Baby names drop in popularity for different reasons. Over time, many start to sound outdated, lose their place in the zeitgeist or come to be associated with controversy, for example.
The Social Security Administration has annual Top 1,000 baby names lists going back to 1900, as well as raw data going back to 1880 that tracks every baby name given to at least five newborns in a given year. After looking at the agency’s data to see which baby names for boys have plummeted in popularity, we decided to do the same with girls.
Without further ado, here are 15 names that were once fairly popular for baby girls, but have since fallen into relative obscurity.
Despite an Archie comics character (played by Shannon Purser, aka Barb from “Stranger Things,” on the CW’s “Riverdale”) and an “I Love Lucy” BFF, the name Ethel has not endured into the 21st century. The name peaked in popularity in 1896 as the No. 6 name for girls, but fell off the Top 1,000 list after 1975. In 2017, only 28 baby girls were named Ethel.
Katrina is one of the most well-known examples of a baby name that plummeted in popularity following a major news event. After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, the name achieved a certain level of infamy. That year, 1,327 baby girls in the U.S. were named Katrina, and it was the 246th most popular name for girls. But in 2006, only 853 Katrinas were born, and the name dropped down to 379th place. The last year it appeared on the Top 1,000 list was 2012, when it ranked at 941st. In 2017, only 193 baby girls were named Katrina.
Back in 1880, Bertha was the ninth most popular baby name for girls, with 1,320 Berthas born that year. By 1986, however, it had fallen off the charts, and in 2017, only 28 baby girls were named Bertha. We imagine the whole “Big Bertha” phenomenon probably didn’t do the name any favors.
The name Diane first appeared in the SSA data in 1898, when five baby girls were given that name, and it entered the Top 1,000 list at No. 968 in 1904. The name climbed the charts and peaked at No. 14 in 1955, when 23,295 baby Dianes were born. But by 2005, Diane was no longer on the list, and in 2017, only 84 baby girls were named Diane.
The name of Egyptian goddess Isis first appeared in SSA data in 1960, when five baby girls were given that name. A superhero show from the mid-1970s called “Isis” gave the name a bump in popularity ― in 1976, 124 newborn girls were named Isis. Isis peaked at No. 522 in 2005, with 561 babies named Isis born that year. Even Gabrielle Union’s character in the 2000 cult classic cheerleader movie “Bring It On” was named Isis. But as the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained notoriety, the name’s popularity took a dive. In 2014, it had dropped from number 575 to number 704 in the rankings. By 2015, it had completely fallen off the Top 1,000 list. Only 51 baby girls were named Isis in 2017.
While many “old-fashioned” names like Alice, Clara and Hazel are making comebacks, it’s clear Gertrude is not one of them. Gertrude peaked in popularity in 1906, when it took the No. 22 spot on the list. That year, 2,580 baby girls were named Gertrude. Its final year in the rankings was 1965, and in 2017, a mere 26 baby Gertrudes came into the world.
Like Gertrude, Ida is not living up to its history of popularity. Ida was the seventh most popular name for girls in 1880. But about a century later in 1987, it no longer showed up on the Top 1,000 list. The year 2017 brought 177 new baby girls named Ida.
When the Social Security Administration released its baby name data for 2016, one notable finding concerned the name Caitlyn. The year after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the four names that decreased in popularity the most were variations on the same name: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn. The name Caitlyn’s ranking fell from 598th to 1,060th. Caitlin dropped from 609th place to 1,151st, Katelynn fell from 652nd to 1,054th, and Katilynn went down from 994th to 1,375th. “Caitlyn was already falling in popularity,” Laura Wattenberg, founder of BabynameWizard.com, told The Associated Press. “Now it is suddenly controversial.”
Although Maude was the 22nd most popular name for girls in 1882, it dropped off the charts after 1950. Maude tends to be seen as an elderly woman’s name, particularly given the cult classic film about a May-December romance, “Harold and Maude.” Still, Judd Apatow’s actress daughter Maude may help give the name a more youthful edge.
Hortense reached its apex in 1903, as the No. 72 name for girls, and its final year on the Top 1,000 list was 1941, when it ranked 949th. A name meaning “of the garden,” the name Hortense tends to belong to historical figures like Napoleon’s stepdaughter, Hortense de Beauharnais. The last year it even appeared in the SSA raw data was 1976, when six baby girls were named Hortense.
Nanette made its debut on the Top 1,000 list in 1925 at No. 872, peaked in 1956 at No. 319 and dropped off after 1977. In 2017, a mere five baby girls were named Nanette ― but considering the popularity of Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up comedy act of the same name, perhaps Nanette is set for a comeback.
Back in 1901, Myrtle was the 28th most popular name for baby girls, but it fell off the rankings after 1965. In 2017, fewer than five girls were named Myrtle. The name’s association with “Moaning Myrtle” from the Harry Potter franchise is probably not helping with its popularity.
The name Barbra first entered in the rankings in 1931 at No. 960 and rose and declined many times before peaking at No. 511 in 1966 (as Barbra Streisand rose to the top of the charts). Unlike Streisand, however, the baby name Barbra did not remain on the scene for very long, leaving the Top 1,000 list in 1972. Over the past decade, no more than five baby girls have been named Barbra in a given year. Meanwhile, the name Barbara has also seen a significant decline, from the No. 2 name in 1937-1944 to No. 908 in 2017.
Another name rife with discord is Hillary. Hillary first appeared in the SSA data as a name for boys in the early 20th century, but by the 1940s, it had become more common for girls. After entering the Top 1,000 at No. 863 in 1963, the name generally rose in popularity before peaking at No. 132 in 1992. Over the course of President Bill Clinton’s administration, however, the popularity of the then-first lady’s name rapidly declined, hitting No. 886 in 2001. Though the name Hillary rose back up to No. 722 in 2008, it fell off the Top 1,000 list after that year. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of baby girls named Hillary fell from 172 to 63.
Like Diane, Debra is another name that seems rooted in the mid-20th century. Debra peaked in 1956 as the second most popular name for girls but dropped out of the rankings in 1999. In 2017, only 44 baby girls were named Debra, compared to nearly 50,000 in 1956. Meanwhile, Deborah has fallen from No. 2 in 1955 to No. 774 in 2017. Guess that’s why there aren’t too many tiny Debbies walking around these days.