Classics on the Decline: Rebecca, Carol, Susan

girl names falling out of fashion

In last week’s “lowest ever” boy names post, I mentioned that reader Caitlin had shared her research on downward-trending baby names with me recently. While many girl names hit relative lows in 2017, for instance…

  • Sarah, now ranked 62nd — lowest ranking since 1970.
  • Rachel, now ranked 195th — lowest ranking since 1960.
  • Melissa, now ranked 273rd — lowest ranking since 1949.

…a couple of the names on her list, Rebecca and Catherine, hit their “lowest ever” rankings last year. (Plus there was Katherine, a borderline case of a lowest-ever tie.)

So I set out to find other “lowest ever” girl names.

Many of the names I checked (like Clare, Lea, and Bridget) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Pauline, Sara, and Mary) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017. Still others (like Yvonne) had to be disqualified because, even though they hit their lowest ranking on record in 2017, they didn’t appear in the data for all 138 years (1880-2017)…an issue I didn’t encounter with any of the boy names.

In the end, I was able to add a dozen thirteen names to the list:

  • Ann. Ranked 1,023rd in 2017; peak was 28th in the 1930s.
  • Barbara. Ranked 908th in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1930s/1940s.
  • Carol. Ranked 1,814th in 2017; peak was 4th in the 1940s.
  • Catherine. Ranked 198th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1910s.
  • Celia. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 141st in the 1880s.
  • Cynthia. Ranked 637th in 2017; peak was 7th in the 1950s.
  • Elisabeth. Ranked 775th in 2017; peak was 286th in the 2000s.
  • Katherine. Ranked 105th in 2017 + 1938; peak 25th in the 1990s.
  • Kathleen. Ranked 871st in 2017; peak was 9th in the 1940s. (Late addition–thanks Kelly!)
  • Linda. Ranked 708th in 2017; peak was 1st in 1940s/1950s.
  • Priscilla. Ranked 527th in 2017; peak was 127th in the 1940s.
  • Rebecca. Ranked 216th in 2017; peak was 10th in the 1970s.
  • Rosa. Ranked 672nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1880s.
  • Susan. Ranked 963rd in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1950s/1960s.
  • Teresa. Ranked 720th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1960s.
  • Tressa. Ranked 9242nd in 2017; peak was 761st in the 1960s.

That makes 15 (or 16, if you count Katherine). I certainly could have missed a few, though, so if you can think of a good candidate, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.


6 thoughts on “Classics on the Decline: Rebecca, Carol, Susan

  1. You got it wrong with Katherine – the name’s 1938 ranking (according to the SSA list) was #105, not #195 – so it DOES belong on this list.

  2. I don’t see Cynthia, Celia, Elisabeth, Rebecca, Rosa or Teresa as dated. Well, maybe Celia! Most of these are extremely useable though, at least here in the UK. Ann, Barbara, Carol… not so much! Never seen or heard of Tressa before.

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