It might be that popular culture has made them taboo, or it could be that modern parents are just looking beyond traditional baby names, but there are some girls’ names that no one wants to pick anymore. When parents learn they’re expecting a baby girl, names are often a point of contention. It has to be versatile and withstand the test of time, but many parents also want names that are original and distinctive.
From taking creative license with the spelling of their girl’s name, to piecing together a name from both mom and dad’s names, to just opening up a baby book and blindly choosing, parents have their work cut out for them when it comes time to give their new bundle a name that does her justice.
That’s not to say that any of these names are undesirable on their own, because someone out there chose them at some point, but as times change and culture surrounding naming babies shifts, parents must become pickier than ever to ensure their kids not only escape childhood without being bullied for their names, but also that they can make it in the grown-up world without being either overlooked or singled out.
If you’ve heard Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” you’ve probably thought twice about naming a daughter Rebecca and, by extension, Becky. The thing is, the idea that all “Becky”s are basic white girls known for being promiscuous started a long time ago. Today’s urban dictionary takes the definition a bit further, slamming Becky as a girl who’s more than just a flirt, but back in 1847, a satirical novel started the whole “Becky” cultural reference.
As USA Today commented, the character of Becky, who uses her sex appeal to seduce her way to the top of the social ladder, has stuck around through the ages. And If Beyonce’s song is any indication, people don’t think too highly of people named Becky. That means parents who choose the name will probably end up hearing about it later.
Madison is a strong and sweet girls’ name, so there isn’t really anything wrong with it. But its huge surge in popularity circa 2005 means that there are so many Madisons running around today that it’s like the Ashleys and Jessicas of yesteryear. It’s tempting, sure, partly because of the cute nickname Maddie, but choosing such a trendy name for a baby girl today means she’ll be in good, if not prolific, company later.
Then again, there are worse names to choose today, so if Madison is on the top of your list, we’ll reserve judgment! Just know that your little one might later choose to go by a less common nickname or her middle name to avoid being linked to the ten other Madisons she knows, and the thousands of others across the US.
It all started in 1995 with Ice Cube’s line in the movie “Friday,” but the phrase “bye Felicia” caught on in 2014 and became a huge internet meme. According to Bustle, someone entered the phrase into Urban Dictionary in 2008 defining it as a “farewell to someone deemed unimportant.” Then in 2011, someone uploaded the clip of Ice Cube from the movie and included the tagline.
Now, people use the phrase with a hashtag on twitter, Jordin Sparks titled an album with it, there’s a VH1 show under the name, and people all over the Web take digs at each other by referring to people as “Felicia.” That said, it is a nice name, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but today’s millennial parents will definitely not have it on the top of their baby name lists.
Hearing the name today, most people think of the jihadist militant group, but the girls’ name Isis comes from an Egyptian goddess. The goddess Isis was worshipped as the “patroness of nature and magic,” and known for being a mother and a wife. SF Gate reported that in 2015, Isis dropped out of the top 1000 names in the US for the first time in 15 years.
The article quoted a “baby name expert” who noted that it’s strange for people to avoid baby names simply due to what’s coming up in the news. She also explained that at the end of World War II, the name Adolph was still within the top 600 in the US, leaving us to wonder why parents today are shying away from this beautiful and meaningful name.
While it’s not extremely common, there are enough girls named Hillary out there that your first thought may not be of the famous Clinton family. But the Washington Post reported that the baby name Hillary plummeted in popularity starting in 1993, when Hillary Clinton became first lady as husband Bill won the presidency.
The article even discussed the relative popularity of other first ladies’ names, because the trajectory of the name Hillary took a surprising dip right after the Clintons entered the White House. At the same time, the name did become slightly more popular when Hillary ran against Barack Obama in 2008. Then, Glamour reported that Clinton’s run in the 2016 election bumped the name 64% in popularity, so there will be more Hillarys than ever in preschool in a few years.
In 2016, the name Bertha ranked beyond the four thousand mark as far as popularity, meaning it doesn’t hold a valuable place on the charts. That might be because Big Bertha was the name of a type of artillery created before World War I, and giving a baby girl that name might set her up for teasing later in life.
Big Bertha literally meant fat or heavy, since the gun was so heavy and difficult to move. Not quite the dainty or feminine title that most parents want for their girl’s name, especially as cultural references tend to frame the moniker in a negative light. User comments for Bertha on Behind the Name show a tendency to judge parents who choose the title harshly- with one noting, “you’d have to be smoking weed to give it to your child.”
People on Behind the Name rank Cynthia mostly as a “nerdy” name and one that is rather complex, but commenters don’t like that the name is often shortened in to “Cindy.” The name seems to have peaked in the 50’s, and only gone downhill since, ranking beyond the top 500 in 2016. That makes it an original and quite rare name for today’s generation, but parents don’t seem to care for it much.
As someone who grew up watching Rugrats, it’s hard to picture anyone other than that well-loved but rather scary looking doll when I consider the name Cynthia. Obviously, not al Cynthias are raggedy and half bald, but it also doesn’t help that the public’s perception of the name is mostly older women or Cindy from the Brady Bunch.
Janice is another name that was popular spanning the 40’s and 50’s but took a nosedive come 1960. People consider it to be wholesome and refined, but at the same time, commenters on Behind the Name seem to think it’s boring. People report knowing a lot of older women with the name, suggesting that it’s not suitable for little girls until they reach middle age.
Then again, there are spelling variations (like Janis!) that help make it more modern, but it seems parents don’t have much of an interest in an elongated form of Jane, when the shorter nickname suits as a first name just as well. And the meaning of Janice and Jane is the same, since one is an elongated form of the other, so Janice loses points in the originality category too.
Although it’s short and sweet, Anita hasn’t ranked on US charts in the past few years, and it began to decline in popularity around 1960. Parents in the US may not be fans, but parents in other countries like Canada, it’s at least maintained a low level of use. Some people regard it as a diminutive of Ana, meaning it can work across a variety of cultures and languages.
It might also stem from a pet form of Juanita, giving it roots in Latin culture. Still, modern parents in the US aren’t too thrilled with classics like Anita, even though many people consider it to be timeless. For example, in Indian culture, the spelling might change to Aneeta, and a variety of spellings remain popular in Italy, Iceland, and Portugal.
Unless you’re a huge fan of the Brady Bunch, the name Marcia probably won’t make your baby name list during a pregnancy. While both actresses Marcia Cross and Marcia Gay Harden wear the name well, we don’t know any little girls named Marcia that aren’t on 70’s sitcoms. Oddly enough, Marcia was a top pick in the 50’s, but has only declined since then- so the Brady Bunch likely didn’t influence parents then, either.
The name hasn’t ranked in the US top 1000 names for girls since 1993, and voters on Behind the Name don’t appear to like it either. The name earns a 42 percent “bad name” ranking, and 77 percent of people replied that the name is “strange.” Its origins are somewhat odd, too, since it comes from the masculine Marcius, the name of a few minor saints.
Everyone knows about Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and as of its inception in 1939, the titular character’s name was beginning a steep decline in popularity. Thousands of girls took the name between 1920 and 1930, with as many as 3 percent of parents choosing it for their new bundles. But fast forward to the 2000s and beyond, and less than .01 percent of babies are called Dorothy.
From 2011 to today, Dorothy has still ranked within the top 1000, but pretty far away from modern parents’ name choices. Users on Behind the Name consider Dorothy to be feminine, natural, and delicate, and despite its mature sound, the nicknames Dottie and Dot are precious enough for even small babies. That said, it would take a lot of convincing to get modern parents to choose the name, unless it holds significance because of family ties.
It comes from Irish and Scottish heritage, but Edna almost sounds like a name for an older woman who somehow was never a girl. It didn’t rank on any trendy lists for 2016 in the United States, and it hasn’t really made a splash since the late 1800’s when it hung at around a 1 percent use rate. Back then, it was even occasionally used as a boys’ name, according to data at Behind the Name.
Not surprisingly, commenters on the website overwhelmingly consider Edna to be a mature name, but also wholesome, which makes sense if we’re only applying it to populations of perpetually elderly women. People also comment that it’s “too dusty” and “too spacey” for specific tastes, so today’s parents might feel the same, and that could be the reason for its continuing obscurity.
This one sounds pleasant enough, and with a meaning like “gentle strength,” Mildred is full of grace and femininity. But despite popularity in the early 19th century, Mildred lost out and today’s parents aren’t as enchanted as past generations. In the 1900s, Mildred was more common, but still not spectacularly popular. Since the 50’s, it’s barely made an entrance onto the charts at all.
As cute as the nickname Millie is (and parents have Team Umi Zoomi to thank for its resurgence), we can’t fathom giving a girl that as a first name. Public opinion is rather low in general, as commenters on Behind the Name are split on whether it’s a suitable name for a girl at all. One person even suggested that “Mildred is the name of an old lady… Strictly for grandmothers only.”
It literally means “pretty,” but today’s parents don’t see it that way, apparently. Bonnie comes from the Scottish word that literally means “pretty.” It’s also a derivative of the French word bon, which means “good.” In 1939 Gone With the Wind spurred the name on in popularity, but after that year, it began a slow decline.
While I can’t say I enjoy nicknames as first names for girls (or anyone, for that matter), it did work for the character Bonnie in the Vampire Diaries, and no one batted an eye at its old-fashioned roots. Still, it’s barely broken into the top 1000 in the past few decades, meaning that US parents don’t care too much for Bonnie, however aptly it describes their precious little girls. On the other hand, parents in England and Wales still choose it, so maybe they appreciate the meaning more.
In Italian, the word means “lady,” but to most people, it’s the feminine form of Donald. Many parents will avoid it for that reason, but it’s also a rather dated first name that doesn’t mesh with today’s culture. It didn’t rank in the top 1000 in 2016 in the US, Canada, England, Wales, or France. It did, however, make it within the top 500 in the Netherlands.
In 1958 Ritchie Valens wrote a song for his high school sweetheart Donna, and other songs exist about girls named Donna- a plus if you want your girl to have her ‘own’ song. Doctor Who fans might like it for its use as a supporting character’s name, but for the most part, the rest of us haven’t cared much for Donna since around the 60’s.
Taken from the lengthier Abigail, Gail is a short and sweet name whose alternate spelling is also used for men. Whether Gail or Gale, the original meaning had to do with the Hebrew word that means “my father is joy.” Since it is a rather dated name, there were more girls named Gail up until around 1950, when it then dropped off the charts.
Even at the height of its popularity, less than .6 percent of baby girls had the name Gail. 1986 was the last time that the name was in the top 1000 in the United States, which goes along with other names deemed too “stuffy” for today’s young girls. Still, people on Behind the Name consider Gail to be natural and feminine, but those traits are apparently not enough for expecting parents to consider it.
Plenty of parents (celebrities included) name their kids after places- just think of India, Ireland, Paris, Tennessee, and more. But although India originally emerged as a trendy name for baby girls, with nicknames like Indie and Dia, it has slacked off in popularity lately. Even as early as 1880, records show parents were choosing the name in the United States, according to the name’s Wikipedia entry. Many families chose the name because of ties to India, regardless of where they moved later on.
Although it’s steadily been dropping in popularity, famous people like India Arie and Chris Hemsworth’s daughter keep it current. That said, naming kids after geographic locations is always a hit or miss kind of decision, so it’s not too shocking that India isn’t making any top lists this year.
Since plenty of people name their daughters Erin, which according to Behind the Name is an Anglicized form of Eireann, which literally means Ireland, it’s not that much of a stretch to see parents literally naming their daughters after a country. And according to Baby Name Wizard, Ireland peaked in 2009 at 83 baby girls with the name per million births.
Alec Baldwin and his wife named a daughter Ireland in 1995, but it seems no other celebrities jumped on the bandwagon. Although we can’t say we blame parents for avoiding the name, since the woman who seems to be making it famous is no stranger to media firestorms, especially given that her dad is Alec Baldwin. We might not want our daughter to google her name and wind up with maps and photos of Ireland Baldwin Basinger’s nip slips.
It’s likened to a shortened version of Katherine or Catherine, and in the 50’s and 60’s, it was a top 10 name for girls in the United States. But most millennials don’t have peers named Karen, so it’s obvious that the decline in popularity started some time ago. In fact, the longer versions of the name are far more robust when it comes to standing the test of time.
That might be because Katherine and Catherine, or variations like Katerina or Katrina, have tons more options for nicknames than the shortened Karen. Because most parents don’t give little girls long, elaborate names without plans to give them a cute nickname. On the flip side, many parents don’t want something short and uninspired that they can’t work with it later, or as their child decides later on.
Good to Know reported that Baby Center’s report for 2016 noted that the girls’ name Angela was the least popular baby name of the year. It’s somewhat surprising, considering that the name Angela spans across multiple cultures and isn’t only a contender in the United States. However, it did peak in the 70’s, with nearly 7000 babies named Angela per million born.
It was still on “most popular” lists in Spain, Armenia, Chile, and Portugal between 2010 and 2014, but parents in the US just aren’t fans anymore. A resurge wouldn’t be a bad thing, considering the fact that the name is so versatile, across multiple languages plus with its long list of nicknames- like Angie, Ella, Ellie, Gigi, and Ange. At least if we can convince some parents to choose the name, it might see a bit of a comeback in the next few years.
Sources: USA Today, Bustle, SF Gate, Washington Post, Glamour, Our Baby Namer, Behind the Name, Baby Name Wizard, Good to Know
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