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How Baby Names Have Changed Over the Years

Alison Wood |23, July 2013


John, Mary, Theodore. These are definitely names you don't hear among young moms anymore. Raymond, Charles and Ruth. Yep, those are almost extinct among today's generation as well. Patsy, Stanley and Juanita -- outdated as well. Baby names have drastically changed over the years. How have they changed and why?

The name a parent chooses for their little bambino reflects their overall lifestyle. It also shows what aspects of life are important to them, like religion, history, sports, or family. Some people may choose to name their baby after a famous person; others may choose a traditional family name.

During the 1700s, many Puritans chose names like Obedience and Abstinence because they thought the name they chose for their child would later help form his or her character.

One notable saying is: "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."

We all want to have a good name, and even more so want to give our child the best name we can conjure up. For some moms, the job of choosing the perfect baby name is quite stressful.

Certainly, over the years, and even today, choosing a name for your child is serious business. This child will have to live with it the rest of his or her life.

In 2011, Olivia was a name heard in many hospital nurseries. In a couple of years, the name will be plastered around at thousands of preschools. This name was recorded for a baby girl 17,169 different times in 2011. Certainly all the women in 2011 did not group together and decide to name their daughters Olivia. No, their decisions were affected by social life, media and the economy of that year.

By observing the names chosen in a certain time period we can grasp a lot about the society at that time. Though one little girl may love her name Olivia now; she may become offended when four other girls in her class have the same name as her! But, she will soon forget her troubles when she hears that three girls are named Ava and two are named Ella. She may even see a few boys that sport the masculine form of her name -- Oliver.

Today, individualism is growing in America. New moms and Dads are not afraid to branch out and name their kids, "Winter", "Neveah," or "North". In fact, the more unique and authentic a name his, the more it seems to ring in tune with the ever-changing American culture. Society now encourages people to "think outside of the box" and even in elementary and preschool years you can hear teachers instructing the students to "color outside of the lines". All these are examples of how our culture is encouraging individualism and creativity.

The classic names such as Michael, David, Sara and Joshua are now viewed as trite and mundane. These classic names also reflected a very religious country that is now morphing into a more secular society. Names like Faith, Hope and Charity that reflect religious importance are still heard across school classrooms today, but that was definitely a trend about eight years ago.

More conservative parents still choose to go with the classical names today, even though they are considered trite.
"I chose classic, religious names for my children because I believe that is the most important aspect of a human's life. Each one of my children also carries a family name, as my husband and I believe family is important as well." Says one mom.

"Me? I wanted my kids to have names that have rich meanings. I researched their meanings before I chose a name. Instead of googling specific names, I googled specific meanings. I love to tell people that Bella means beautiful!" states a mom whose all smiles.

Meanings, social trends, religion and creativity all play a role in the specific name a baby receives. Now, you may hear names of certain celebrities being passed on to small babies. Also, if any major tragedies arise, you may hear namesakes of those. Names of infamous hurricanes have also graced the lips of new moms. You may also hear names like "Trayvon" be repeated in nurseries as people recall recent, emotional news stories.

As you choose your baby's name, carefully consider what is most important to your family. Is it keeping the family's name, keeping up with popular trends, expressing your creativity and individualism or passing down your religious beliefs? Whatever is most important to you, that is what is most likely going to be the decision-maker for your expectant little one. Will it be Skylar or Elizabeth? Would love to hear your choice!

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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