It all started when I came across the work of Algernon Newton, who was painting wonderful pictures of London houses and English countryside. Even by 1943, when Enid Blyton published the first of the five Find Outers books, the name Algernon had become comical archaism (as in Frederick Algernon Trotteville).
Anyway, this got me on a voyage of discovery, and I ended up with two top 10 extinct girl and boy names. The boy list is coming next week.
I used the Office for National Statistics record of babies’ first names in England and Wales, 1996-2020 and the Scottish records for 2020 and 2021. The ONS dataset has a peculiarity in that it omits names recorded only once or twice a year, for confidentiality reasons – the lowest score for a name is three. Therefore I have defined as extinct any name not appearing in the data set or recent Scottish records since 2000.
1. chastity. Nominated by Allan Holloway, John Oxley and Andrew Paterson.
2. 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 Marquis of Madeley. Marcus Leaning said he worked with a guy named Ermin in the 1980s.
4. Evadne. Nominated by Pernille Rudlin, whose own name also scores zero.
5. Glenys. As in Kinnock. Also extinct thanks to Molly Pinner, who nominated Glynis.
6. hortense. French, but once genteel British. Thanks Harvey
7. lilies. Scott’s grandmother.
8th. Margaret. variant of Margaret; There were three Marjories in 2020, but this formerly common spelling is now extinct. Thanks to Ian Stevens.
9. Mervyn. Mervyn Pike was a Conservative MP from 1956 to 1974 who appeared in my top 10 unisex MP names (thanks to Oliver Kamm for the reminder). As a boy name, Mervyn is rare, but not entirely extinct (there were four in 2017).
10 Senga. Agnes backwards used to be popular in Scotland. No longer. Thanks to Robert Wright.
Also extinct although never 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 favor,” said Allan Holloway (it’s still a rare given name for boys – there were four in 2020).
Boys’ names adapted to girls by the suffix “-ina”, which used to be more common in Scotland, are mostly extinct: Donaldina, Hughina, Jamesina (Jamesina Anderson was Glasgow City Councilor 1945-1962: 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 knew an Arthurina Arthurson in Shetland who seems to have had a difficult start in life,” said David Alston.
endangered: Ambrosia, last recorded in 2012; Bertha (nominated by Fran Pickering) 2017; Dorkas 2018; Doreen 2019; Elfrida (my grandmother) 2017; Gertrude 2013; Honoria (by 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 recorded 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, enjoys a bit of an antique revival) 41; Ethel 17; Euphemia 8; Gladys 3; Hilda 9; Joyce (grandmother of Indolent Knave) 13; Karen 16 (rejected from 76 in 1996); marigold 9; Majority 3; Maud 7; Maud 5; Mavis 22; mild red 6; Norene 6; standard 5; patience 7; Philomena 14; Portia 4; cleverness 14; queen 11; Shirley (asked by Shirley Madin) 8; chest 10; and Wilhelmina 11.
Not extinct at all: Alma: 153 in 2020; Audrey 143; bloom 130; Evangeline (nominated by Graham Fildes, quoted from “Evangeline – A Tale of Arcadie”, by Henry Longfellow) 113; Myra 75; and Winifred 83.
Honorable Mention (again) to Henry Peacock for telling me about the remarkable names given to people in honor of battles, mainly in World War I, in which a relative died. These were mostly girl names like Sommeria, Arrasina, Verdunia, Monsalene and Dardanella, although Verdun was a surprisingly common boy name. More than 1,600 children have been given names related to World War I.
Thanks to Alan Benzie for pointing me to the Scottish records and to Adam Behr for finding this US name aggregator using information from the Social Security Administration.
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Next week: Extinct boy names.
Coming up: People who broke what they were responsible for for the greater good, starting with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Please send your suggestions and ideas for future Top 10 to me on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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