Historically speaking, the '40s are almost always thought of in the context of World War 2, which didn’t end until 1945. But we have that same decade to thank for some more uplifting things too, like the invention of Silly Putty, color TV, frisbees, and boxed cake mix (a true blessing). By and large, the decade was an austere one, and there are many beautifully classic
baby names from the 1940s that will always be taken seriously and deserve to have a resurgence.
The top names of the decade were James and Mary, according to the
Social Security Administration, names that still hold up today. Two of my favorite children’s books were written in the '40s: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, so if you want to really get into the spirit of the era, you could rock little William or Margaret while reading a timeless book. From the traditional and well-loved names, like John or Anne, to the unexpected, like Pippi or Tennessee (inspired by Tennessee Williams who published A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947), I’ve got you covered with 18 baby names from the ‘40s that you’ll be an eager beaver to use for your newest arrival.
"Rosie The Riveter" is the unofficial cultural mascot of the 1940s and an icon of female empowerment. This beautiful, floral-derived name is one your kiddo can be proud of, especially when they learn why you chose it.
Margaret means "pearl", according to Nameberry. It has so many beautiful nicknames, too: Maggie, Margot, Marge, Meggie, even sometimes Greta or Peggy. The possibilities are endless, and it's classic on its own.
The 1940s was a time when many of the most classic names prevailed, like
William, which means "resolute protector" per SheKnows. You could call your kiddo Will or Billy for short, and I personally love the latter for a girl, too. Pippa Middleton is partially responsible for the resurgence of her name, but what about a twist with Pippi? Pippi Longstocking was first published in 1945 and is written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, another name that's due for a comeback. Judith, which means "woman from Judea" per Nameberry, was the fourth most popular name in 1940. This may have been because Judy Garland had just started in The Wizard Of Oz in 1939. Judy is a fun nickname, and Jude is an effortless and gender-neutral twist on a classic.
This name, which means "God is Gracious" (per
SheKnows) has been popular since at least the 1400s thanks to Joan of Arc. While I usually think of Joan as a female name, certain Catalan and Valencian cultures use it as a primarily male name.
This name is a timeless choice and was the 37th most popular name in the '40s according to the SSA. Henry can be a first or last name, and means "
ruler of the estate," according to Nameberry. Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images
I'll be honest, when I hear this name, I think of Doug Funny from the Nickelodeon show and not the 1940s, but it was a common name then that's ready for a comeback. It's also the name of a Celtic river, and fittingly, it means
"dweller by the dark stream," according to Nameberry.
A beautiful and classic name,
Anne means "Grace", per Nameberry. It stands beautifully on its own or as the suffix of some of the '40s most popular names: Suzanne, Dianne, Joanne, or Jeanne.
I've always loved one syllable names (possibly because I have one?). Jane exudes strength, and there's nothing plain about it. It's the feminine form of the name John and means "
Jehovah has been gracious," per SheKnows.
Like Jane, John is a timeless name also meaning
"Jehovah has been gracious" (per SheKnows) that feels both gentle and strong. While it's a popular name (think John Doe) and was the third most common name in the 1940s and Johnny and Johnnie also made the list, you don't hear it too frequently anymore.
Tennessee Williams wrote
A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1940s and it's such a cool name. Reese Witherspoon has a son named Tennessee, and I can see Tenn being a unique nickname.
Daisy means "
day's eye" according to Babycenter, and the famous and loveable character Daisy Duck was created by Disney in 1940. While the name always gets associated with The Great Gatsby, it does have roots in the '40s, too.
Lawrence was the 31st most popular baby boy's name in the 1940s (Beverly held that spot for girls,
per the SSA). I can see the name being beautiful for all genders, plus with Laurie from Little Women coming back into the spotlight, I suspect this name will have a major moment soon.
Jack is traditionally thought of as a nickname for John, and it means "
God is gracious" per Nameberry, but it can certainly stand on its own. It's a strong, simple name with a playfulness to it.
This sweet name, which means
"free one", per Nameberry, is having a major resurgence and for good reason. It's gender-neutral (the male version is typically spelled "Francis"), and has a ton of great nicknames including Franny and Frankie.
George Orwell wrote
1984 in 1949, plus the name was the 15th most popular of the decade, per the SSA. You could opt for Georgia or Georgie, too.