Do you like the sound of Everly but prefer something vintage? Is Evelyn, which ranks #9 in the U.S., too popular for you? You may love Beverly, an old English place name meaning something akin to “beaver stream” or “beaver meadow.”
Beverly was one of the very first last-names-as-baby-names to become popular for girls. We’ve come a long way in that naming genre! I wager that most preschools have students named Harper and Avery, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if their moms or teachers are named Ashley or Taylor. Their grandmothers might be Leslie and Kelly, and their great-grandmothers could be Shirley or Beverly. The names change, but the style remains the same. Beverly was a part of the vanguard that made it cool to name a baby girl with a surname, or to name a baby girl with a boys’ name. Beverly’s old-fashioned now, but I think it’s one of the first truly modern baby names.
Beverly, like Shirley and other surname baby names, originally began as a men’s name. Indeed, Beverly became conventionally unisex for nearly 50 years before the 1950s, when it dropped out of the U.S. top 1000 for boys. I dare say that when Beverly first became popular for girls, for a brief period it was even gender neutral…as gender neutral as a name could be while trending before World War I! Even so, once it really took off for girls, there was no turning back. It was officially feminine.
What made Beverly popular to begin with? Those first names in that style didn’t come from nowhere; we know the concept of Shirley as a girls’ name came from a Bronte character . As it turns out, Beverly became popular because of a hit 1904 book, Beverly of Graustark, and a later 1920s movie based on the story. The timing is just right to imagine Beverly as a flapper or the baby of one. Beverly has a certain glamorous old-lady feel to it, making it a great choice for parents who want their daughters to sparkle and shine with confidence. There’s even the associations with Beverly Hills, California – for parents who want to evoke a sense of glitz, wealth, and celebrity – and Star Trek, for nerdy parents who love Beverly Crusher. Of course, the book that started it all isn’t even the most important literary connection to Beverly, at least not for modern parents. Today’s parents may wish to honor beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 104.
Like Everly, there’s well more than one way to spell Beverly. The most traditional alternate spelling is probably Beverley, which can be attested as a men’s name by the mid-18th century via Beverley Randolph (whose name came from a family surname). Other old spellings that aren’t currently in use for babies include Beverlee, Beverli, and Beverlye, though maybe surprisingly there’s no history of Beverleigh. There’s also Beverlyn, a rare name which peaked in the 50s but has the potential for trendiness in the 2020s and going into the 2030s thanks to the “Lyn” and “Lynn” endings that are so popular for baby girls’ names. Currently, the only two spellings parents are using are Beverly and Beverley.
Exactly how trendy is Beverly these days? Well, I think things are looking up. Beverly peaked in the 1930s and 40s before falling into near oblivion by the new millennium, eventually dipping reaching an almost 100-year-low in 2010 at just 99 girls in a year. Since then, it’s been creeping slowly back upwards – probably thanks to Everly, which started taking off right around then. Everly has actually dropped a little since its 2019 peak, but Beverly is still rising and was given to as many as 188 girls in 2021. Did Everly rise too quickly? Are parents already looking for something fresh but familiar with Beverly? Is it the vintage vibes? The nature meanings? If Beverly doesn’t take off now, I think it’s primed for the 2030s and 40s in a kind of 100-year-cycle.
What do you think of Beverly? Do you see it coming back soon? Let me know!