10 baby names that are becoming much less common

Regarding baby names, trends can shift dramatically over the years. Names that were once at the pinnacle of popularity can see a significant decline as new generations of parents seek uniqueness, cultural significance, or simply different sounds in naming their children. Based on historical data and naming trends up to early 2023, here’s a list of 10 baby names that have been becoming much less common, along with reasons for their decline:


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s
  • Why It’s Declining: Gary, once a name that evoked images of the all-American boy next door, has seen its appeal wane significantly. In an era where vintage names are returning, Gary hasn’t caught the same wave of nostalgia that has benefitted others. This could be due to its association with a specific period, making it feel dated rather than classically vintage. The trend towards more diverse and globally inspired names has also left traditionally Anglo-American names like Gary behind.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1940s and 1950s
  • Why It’s Declining: Barbara, with its roots in the Greek word for “foreign woman,” once dominated nurseries across the English-speaking world. However, its sound and style now seem like they need to be more consistent with current naming trends that favor shorter, more versatile names. The move towards more fluid and less formal names has also impacted its standing. Additionally, the need for a modern, popular cultural reference point for the name Barbara has contributed to its decline among new parents seeking relevance in their children’s names.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s and 1960s
  • Why It’s Declining: Donna, meaning “lady” in Italian, carries a sense of elegance and formality that has fallen out of favor in recent years. Today’s parents, who are often looking for names that blend cultural depth with a sense of uniqueness, may find Donna too straightforward or need more modern appeal. The trend towards more gender-neutral names has also seen traditional, clearly gendered names like Donna decline in popularity.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1940s and 1950s
  • Why It’s Declining: The name Ronald, with its strong mid-20th-century vibes, now feels decidedly out of fashion. While it carries historical and presidential gravitas, courtesy of Ronald Reagan, contemporary naming trends lean towards shorter, snappier names or those with a more international appeal. The prevalence of nicknames and the desire for uniqueness in naming have also contributed to its decline, as Ronald offers limited options for creative or affectionate diminutives that resonate with modern parents.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s
  • Why It’s Declining: Despite its ancient and storied origins in the Bible, Deborah has seen its popularity wane as modern parents opt for names that either revive old classics in a new light or introduce novel, previously unheard choices. The name, while beautiful, has struggled to shed its mid-20th-century image, which many now regard as too commonplace or dated. Furthermore, the rise of short, punchy names has left longer, more traditional names like Deborah feeling slightly cumbersome for some.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s and 1960s
  • Why It’s Declining: Bruce, a name of Norman origin meaning “the willowlands,” carries a strong sense of rugged masculinity associated with mid-20th-century figures like Bruce Lee. However, as naming conventions move towards a broader spectrum of influences and meanings, Bruce’s once universal appeal has remained strong. The desire for names that offer a wide range of nickname possibilities or those that blend cultural heritage and modernity has also played a role in its decline. Moreover, the contemporary trend leans towards softer sounds and names that transcend traditional gender norms, further sidelining names like Bruce.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1930s and 1940s
  • Why It’s Declining: Originally derived from an Old English name meaning “bright meadow,” Shirley was once highly popular, thanks in part to child actress Shirley Temple. However, its association with a bygone era and its perception as a name primarily for older generations have led to its decline. Modern naming trends favor names that are either more succinct, have international appeal, or carry a contemporary edge, leaving traditional names like Shirley behind.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1940s and 1950s
  • Why It’s Declining: Roger, with its origins in the Germanic words for “fame” and “spear,” resonates with a strong mid-century vibe that no longer appeals to the majority of today’s parents. The name feels outdated, and with the current trend leaning towards more unique, less conventional names, Roger has yet to maintain its popularity. Additionally, the desire for names that can easily cross cultural boundaries has also contributed to its decline, as Roger is seen as very traditionally English or American.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s and 1960s
  • Why It’s Declining: Brenda, a name of Old Norse origin meaning “sword,” was once favored for its strong yet feminine quality. However, as naming trends have evolved, Brenda has come to be seen as somewhat dated, lacking the modern flair or the cultural depth that new parents are seeking. The shift towards more flexible and globally recognized names has also seen Brenda fall out of favor, as it needs to lend itself to the diverse and multicultural names that are rising in popularity.


  • Peak Popularity Era: 1950s and 1960s
  • Why It’s Declining: Kenneth, with Gaelic origins meaning “born of fire” or “handsome,” has seen a decline as tastes shift towards names that offer a more contemporary or timeless appeal. While Kenneth carries a certain classic charm, it lacks the versatility and global appeal that many of today’s parents are looking for. The trend towards shorter, more distinctive names, or those with cultural significance, has also contributed to its waning popularity among new families.

These names, while once popular, illustrate the cyclical nature of naming trends and the shifting preferences of parents over the decades. What’s considered fashionable or desirable in one era can change dramatically, influenced by cultural shifts, global trends, and even popular media.