Except when you zoom out, the most popular names are wildly different, too. Harold and Kenneth, Ralph and Carl, Ernest and Earl. All Top 100 choices back then. Now? Not so much.
Conventional wisdom says that the most popular names from one hundred years ago will start to feel fresh and new today. Sometimes that’s true. At other times, a name needs to hibernate a little longer. And, of course, some names – or even some spellings or nicknames – do tumble into obscurity, forgotten.
This list is packed with a mix of familiar names that weren’t quite so common circa 1924 – check out Michael, Benjamin, and Leo, in the Top 100, but not where you might expect. Plus there are some rare names from the Top 1000 back then that are very, very rare now.
One of these might be exactly right for your twenty-first century boy.
RARE and INTERESTING 1924 BOY NAMES
From an Old Norse name meaning “all wise,” Alvis looks nothing like the most popular names of our moment. Or does it? With that middle V and final S, it’s not so far from Oliver and Hayes. One drawback? It would be probably be misheard as Elvis an awful lot. (In fact, it’s possible Elvis is simply a variant of this name.)
It looks like the masculine form of Cleo, and it might be. They both share the same Greek root: glory. If Leon can succeed today, Cleon has potential, too.
It’s not entirely clear where the word comes from, but a dock is a place to secure your boat, or the act of doing so. Space shuttles dock with the space station. Dock looks quite a bit like Jack, a nickname name with substance. It’s a surname, too, with various origins. Eighteenth century educator Christopher Dock is one notable.
Musician and bandleader brothers Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey made their marks in the 1930s and 40s. The surname probably comes to English via a French place name, and there are plenty of Dorseys on the map in the US, too. It’s a little bit surprising as a given name, but feels very wearable and spirited.
The Late Roman Eligius became Eligio in Italian. Soften it some more, and it Eloi in French, and Eloy in Spanish. Saint Eligius lived in the 600s; a goldsmith by trade, he became a priest and is now patron saint of metalworkers.
An Old Testament prophet’s name, Hosea feels more accessible than ever after generations of boys answering to Joshua, Noah, and Elijah.
Clearly a last name in the first spot, Jennings is yet another surname – like Jackson and Johnson – ultimately derived from John.
This might be a place name. Or it could be a surname based on the masculine form of Muriel. Either way, Merrill sounds a little bit old school, but also nicely timeless.
Randolph sounds like a leading man from the bygone days of Hollywood. It’s one of those great Germanic/Scandi/Old English finds, from elements meaning “shield” and “wolf.” If you’re looking for a name that everyone has heard, but no one is using, Randolph feels like an option.
A popular place name, originally given to settlements on stony ground, Stanton sounds distinguished. It fits with so many ends-in-n boy names.
If Atticus and Maximus can rank in the US Top 300, why not Ulysses? It’s an adventure story we all sort of know, as well as a genre-defining modernist novel.
We love a good O-ending boy name. If Milo and Arlo can be mainstream favorites, maybe quirky Waldo stands a chance, too.
TOP 100 BOY NAMES of 1924
* Does not appear in current US Top 1000.