Sunday Summary 4.1.18Baby names do go extinct.

Search back through the US Social Security data, and you will find names – not one or two or three, but dozens of dozens – that have simply ceased to exist.

It’s tempting to dismiss them as one-offs: the product of creative parents or record-keeping typos, strange translations from foreign names that weren’t ever really used in everyday life.


I find them, from time to time. Names that were clearly bestowed in small numbers, but over several decades, and beyond any single geographic region. Could they be the product of a large extended family? Maybe.

But Paralee, Amenaide, Ladusky, and Alifair all seem to be legitimate dinosaurs. Kenelm, too. My latest find: Pherabe. Names that once roamed the Earth, but have since gone extinct. They’ve left behind the slimmest fossil record – a few minor historical figures, a gravestone or two.

And so I’ve got a summer blockbuster-worthy question: can the internet revive them, like the lab and the mad scientists of Jurassic World fame?

If we do, of course, we’ll be guessing. Just like the DNA in the re-created dinosaurs, the names we rescue from the past may come to us in a slightly changed form. We’ll pronounce them differently. Or misunderstand their meanings and origins. We’ll choose the spelling that wasn’t actually most common, even though we’ll never  know.

I mean – they didn’t get the velociraptors exactly right when they re-created them, right?

Elsewhere online:

March Madness baby names 2018 wrapped up, and the winners are Rowan and Eliza. A fascinating question: is Eliza the first diminutive to win? My gut says probably. Except I’m not sure how we should think about Leo, and maybe even Finn, from previous years. If it’s a matter of which-came-first, then I’m inclined to say yes. Finn and Leo have longer histories of use as independent names. But Eliza doesn’t feel like a nickname to me.

And lastly, if you’re celebrating today, wishing you a Happy Easter!

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. Hi. My name is a Pherabe. I am not extinct or a fossil. I am alive and I live in Washington DC. Do better research.

  2. I used Alifair for a character in a role-playing game once. 🙂 I think it has a lot of potential, with the nickname Ali or Allie on the table!

  3. Pheriby and Pherreba are both names way back on my family tree that were used for several generations. Pherreba was used first, and it got changed to Pheriby for later generations. Were talking early to late 1700s (before Census data). I’ve considered using Pheriby for a daughter I do like the sound but I’ve mentioned it to others to get their take and they’ve often said it sounds a bit too similar to Therapy (I’m pronouncing it FAIR uh bee). For this one in, particular I do see some hope/potential for revival.

    1. What a great find, KatieB! Still hitting a brick wall on the meaning/origin of this one … I think we talked about this ages ago, right? The closest I’ve ever gotten was a tip about Ferriby, a place name from England. It refers to two villages, separated by a river, linked by a ferry. And yet … that doesn’t quite track, does it? I feel like I’m still missing something …

  4. I went through some historical law documents for work a few years ago and the most notable extinct (or invented) names from the 100 year old documents were
    1 Thornton,
    2 Philogene and her husband
    3 Clairville.

  5. My business partner photographed an Alifair in Central Texas as a newborn. I imagine she’s 1 now. In that case the parents really wanted a rare name, and I imagine they hit the nail on the head.