Once-Popular Baby Names That Have All But Disappeared

When was the last time you met a baby called Thelma? Or Ethel? Or Virgil? If you can't remember, there's a very good reason, according to research from Babbel Magazine. These names — along with a bunch of others — are now effectively "extinct." How do we know this? The Babbel team scoured the Social Security Administration records to find the most popular baby names of 1923. If any of these names failed to feature in the top 1,000 names for any year since 2020, they were deemed DOA. We've ranked them from most to least recent to see which name is the rarest in 2023.

40. Norma

1923 Ranking: 41st

Most Popular Year: 1932 (22nd)

Last Appeared In Top 1,000: 2002 (928th)


Author Laura Wattenberg told Babbel, "These names show how dramatically American name style has changed. One hundred years ago, the fashion was for rich, heavy names dense with consonants."

Wattenberg explained that names with lots of consonants such as L, D, R, and N "felt elegant at the time." Norma obviously combines a couple of these letters to create that effect. Alas, the name has been out of fashion for at least two decades.

39. Rita

1923 Ranking: 50th

Most Popular Year: 1930 (42nd)

Last Appeared In Top 1,000: 2002 (918th)


"In the 21st century, name style has turned smooth and light," explained Wattenberg, adding, "The style transformation is so complete that parents today can hardly imagine most of the 1923 names as babies. But many of them were wildly popular."

Admittedly, it's tricky to imagine a baby named Rita. Yet while the name has fallen out of style in recent years, there are still a few notable Ritas in pop culture: Wilson, Ora, and Moreno spring readily to mind.

38. Fred

1923 Ranking: 33rd

Most Popular Year: 1900 (17th)

Last Appeared In Top 1,000: 2002 (875th)


If we asked you to name a famous Fred, you'd probably think of Fred Flintstone first and foremost. Perhaps Fred Astaire and Fred MacMurray would occur to you, too? But that proves the point of this study.

The most recent famous Freds we can think of are Fred Armisen — born in 1966 — and Fred Durst , born in 1970. And their birth names are not even Fred! This is an important distinction, by the way. The names in this ranking have all been used as given names and not nicknames or shortened names.

37. Marian

1923 Ranking: 65th

Most Popular Year: 1924 (64th)

Last Appeared In Top 1,000: 2000 (735th)


In a quirk of this ranking, both Marian and Marion are now considered "extinct" names. You'll find Marion in a much higher position on our list, though.

This spelling of Marian is probably most associated with Maid Marian from the Robin Hood tale. Perhaps if Hollywood ever decides to revisit Sherwood Forest, we'll see the name Marian rise from the ashes?