When I was 10 or 11 years old, I saw Gone with the Wind for the first time.
I’m sure there were many things about the movie I liked, but the thing that stood out to me was that there was a MAN named Ashley. I knew plenty of Ashleys, but I’d never known one that was male (and now, 20 years later, I’ve still never met a male Ashley).
When I was spending hours poring over the Social Security baby name lists before Ani was born, I was surprised to see how many names that are now considered predominately female names that used to sit on the male side of the list. My husband and I loved checking the Social Security Administration’s lists to see how a name’s popularity had changed over the last 100 or so years.
Here were 25 that surprised me most — which ones catch you off guard?
For girls, Allison is doing just fine. It’s been in the top 100 since 1974. For boys? Not so well. It fizzled in 1937 and made one final gasp in 1946.
Since 1880, this name hasn’t dipped below #106 for girls. But for boys, Anna hit its heights at the turn of the 20th century in the low 300s, and hasn’t reappeared in the top 1,000 since 1930.
This is a staple name for girls, although it’s way down in the 300s now, compared to the top 20 status it enjoyed for decades. It was popular for boys in the 1900s, but eventually fizzled out in 1937.
Ashley didn’t appear on the top 1,000 for girls until 1964, but it was a rock star, jumping all the way to #1 in the early ’90s and continuing to hold strong today at #122. As a male name, it dates all the way back to the beginning of the list in 1880 and hit 282 in 1980. By 1994, though, it was off the top 1,000 for boys.
This is my mom’s name, so it strikes me as strange to see it on the male list. It was a top 5 female name in the 1940s for six years running, then plummeted in the ’90s. In the 1930s, it was up into the 300s for males, but then dropped even faster, until it disappeared in 1965.
This name is wildly popular for girls, never dropping out of the 500s in the last 130 years and continuing to rise (it’s 49 right now). In fact, our baby’s middle name is Claire. For boys it’s been less stable, bouncing around up to #531 in 1905 and then vacating the premises in 1936.
This name hasn’t aged well — it dropped off the list for boys in 1942 and in 1992 for girls. Do you think it’ll make an encore appearance for either?
Dorothy is making a slow comeback for girls (it’s currently #601) after ranking in the top 5 for a solid 25 years between 1909 and 1934. No such comeback looks to be in store for males, as the name dropped off the list in 1945.
Hazel was a solid part of the top 1,000 for males until 1940; it hasn’t returned since. On the female list, Hazel spent 50 years in the top 100, before nosediving spectacularly and disappearing altogether in 1976. Then it roared back in the late ’90s, jumping all the way to #43 in 2017.
Ivy’s been a showstopper for girls, remaining on the list since 1880 and currently ranking at #108. It did less well for boys, though, dipping into the 900s in the ’30s and leaving forever in 1935.
After a 20 year hiatus, June came roaring back for girls, hitting #244 in 2017. For boys, though, it tapered off in the 1920s, departing permanently in 1939. I’m guessing it’s not a hiatus …
Lacy made it into the top 400 at the turn of the 20th century, but lost ground after that and disappeared in 1968. Six years later it appeared on the girls list and held on until 2005. Think it’ll come back for girls? I’m not holding my breath that it’ll come back for boys.
Lauren did well for boys through 1958, then made a brief comeback in the ’80s. It really took off for girls, though, in the late seventies and hasn’t dropped out of the top 1,000 since! (It’s currently sitting at #148).
Lindsay has jumped on and off the list for males as much as almost any other name, all the way back to 1880 and making its last appearance in 1985.
Madison is currently #9 for girls, but it was a boys name through the 1920s, and then made a big comeback between 1987 and 1999. It made one last appearance in 2004 at #857. Do you think it’ll come back for boys or is it firmly entrenched in girl territory now?
Margaret was on the list for males all the way through 1943, bouncing around in the 600s and down into the 900s before disappearing completely.
Marie had its heyday for girls 100 years ago at #10 and has never dropped below 600, but only showed up on the list for males in 1913 and 1926.
Meredith was huge for girls in the ’70s and ’80s and still makes a respectable showing, For boys, though, it lost its place in 1954 and shows no sign of returning.
Poor Patsy. It was up at 371 (for boys!) through the 1930s, but then dropped off entirely by 1949. As a girl name, it also lost ground fast and hasn’t been seen on the top 1,000 since 1975.
Pearl is just starting to creep back into the top 1,000 names for girls, but I was surprised to see that it’d been in the top 600 for boys for most of the 1910s!
Like many old-fashioned names, Ruby has been making a huge comeback in the last few years for girls. It hasn’t made a comeback for boys, though. It hasn’t hit the top 1,000 for boys since 1940.
Ruth was the #5 girls name from 1913-1922, but it was also on the top 1,000 for males during that same time period (although, certainly not at #5).
Sandy hit its peak of popularity for girls in the sixties (topping out at 126 on the list), but it remained a name on the male list all the way through 1982.
Vivian is up to 97 for females as of 2017, but it was a strong presence on the list for males until 1933 when it fell off permanently.
It tried so hard, popping on and off the list all the way up through 1988, but finally gave its last breath for males and hasn’t returned. It didn’t show up on the female list until 1962, but it’s been a strong contender there, peaking in the mid ’80s and currently holding a place at #838.More On