tracks baby name popularity, and its database is full of useful information. You can sort the data by the most popular names of each decade, which brings up a list of the 200 top boys’ names and 200 top girls’ names for any decade from the 1880s through the 2010s; that gives you a total of 400 names per decade, so there’s lots to choose from.
The following 16 names tended to pop up again and again throughout all three boomer decades, so they’ve certainly got staying power; plus, a lot of them have nostalgic connotations for a lot of millennials, too. Everybody wins, is what I’m saying. Hoorah!
Mary was the most popular girl’s name during both the ‘40s and the ‘50s, as well as the second most popular one during the ‘60s. (For the curious, it was dethroned by “Lisa.”) It means “bitter,” but I just like to think that means it would be a great name for a spunky little kid. Think Mary Lennox, Mary Crawley, Mary Poppins, or — of course — Mary Tyler Moore.
Susan and Sue both ranked consistently during the boomer years, with Susan in particular rising through the ranks: It was number 10 in the ‘40s, but rose to fourth and then third during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The name is Hebrew in origin; it means “lily.”
This one spent the boomer years actually declining in popularity; however, it still ranked within the top 50 for all three decades, so I’d call that notable all the same. It means “famous spearman” or “famous warrior” — and given that many millennials likely associate the name with the tortured musician Roger Davis as played by Adam Pascal in the original cast of Rent… well, let’s just say that a lot of us have a soft spot for the moniker.
Todd didn’t rank at all in the ‘40s and only squeaked onto the charts at number 161 in the ‘50s — but when the ‘60s came around, it shot all the way up to number 31. It means “fox,” so save it for a sly little kid.
Patricia was actually substantially more popular than Patsy during all three boomer decades — it ranked fourth, third, and sixth during the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, respectively. Patsy, meanwhile, hung out at 74 in the ‘40s and 161 (right next to Todd) in the ‘50s, failing to rank entirely in the ‘60s. I kind of like the shortened version of the name, though; what’s more, it’s gender neutral, serving as the diminutive not only of Patricia, but of Patrick as well. It means “noble” or “patrician.”
Judith and Judy both did quite well during the ‘40s and ‘50s, and although their popularity dropped somewhat in the ‘60s, they’ve still got a nice ring to them. I’m particularly fond of Judith (hi there, Judith Light!); it’s Hebrew in origin and means “woman of Judeah” or “praised one.” You might also go for variations like Jody or Jude (as in, one of Bridget Jones' best friends).
Originally an English surname meaning “valley” or “lives in the valley,” Dale as a given name hovered around the 50s and 60s in terms of rankings during all three boomer decades. Although it’s only listed as a boy’s name in the SSA’s data, it works well as a gender neutral name, as well. Also, I definitely support the idea of naming your child after Dale Cooper.
A perennially popular name, Gary charted at 14 in the 1950s, 12 in the 1950s, and 26 in the 1960s. It means “spearman.” (So, hey, maybe Gary and Roger should hang out sometime. Just sayin.’)
A lot of millennials probably think of Angelica Pickles’ doll whenever they hear the name Cynthia, but it was also super popular during the boomer years: It clocked in at number 47 in the ‘40s before rising to the 11th and 10th spots in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s Greek, and although “woman from Cynthos” may not be the most poetic of translations, it’s also worth remembering that Cynthia was a name belonging to the moon goddess Artemis, who was born on Mount Cynthos. That’s pretty rad.
Elaine did score within the top 150 during all of the boomer years, coming in at 46, then 81, then 141 in each decade… but I won't lie: I definitely picked this one because of Elaine Benes. (Yes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a baby boomer; she was born in 1961. That means Elaine is probably a boomer, too.) An Old French variant of Helen, Elaine also factored prominently in Arthurian legend — she was in love with Lancelot, Percival’s sister, and Galahad’s mother. The name means “shining light.”
When it comes to boomer years, Arthur was at its most popular during the ‘40s (it ranked 34 before dropping 55, then 93; given how many millennials associate the name with Arthur the Aardvark or Arthur Weasley (or both), however, I’m firmly in the pro-Arthur camp. Depending on who you ask, it could mean anything from “noble” to “bear” — and, hey, if you have multiple kids and name one of them Elaine, you may as well go Full Arthurian Legend and name the other one Arthur.
Hovering around the number 30 mark for all three decades, Douglas is a Scottish name meaning “black water.” Also, Doug Funnie was kind of the best.
Betty fell out of style somewhat by the ‘60s, at which point it ranked at 102 in terms of popularity; during the 1940s and ‘50s, though, it was number 11 and number 35, so there are an awful lot of Betty boomers running around out there. I also kind of wonder if Mad Men and/or Riverdale might bring the name back into vogue soon. In any event, though, it’s a lovely variant on Elizabeth that means “God is my oath.”
Brenda Starr, Reporter, anyone? (Who, by the way, was created by a Dale — Dale Messick — giving this one an extra layer of boomer goodness.) The 26th most popular girl’s name in the ‘40s and the 18th and 19th most popular in the 1950s and ‘60s, Brenda means either “little raven” or “blade of a sword” — and honestly, both of those meanings are so badass I kind of wish my name were Brenda now.
Paul barely budged during the three boomer decades, ranking either 17 or 18 for all of them. It’s a solid Biblical name, if that’s what you’re into… or you could name your kid Paul and say it’s because of the Beatles. That works, too. The name means “little” or “small” (or “smol,” if you want to be aggressively millennial about it).