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20 Of The Most Popular Girls Names In The Last 500 Years

When it comes to choosing a name for their daughters, parents are turning more and more to classic names. The tried and true older names, are simple, but hold a wealth of meaning. They could have been likely listed somewhere in their family tree, and even if they weren’t, there’s a host of historical figures that share the same name.

Giving a name to your baby is one of the first, and possibly the most, important decisions you will make for her in her young life. You want to make sure you are taking the time to consider all your possibilities. Be sure to really investigate the meaning of the name, the way it sounds, and even the historical figures who stand behind it.

Vintage names have lasting appeal. They are timeless, dignified, and classy rather than being obnoxiously trendy. It seems you can never go wrong with a classic name.

Being a parent isn’t easy, and finding a name to benefit your little girl is a big responsibility. A name is a huge part of a person’s identity. Make sure you are choosing right to ensure it doesn’t affect your child’s level of self-esteem.

Classic names have far richer meanings than the one or two words that are usually used to describe them. We found 20 of the most popular names of the past 500 years, and are confident that one or two of them may find a permanent spot into your heart.

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20 Mary

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Mary is one name that has stood the test of time. Probably inspired by the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, she is the only person free of original sin. The name Mary has been on the most popular name lists for centuries. Once it began to drop in popularity however, Mary never regained her top spot. Unfortunately, the name is used less and less each year.

Mary has always been a name that symbolizes religious Christianity. In fact, it’s often paired with a middle name that also has a biblical tie, such as Mary Faith or Mary Grace. However, in an era where parents are choosing more individualized names for their children, more unique choices like Nevaeh (heaven spelled backwards) are being used.

Don’t let the declining popularity deter you from choosing Mary as your daughter’s name though. It’s a strong name, shared by a host of queens and some pretty amazing actresses such as Mary Tyler Moore. Not to mention that you won’t have to worry about having three other kids in her class with the same name

19 Elizabeth

When you hear the name Elizabeth, your first thoughts probably turn towards the current Queen of England. Queen Elizabeth is the longest reigning monarch in British history. With its ties to royalty, the name Elizabeth is especially well-liked by those who are fond of British names. It has remained on the top charts of many countries for decades. It has also been a favorite choice for both first and middle names, and in fact, most people can name at least one person they know personally who has Elizabeth as some part of their name.

Meaning “my God is bountiful,” or “my God has plenty,” the name was so popular in England that pet names were created to avoid confusion. The different versions such as Liz, Izzie, Isabelle, and Eliza only add to it’s charm.

If chosen, your daughter would share the name with famous and beautiful celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Banks, and Elizabeth Hurley.

18 Emma

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If you choose to name your daughter Emma, she will have some pretty large shoes to fill. Inspirational women like Emma Churchill and Emma Goldman, who helped pave the way to a better world for the rest of us, share the name. Churchill founded the Salvation Army in Newfoundland, known for providing disaster relief and humanitarian aid to those in need. And Emma Goldman was an anarchist in the early 1900’s, who championed women’s rights. She advocated for women’s equality, workers’ rights, and free universal education regardless of gender or race.

The name Emma’s popularity grew when Jennifer Aniston’s character on the hit sitcom Friends, chose the name for her daughter. The name skyrocketed and has stayed at the top of the charts ever since.

There are a legion of Emma heroines including Emma Bovary, from the famous novel Madame Bovary.

Some people think Emma is becoming over exposed and have turned to names such as Amelia and Ella instead.

17 Sarah

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Sarah is a name that often brings visions of a woman living on the plains in the 1800’s, and working hard to survive. It’s one of the oldest names in history, and one that resonates strength and perseverance.

A name that actually means princess, Sarah was originally borne of the mother to Abraham, as told in the Old Testament. In the story, she tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child of her own. Miraculously she gave birth to her only son, Isaac, at the old age of 90, as declared by God.

Sarah’s popularity has never decreased, remaining steady for centuries. It’s a name that doesn’t feel trendy, but also doesn’t feel old-fashioned. It’s one that you can be sure will be around for many more years, but will never feel overused.

Celebrity beauties such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Sarah Silverman share this feminine name that has endured through all the eras.

16 Margaret

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Margaret is one of the most Christian and royal female names in existence. Attached to the patron saint of women in childbirth, this name has graced various queens and princesses in the world's history.

Margaret means pearl, or cluster of blossoms, and a girl bearing this name might have characteristics of being extremely bright, and a spiritual teacher.

The first female Prime Minister of Great Britain is a Margaret – Margaret Thatcher. Her nickname was The Iron Lady, which she earned by having an uncompromising leadership style.

Adorable nicknames like Meg, Maggie, Peg, and Marge, have held much appeal for parents, and have kept Margaret in the running as a top name choice.

It has become a fairly unused name of late, so if you do choose it, you will possibly have the only Margaret in your area. It’s a great option when looking for a name that has been around for years, but isn’t overused.

15 Ann

With a meaning of grace, girls who are named Ann are often uplifting and inspirational women. In fact, the sainted mother of the Virgin Mary was named Ann.

Ann is an English form of Anne, and many people prefer to add the extra “e” at the end, stating that it makes the name feel more dainty and feminine.

Your daughter might appreciate being named after brave, beautiful, and inspirational women such as the famous Anne of Green Gables, Anne Hathaway, Anne Frank, and baby photographer Anne Geddes. There are also numerous queens who have carried the name Anne, including two that were married to King Henry VIII.

Many people shy away from Ann now, feeling that one syllable names have become plain and boring. However, if you choose the name Ann, you are providing your child with a name that will probably never be mispronounced, even in other countries. It’s also a timeless name, and one that can be considered a classic.

14 Jane

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Have you ever heard the story of Jane Eyre? It’s a romantic novel by Charlotte Bronte, about an orphaned child who becomes a governess and falls in love with Edward Rochester. After being deceived by him, Jane embarks on a journey searching for her true destiny. It’s a classic novel, read by millions for years. Imagine being a girl named Jane, and reading this love story with your namesake as a heroine, over and over again.

Jane is a very old name, once used so much it became generic and started to be used to describe generic people such as Jane Doe, or G.I. Jane. Its popularity declined for a while, but Jane has started to work its way back up the charts again, as celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel are naming their baby girls Jane.

Girls with this name, share it with not only historical figures such as Jane Eyre, but also people like Jane Austen and Jane Fonda.

13 Alice

The strong, yet sweet, name Alice is a name that entices a feeling of happiness and optimism. The name became well established in medieval times, surged in popularity, but began to fall in the latter half of the 20th century. It has begun to pick up speed again recently, as people are looking towards names with classic, antique charms.

Perhaps the most famous Alice known, is the one from Alice in Wonderland. The enchanting story of a girl falling through a rabbit hole and into a fantasy world stole the hearts of people everywhere. The success of the novel sent the name Alice soaring into popularity. The book, originally published in 1865, is still read regularly today. It has also been told on stage and on screen.

More charming than Margaret, and more dainty than Mary, many feel the name Alice is a charming name for a young child, that ages gracefully into adulthood.

12 Ellen

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You might be hard pressed to think of an Ellen you know on your own. But if we remind you of people such as Ellen DeGeneres and Ellen Pompeo (of Grey's Anatomy) you might realize the name isn't as uncommon as you once thought.

Ellen means a bright, shining light. It’s the name that two First Ladies shared (wife to President Chester Arthur and wife to President Woodrow Wilson). It’s a lovely, simple, and unpretentious name that has become so underused that it now considered more of an original name.

Ellen was developed as an English form of Helen in the Middle Ages, which was made famous by the Spartan queen who was abducted. Her abductions set the mythological Trojan war into motion. Ellen became the most common variation of Helen, and began a career as a popular female name in numerous countries.

In recent years, however, it has been noted as a slightly boring name, and has shifted to becoming a middle name as opposed to a first.

11 Annie

A child named Annie might be one who has qualities which make her a wise, mystical, eccentric, and an imaginative little girl. The charming name has a childlike quality that many parents find appealing.

The name was perhaps made most famous by the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The comic strip grew into a never missed radio show. Since then, Annie has been viewed on stage and in theater. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has never read or seen the tale. It’s about an adorable red-haired orphan, and how she captured the heart of her benefactor, Oliver Warbucks. Little Orphan Annie had a lot of spunk, determination, and grit which are all characteristics most parent hope their own children inherit.

A more sophisticated version of the name, Anna, seems to be the one used more today. However, a name like Annie has endurance. Even though it has surprisingly lost some of its popularity, we are sure it will find itself climbing up the charts once again.

10 Florence

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Florence is a name that means flourishing or blooming. Some believe the name is a geographical place name - named after Florence in Tuscany, the capital city of Italy, better known today as just Florence. Interestingly enough, Florence, Italy was one of the most important trade cities in Europe, and said to be "flourishing" in activity.

People named Florence are known to be humanitarians, spreading love and sensitivity to those who cross their paths. In fact, it is a name that has been shared by several early Christian saints.

The name has been neglected in the United States for many years. It has begun to make a major revival in England though, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see it make a come-back here soon as well.

The charming old-fashioned name has darling nicknames associated with it that might lead you to choose it. Imagine having a little girl running around your feet by the name of Flo or Flossie.

9 Edith

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Only a strong willed, ambitious, and successful woman can carry a name that means "prosperous war,” like Edith does.

One of the few Old English names that have survived since the Norman Conquest, Edith has a famous story behind it. The King of England, King Edgar the Peaceful, took a woman from a nunnery by force. She birthed an illegitimate child that she named Edith. She eventually escaped, and took Edith back to the nunnery. Edith also became a nun, and chose to wear fancy garments, unlike the other nuns, claiming that she could still be pure even though she chose not to wear tattered gowns. Edith was beautiful, noble and intelligent and loved by all. After death, she became a medieval saint throughout England.

Today Edith is thought to be more of a frumpy, old lady name. Even with old-fashioned names coming back into style, we are not able to find any celebrities who have chosen Edith as a name for their child. That’s not to say it won’t make a showing soon though.

8 Emily

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Emily is an English version of the Latin name Amelia, and it means rival. It is a timeless classic, and very British.

The name evokes images of women who are smart and beautiful, like the famous authors Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte. Emily Dickinson was the poet who became a recluse while writing a collection of treasured poems. When she passed, it was Emily Bronte who read one of Dickinson’s own poems at her funeral. Emily Bronte wrote the classic novel, Wuthering Heights. She was a private person who found an outlet in writing. Because of them, the name Emily is synonymous with the words independent, individualistic, and successful.

Emily held the number one spot on the list of top names for twelve consecutive years. However, it became a name that was over used, and people who would have once chosen the name, have turned to similar names such as Emma.

7 Eliza

Eliza is a joyful name that means “God is my oath.” It was developed as a pet form of Elizabeth, and is making progress on climbing back up to the top of the list that it once had lead.

When hearing the name Eliza, many people think of the famous Eliza Doolittle. She was the spunky, loveable girl that Professor Higgins turned into a charming, intelligent lady in the novel, My Fair Lady. The novel became so popular, that Eliza was played by Julie Andrews on stage, and Audrey Hepburn on screen. The name skyrocketed from there.

Today, the name does not seem as overused as other old fashioned names that are once again becoming popular. It is a lovely name that has a bit of feistiness associated with it.

If you do choose to name your daughter Eliza, don’t pair it with a sister who is named Isabelle as both names are versions of the name Elizabeth.

6 Hannah

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Wouldn't it be fun to have a name that is a palindrome? You would be able to spell your name the same both forward and backwards. Hannah is one of the few girl’s names that allow you to do this. It’s a timeless name, that has never left the chart of top girl’s names.

Hannah first became popular in the 16th century. Puritans chose the name for their daughters, keeping with the customs of adopting Old Testament names as an act of modesty. In the Biblical book of Samuel, Hannah was married to an unpleasant man, and was unable to have a child. She met a priest who told her that her wish would be granted, and she finally became pregnant with her son, Samuel.

Hanna is a name that means “grace,” and it is definitely graceful. It never goes out of style, and is a gentle sounding name.

Famous Hannah’s include Hannah Montana, Hannah Dakota Fanning, and Hannah Storm.

5 Susan

A person named Susan, which means lily, can be described as someone who is bright and inspirational. A person who is a teacher. Susan has many nicknames, some of which include Sue, Susie, and Zuku.

There are well known Susan’s everywhere you look. Susan Boyle is a famous British singer, Susan B . Anthony was an important women’s right activist. Susan Sarandon is an accomplished actress. And we can't forget about the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure company who raises money to fight breast cancer.

Over a million people in the U.S. currently have this name, and New Hampshire has the most Susan’s out of any state. While it’s more than likely to be a name you would find among people over age 50, we are not ruling it out to become popular once again among parents looking for a classic girls name.

4 Martha

The name Martha conjures images of a quiet, prim, and proper woman. In fact, the name itself means lady.

In the bible, located in the book of Luke, it tells of a time that Jesus went to visit that house of Martha, who was sister to his friend Lazarus, and Mary of Bethlehem. It states that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, while Martha was distracted by being busy serving everyone. She even complained to Jesus that she felt she was doing all the work. Because of that story, Martha has been associated with domestic work. Even Martha Stewart (who was named after her own mother) is called the domestic goddess. She however, built an empire based on domestic work.

Martha is also a name shared by the first First Lady, Martha Washington. The name reached its height in the year 1910 and then began to steadily fall down the charts.

If you have second thoughts about using the name Martha, maybe some of the cute nicknames will steer you in that direction. Consider calling her Marty, Marta, or even Mattie for short.

3 Dorothy

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The name Dorothy was used for a main character in a fantasy novel that author L. Frank Baum wrote in 1900. That novel was the now famous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The name Dorothy was already becoming popular before the novel, but the story sent her name racing towards the top. Dorothy was a turn of the century favorite name, and was the second most popular name in the United States for eight consecutive years. Unfortunately, by the end of the 1980’s, Dorothy was dropping fast and joined the shelf of other old lady names.

Meaning “gift of God,” Dorothy still has a lot of appeal today. Her name is connected to other names in children’s literature such as Alice, Heidi, and Madeline. These names have been proven to have much more staying power than the current Disney princess names. And who can resist a name that you can shorten to an adorable Dottie or Dolly?

2 Catherine

The oldest and most consistently used name is Catherine. Originating from Old Greek, it is predominantly used in English and French. It’s often seen spelled with an interchangeable K and C because when it began the name was first introduced, the letter K didn’t exist yet in the English alphabet.

It is still a popular name for girls today, but not to the degree it has been in the past. It may begin to be more used now, however, since it is the name of Prince William’s wife. She is called Kate Middleton, but reports say she hates the name Kate, and would much rather be referred by the graceful name Catherine.

The name Catherine also graces some of the greatest romantic heroines of all time. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff’s love was named Catherine, and was also the heroine in A Farwell to Arms, by Hemmingway.

1 Ada

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A turn of the century charmer, the name Ada is joining the ranks of old fashioned names coming back in style. Parents love the vintage appeal of these classic names, and they are triumphantly returning to the charts.

Ada is a name that is easy to spell and pronounce, and its low key and unpretentious. It possibly began as a shortened version of Adelaide. In the Bible, a number of women shared the name, spelled Adah then, and it had various meanings of brightness and ornament.

Even though Ada is an old-fashioned name, it’s still considered a trendy name in today’s time. It joins other simple yet popular names that begin with a vowel such as Ava, Emma, and Ivy. The name Ada was resurrected in parent’s minds after watching the movie Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman, who played hardship survivor Ada Monroe.

Sources: AncestryParentsBaby CenterSocial Security Administration

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