These Were 20 of the Top Baby Girl Names In the 1940s

Lauren Gordon | Jan 24, 2020 Pregnancy
These Were 20 of the Top Baby Girl Names In the 1940s
Image: iStock

happy baby girl

The '40s in America were a tumultuous time. After coming out of the Great Depression, and moving into World War II, there was nothing the first half the the decade didn't throw at our elders. But still, the 40s brought us a bevy of things that impact our culture to this day. 

After suffering for nearly half a decade of war, when it finally ended people in the '40s were ready to celebrate. And by celebrate, we mean make some babies, #sorrynotsorry. The late 1940s to the early '50s, America experienced a "boom" of births, which is how our boomer parents came to be. Having a lot of babies meant there was a lot of need to come up with names. The monikers chosen in the '40s were highlight classic, slightly religious, and overall, enduring names that are ripe for making a comeback. 

To help resurrect some of these timeless names, we took at look at the most popular baby girl names from the decade. We looked at Social Security's register of names and listed them from 20 to 1. Out of 14,894,166 female births that occurred within the decade, these names were the most frequently given to baby girls. And honestly? We could see these 

  • 20. DOROTHY

    baby girl in a pink shirt that says

    There were 132,245 Dorothys born in the 1940s, and honestly, it is easy to see why. After spending the decade either in war or post war, having a child was like a light at the end of a dark tunnel. Dorothy means "a gift from God," which we are sure is exactly how people of this decade felt about their baby girls. To modernize the name, parents today could call their sweet girls Dot, Dottie, Doro, Dora, or Dorie.

  • 19. JOYCE

    baby girl with bow on head crawling on floor looking at mom

    Joyce is a name on every Stranger Things fan's radar thanks to mom extraordinaire Joyce Byers. But in the 1940s, 151,487 baby girls were also given that name. Joyce's name evolution stems from obsolete Jocosa, which is derived from the Latin jocosa, which means merry or happy. Joyce also has a bevy of adorable nicknames like Joycie, Joey, Jo, and Jocey.

  • 18. KATHLEEN

    little girl in pigtails making a

    This beautiful baby girl name has deep Irish, Gaelic roots. It's a Gaelic form of Katherine, which means pure or unsullied. Considering the vast numbers of Irish immigrants who resided in the US and were trying to assimilate during the '40s, it makes sense that nearly 152,976 baby girls were given that name. Nickname potential is seemingly limitless, choose from: Kat, Kate, Kath, Kathie, Kathy, Kay, Kitty, or even Lena.

  • 17. DONNA

    baby girl wearing pink cap and fluffy winter coat.

    A feminine take on the name "Donald" this simple name has endured the test of time. In the '40s, 165,521 baby girls were named Donna in the US. Its meaning is borrowed from the Italian word donna meaning "lady." While Donna does sound like a dated name, nicknames like Donnie and Dee give it a modern, gender neutral vibe. 

  • 16. KAREN

    Karen 167,693

    We hear the name Karen a lot, and that's likely because 167,693 baby girls were given the name throughout the 1940s. Poor Karens get a modern bad rap on social media, likely due to the rolling joke that "Karens" always want to talk to a manager. But we think his is a super pretty name, especially with its roots indicating Karen means "pure."  Kiki and Ren are two nicknames for Karen that also shut down that stereotype. 

  • 15. JUDY 

    167,716 names judy, newborn baby girl

    In the '40s 167,716 girls were given the adorable one-syllable name of Judy. Though technically a nickname for Judith, Judy really stood on its own as a moniker during this decade.  Some of our favorite nicknames for this sweet and simply classic name are Jude and Juju -- both endearing and modern takes any little girl would be happy to have. 

  • 14. SHIRLEY 


    Deriving from an old English surname, Shirley has a cheery meaning of being "bright" and "clear," and alludes to the vastness of beautiful open rolling fields and meadows. The idea of a bright and sunny name must have appealed to parents in the 1940s, because 171,772 girls were named that in the decade. 

  • 13. MARGARET

    baby girl with chubby cheeks.

    The name Margaret, meaning "pearl," was a widely popular name throughout history, but particularly so in the '40s. There were 173,014 girls named Margaret in that decade, and while the name is older sounding, there is no shortage of ways to modernize it. There are more than 20 nicknames for Margaret, including Peggy, Maggie and even Daisy (likely because of the French spelling, Marguerite, means "daisy" in French).

  • 12. CAROLYN


    Carolyn is undoubtedly a classically beautiful name. A feminine form of the name "Charles" there were 181,848 babes named Carolyn throughout this iconic decade. Though it is often confused for Caroline, there are a ton of adorable nicknames derived from Carolyn to really set it apart. Carrie, Lyn, Callie, Cal, Carol, Carly, Carney, Cara, Linny, Linnie, Linna, Lynna, and Lynnie are all adorable nickname or alternate name options. 

  • 11. BETTY


    Though often a nickname for Elizabeth, Betty has stood on its own for some time. In the 1940s there were 194,611 girls named Betty, likely for its religious meaning being "God is my oath." Betty's modern redemption definitely comes in the form of pop culture, as it is the moniker of one of the heroines in the seemingly timeless comic Archie.

  • 10. SUSAN


    Susan is another traditional name that boomed in the '40s. There were 212,011 baby girls bestowed with that name throughout the decade. Derived from the Hebrew name Shoshana, it means "a lily, a rose," which is a pretty lovely name for any girl born in any decade. Plus Susan has nicknames the run from cutesy like "Suzey" to edgy, like Suki. 

  • 9. JUDITH


    While Judy (a nickname of Judith) made the top 20 list, the full name clocked in as the ninth most popular name in the '40s. There were 218,021 babies given the name Judith, and it is easy to see why. Not only is it an elegant name, it's Hebrew roots mean "he will be praised," which is a super celebratory name meaning for anyone who is religious. 

  • 8. SHARON


    Sharon is definitely an old-school name, considering there were 221,225 babies named so in the '40s. What can make Sharon really work today is the nickname potential. Officially, her name can be Sharon, but colloquially she can be called Shari or even cooler Shay. We'd consider this for that nickname potential alone!

  • 7. NANCY


    While Nancy sounds like its originally its own name, it is actually a widely popular nickname for Ann. But considering 252,041 babies were given the moniker Nancy without the formal Ann, we'd say many felt confident the name could stand on its own. There were plenty of famous Nancys throughout history, including Frank Sinatra's own daughter. 

  • 6. SANDRA


    When I hear the name Sandra, my mind automatically flits to Sandra-Dee of Grease fame -- which considering the era the movie takes place it, it makes sense. In the 1940s 265,522 girls were given the name Sandra, which is a derivative of Cassandra. To shorten Sandra, "Sandy" is a sweet alternative. 

  • 5. CAROL


    Carol is a super congenial name. Derived from modern vocabulary meaning "joyous song," anyone with the name Carol can light up a room. There were 292,325 babies named Carols in the '40s, and the name is such a classic it holds up to today's name pool. Carrie is an adorable and sweet nick name for any little girl lucky to have this name. 



    The name Patricia has fallen off of the popularity charts in the US in recent decades, but throughout the 1940s there were 411,403 baby girls given that name. Patricia is the female form of Patrick, which means nobleman or aristocrat. There are some expected nicknames for Patricia, like Trish or Patti, but modern, edgier parents might be more inclined to give this name knowing that nicknames like Attie and Trix are possible. 

  • 3. BARBARA 


    "Kids" today probably equate Barbara with Stranger Things' unlikely poster girl Barb. In the '40s there were 425,249 girls blessed with the name. While it has dwindled in popularity since then, it might be worth considering, given the cute nickname potential of Babs and Barbie. 

  • 2. LINDA


    When we call Linda a beautiful name, we mean it literally. In Spanish, the name Linda means beautiful or pretty, which is perfect for anyone's new baby girl. In the '40s, 531,640 girls were given this name,  Lindy is a really cute and modern take on this classic name. 

  • 1. MARY


    The top name of the 1940s, with 640,031 baby girls given this moniker, stands the simple and classic Mary. Mary had been popular for over a century at this point, likely due to its ties to Christianity. There is a lot of debate around the meaning of the name, but "rebellion, "wish-for child," and "mistress or lady of the sea." Being a one-syllable name, there aren't a ton of nicknames for it, but overall it is a beautiful moniker that really works for any generation. 

More Slideshows