This Theory Says It Can Predict the Next Big Trends in Baby Names (But Does It Hold True?)

Maybe Shirley is the next Sophia

100-year rule for baby names: newborn baby in a hospital bassinet
RyanJLane/Getty Images

You want to name your baby something uncommon enough that she’s not the seventh Sarah in her class…but not so out there that she’s doomed to explain to her college roommates why her parents went with Portabella. If only there was a way to predict baby name trends—unfortunately, even researchers haven’t figured that one out.

But did you know there’s a theory that claims it can reveal what monikers will be the next big thing since Asa and Joel? It’s called the 100-Year Rule, and according to Australian baby name website Kidspot, it might be able to tell us what’s coming next.

The theory is simple: It takes 100 years for an old-fashioned name to cycle back into style. Given our collective love for vintage names, it seems totally plausible that this could hold true. (Anecdotally, for my own daughter born last year, I chose a name that in 1923 ranked just outside of the top 200. It then spent more than half a century unranked before returning to the top 1,000 in 2021.)

The Social Security Administration has yet to release its list of top-ranking names for 2023, but its data is searchable back to the 1880s. And among the top 200 most popular names from the 1920s, you’ll find classics like Henry (18), James (4) and Oliver (149) for boys; and Evelyn (12), Emma (59) and Nora (174) for girls.

Now let’s compare that to BabyCenter’s list of top names for 2023: In the top 100, there’s none other than Henry (15), James (12), Oliver (3), Evelyn (10), Emma (2) and Nora (34). Not all names have proven perennial, though. In 1923, Noah (currently no. 1 for boys) barely cracked the top 400, while Olivia (now no. 1 for girls) was down at 281. 

Does this info prove the theory correct? Eh, not really—you’d probably have to comb through decades of data to do that. We may never figure out what makes a name pop into the zeitgeist and then fizzle out. But it’s fun to predict what might come next. That said, here are some of the most popular names for boys and girls from 1924, according to the SSA:

Girls, 1924

  1. Mary
  2. Dorothy
  3. Helen
  4. Betty
  5. Margaret
  6. Ruth
  7. Virginia
  8. Mildred
  9. Doris
  10. Frances
  11. Elizabeth
  12. Evelyn
  13. Anna
  14. Marie
  15. Alice
  16. Jean
  17. Marjorie
  18. Irene
  19. Shirley
  20. Florence
  21. Martha
  22. Lois
  23. Lillian
  24. Louise
  25. Rose

Boys, 1924

  1. Robert
  2. John
  3. William
  4. James
  5. Charles
  6. George
  7. Joseph
  8. Richard
  9. Edward
  10. Donald
  11. Thomas
  12. Frank
  13. Harold
  14. Paul
  15. Raymond
  16. Walter
  17. Jack
  18. Henry
  19. Kenneth
  20. Arthur
  21. Albert
  22. Harry
  23. Ralph
  24. David
  25. Eugene

Will 2024 be Walter and Shirley’s year? Let’s just say I’m taking bets now.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...