These 20 "Extinct" Baby Names Are Truly Original
These names may have fallen out of fashion, but they were once popular for a reason.
Finding the perfect baby's name is arguably the first real act of parenting — and like everything in the world of parenting, it’s far more complicated than it looks. Whether you’re trying avoid (or lean into) baby name trends… or taking stock of the names of every frenemy you’ve ever known… or conjuring the names of your favorite characters… or pouring over nicknames and name meanings… the whole thing can get very tricky very quickly.
Add to all those considerations this new list of “extinct” baby names from language-learning app Babbel, which has rounded up baby names that were once hugely popular in the U.S. but that ultimately went "extinct.” The names had to meet certain criteria to have gone the way of the dinosaurs: They needed to be ultra-popular about 100 years ago but nowhere in the top 1,000 most popular baby names in the U.S. for at least three years.
You’re going to look at this list and have one of two reactions: One, you’re going to avoid these “extinct” baby names because it’s clear to you that they went extinct for a reason. Or, two, you’re going to fall in love with them, especially if you’re looking for a vintage baby name with slightly more panache and uniqueness than, say, Amelia or Eleanor.
After all, many of these vintage gems were once beloved — and many of them come with a treasure trove of nicknames, making them not only timeless but potentially laden with character.
Extinct baby boy names:
1. Willard was most popular in 1915, and went “extinct” in the ’80s. The name means “resolutely brave,” according to Nameberry. At least one famous Willard walks among us (Willard Carroll Smith, aka Will Smith.)
2. Virgil was most popular in 1907. The name, which means “staff bearer,” is in step with what makes a boy’s name popular today. It’s also most associated with Virgil Abloh, the legendary streetwear designer who tragically passed away from cancer in 2021.
3. Bill. Yes, people really just named their kids Bill. The name disappeared from popularity in 1993, the year Bill Clinton assumed the presidency, which may or may not be related. There are basically no nicknames for this name because it’s a nickname in and of itself. But hey, if you love it!
4. Chester dropped off in 1995 after its most popular year in 1919. The nickname for Chester, Chet, was also popular as a first name, ranking 837 in 1956 before dropping off the list in 1987. Fun fact: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have a son named Chester. Yes, that’s Chet Hanks’s real full name.
5. Cecil was most popular over 120 years ago. This name is also on the shorter side, which is more trendy for boy names today. You could go with a playful nickname like “CC” for short or even just “Cee.”
Other names in the top 10 most extinct include Clifford, which dropped off popularity in 1997, perhaps tied to the rise of the Big Red Dog; Floyd, which dropped in 1998; Herman and Lester in 1999; and Lloyd in 2002.
Extinct baby girl names:
1. Myrtle dropped off the charts in 1965 after reaching peak popularity in 1901. The name, which is botanical in inspiration, is longer and more consonant than popular names today, which tend to be short and heavy on the vowels. Cute nicknames that fit trends that Myrtle can inspire, include Mya, Myrtie, or Mimi.
2. Minnie dropped off in 1971 after its most popular year in 1900, and the two biggest pop culture references for the name are iconic singer Minnie Riperton (Maya Rudolph’s mom) and Minnie Mouse.
3. Agnes dropped off in 1972 after its most popular year in 1911 and is a Greek name that means “pure, virginal” according to Nameberry. The name held on to its popularity for a long time, Nameberry notes, as “the third most common English girls' name for four hundred years.” If you love the vibe of Agnes but want a more modern sound, the nicknames Aggie or Nessie can be good alternatives.
4. Viola dropped off in 1972 after its most popular year in 1908 and is inspired by the name Violet, but it also shares a name with the musical instrument, the viola. The most notable person with the name Viola is Viola Davis, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress. A couple of nicknames that could really work today’s trends include Vi or Vivi.
5. Willie is a real stand-out here. It’s an absolutely modern-sounding name that was most popularly given to baby girls in 1909 but is derived from the traditional boy’s name William. Choosing unisex names or more traditionally masculine names for girls is more common today: Charlie, Tyler, or Leslie are common gender-neutral names. And although the name hasn’t been popular for a long time, it’s definitely on trend. If you love the name but still want a longer given name, you could name your kid Wilhelmina or Willa and use Willie as a nickname.
Other names in the top 10 most extinct baby girls include Wilma, which dropped off popularity in 1973; Ethel and Bessie in 1987. Thelma and Lois (no Louise, but so close) both rode off into obscurity around the same time, in 1982 and 1983, respectively.
To see the complete list of 61 extinct baby names, read the report from Babbel.