After all, it usually takes around a century for any popular name to fall out of favor, hibernate for a generation or two, and then come back around, feeling fresh and exciting once more.
In real life, though, names don’t follow an orderly cycle. Some stay near the top of the charts for ages, blurring the lines between, say, a 1910s name and a 1940s favorite. Others stage a revival way ahead of time. Others languish, remaining in style limbo even while the rest of their generation is back.
The good news? There’s opportunity in EVERY one of those categories. Some 1930s girl names feel traditional, others daring, and some simply remain under the radar by 2020s standards.
1930s GIRL NAMES
ALICE (#76 in 2020; #25 in 1935)
Storybook Alice brings to mind white rabbits and red queens. It’s a traditional name worn by royals and saints with a fresh, airy appeal.
ANN (unranked in 2020; #30 in 1935)
Anne with an E ranks a chilly #625, but the sparest of them all, just Ann, fails to break the Top 1000 today.
ANNA (#68 in 2020; #34 in 1935)
The mega-success of Frozen makes Anna feels especially current. Our love of two-syllable, ends-with-a girl names also helps propel Anna ahead of Ann, Anne, and Annie.
ANNIE (#288 in 2020; #38 in 1935)
Thanks to Broadway, Annie shines with sunny optimism. It’s got gumption, too, a name for a pioneer or a celebrated sharpshooter. Longer Ann- names abound, but just Annie works, too.
AUDREY (#60 in 2020; #64 in 1935)
Style icon Audrey Hepburn lends this name some Hollywood glam. It feels gently old-fashioned and nicely nickname-proof.
BARBARA (#899 in 2020; #3 in 1935)
A legendary saint and a name with a long history of use, Barbara rocketed to the top of the charts in the 1920 and stayed there. The Barbie Doll was introduced in 1959 and the Beach Boys scored a hit with “Barbara Ann” in 1965, tying this name to middle of twentieth century pop culture. But it remains an enduring choice.
BETTY (unranked in 2020; #3 in 1935)
Elizabeth is a staple, while short forms come and go. Betty sounds like a sparky, retro possibility. Betty Grable makes it Hollywood glam and Betty White proves it has staying power. Mad Men boosted Betty’s profile, too. Design Mom has a Betty, and now so do Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds.
BEVERLY (unranked in 2020; #20 in 1935)
An English place name turned surname, Beverly is the forerunner of current favorite Everly. And yet, Bev is that nice older lady across the street, while Everly is the neighbor’s new baby.
BONNIE (#604 in 2020; #62 in 1935)
Bonnie has doubled in use over the last decade, bringing the Scottish word name back into favor. It literally means pretty, from the French word bon – good. Toy Story fans know that Bonnie is the little girl who inherited Andy’s toys.
CAROL (unranked in 2020; #11 in 1935)
A unisex name, Carol can be short for Caroline – from Charles, via the Latin Carolus. Or it might refer to Christmas carols – songs.
CAROLYN (#953 in 2020; #28 in 1935)
Today it’s Caroline that ranks in the Top 100, but back in the 1930s? Carolyn ranked far higher.
CATHERINE (#267 in 2020; #42 in 1935)
At first glance, Catherine has fallen out of use. But it’s simply that today’s parents prefer Katherine-with-a-K. Nickname-rich, worn by saints and queens, Catherine makes an enduring choice, regardless of spelling.
CHARLOTTE (#4 in 2020; #65 in 1935)
Credit Sex and the City’s Charlotte York for putting this name back on parents’ radar. Factor in a British princess, and Charlotte has become a Top Ten favorite.
CLARA (#103 in 2020; #81 in 1935)
Saintly, strong, and sweet, the star of The Nutcracker, and a nicely pan-European name, Clara appeals for so many reasons.
DOLORES (unranked in 2020; #26 in 1935)
The spelling Dolores also made the Top 100 back in the 1930s. A deeply religious name, borrowed from a Spanish title of Mary – Mary of Sorrows – Dolores became a style star in the early twentieth century.
DONNA (unranked in 2020; #23 in 1935)
The Italian word for lady, Donna was just beginning to climb in the 1930s. It spiked in 1959, the year Ritchie Valens’ “Donna” topped the charts.
DORIS (unranked in 2020; #13 in 1935)
Doris sounds like a grandma name – and the numbers bear that out. But Doris is actually an ancient name, originally given to a sea nymph in Greek myth.
DOROTHY (#534 in 2020; #6 in 1935)
Dorothy takes us over the rainbow, a storybook hero name, complete with the ruby slippers. It might be among the hottest of the 1930s girl names. Dorothy has more than doubled in use over the last decade, a possible successor to Emily – and Emily’s ancestor, too.
EDITH (#473 in 2020; #87 in 1935)
An Anglo-Saxon favorite revived in the nineteenth century, Edith is both literary and historic. Lady Edith of Downton Abbey gave the name a boost, and built-in nickname Edie is a bonus.
ELAINE (#519 in 2020; #51 in 1935)
An Old French form of Helen, Elaine offers two appealing qualities: nickname Lainey, as well as ties to the Tales of King Arthur.
ELEANOR (#22 in 2020; #48 in 1935)
Strong and maybe a little bit serious, Eleanor feels capable. Women of accomplishment, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Eleanor Roosevelt, make this name powerful and enduring.
ELIZABETH (#16 in 2020; #17 in 1935)
Regal and saintly, Elizabeth might be the most enduring of the classic girls’ names. It’s one of the few to hover around the Top 20 pretty much every single year. That makes it evergreen – at home in 1932, 2022, and well beyond. Favored nicknames come and go, but the formal version remains at the top.
ELLEN (#804 in 2020; #95 in 1935)
Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence makes this name literary and romantic. Read the novel, and more current Ellens – DeGeneres, Pompeo, Barkin – might fade into the background.
EMMA (#2 in 2020; #89 in 1935)
A nineteenth century favorite, the name Emma was still going strong in the 1930s. With ties to history and literature, Emma’s appeal continues to endure across the generations.
ESTHER (#153 in 2020; #94 in 1935)
Once a fashionable favorite, Esther had started slipping by the 1930s. But the name remained in steady use, putting it among the 1930s girl names – and plenty of other decades, too.
EVELYN (#9 in 2020; #31 in 1935)
Parents are wild for Ev- names, from elaborate Evangeline to modern Everly. Evelyn has risen highest, a tailored name at home in the twenty-first century, but with plentiful history to root the name in the past.
FLORENCE (#762 in 2020; #74 in 1935)
Big in the UK, Florence lingered in obscurity until very recently in the US. It returned to the US Top 1000 in May 2018. Classic and refined, shared with a legendary city, with plenty of notable namesakes and nicknames galore, Florence feels like a logical revival choice.
FRANCES (#416 in 2020; #19 in 1935)
Lady-like Frances lagged behind energetic, Italian Francesca for a while. But now, it’s the short, sweet, and slightly more classic Frances on the rise. It’s a sister name for Alice, an alternative to Eleanor. Nicknames range from boyish Frankie to retro Frannie, both used by high profile parents in recent years.
GERALDINE (unranked in 2020; #40 in 1935)
If Josephine is back, could Geraldine catch on? It was coined by a poet in the sixteenth century, written in praise of Lady Elizabeth FitzGerald.
GLORIA (#578 in 2020; #32 in 1935)
There’s U2’s soaring single from the 1980s, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s second daughter, Gloria Ray, born in 2012. Add in an -ia ending, like Amelia and Sophia, and it’s easy to imagine Gloria fitting right in circa 2022.
GRACE (#28 in 2020; #83 in 1935)
Virtuous Grace makes a meaning-rich choice, while Gracie sounds as down-to-earth as any name can be. Like Emma, this name’s heyday was in the 1800s, but it remained popular into the 1930s, proving that Grace has enduring appeal.
HAZEL (#31 in 2020; #92 in 1935)
Ecovintage Hazel has been boosted by celebrity parents and fictional characters alike. It’s a nature name more traditional than Willow, slightly less expected than Rose. Once dismissed as too old-fashioned, it’s a white hot choice for a daughter today.
HELEN (#424 in 2020; #10 in 1935)
Now that Hazel and Eleanor are back on top, what’s a 1930s-loving parent to do? Consider Helen. The mythological queen’s face launched a thousand ships and inspired countless namesakes over the century. Today Helen feels classic, frills-free, and fresh at the same time.
IRENE (#624 in 2020; #87 in 1935)
For so many years, it was “Goodnight Irene,” as this name fell from a peak in the early twentieth century. But the name is slowly inching back into favor, helped by a spare, tailored sound and a great meaning – peace.
JACQUELINE (#442 in 2020; #79 in 1935)
A feminine form of James – via the French Jacques – Jacqueline was just beginning to climb in use in the 1930s. It peaked in the 1960s when Jacqueline Kennedy – born in 1929 – served as First Lady.
JANE (#265 in 2020; #43 in 1935)
Jane reads literary – think Austen – spare, and energetic. Still, you’re more likely to meet a Grace, or even a Jade. It’s old-fashioned and romantic, mid-century modern, and at-home in the twenty-first century – a versatile choice.
JANET (unranked in 2020; #22 in 1935)
Could Janet follow Scarlett and Juliette into wider use? Originally a medieval nickname for Jane, Janet has long stood on its own.
JEAN (unranked in 2020; #18 in 1935)
Yet another feminine form of John, it’s spelled Jeanne in French. But the English and Scottish spelling has always been Jean, a spare and sophisticated possibility.
JOAN (unranked in 2020; #7 in 1935)
Hollywood icon Joan Crawford became a household name in the 1930s as the name soared into the Top Ten. Joan of Arc makes it perpetually heroic.
JOANNE (unranked in 2020; #45 in 1935)
Yet another feminine form of John, Joanne now trails behind Joanna. But among 1930s girl names, Joanne was the star.
JOSEPHINE (#86 in 2020; #75 in 1935)
Romantic, elaborate, and oh so very French, Josephine continues to rise. Maybe it’s all of the nicknames, from Josie to less-expected options. Or maybe it’s the name in full, spunky and sophisticated at the same time.
JOYCE (#983 in 2020; #12 in 1935)
Originally a masculine name, Joyce has long been a feminine staple. It sounds a little like a virtue name, inspired by rejoice.
JUDITH (#903 in 2020; #54 in 1935)
Judy is a Jetson, but Judith is an Old Testament heroine, capable and rather fierce. Like Charlie and Alex, Jude might be a possible unisex nickname. If you love strong, traditional girl names in the key of Eleanor and Katherine, but want something less expected, Judith could be exactly what you seek.
JUNE (#182 in 2020; #55 in 1935)
Sweet and summery, June belongs with so many ecovintage names in favor today, from Lily to Hazel. It’s as compact as classic Jane, but somehow less expected. Longer June names, like Juniper, are rising in use, too, but it’s June that belongs with the 1930s girl names.
LILLIAN (#46 in 2020; #66 in 1935)
Lil- names come and go. In the 1930s, parents preferred Lillie. Today, it’s the more floral Lily. But one constant is Lillian, a name used in English for centuries. Fun fact: Lillian is an elaboration of Lily, which started out as a pet name for Elizabeth.
LOIS (unranked in 2020; #21 in 1935)
Originally a New Testament name, Lois almost always brings to mind one figure. She’s the courageous and intelligent journalist, Lois Lane. Lois falls for Superman, and she’s been part of his story since the start. This name peaked around 1930, but remains in style limbo today.
LORETTA (#948 in 2020; #69 in 1935)
Ever since Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick gave this name to a daughter in 2009, it’s been mentioned as a possible revival-ready favorite. It finally returned to the US Top 1000 in 2020, suggesting that the time might be now.
LORRAINE (unranked in 2020; #68 in 1935)
A place name, a French name, a name that starts with L? Lorraine should be as fashion-forward as they come. Yes, there’s the quiche, but hey, Clementine and Olive are equally edible. Lorraine peaked in the 1930s, meaning that it might be almost time for a comeback.
LOUISE (#690 in 2020; #44 in 1935)
After years in style limbo, Louise is back. And why not? Lucy and Luna are Top 100 favorites. It shortens to Lulu, Lou, and Lula, but requires no nickname. Louise Brooks remains a style icon, and it sounds serious enough for a chemist or a Congresswoman, too.
LUCILLE (#271 in 2020; #85 in 1935)
Lucia became Lucilla, and then, in French, Lucille. It all goes back to the Latin lux, light. Legendary comic Lucille Ball lends it plenty of spirit. After many years in limbo, Lucille returned to the US Top 1000 in 2003. Lucy remains far more common, but then, that’s been the case for over 120 years.
MARGARET (#126 in 2020; #8 in 1935)
As classic as Katherine, as enduring as Eleanor, no question Margaret belongs with the classics. A former Top Ten favorite, the name fell after the 1960s. Today it seems to be in the midst of revival. And yet, no name as consistently used as Margaret can ever be considered truly out of favor.
MARIE (#619 in 2020; #33 in 1935)
We’re wild for French names for girls, with choices like Elodie and Genevieve on many a shortlist. But how about Marie? It’s every bit as timeless as Mary, a middle name for a huge number of women – and yet, still underused.
MARILYN (#636 in 2020; #14 in 1935)
Adalyn, Madelyn – why not Marilyn? It’s as Hollywood a name as Audrey or Ava. And, given our love for Evelyn, it’s easily to imagine parents embracing Marilyn, too.
MARION (unranked; #88 in 1935)
This was the spelling in vogue in the 1930s, though Marian, Mariam, Marianne and many a tailored Mar- name has seen use in the US.
MARJORIE (unranked in 2020; #46 in 1935)
Medieval English added a -y to everything: Cecilia became Cecily, Maria became Mary, and Margaret became Margery. Then it was re-spelled to resemble marjoram, the herb. Marjoram was long considered a symbol of happiness, from the ancient world into the Victorian era.
MARTHA (#772 in 2020; #24 in 1935)
Classic, Biblical Martha has plummeted in use. A Top 100 favorite through 1965, Martha has been rare for decades. As with all of these names, it can make a great opportunity for a familiar-but-seldom-heard name.
MARY (#124 in 2020; #1 in 1935)
Few think of Mary as unusual, but this 1930s chart-topper is the ultimate familiar-but-uncommon choice. Simple, feminine, and strong, Mary hits the mark many parents are after. But after so many decades at #1, we often don’t see it that way.
NANCY (#893 in 2020; #9 in 1935)
Dauntless girl detective Nancy Drew immediately comes to mind. First used as a medieval form of Agnes, Nancy was later associated with Ann. Today the name stands on its own. If choices like Sadie and Maisie are fashion-forward, is Nancy really so far behind?
NORMA (unranked in 2020; #29 in 1935)
Invented for the main character in 1831 tragic opera Norma, this name feels like a feminine form of Norman. While both are out of favor today, they were 1930s favorites.
PATRICIA (unranked in 2020; #5 in 1935)
A go-to name for our daughters across the generations, Patricia is the feminine form of Patrick. It feels slightly Irish and thoroughly traditional.
PEGGY (unranked in 2020; #36 in 1935)
While Margaret is back, the go-to short form is Maggie. Peggy has potential, though – especially for parents looking for casual choices like Molly, but after something distinctively different.
PHYLLIS (unranked in 2020; #27 in 1935)
A name straight out of Greek myth, but seldom heard today.
RITA (unranked in 2020; #63 in 1935)
Sparky, retro Rita brings to mind glamorous actor and World War II pinup girl Rita Hayworth.
ROSE (#113 in 2020; #37 in 1935)
Spare and elegant, Rose has become the go-to middle name for a generation. But it really deserves a promotion to the first spot, which it occupied in big numbers way back in the 1930s. It’s climbing once more, a feminine, restrained name at home in the modern world. Longer Rose names abound, but this is the classic.
ROSEMARY (#445 in 2020; #97 in 1935)
Speaking of longer Rose names, Rosemary might be one of the most promising of the bunch. It’s a spice name like Saffron, and a three-syllable, ends-with-y choice like Dorothy. While some smooshes of classic names, like Marianne or Annabeth, feel like combinations, Rosemary sounds like something distinctive and different.
RUBY (#74 in 2020; #41 in 1935)
As colorful as Scarlett, as borrowed from the natural world as River or Skye, Ruby could have been discovered in the year 2000. Instead, it’s been around for ages, never out of the US Top 1000. A bonus? The Rolling Stones and the Kaiser Chefs, Rancid and Kenny Rogers have all recorded songs with Ruby in the title.
RUTH (#220 in 2020; #15 in 1935)
We love Lucy and Ruby, Cooper and Jude. That same ‘oo’ sound gives us Ruth, a Biblical favorite from the decade. It’s gained steadily in use over the last five years, and is poised to continue to rise. While Ruth sounds intelligent and strong-willed, nickname Ruthie is all kinds of darling.
SALLY (unranked in 2020; #58 in 1935)
Like the fashionable Sadie, Sally is a Sarah short form that now stands on its own. But while Sadie is a mainstream retro darling, Sally remains in limbo. Mad Men made the name familiar, but that’s part of the problem – Sally remained a Top 100 name from the 1930s into the 1950s, meaning that it might take a few more years to feel truly novel again.
SARAH (#87 in 2020; #61 in 1935)
Odds are you know a Sarah (or maybe a Sara) in nearly every age range. It’s Biblical, feminine, and truly timeless. Because it spent over three decades in the US Top Ten, though, it’s easy to miss the name’s staying power. Reviewing the 1930s names data reminds us of Sarah’s classic status.
SHIRLEY (unranked in 2020; #2 in 1935)
Ages before Ashley, Charlotte Bronte borrowed masculine surname name Shirley for a character in a novel. Then came Shirley Temple and the name became a 1930s chart-topping sensation.
SYLVIA (#504 in 2020; #60 in 1935)
Take the wildly popular Sophia, add the equally compelling middle ‘v’ sound, and you have Sylvia. An ancient name with a woodsy meaning – it comes from silva, forest – Sylvia peaked a little later than Sophia, which might explain why it’s only beginning to rise now.
VIRGINIA (#580 in 2020; #16 in 1935)
A place name with ties to Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, Virginia has long been considered a near-classic for our daughters. Virginia Dare and Virginia Woolf are two more famous bearers.
WANDA (unranked in 2020; #49 in 1935)
Marvel’s Scarlet Witch might give Wanda a bump. And yet, this Germanic name has a ways to go. It last appeared in the US Top 1000 back in the year 1990.
YVONNE (unranked in 2020; #98 in 1935)
One of many names related to Ivo and Yves – yew treet – Yvonne surged in the 1930s before retreating towards obscurity in recent years. The name’s peak popularity actually came in the 1950s and 60s, perhaps explaining why we love Evelyn and company, but have yet to rediscover sharp and elegant Yvonne.
Which are your favorite 1930s names?
First published on January 24, 2014, this post was revised substantially and re-posted on March 11, 2019 and again on November 27, 2021.