1880s baby namesLet’s talk 1880s baby names!

It’s a significant decade. The 1880s are the heart of the Gilded Age, with railroads and factories fueling  dramatic growth and building legendary fortunes, as well as the unions to counter that power.

It’s also the first decade for which name popularity data is available and searchable on the US Social Security Administration’s website.

A few caveats apply: this information wasn’t based on birth certificates filed for infants. It’s retrospective, compiled as Americans applied for Social Security cards. For individuals born prior to 1937, they may never have applied. That means their names aren’t recorded. Other records may have been incomplete.

Lastly, in a pre-database era, it’s possible that someone baptized Elizabeth but always called Betty may have applied for a Social Security card as Betty. Or a Gianni might’ve filed as John, his American name – or vice versa.

But while this data may be less accurate than more recent records, it’s still fascinating – and the numbers are large enough to provide a good idea of the most popular baby names from the decade.

First, let’s look at the most popular baby names from the 1880s for boys and girls, and then we’ll consider some neglected gems.

TOP 100 BOY NAMES from the 1880s

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Charles
  6. Frank
  7. Joseph
  8. Henry
  9. Robert
  10. Thomas
  11. Edward
  12. Harry
  13. Walter
  14. Arthur
  15. Fred
  16. Albert
  17. Samuel
  18. Clarence
  19. Louis
  20. David
  21. Joe
  22. Charlie
  23. Richard
  24. Ernest
  25. Roy
  26. Will
  27. Andrew
  28. Jesse
  29. Oscar
  30. Willie
  31. Daniel
  32. Benjamin
  33. Carl
  34. Sam
  35. Alfred
  36. Earl
  37. Peter
  38. Elmer
  39. Frederick
  40. Howard
  41. Lewis
  42. Ralph
  43. Herbert
  44. Paul
  45. Lee
  46. Tom
  47. Herman
  48. Martin
  49. Jacob
  50. Michael
  51. Jim
  52. Claude
  53. Ben
  54. Eugene
  55. Francis
  56. Grover
  57. Raymond
  58. Harvey
  59. Clyde
  60. Edwin
  61. Edgar
  62. Ed
  63. Lawrence
  64. Bert
  65. Chester
  66. Jack
  67. Otto
  68. Luther
  69. Charley
  70. Guy
  71. Floyd
  72. Ira
  73. Ray
  74. Hugh
  75. Isaac
  76. Oliver
  77. Patrick
  78. Homer
  79. Theodore
  80. Leonard
  81. Leo
  82. Alexander
  83. August
  84. Harold
  85. Allen
  86. Jessie
  87. Archie
  88. Philip
  89. Stephen
  90. Horace
  91. Marion
  92. Bernard
  93. Anthony
  94. Julius
  95. Warren
  96. Leroy
  97. Clifford
  98. Eddie
  99. Sidney
  100. Milton

TOP 100 GIRL NAMES from the 1880s

  1. Mary
  2. Anna
  3. Emma
  4. Elizabeth
  5. Margaret
  6. Minnie
  7. Ida
  8. Bertha
  9. Clara
  10. Alice
  11. Annie
  12. Florence
  13. Bessie
  14. Grace
  15. Ethel
  16. Sarah
  17. Ella
  18. Martha
  19. Nellie
  20. Mabel
  21. Laura
  22. Carrie
  23. Cora
  24. Helen
  25. Maude
  26. Lillian
  27. Gertrude
  28. Rose
  29. Edna
  30. Pearl
  31. Edith
  32. Jennie
  33. Hattie
  34. Mattie
  35. Eva
  36. Julia
  37. Myrtle
  38. Louise
  39. Lillie
  40. Jessie
  41. Frances
  42. Catherine
  43. Lula
  44. Lena
  45. Marie
  46. Ada
  47. Josephine
  48. Fannie
  49. Lucy
  50. Dora
  51. Agnes
  52. Maggie
  53. Blanche
  54. Katherine
  55. Elsie
  56. Nora
  57. Mamie
  58. Rosa
  59. Stella
  60. Daisy
  61. May
  62. Effie
  63. Mae
  64. Ellen
  65. Nettie
  66. Ruth
  67. Alma
  68. Della
  69. Lizzie
  70. Sadie
  71. Sallie
  72. Nancy
  73. Susie
  74. Maud
  75. Flora
  76. Irene
  77. Etta
  78. Katie
  79. Lydia
  80. Lottie
  81. Viola
  82. Caroline
  83. Addie
  84. Hazel
  85. Georgia
  86. Esther
  87. Mollie
  88. Olive
  89. Willie
  90. Harriet
  91. Emily
  92. Charlotte
  93. Amanda
  94. Kathryn
  95. Lulu
  96. Susan
  97. Kate
  98. Nannie
  99. Jane
  100. Amelia

From the expected classics, like William and Grace, to overlooked vintage gems, like Minnie and Ernest, there’s no shortage of names to consider on these lists.

But beyond the Top 100s for the decade, some truly fascinating – and potentially wearable – choices await. True, names like Evelyn, Everett, and Matthew are far more popular today than they were then. But others are bordering on extinction today … even though they’d fit nicely with the most popular names of our moment.

Looking at the Top 100 for the decade of the 1880s as listed on the Social Security website, there are plenty of 1880s baby names that have long been neglected.

On to the 1880s names that are overdue for revival!


ALTA #144

In Latin, altus means high. Alto is the Italian and Spanish word for high, and, of course, also a voice type in a chorus. Fans of the Olympic games might recognize it, thanks to the Latin translation of the motto Swifter, Higher, Stronger: Citius, Altius, Fortius. That lends vintage Alta some sporting verve.

DELIA #141

Short, sweet Delia is associated with the Greek goddess Artemis, since she and her twin brother, Apollo, were born on the island of Delos. It’s appeared in poetry across the ages, making this name literary and vintage, too.


If names like Olivia and Isabella can dominate the Top Ten, it’s easy to imagine Henrietta there, too. Classic Henry is back in the spotlight for our sons, adding more reason to revisit this elaborate choice. Henrietta sometimes shortens to Hettie, a name that fits right in with Hallie, Hattie, and Lottie.

IVA #124

With ties to Greek myth and a Tennyson poem, 1880s chart-topper Ida could be quite stylish today. Iva, too, feels like it has plenty of potential. Ranked #124 for the decade, it’s a Slavic name meaning willow tree, or short for Iva – which ties this brief name to the evergreen John. Mini names Ina and Ora were also popular in the 1880s, long forgotten now.

LELA #129

Lyla, Layla, Leila, Lilah, and more variations of this pretty Arabic name with poetic and literary roots appear in our current US Top 1000. But Lela is overlooked. Too bad, because it’s a particularly logical way to achieve the pronunciation lee-lah.


Girls’ names ending with -ella have a good run. Just ask Gabriella, Ariella, and Arabella, as well as former #1 Isabella. Luella, a Louise spin-off, remains underused, though. It sounds sparky and vintage, less expected than Luna or Annabelle, but right at home on a playground with both of them.


In the 1880s and again today, Matilda is a name that everyone knows, but relatively few parents are choosing. Germanic in origin, Matilda’s roots go back to William the Conqueror – at least. It’s a name with plenty of strength, but also playful nicknames like Millie and Tilly.

NELL #159

As brief as Jane or Anne, Nell is traditionally short for longer names beginning with El. But it can stand on its own, too, a vintage pick that might feel a little more substantial than Elle.


Paul makes the Top 100 popular boy names list for the 1880s. But Paula is nowhere in sight. Instead, it’s French feminine form Pauline that’s most common, even if it doesn’t quite make the cut for go-to girl names during the 1880s. It would work today, too, an alternative to Josephine.

RENA #169

The Late Latin name Renatus means “born again.” In the US, it’s best known as the French feminine Renee, and sometimes the masculine Rene, too. But Rena is another option for a daughter. It might also be short for names ending with the sound: Katrina, for example. There’s a similar Hebrew name, typically spelled Rina in English, that means joy.


Beautifully antique, with sparky nickname Winnie, Winifred is a logical sister for Amelia and Frances – in 1880 or now.


AMOS #121

One of the many Old Testament names embraced by Puritans, Amos feels old-school. It rhymes with famous, but probably has suffered from sounding too much like an anatomical term. Still, it’s got potential, a brother for Ezra or Levi, with a friendly, upbeat vibe.


Classic names always come back. Dennis sounds buttoned-up and mild-mannered, but it comes from the Greek god of wine and revelry, Dionysios. While Dennis feels dated, nicknames Den and Denny are delightful, substitutes for beloved boy names like Teddy and Ben.


Ed- names used to be everywhere. But even in the 1880s, Edward and Edwin were the Top 100 picks, while Edmund languished. Still, it’s the name of many men of accomplishment, from Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Mount Everest, to poet Edmund Spenser, of Faerie Queene fame.

ELLIS #181

There’s something terribly modern about Ellis, a name that feels at home with choices like Hayes and Atticus and Wells. Strictly speaking, it’s a surname form of Elias, which is another version of Elijah. Given the popularity of Elijah today, along with that stylish sound, Ellis is deservedly rising in use now. However,  it remains less common than it was during the 1880s – and it was relatively overlooked then, too.

EMIL #104

Parents adore Amelia. Emily was a long-time #1. And yet, masculine form Emil remains underused. Other late nineteenth century L-enders, like Virgil and Cecil, also deserve a closer look now. But Emil feels like the obvious choice, a brother to so many very popular choices for our daughters.


It’s presidential and Founding Father. There’s the turtle of children’s book fame. And unlike Francis, it leads obviously to nicknames Frankie and Frank. Despite all of those positive qualities, parents haven’t warmed to Franklin in recent generations, despite its antique, storied appeal. One factor: maybe very few of us have grandparents and great-grandparents named Franklin to encourage the name’s revival. (Of course that’s potentially true for any of the overlooked gems on these lists.)


An English surname with Old Norse roots, Roscoe fits right in with all those o-ending favorites: Milo, Arlo, Leo, Theo, Enzo. Maybe it sounds a little country, a touch unsophisticated, thanks to the lingering character of bumbling Sheriff Rosco P.  Coltrane from 1980s television relic The Dukes of Hazzard. But that feels like a quickly fading reference for a new generation, and Roscoe has quietly gained in use over the last decade.


A surname name that, like Ellis, has plenty of current style, Morris is also hamstrung by a fading pop culture association. Beginning in the late 1960s, Morris the Cat served as a mascot for 9Lives cat food, famous everywhere television commericals reached. But the name’s roots run deep. It started out as the typical English form of French name Maurice, an ancient name with history to spare.


Like Scarlett, Rowan, and Rory, Russell is associate with the color red. It rose in use early in the twentieth century and remained a Top 100 choice into the 1980s. While its faded in recent years, Russell feels like the kind of surname ready for the 2020s, a brother for Wyatt or Walker.

RUFUS #110

Another ends-in-s name for boys, Rufus fell just outside the US Top 100 for 1880s names. It’s fallen since then, and today it sounds sort of quirky-indie (Looking at you, Rufus Wainwright) or possibly British. (Hello, Rufus Sewell.) Over the past dozen decades or so, Rufus has gone from ordinary name to one teetering on the edge of extinction. It’s a vintage rarity that your son will seldom have to share with another child. Of all the 1880 boy names, Rufus might be the most obvious candidate for revival.


V names are having a moment. There’s the middle V of fellow overlooked 1880s names, like Calvin and Sylvester. But names like Victor put the V front and center. With a swaggering meaning and centuries of tradition behind it, Victor is the kind of name that we’d have invented in the 2020s if it didn’t already exist.


There’s William, of course. But other Wil- names have had their moment in the sun, like surname Wilson. Wilbur can read very Charlotte’s Web – it’s the name of the pig – and it does, indeed, mean wild boar. But Wilbur was also the name of pioeering aviator Wilbur Wright, and perhaps seen in that light, it’s a vintage name with potential.

What are your favorite 1880s baby names?

First published on February 10, 2016, this post was revised and republished on December 9, 2023.

1880s baby names 1880s baby names

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. My favourites are Martha, Florence, Helen (though I prefer Helena), Louis (LOU-ee pronunciation only) and Rufus. All fantastic names, though the first two are very popular here in the UK.

  2. My favorites from the girl’s list are Mabel, Agnes, Mae, and Della. From the boys, Louis and maybe Martin and Julius.

    My great great-grandmother was born in the late 1880’s named Sylvia Mabel, but she went by Mabel. I always thought it sounded sweet and gentle, and I definitely see it as ready for a revival!

  3. Della and Martin are my favorites. The fact that Martin is spelled the same in several languages is a plus in my opinion.

  4. If we have another child and if said child is a girl my husband has already brought up the name Florence. It was his grandmothers name. I neither love it nor hate it but I do feel like it could grow on me with time. My main concern is nicknames. Our son is named Maxwell and although I knew he would get called Max some my husbands family refuses to call him anything else and I do not like it. It makes me hesitate picking another nickname name.

  5. We have a Cressida Lux whose nickname is Ida. It’s a fab name and our Ida is a feisty blonde girl who answers to both Cressida and Ida.

  6. My boy is named Clyde. Before we were even dating my husband said, “If I ever have a son his name will be Clyde.” It sounded dusty and OLD to me at the time but when our first child was a boy how could I say no? It does suit him and we get mostly positive responses. There have a been a few “Bonnie and Clyde” jokes but we hear lots of sweet stories about favorite Uncles named Clyde. I like that there is 1 spelling and 1 pronunciation. It is almost never bungled and we have never met another young Clyde.
    So, pluses and minuses!

    1. My sister’s name is Martha, and after 18 years she had never been called any names other than Martha – no nicknames at all besides the ones the babies would call her when they couldn’t pronounce the ‘th’ sound.