Traditional baby names are back in a big way, with more and more modern parents opting for classic monikers rocked by their own grandma and grandpa—from the still-in-style James and William to the forever-fashionable Elizabeth and Margaret. Of course, the 1950s also had its share of Karens. Read our list to get some old-fashioned inspiration if you’re expecting or see which names definitely won’t be making a comeback anytime soon (we’re looking at you Gary and Linda).
James (the most common first name for a US president) is one of those classic baby names that will never go out of style. It topped the boys list at number one in the 1950s—the decade Hollywood star James Dean rose to fame and also passed away—and has never dipped below the top 20 in the past century, which is a nod to its staying power. Today it’s still going strong, securing the number five spot in 2021.
Mary is a Hebrew name as old as time, given to over 625,000 baby girls in the 1950s. Mary remained in the top ten all the way through 1971 and finally fell out of the top 100 in 2009. If you’re looking for a classic name that feels familiar but isn’t super common today, Mary might just be the one.
The boys definitely got the better end of the stick in the 1950s with cool names like Michael that still feel fresh today, plus offer plenty of nickname options—like Mike, Mikey, Mick and Mickey—to choose from.
If the name Susan feels dated, it’s because it is. Susan was the go-to choice for many moms and dads throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s, when it peaked in popularity, but has steadily fallen out of favor, not even making it into the top 1000 most popular names for girls now.
Did you know that John held the number one name spot for baby boys from 1900 to 1923, and it remained in the top five all the way through 1972? Talk about impressive! In the 1950s, nearly 800,000 baby boys were given the name John. If you’re looking for a timeless moniker for your little bundle of joy, you clearly can’t go wrong with this one.
The ultimate “mom” (now grandma!) name. There were clearly lots of little Debbies running around in the 50s, with the name Deborah taking the number five spot and alternative spelling Debra coming in at number seven on the Social Security baby name popularity list. We bet you can name at least five off the top of your head.
Fun fact: since the beginning of the 20th century, the name William has consistently remained in the top 20 names for boys, though never quite claiming that coveted number one spot. It pretty much stayed steady at number six all the way through the 1950s. In 2021, it was also the sixth most popular name for boys, ironically. William means “resolute protector” or “strong-willed” warrior. With a meaning like that we can see why it’s stood the test of time.
A beautiful choice for baby girls born in the 1950s and 60s, today bearing the once-popular name Karen is anything but easy, all thanks to a viral meme. We only see this name falling further and further out of fashion, as no one wants their baby to “be a Karen”.
The name Robert—ripe with tons of nicknames like Bob, Bobby, Rob and Robbie—reigned supreme throughout the entire 20th century, snagging the number one spot in 1953. Despite the variety, parents are now seemingly over it, opting for more unique monikers instead.
Linda was the second most popular baby name for girls during the 50s but despite literally meaning “pretty”, parents today don’t see the appeal, as it continues to plummet in popularity, barely making the top 1000 in 2021.
There may or may not be more female Charlies running around now than there are males, but back in the 50s (and the entire first half of the 20th century really) Charles was the go-to name for guys. Nickname Charlie has become a top unisex contender for Generation Alpha.
Patricia, the female version of Patrick, is a name you rarely hear today. However, from 1930 all the way through the mid-60s it held steady as a top ten choice for parents of little girls. It might take another 50+ years before you meet another little Patricia though.
The boy names of the 50s clearly weren’t as trend-driven as the girls, seeing as how another classic like David, which is still commonly used today, was the fourth most popular boy name of the decade.
The name Barbara literally means “foreign” or “strange”, which it certainly is by today’s standards considering you hardly ever hear it on little ones. From the late 20s all the way through the mid-60s though, everyone and their mother was naming their baby girl Barbara.
Richard (AKA Dick, Richie, Rick) was pretty popular with parents for most of the 20th century, coming in at number seven for boys during the 1950s, but it’s basically been on its way out ever since—and we don’t see it trending up again anytime soon.
Can you imagine meeting a little Nancy today? Because we can’t. From 1931 to 1962, Nancy held a top 20 spot on the Social Security baby name popularity list. Kiddos today will know the name thanks to the popular Fancy Nancy book series.
Gary cracked the top ten for the first time ever in the 1950s, peaking at number nine in 1954, in large part due to Gary Cooper, who received an Academy Award for Best Actor the year prior thanks to his leading role in High Noon.
When you meet a Sharon, you can almost narrow down what decade they were born in: either the 1940s or the 50s when the name suddenly shot to popularity. Sadly, Sharon dropped completely out of the top 1000 in 2016 and will likely stay there.
The name Mark started gaining popularity in the mid 1950s and held steady in the top ten through 1970. It’s not unheard of to meet a little Mark today, though Marcus feels like a more modern choice if you’re looking for a cool M boy name.
With all the trendy girl names on this list, we couldn’t help but include a classic that fell just outside the top 20 names for girls in the 50s: Elizabeth. Unlike pretty much all the other names on this list, Elizabeth has actually risen in popularity since then, sitting at the number 14 spot in 2021 and more often than not cracking the top ten year after year.
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