Top 10 extinct girls’ names

This all started when I came across the work of Algernon Newton, who painted wonderful pictures of London houses and English landscapes. Even in 1943, when Enid Blyton published the first of the Five Find-Outers books, the name Algernon had become a comic archaism (as in Frederick Algernon Trotteville).

Anyway, this took me on a journey of discovery, and I ended up with two top 10, extinct girl and boy names. The boy list will arrive next week.

I used the Office for National Statistics data set of baby names in England and Wales, 1996-2020, and the scottish records for 2020 and 2021. The ONS dataset has a peculiar feature, in that it omits names that are registered only once or twice a year, for confidentiality reasons: the lowest score for any name is three. Therefore, I have defined as extinct any name that does not appear in the dataset since 2000, or in recent Scottish records.

1. Chastity. Nominated by Allan Holloway, John Oxley and Andrew Paterson.

two. deirdre. To the surprise of many current Deirdres, the name was last recorded in 1999, when there were three. Nominated by Steven Fogel.

3. Ermintrude. Nominated by Alex Burghart and the Marquess of Madeley. Marcus Leaning said that he worked with one in the 1980s, known as Ermin.

Four. Evadne. Nominated by Pernille Rudlin, whose own name also scores zero.

5. glenys. As in Kinnock. Thanks to Molly Pinner, who nominated Glynis, also defunct.

6. Hydrangea. French, but once elegant British. Thanks Harvey.

7. lilies. Scott’s grandmother.

8. Daisy flower. Margaret variant; there were three Marjories in 2020, but this spelling, which used to be common, is now extinct. Thanks to Ian Stevens.

9. merryn. Mervyn Pike was a Conservative MP between 1956 and 1974, who appeared in my Top 10 Unisex MP Names (thanks to Oliver Kamm for reminding me). As a boy’s name, Mervyn is rare but not entirely extinct (there were four in 2017).

10 seng. Upside down Agnes used to be popular in Scotland. No more. Thanks to Robert Wright.

Also extinct, though never widely known: Alwynne (Jonn Elledge’s grandmother); Blodwyn (thanks to Helen Barrett); and Corbyn: “A popular girl’s name in the early Victorian period, but fell out of favour,” said Allan Holloway (still a rare boy’s name, there were four in 2020).

Boys names adapted for girls by adding “–ina”, which used to occur more in Scotland, are mostly extinct: Donaldina, Hughina, Jamesina (Jamesina Anderson was a Glasgow City Councilor from 1945 to 1962: thanks to James Dawson ), Murdina, Neilina (thanks Margaret Caldwell), and Williamina (Barry Havenhand’s mother). Thomasina survives: there were four in England and Wales in 2019, but none in Scotland 2020-21. “I met Arthurina Arthurson, in Shetland, which seems like a rough start in life,” said David Alston.

In danger of extinction: Ambrosia, last recorded in 2012; Bertha (nominated for Fran Pickering) 2017; Dorcas 2018; Doreen 2019; Elfrida (my grandmother) 2017; Gertrude 2013; Honoria (Benjamin Lewis) 2016; Maureen (by Scope Davies) 2019; Muriel 2010; myrtle 2018; Nigella 2015; Olwyn (by Andrew Freer) 2018; Phyllis (by Chris Jones and Mollscroll) 2018; and Unity (by Siobhan O’Neil) 2011.

not quite extinct (these are the numbers registered in 2020): Alexandrina 3; Araminta 10; Ariadne 22; Beryl 3; Brenda 9; Carmel (great-aunt of Svenja O’Donnell) 5; Charity 4; Denise 4; Doris 9; Edna 8; Enid (as in Blyton, enjoying a bit of an ancient revival) 41; Ethel 17; Euphemia 8; Gladys 3; Hilla 9; Joyce (Indolent Knave’s grandmother) 13; Karen 16 (declined from 76 in 1996); calendula 9; Mary 3; Maud 7; Maude 5; Mavis 22; mild red 6; Noreen 6; Rule 5; Patience 7; Philomena 14; Portia 4; caution 14; queen 11; Shirley (asked by Shirley Madin) 8; chest 10; and Wilhelmina 11.

not extinct at all: Alma: there were 153 in 2020; Aurey 143; flower 130; Evangeline (nominated by Graham Fildes, citing Henry Longfellow’s “Evangeline – A Tale of Arcadie”) 113; Look 75; and Winfred 83.

Honorable mention (again) for henry Peacock, who told me about the remarkable names given to people in honor of battles, especially in the First World War, in which a relative died. These were mostly girls’ names, such as Sommeria, Arrasina, Verdunia, Monsalene, and Dardanella, although Verdun was a surprisingly common boy’s name. More than 1,600 children received names related to the Great War.

Thanks to Alan Benzie for pointing me to the Scottish records and to Adam Behr who found this usa name aggregator, that uses information from the Social Security Administration.

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Next week: names of extinct children.

Coming soon: people who broke what they were in charge for the greater good, starting with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Your suggestions and ideas for future Top 10 please on Twitter or by email to [email protected]

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