Classic names like Margaret tend to splinter, with new forms emerging over time and language. Some of the resulting names can be obscure, barely linked to the original, like some of the Adelaide variations in this post.
When there are plenty of popular variations, they might trade places, with one feeling fashionable just as the other fades. In other cases, several forms of the make a comeback at the same time. That’s true for the Charlies, boys and girls alike, today.
Another name that’s undergoing a renaissance? Margaret, in many of her forms.
Margaret: The Up-and-Comers
Margaret – Eleanor is in the US Top 100. Charlotte just broke into the Top Ten. Is it any surprise that the equally tailored, classic Margaret is also climbing once more? In 2014, Margaret ranked #169, up 11 places. That’s a far cry from the late nineteenth century through the 1930s, when Margaret was a perennial Top Ten favorite. If you’re looking for something as classic as Katherine, with as many nickname options as Elizabeth, but not quite as common, then Margaret should make your shortlist. The portrait below belongs to Margaret Truman, the only child of former president Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess.
Maggie – In our age of Sadie, not Sarah, and Hattie, not Harriet, plenty of parents prefer to put the nickname right on the birth certificate. In 2014, Maggie ranked #239, down a few places from 2013. And yet, I don’t think this name has exhausted its potential. Jon Stewart has a Maggie Rose. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have a Maggie Elizabeth.
Greta – Greta feels glamorous, thanks to the luminous Greta Garbo. Garbo was born in Sweden, and Greta has a long history of use in Scandinavia. But unlike Astrid or Ingrid, this one doesn’t feel especially like a heritage choice anymore. The name ranked #594 in 2014, the same rank as 2013. That’s still fairly uncommon, but Greta was obscure in the 1980s and 90s, so this actually represents a quiet comeback.
Maisie – Speaking of comebacks, Maisie made a huge leap in 2014 to #655. It was unranked the year before. In numbers, that means that 431 girls were named Maisie in 2014, up from 216 in 2013. That’s nearly double! Maisie comes from Margaret via the Scottish Mairead, which sounds something like mawr aid or mur aid. While Mairead isn’t the most accessible name to American English speakers, sassy, retro Maisie feels exactly on trend. There’s also fictional detective Maisie Dobbs, a creation of Jacqueline Winspear, to put a smart and capable spin on this name.
Mae – May is a month, but it’s also short for many classic names for girls, including Mary and Margaret. While there are plenty of longer Mae- names, this is one choice that’s short, sweet, and complete. In 2014, Mae ranked #680 – down a few places just 2013. But Mae and May are also huge in the middle spot, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how common this mini name has become.
Marjorie – In medieval England, many a classic name took a -y ending. Saintly Cecilia became Cecily, while Margaret was Margery. Yup, as in the nursery rhyme “See Saw Margery Daw.” The -jorie spelling is a later innovation, influenced by the spelling of the herb marjoram. Marjoram takes its name from a Latin word we likely borrowed from India. Marjorie – this spelling – has made a surprising comeback in the last few years, climbing a spectacular 189 places to reach #720. It could possibly be shortened to boyish Rory, but I suspect Marjorie is simply the latest in a long line of three-syllable, ends in -y or -ie names to be revived, a sister for Dorothy.
Margot – Ends in ‘o’ names for are stylish for girls and boys alike, but Margot occupies a special place. Even though Margot fell out of favor, it’s remained a familiar given name for girls over the years. And it’s a name that’s both retro and modern, a winning combination. It’s also originally French, and we do love those French names for girls. As of 2014, the name had bounded up 196 places to reach #747 in the US. It remains a Top 100 choice in France.
Gretchen – Not so long ago, Gretchen was one of the Mean Girls in the 2004 smash hit movie. But tailored Gretchen has moved into mom name territory in recent years. It’s also the name of Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and other works on happiness and habits. Maybe it’s the association with Rubin, but I find Gretchen a capable, pulled together kind of name – despite -chen being a diminutive ending in German.
Madge – Madge left the US Top 1000 as an independent name after the 1940s. The name still makes me think of Madge the Manicurist, a television spokesperson for Palmolive dish soap, once more famous than Flo, of Progressive Insurance fame. And, of course, Madonna was nicknamed Madge during the years she lived in London as Mrs. Guy Ritchie. (Word is that it was short for “Your Majesty.”) None of this has been enough to breathe new life into Madge. Get this: since 1982, fewer than five girls were named Madge every year – meaning that it no longer registers as a given name in the annual US Social Security statistics. Could this one be gone for good?
Margalit – Last summer, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal revealed that her given name is actually Margalit – something she didn’t learn until recently. (How does that happen? Presumably her passport was issued based on a school record or similar document in the less-strict, pre-2001 days.) Margalit is the Hebrew form of the Margaret, also from the Greek margarites – pearl. It’s rare, but not unknown – and ever since the story about Gyllenhaal came out last August, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear a little more of this intriguing rarity.
Margaux – Chateau Margaux is a wine from Bordeaux, and Jack Hemingway, son of Ernest, and his wife Byra were enjoying a bottle one romantic night. Nine months later, their daughter Margot was born. When she heard the story, Miss Hemingway decided to change the spelling of her name to match the wine. Margaux became a model in the 1970s, and a few parents embraced the spelling. It’s more popular now than ever, rising along with Margot. But that still adds up to just 98 newborn Margauxs in 2014.
Marguerite – The elegant French form of the name was a Top 100 choice in the US from the 1890s through the 1921. Despite a long list of admirable women and literary characters, it’s been obscure since the 1970s. Just 73 girls were given the name in 2014, making this rarer than Margaux. And yet, if you love Genevieve and Josephine, but want something that your daughter will never have to share, Marguerite should absolutely be on your shortlist.
Margery – Marjorie is making a comeback, but Margery remains in style limbo. A mere seven girls were named Margery in 2014. And yet the spelling is every bit as legitimate as Marjorie – in fact, it predates the -jorie spelling by quite a bit!
Marit – Marit would probably be misunderstood in English as Merit or Mariette, but it’s a Scandinavian contracted form of Margaret. It’s tailored and unexpected. Princess Mette-Marit is the wife of the current Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon.
Marta – Marta is usually considered a form of Martha, and yet, that’s not always the case. In Swedish, Margaret becomes Margareta, and Margareta is contracted to Marta – some of the time.
Peggy – If Maggie can make a comeback, how ’bout Peggy? Once upon a time, lots of Margarets became Peggy. Today, parents are more likely to put Jack and Molly on birth certificates than John and Mary. That suggests that Peggy is much more likely to be bestowed as a given name than a nickname circa 2015. The fantastic Elisabeth Moss played Peggy Olson on Mad Men for seven seasons, but that wasn’t enough to spark a revival. As of 2014, there were a mere 22 newborn Peggys. Now there’s Agent Carter, another story in the Marvel Universe. Her first name is Peggy, too. If you love Margaret, but want a fresher nickname than Maggie, Peggy is a possibility. It’s also an option for a cheerful independent name.
What’s your favorite form of Margaret? Would you consider any of these names for a daughter?