Life in the 50’s: Popular Names

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.

Hi folks, it’s Retro Dee with another post about Life in the 1950’s!

This post is about a favorite topic of mine: names!


Given names have always fascinated me. Why is it so important to follow the trends? Why not just pick a name because you like it? Of course, not all parents follow the trends, but according to the annual Top 1000 Baby Names List compiled in the United States by the Social Security Administration, names have followed trends for decades.

Today, we’ll have a look at the popular Baby Names of the 1950’s, but first we’ll look at the common names that many people had during that era:

Betty and Shirley

What names do you think of when you think of folks back in the 1950’s? Betty and Shirley most definitely come to mind. This is because both names were wildly popular in the 1920’s through the early 40’s. So by the 1950’s, the amount of young ladies named Betty and Shirley was significant.

In addition to Betty and Shirley, young women of the 50’s had names like Peggy, Barbara, Cathy, Judy, Nancy, Donna, Patsy and Carol.

Mary was still very common in those days, and was still the number one name of the era, but it was beginning to used more creatively. Mary was often paired with a second name such as “Ann” or “Jo”.

The Fellas

Young men of the 1950’s had names like Eddie, Richie, Jerry, Johnny, Jimmy, Tommy and, perhaps, the most common of all, Bobby.

The suffix -“y” (or -“ie”) was frequently given to a boy’s name to shorten it and/or to give it an endearing kind of twist.

In later years, this trend subsided. Certain names for boys ceased all together. By the 1980’s, it was considered “uncool” to call a boy “Jackie” or “Sandy”– those were considered feminine and used almost exclusively for girls.

Nick Names

Perhaps the most notable thing that sets the 1950’s apart from any other era names-wise, were the nick names. In no other time were nick names used more frequently, especially for boys. This is especially true of nick names that were not a diminutive of the given name.

Today names like “Buddy” and “Sonny” induce giggling, but in the 1950’s they were perfectly normal!

“Buddy” is said to be derived from the word “brother”, and “Sonny” is a term of endearment for the word “son”. While those were the most common two, other nick names for boys might be “Sparky”, “Smitty”, “Rusty” or “Buzz”.

Nick names could be anything, really, having to do with looks, personality or even inspired by a fella’s last name.

But why were nick names used so often as alternatives to the boy’s given name?

One reason could be that boys in those days were almost always named after someone. Unlike girls, boys had few trendy names. Boys were usually Juniors, or named after a grandfather or an uncle. So by the time the 1950’s came around, there were so many Johns, Jameses, Roberts, Richards, Charleses, Josephs, etc… that they had to go by something else entirely to set them apart.

Another reason? The Fifties were just more fun!


Baby Names of the 1950’s


As with any new generation, came new naming trends for the babies of the 1950’s. The generation of babies born during that time became known as the “Baby Boomers”. Some of the trendier names can date a person to their era.

Let’s have a look at some of the popular names for the year 1957:

Top 10 Baby Names For 1957:


  1. Michael
  2. James
  3. David
  4. Robert
  5. John
  6. William
  7. Mark
  8. Richard
  9. Thomas
  10. Steven


  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Debra
  5. Karen
  6. Deborah
  7. Cynthia
  8. Patricia
  9. Barbara
  10. Donna

Some of these names for girls might seem antiquated to us, but who knows when they might come back in vogue! Like fashion, names can make a comeback, so what might seem “old” to us now, may again be a baby-naming trend in the future.


Thank you for reading my post on names. For more, please follow Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever.  You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and Instagram @mariepascal82


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