20 Baby Names on the Verge of Extinction

Genny Glassman | Jan 22, 2020 Pregnancy
20 Baby Names on the Verge of Extinction
Image: iStock/RichLegg

baby boy

It's always exciting to see which baby names are dominating the baby name charts. The most popular names usually tell us a lot of what's trending or can sometimes be representative of large cultural shifts. Just take the name Arya -- which has topped the baby name charts for the last couple of years. That was a trend driven by the popularity of the HBO show Game of Thrones, which makes us curious to see how the name will fare now that the show is over. 

But what about the names that aren't dominating the charts? We have to wonder about the names that are not only unpopular but also the names that are actually about to become extinct. Yep. Sometimes a name is used so infrequently it basically doesn't exist. With help from BabyCentre, we found 20 baby names that are on their way to extinction. Take a look!


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    Unfortunately for the first name on our list, Bertha has gotten a bad rap. It's no longer a cool name for girls, even though Bertha was at one point on of the most popular names in the country. And Bertha actually has a beautiful origin and history. The name comes from a short form of various Old German compound names, each containing the element beraht, which means "bright" or "famous."


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    We can't even remember the last time we met a baby named Roger, so unfortunately this name wasn't a surprise. But despite its lack of popularity, Roger is a name that has dipped in and out of favor over the last 100 years. The name was introduced to England by the Normans. It comes from the Old High German Hrodger, meaning "spear fame" and is composed from the elements hroud, "fame," and ger, "a spear."


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    Cynthia seems to be a relic from our parents' time, and in fact the name hit its peak in the 1950s and '60s, where it was a top 20 baby name. Today it's not even in the top 500. The name comes from the Latin and Greek Kynthia, which is another name for Artemus, the mythological goddess of the moon and hunting -- and is the twin sister of Apollo. The name vaguely means "from Kynthos," a mountain on the island of Delos.


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    FG Trade/iStock

    An old-fashioned name that seems to have lost its high ranking, at one point Frank was one of the most common names in the country. Frank has European origins and comes from the Old French Franc and the Germanic Frank, two name which refer to the Germanic Frankish empire. The Franks are thought to have derived their name from a type of javelin, "franco," although the name is also the shortened form of Franklin or Francis. 


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    Poor Janice was most likely taken out by the television show Friends. It was the name of one of Chandler's more notable girlfriends, and we can imagine that's where Janice got her bad rap. In the '40s and '50s, Janice was a top 25 baby name, but now, it doesn't  -- even crack the top 1,000. Yikes! But don't let that be a deterrent. Janice is a modern variant of Jane and means "God is gracious."


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    We hate to say this, but Clarence is totally a grandpa name. Don't blame us -- we're just telling the truth! Before we get a slew of hate mail, there's actually a real reason why we may have this impression. The name has seriously dipped in popularity -- in fact one could say it's dropped. In the 1880s, Clarence was the 22nd most popular baby name in the country, but today that's not the case.


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    Anita, darlllinnggg! Unfortunately not even an icon line in 101 Dalmatians could save the reputation of this baby name. Originally, Anita was a Spanish name and was the pet name of Ana, which means "gracious" or "full of grace." Today, however, in the English-speaking world, Anita has typically been given as an independent name. Sadly, Anita isn't as popular as it used to be.


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    Derived from Old English Eadmund, meaning "wealthy protection," Edmund is a compound name composed of the elements ēad, meaning "prosperity" or "wealth," and mund, meaning "hand" or "protection." And there's good reason why the name has aristocratic sensibility. Edmund was the name of the East Anglian king killed by the Danes because he refused to give his kingdom to them. He later became a martyr.


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    Heather was THE name of the '80s, and it even inspired a movie, The Heathers. But perhaps that was the name's peak, because now Heather has all but disappeared from baby name charts. In the '80s it was the sixth most popular baby name in the US, but today it's completely dropped off. Heather comes from the plant of the same name and is derived from the Old English haddyr, meaning "heather," or "plants of the heath family."


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    It might be hard to believe, but at one point Randall was one of the most popular names in the country. Back in the '50s, Randall was the 70th most popular boy's name, but that's sadly not the case anymore. Randall is the transferred use of an English surname and is derived from Randolf, meaning "shield wolf." Other variations that might still be worth considering are Rand, Randel, and Randy.


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    Adene Sanchez/iStock

    Alert, alert! Grandma name alert. Mildred is truly a relic, and its major drop in the last 100 years unfortunately means that it's no longer a hopping baby name. Mildred comes from the now obsolete Old English names Mildđryđ and Mildthryth, and derives from the compilation of the elements milde, meaning "gentle, mild, or generous," and đryđ, thryth, which both mean "strength." So the name means "gentle strength."

  • GUS

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    Gus has sadly gone the way of the typewriter, even though the name had a pretty strong beginning. Believe it or not, back in the 1880s, Gus was in the top 150 baby names in the US. The name is also the shortened form of Augustine and Augustus, and both of those names come from the Latine augustus, meaning "great" or "venerable."  Other variations on the name are Agustin, Gustaf, and Gustavo.


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    Carrie Underwood and Carrie Bradshaw might have some feelings about this one, but it's true -- Carrie is no longer a hot baby name. Carrie was originally a nickname for Carolyn, which sort of explains why it's no longer popular, as Carolyn isn't a top baby name anymore either. The name means "full grown" and is often confused with a similar sounding Irish name Kerry, which means "black haired one."

  • ROSS

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    Another baby name that was ruined by Friends, Ross has been seriously tainted by the television character. Originally, Ross was a Scottish surname and was derived from the Gaelic ros, meaning "a promontory or peninsula," but the name is more loosely translated to mean "dweller on the peninsula." The name has also been thought to be a nickname for a person with red hair or a ruddy complexion.



    Say it isn't so, Toto! Unfortunately, it's true. Dorothy is no longer a popular baby name. We do think that Dorothy will always be a name in the zeitgeist, but most likely we won't see many Dorothys running around the school yard. The name originated from the Greek Dōrothea and is a compound name made up of the elements dōron, meaning "gift," and theos, meaning "God." So therefore one could take it to mean "gift of God."


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    We hate to see it happen, but Clive has made this list. Clive! It's actually a name that we really, really like. Unfortunately, we don't make the rules, and Clive has become one of the names on the brink of becoming extinct. Clive is the transferred use of a last name and comes from the Old English clif, which means "cliff, slope, or bank of a river." Another cute alternative we like is Cliff.


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    Fans of That 70s Show might be surprised to see Donna on this list, but Donna hasn't been a top 10 baby name since the '50s and '60s. Other similar names like Dawna or Dona have also fallen in popularity, but in its origins Donna was originally a nickname. It used to be a feminine coinage of the name Donald, meaning "world ruler," or was borrowed from the Italian donna, meaning "lady."


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    In the US, Bertram is not a very popular name, but in other parts of the world such as Denmark, Bertram is still a hot moniker. Taken from the obsolete Old High German Berahtram, which means "bright raven," it is also a compound name made from the elements beraht, meaning "bright, famous," and hraban, meaning "raven." Other cute variations of the name are Bert and Bertrand.

  • GAIL

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    We have a certain affinity for Gail, which makes it hard for us to say that it's made it to this list. In the '40s, '50s, and '60s, Gail was a top 100 baby name, but as time moved forward, it's fallen out of favor. Originally, Gail was a shortened form of the biblical name Abigail, which means "father of exaltation," but it quickly became a name in its own right. Other variations are Gale and Gayle.


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    A name that will forever be tied to old Hollywood westerns, John Wayne was the figure that perhaps brought the name to national popularity. Today, Wayne is not a popular baby name, and to some people that might be a shame! Wayne's origin was a surname that came from the Old English wægn and wæn, meaning "wagon" or "cart." The name also quickly became associated with the occupational name for a wagoner.

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