How popular is the baby name Gwendolyn in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Gwendolyn and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Gwendolyn.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Gwendolyn

Number of Babies Named Gwendolyn

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Gwendolyn

Early Recognition of the “Great-Grandparent Rule”

grandmotherA baby name becomes trendy for one generation. For the next two generations — while those initial babies are parent-aged and grandparent-aged — you can expect the name to go out of style. But during the third generation — once the cohort reaches great-grandparent age — the name is free to come back into fashion.

Evelyn is a name with a usage pattern that fits this description well.

I’ve seen it described elsewhere as the “100-Year Rule,” but I prefer to call it the “Great-Grandparent Rule,” as it makes more sense to me to frame it in terms of generations.

Essentially, the pattern has to do with a name’s main generational association shifting from “a name that belongs to real-life old people” to “a name that sounds pleasantly old-fashioned.”

I used to think the pattern was one we’d only recently discovered — something we needed the data to see — but it turns out that at least one observant person noticed this trend and wrote about it in The San Francisco Call more than 100 years ago (boldface mine):

Time was — and that not very long ago — when old fashioned names, as old fashioned furniture, crockery and hand embroideries, were declared out of date. The progress of the ages that replaced the slower work of hand by the speed of machines cast a blight on everything that betokened age.

Spinning wheels were stowed away in attics, grandmothers’ gowns were tucked into cedar chests, old porcelain of plain design was replaced by more gaudy utensils and machine made and embroidered dresses and lingerie lined the closets where formerly only handwork was hung.

So with given names. Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, Hannah and Anne, one and all, were declared old fashioned and were relegated to past ages to be succeeded by Gladys, Helen, Delphine, Gwendolyn, Geraldine and Lillian and a host of other more showy appellations.

Two generations of these, and woman exercised her time honored privilege and changed her mind.

She woke suddenly to the value of history, hustled from their hiding places the ancient robes and furnishings that were her insignia of culture, discarded the work of the modern machine for the finer output of her own fair hands, and, as a finishing touch, christened her children after their great-grandparents.

Old fashioned names revived with fervor and those once despised are now termed quaint and pretty and “quite the style, my dear.”

Pretty cool that this every-third-generation pattern was already an observable phenomenon three generations ago.

The article went on to list society babies with names like Barbara, Betsy, Bridget, Dorcas (“decidedly Puritan”), Dorothea, Frances, Henrietta, Jane, Josephine, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Olivia, and Sarah (“much in vogue a century ago”).

Have you see the “100-Year Rule”/”Great-Grandparent Rule” at play in your own family tree? If so, what was the name and what were the birth years?

Source: “Society” [Editorial]. San Francisco Call 17 Aug. 1913: 19.
Image: Frances Marie via Morguefile


Starlet Names from the Early 1900s

Ever heard of the WAMPAS Baby Stars?

They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.

WAMPAS baby stars 1928

About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).

Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).

I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).

  • 7: Dorothy
  • 6: Helen
  • 4: Elizabeth
  • 3: Frances, Ruth, Virginia
  • 2: Anita, Ann, Barbara, Betty, Clara, Doris, Dorothea, Eleanor, Evelyn, Gladys, Gwendolyn, Hazel, Jacqueline, Katherine, Laura, Louise, Lucille, Margaret, Maria, Marian, Marie, Marion, Mary, Patricia, Violet
  • 1: Adamae, Alberta, Alma, Anne, Audrey, Augusta, Blanche, Carmelita, Caryl, Constance, Derelys, Dolores, Duane, Edna, Eleanor, Ena, Enriqueta, Ethel, Ethlyne, Evalyn, Flora, Gisela, Gloria, Gretchen, Hattie, Helene, Ina, Ingeborg, Jacquiline, Jean, Joan, Jobyna, Josephine, Juanita, Julanne, Kathleen, Kathryn, Kitty, Launa, Laurette, Lena, Lenore, Lilian, Lola, Lu Ann, Lucile, Madeline, Marceline, Martha, Mildred, Myrna, Natalia, Natalie, Nellie, Neoma, Olive, Olivia, Patsy, Rita, Rochelle, Rose, Sally, Suzanne, Sidney, Toshia, Vera, Vina

And here are the leftover stage names:

  • 5: Sally
  • 4: Mary
  • 3: Joan, June
  • 2: Betty, Jean, Judith, Pauline
  • 1: Alice, Bessie, Boots, Claire, Colleen, Dolores, Dorothy, Elinor, Evelyn, Fay, Frances, Gigi, Ginger, Gladys, Gloria, Gwen, Iris, Janet, Joyce, Julie, Karen, Kathleen, Lila, Lina, Lois, Lona, Loretta, Lucille, Lupe, Marian, Molly, Mona, Natalie, Patricia, Sue

(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)

Finally, a few interesting details:

  • Jobyna is Jobyna Ralston, named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. Jobyna debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1927.
  • Derelys is Derelys Perdue. “Perdue’s boss, future presidential father Joseph P. Kennedy, insisted on changing her name to the more palatable Ann Perdue.” She sued, but lost, and her career never recovered. Derelys was a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s baby name list in 1924.
  • Sidney is Sidney Fox, a female who had the name Sidney/Sydney long before the name became trendy for girls.
  • Lina is Lina Basquette, who I mentioned in last week’s name quote post.
  • One of the Marys is Mary Astor, who went on to give her daughter a Hawaiian name.

Which of the above names do you like best? Why?

Source: Derelys Perdue – Biography – Movies & TV – NYTimes.com

Baby Names for the End of the World?

Bolon Yokte KuhYou guys know the world is ending in two weeks, right?

At least, that’s how popular culture has misinterpreted the ending of the 13th b’ak’tun of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar on December 21, 2012.

If your due date is December 21, why not commemorate the date with an end of the world-inspired baby name?

No, I’m not suggesting you go with something ridiculous like Armageddon or Apocalypse. (Though I have seen both used as names. Examples: Rev. Armageddon James Margerum, born in England in 1833, and Ulysses Apocalypse Johnson, born in California in 1992.)

Instead, try a name with a less obvious EotW connection. Perhaps one of these:

  • Maya – the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is most commonly associated with the Maya
  • Jeremiah – ending sounds like Maya
  • Nehemiah – ending sounds like Maya
  • Deedee – short for doomsday
  • Ann – short for annihilation
  • Catherine – inspired by cataclysm
  • Arma – short for armageddon
  • Armand – inspired by armageddon
  • Armando – inspired by armageddon
  • Gideon – inspired by armageddon
  • Don – inspired by armageddon

Or try one of the dozens of names that happen to contain the word end (short for end of the world, of course).

  • Brenda
  • Brendan
  • Enda (a masculine Irish name, e.g., Enda Kenny)
  • Glenda
  • Gwendolen/Gwendolyn
  • Henderson
  • Hendrik
  • Kendall
  • Kendra
  • Mendel
  • Nagendra
  • Rajendra
  • Rosenda
  • Rosendo
  • Surendra
  • Vendela
  • Wendell
  • Wendy

What other end of the world baby names can you think of?

Baby Name Needed – Girl Name for Twin Sister

A reader named Ayelet is expecting twins. She and her husband won’t be finding out the babies’ genders ahead of time, so they’d like to be prepared with two boy names and two girl names.

So far they’ve got August and Dominic for the boy names and Celia for one of the girl names. Once they select a second girl name they’ll be all set.

They’d like something that isn’t common (i.e. outside of the top 500). They’re considering Aliyah, Angelie, Aurelia, Eva, Isla, Juliet and Valentina, but Aliena is the current favorite:

The name we love is Aliena. She is a character in Ken Follett’s novel “The Pillars of the Earth,” which is set in twelfth-century England. But we can’t get past the “alien” in the name. I have an Alienor in my family tree, so I thought about going the Eleanor route, but I don’t like that spelling; I think I’m in love with that “Ali” sequence.

The baby’s surname will start and end with the letter n, like Nelson.

First, about Aliena. It’s a pretty name, but I’d also be worried about that “alien” association. I don’t know if I’d risk it as a first name, but it might work well as a middle.

The only alternative I can come up with is Eliana, which is an (unrelated) anagram of Aliena. But it’s ranked 193rd and climbing, so it might be a bit too popular.

Here are some other possibilities. None of these are currently in the top 500, and the ones with asterisks have a-l-i sequences.

Adina
Antonia
Amity
Adele/Adeline
Anneliese
Beatrice
Catalina*
Callista
Coralie*
Corinna
Davina
Estella
Elsa
Eloise
Esme
Flavia
Ginevra
Gwendolyn
Helena
Irina
Isadora
Judith/Judy
Leona
Lavinia
Marina
Martina
Mara
Olive
Oriana
Odette
Paulina
Regina
Rosalie*
Rosaline*
Theresa
Vera
Viola
Verity
Venetia
Zinnia

Finally, there’s the option of simply feminizing one of the boy names. August could become Augusta or Augustina; Dominic could become Dominique or Dominica.

Which of the above girl names do you like best with August, Dominic and/or Celia? What other girl names would you suggest to Ayelet?

Baby Name Needed – Middle Name for Elle

Patience and her husband are expecting a baby girl in June. They plan to name her Elle, but they’re having a tough time choosing a middle name:

My maiden name is Lewis, and my husband’s middle name is Louis. […] I don’t like Louise…but it would be cool to play on the similarity of our names for her middle name. Then again I don’t know how I feel about: Elle L. Wagner.

(Their real surname isn’t Wagner, but it does start with a W and have two syllables.)

I’m not too sure about “Elle L.” either. Putting a name and a letter that sound exactly alike side-by-side will probably cause a lot of confusion. Also, Elle followed by any L-name is going to be tricky to say aloud.

Unfortunately, though, many Louis-derived female names start with L. Most of those that don’t (e.g. Clovia, Aloysia) are fairly exotic. The only two I’d consider are Gia and Gina, which are distant cousins of Louis via the Italian Luigia.

A compound name might work. Marylou, Marylouisa, Annalou, Annalouisa…any short-ish name could be the first element, and a Louis-based name could be the second. Length would be an issue, but Elle is quite short, so I think a longer middle wouldn’t be too much of a burden.

The only other idea I had was to look at names that have consonants in common with Lewis and Louis, such as:

Celeste
Gwendolyn
Melissa
Phyllis
Sybil
Sylvia
Selena
Salome
Wilhelmina

None of the above are in the Louis family, but they could be seen as “tribute” names in a sense.

What other ideas would guys offer to Patience?