The decade of the 1940s had two distinct parts. For the first half of the decades, World War II dominated every day of waking life. The rest of the decade saw the start of the Baby Boomer generation as soldiers returned from war and started new lives.
The 1940s names given to baby boys and girls give a glimpse into the world at that time.
The top two popular names from the 1940s are James and Mary. James moved ahead of Robert, which was the most popular boy name of the 1930s. Mary held the top spot as it had since the 1880s.
New girl names appeared at the top of the '40s list. Linda is the most visible. It rocketed from #89 during the 1930s up to the second spot in the 1940s.
Other girls names that jumped up into the top ten include Carol, Sandra, Sharon, Judith, and Susan.
On the boys' side, the biggest jump into the top ten 1940s boy names was the classic name Michael (#9). In the 1930s, Michael was down at number 35. The 1940s saw it leap far ahead.
Two other names jumped into the top ten: David (#5) and Ronald (#10).
Hollywood's Influence on 1940s Baby Names
The Golden Age of Hollywood continued into the 1940s. The influence is reflected in the names given to babies that reflected some film greats of the era.
One of the best actresses of the 1940s was Betty (#11) Grable. She was the number one box office draw in 1943, outranking greats like Clark Gable, Bob Hope, and Greer Garson.
Gene (#96) Autry continued his cowboy singing career in films, after serving as a pilot during World War II. Some of his noted films from the 1940s include Robin Hood of Texas and Riders of the Whistling Pines.
Gregory (#64) Peck started his iconic career in the 1940s. He was nominated for four Academy Awards in the 1940s, with films like The Keys of the Kingdom, The Yearling, Gentleman's Agreement, and Twelve O'Clock High.
Rita (#58) Hayworth started her career in the late 1930s, but really found fame in the last half of the 1940s. Some of her iconic films include Gilda in 1946 and The Loves of Carmen in 1948.
Technology Moves Forward
The 1940s saw science move forward. Invention and innovation continued through the war.
Howard (#53) H. Aiken designed the IBM's Harvard Mark I, which was installed in February 1944. It was used to run certain mathematical problems associated with the Manhattan Project.
Dennis (#20) Gabor developed holography, which uses light diffraction to create 3D images.
Peter (#41) Goldmark invented the modern color television technology while working at CBS. It was introduced on August 20, 1940.
The baby names from the 40s are a mix of traditional and more modern. This trend will only continue into the decades to follow.
1940s Boy Names
1940s Girl Names
Are Popular '40s Names Still Popular Today?
It's certainly been a while since the 1940s! Are the names that were popular then still popular now? Let's take a look at the top five boys and girls names from the '40s to see.
For boys, the top five names in the '40s were James, Robert, John, William, and Richard. James is still extraordinarily popular in 2023, ranking at number nine. Robert doesn't fair quite as well on the popularity scale, ranking at 144. John remains in the Top 50 at rank 40. Similarly to James, William is very popular in 2023, ranking at 12. Richard is the least popular of these '40s names in 2023, ranking at 411.
For girls, the top five names in the '40s were Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, and Carol. Biblical name Mary is not too popular anymore, ranking at 330 in 2023. Linda is quite unpopular these days, ranking at 1,534. Barbara ranks even worse on the popularity scale, sitting at a measly 1,831. Patricia continues the decline, sitting at a low 2,096. Finally, Carol stands as the least popular of these five names, ranking at 4,138 in 2023. If you want an uncommon name for your daughter that isn't outlandish or too eccentric, these five names are definitely good options!
Top 100 Baby Names by Decade
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Brett Jordan / CC BY 2.0, Flickr.