20 Forgotten Victorian Names to Put on Your List

Nov 10th 2014

 baby name roundups by theme
While the Victorian era may evoke puffed sleeves and woollen waistcoats, modern parents in search of perfect names are clamoring for the sought-after "it" names from the mid-to-late 1800s.

At the time, cross-the-pond trends were common. England was peaceful during Queen Victoria's reign … a name which spawned an entire era! Meanwhile, America was busy establishing its democracy during a bloody civil war. Americans borrowed elaborate fashions from England, as well as now-classic literature by Dickens, Thackeray and the Brontë sisters. Pioneers and prospectors were moving west in search of fortune, while average people were just trying to eat.

The feminine names of America during this time weren't tough like the times; they were sweet, even frilly. Popular male names were often inspired by religious beliefs or family names and trades. What we think of as quintessential Victorian names like Owen, Ella, Grace, and Isaac have been devoured by today's parents looking for appealing vintage sounds.

But what Victorian names are still flying under the modern-day radar? This list includes tasteful antiques that just might make an appearance on your list of favorites soon.

Adelia: Adelia strikes a stylistic balance between newly fashionable names Adele and Adelaide. This pitch-perfect choice has been sadly missing from our baby name favorites, not used in America since Victorian times. One exception is George Clooney's sister, named Adelia, though she goes by the nickname Ada.

Augustus: Fit for a toddling baby boy or a staunch Roman emperor, this seriously sober name also has the kind of whimsy that makes us smile. It takes the more popular name August up a notch in dignity, and still comes with the approachable nickname Gus (pioneers even liked to use Gust).

Baxter: It's easy to imagine a boy wearing Baxter today, alongside Dexter and other names we love for their x-appeal. This proper British surname means "baker" and feels friendly and approachable, maybe thanks in part to Ron Burgundy's dog in "Anchorman" … but don't let that spoil this very wearable name for you! The nickname Bax has a fresh, trend-worthy sound as well, like a combo of Bash and Jax.

Clementine: Is this name just for celebrity babies? We don't think so, though it seems everyday parents need some encouragement to free Clementine from its banjo-stringed cage. This feminine form of Clement may be a wonderful choice for parents who would like a Victorian-revival girl's name that's bold, frilly, and has a bit of twang. (Used by celeb parents Ethan Hawke, Claudia Schiffer, and Rachel Griffiths.)

Ebba: In Sweden, Ebba is very popular. But here, this germanic saint's name was lost long ago, along with its male derivative, Ebbe (short for Eberhard). It could easily take a place next to Ella and Emma. In the US, Ebba will be viewed as unusual but sweetly old-fashioned.

Eleanora: For a name that sounds like a combo of Ella and Nora, we're surprised more aren't catching on to this Victorian darling. After this name had faded from use, variations like Eleanor and Ellen took its place. We think it's safe to turn back the clock to this more elaborate but playground-ready form.

Ephraim: A traditional Hebrew name and a tribe of Israel in the Old Testament, Ephraim is saturated with history and culture. This name is just now showing potential in the US, barely appearing in the top 1,000 names last year for the first time since the 1800s. It was featured years ago for a character in the name-craze-inducing Twilight series, but that's not likely what inspired our newfound interest (though it probably didn't hurt!). Pronunciation is varied, though the most common is EHF-rəm.

Fletcher: A sturdy name meaning "arrow maker", Fletcher has a catchy sound along the lines of Flynn and Archer. But it hasn't yet recovered since hitting a peak in popularity in 1892. We are fond of the nickname Fletch, which may remind you of a mystery-solving reporter played by Chevy Chase in the Fletch films (Fletcher was the character's last name.)

Harriet: We're not just going to bring this name back from Victorian times, we're bringing it back to the US from across the pond. While Harriet is enjoying the popularity it deserves in the UK, Americans are a little shy about this sophisticated and sweet feminine form of Henry. Shorten it to Hattie and you've got a well-rounded vintage charmer.

Hugh: Many early Americans brought this name with them from Europe, though its popularity started waning quickly. It has germanic roots with lots of use in France and across the UK. Actors Jackman and Grant have helped bring Hugh into the 21st century, causing a few of us to take a second look at this promising throwback name.

Larkin: This surname and variant of Laurence sounds so modern, it's hard to believe the last time it made the US charts was in the late 1800s. Recently used by celeb couple Alan Ruck and Mireille Enos for their son (born July 2014), we think this savvy Victorian choice is more than ready for the 21st century.

Luella: Would you be surprised to meet a little Luella? Probably not, and yet this name is patiently waiting for more parents to consider its charm. It has a vintage feel and sneaks in on-trend nicknames like Lulu and Ella.

Mabel: On the heels of hits like Maci and Bella, we're transforming this name's reputation from passé to pretty. So we're happy to report that after a long absence from the top 1,000, we just saw Mabel appear on the charts, ranked at 707 without dilly-dallying around the 900s. We think it's bound to catch on, at least a little.

Merritt: A sweet English surname meaning "boundary gate," we think this is a fitting twist on vintage contemporary favorites like Everett. This appealing choice sounds like a virtue name, as merit is a word that means "worthy".

Ottilie: A charming feminine form of Otto popular in the 1800s, Ottilie deserves a little more time in the spotlight. With attractive nicknames like Tillie and perhaps Lottie, we think this friend of Natalie has lots of potential.

Simeon: A Hebrew name that has been dancing around the 900s for more than a decade, Simeon is a steady but unique choice. Its sound may be a little different, but we love every bit of its three syllables and "on"-trend ending, with similarities to Sebastian and Damian.

Viola: A Shakespearean charmer from Twelfth Night, Viola takes its cues from the more popular Victorian choice Violet. Those who fear it's too much like the musical instrument can relax—it's usually pronounced viy-OH-lə. Catch a production of Twelfth Night, movie adaptations like "She's The Man," or Gwyneth Paltrow's character in "Shakespeare in Love" and you'll be convinced. (Or just look to Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis.)

Wiley and Wylie: Both spellings of this name can be found among family trees going back to the late 1800s. It's a twist on Willie that makes a sly statement. With troublemaker names like Wilder and Rowdy on the rise today, we think this cunning choice could fit right in.

Winnie: Celebrity baby name influence can be deceiving. Such is the case for Winnie, an antiquated name that many of us had forgotten until Jimmy Fallon's daughter was born. The response to her adorable name was overwhelmingly positive, but only a few parents followed the Fallons' lead—so far.

Zadie: Add Zadie to your list right now. A zingy take on the rediscovered antique Sadie, Zadie was at its most popular in the 1800s and has pioneer-revival written all over it. Worn by English author Zadie Smith, who changed her name from Sadie when she was 14.

Discovering appealing but unused names from this era is exactly the kind of challenge we love around here. It's true that there's usually a good reason a name gets left behind—it may have bad connotations, the wrong sound altogether, or other obstacles to overcome.

What are your favorite Victorian names, whether underused, overused, or somewhere in between? What rare old-fashioned name would you love to bring back?

Comments

1
November 10, 2014 12:08 PM

Eleanora makes me swoon. I tried to get hubby on board with it for our daughter, but no luck. Maybe if we ever have another girl...

2
November 10, 2014 12:22 PM

A few derivation notes (or quibbles):

Baxter is technically the feminine form of "baker", although even in the Middle Ages, when that bit of Old English grammar was still half-remembered, it was a name applied most often to men.

Merritt has multiple possible derivations. One of them is a locative surname based on Merriott in Somerset (which indeed likely derives from Old English for "boundary gate"), but it can also be patronymic in origin, from an Old English name Mǣrgēat composed of parts meaning "famous Geat".

3
November 11, 2014 10:12 AM

My guess is that Simeon will not overcome its closeness in sound to simian.

My suggestion for a Victorian revival is Garnet.  It saw use in the 19th century, but never runaway popularity,  It's genuinely unisex, its use for males deriving from an old occupational surname, and for females it was part of the Victorian gem and flower name craze.  Currently we are seeing a boom in names derviced from occupational surnames, as well as a revival of interest in the gem and flower names (Ruby, Pearl, Lily, Violet, Rose, etc.), so Garnet would fit right in.

4
November 11, 2014 12:20 PM

I actually know two little girls named Clementine, well one has it as a middle paired with first name Rosalie. One goes by Clemmie and the other by Rosie. Both are under 4. I think Winnie may be more popularly used as a nickname than a given, which would make it harder to spot on the SSA data, but as the generation that grew up watching Danika McKellar's Winnie on tv is now having kids I think this name will rise.

My own vintage favorites include my daughter's name, Elena, and some others that I'm not sure of when they were most popular. Beatrix, Matilda, Adelaide, Hermione, Esmee, Ezekiel, Theodore.

5
November 11, 2014 2:47 PM

we seriously considered Clementine. Spent 3 days planning to name our baby Clementine if it was a girl.  Then I was saying it outloud and felt foolish it took so long to remember... it rhymes with our last name. :( 

 

DH is an archery hunter. I would yse Fletcher as a nod to him as a MN. He will hear none of it.

I love Harriet! He could be convinced.

I have 2 friends names Luella. roughly 40 and 28 yo. 

6
November 11, 2014 6:28 PM

My youngest daughter named her first son Ezekiel.  At first we were unsure about it since it's not a "popular" name but we've come to love it as much as we love him. He goes by Zeke and he's 2 1/2 y.o.

7
By JayF
November 14, 2014 12:50 PM

Fletcher is a character on Disney's ANT Farm. So, some kid might propose that to her parents as an option.

Ebba could appeal to fans of Abigail and Abbey. It has that same middle part, but sounds fresher.

I've always liked Rowena, Edwina, Sophronia, and Philomena. I think we could use more of those names. They just sound so pretty and elegant. And think of the nickname possibilities to casual them up...

8
November 14, 2014 4:53 PM

Aside from the delight Victorians had for giving their daughters jewel and flower names, as I remember they were also interested in older names such as may have been used in the Anglo-Saxon period, hence the fondness for such names as Edith and Matilda. They also didn't shy away from giving their daughters virtue names such as Faith, Hope, Prudence, Patience, Charity, etc. or modifications on Biblical names (Hester). I rather like the modification for Arabella which I first encountered reading the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street (which was later made into a movie). One of Elizabeth's sisters is called Arabel. I like it as it's an interesting twist on Arabella.  Just out of curiosity, does anyone know what the title is for the first book about naming children? I don't know if they are any books published on the subject of onomastics prior to the Victorian era, but I do know Charlotte Yonge, an author who lived during the Victorian period wrote The History of Christian Names which is rather like a name dictionary with entries giving the name, it's origin and it's meaning. I can't swear to her accuracy but it certainly was interesting for me as I love getting my hand on name books because encountering new names people give children has always interested me. (One of my intangible collections is all those names parents give their children and if I can learn about the names boys and girls get from cultures I don't know about, I'm happy to know about them). So ladies on the web site, do you think it's an interesting subject to blog about, the first name guides for the beleaguered parent and if one can find them in print? Not everyone may want to know about this but I do. So with regard to interesting names I like which may have been given during the Victorian period I'd choose for girls Arabel, Ermengarde, Hildegarde, etc. (I also like Rosamond and Rosalind.) For boys, now I think Victorians again liked to use Latin, Anglo-saxon, Biblical and surnames. I don't know if they cared much for Celtic names for both sexes (perhaps you ladies might know if such was the case); Names for boys illustrating what I said above: Lucius, Ephraim, Roderick, Sacheverell. I look forward to other interesting blogs on naming. Maybe one can revive interest in ancient Egyptian, medieval, or older styles of naming. I can't say I really give a hang about what's trendy as it seems to me parents like to think of themselves sometimes as non-conformists in the naming arena only to find themselves stuck among the conformists (which may be what they want). Of course I recognize there is that ambivalence about giving the child a unique name and those which will help the child blend into the general society. But I ask how many Noahs and Sophias is too many? And with this thought I leave you.

9
November 14, 2014 11:05 PM

Ellinder, I have no idea if he was first, but William Camden's Remains Concerning Britain is dated 1605, and has sections titled "Names" and "Surnames". It's of course well out of copyright, and I know I've found one of the very early editions online before, but tonight I'm only coming up with an 1870 reprint of the seventh (1674) edition: https://archive.org/stream/remainsconcerni02camdgoog#page/n17/mode/2up

Another early name book is Edward Lyford's The True Interpretation and Etymologie of Christian Names (1655), but I haven't been able to turn up an electronic version. (Here's the Google Books page on it: http://books.google.com/books?id=5z1dHQAACAAJ)

10
November 16, 2014 3:08 AM

I was delighted to see the name Adelia on your list. It is my given name, however due to much teasing as a child coupled with the fact that I went by a nickname and wasn't called by my whole name unless I was in trouble, I don't use it. I had never seen it in print nor had I ever met anyone with thensame name until my youngest granddaughter was born. My daughter liked my name and gave it to her. She went by a nn for awhile but in third grade a girl who became her best frien loved her full name so she has gone by it ever since. I work as a substitute teacher and one day I had an assignment in a resourch room class. I was told there would be a student teacher. She came in a bit late, apologized and said, "Hi, my name is Adelia." I replied, "Hi, my name is Adelia." We both laughed and said we had each known only one other Adelia in our lives. Recently my daughter-in-law's mom found a quilting book called Remembering Adelia and got it for me. Not only a cool quilting book, but also contains excerpts from her diary which is from the Civil War era.

The story behind how I got the name is this; my great grandmother's name was Maria (today is spelled Mariah - she was Irish) Cordelia. She named her daughter, my grandmother, Delia Marie. When Grandma was 10, she had perfect attendance in sunday School and was awarded a Bible with her name printed on it. However instead of printing Delia, they put Adelia which didn't make Grandma happy because theat wasn't her name. Mom liked the name and decided her first daughter should have it, and the Bible. Since I'm the first of 5 girls, I got the name.

11
December 15, 2014 4:41 PM

My 4 year old daughters name is Ellanorah. My mother picked out her name :)

12
January 16, 2015 12:48 PM

I like the variation Ardelia for Adelia. I have always loved older names and part of me is happy they're coming back but part of me is sad lol. 

I also love the names Cassandra, Delilah, Celia, Cecilia,Sophia, Arabella, Rowan, Janelle, Geraldine, Dorothea (nicknamed Thea), and many more. For boys I've loved Jasper (no, not because of Twilight-it is a family name lol), Jethro, Leland (another family name and can be a girl name too), Jareth, Jericho, etc. I have many more girl names than boys haha. Maybe one day I'll be able to use some of them.

13
January 21, 2015 1:19 AM

So glad I read through the comments! We just named our daughter Rowan! Our friends and family love it but beyond that we get funny looks when people ask her name. Of course, their opinions don't matter but it's alway nice seeing a stranger appreciate an "old-fashioned" name.

14
March 9, 2015 8:12 PM

My Shakespeare teachers taught me to pronounce Viola "VIY-ə-lə," which i prefer to other pronunciations.  I have the hardest time remembering to pronounce Viola Davis "viy-OH-lə."

16
June 23, 2015 12:56 PM

Amabel is a Victorian name I like a lot - prettier and more unusual than Annabel.

 

Also Tertia, meaning Third.    Our third child was the first girl and I would have loved to call her that, but my other half wouldn't hear of it :-(

17
August 11, 2015 10:10 PM

Marjorie

     I named my little girl after my great aunt. Her name was actually Maurgaret but she went by Margie. 

     It's a sweet name that sounds sophisticated and dressy, at the same time structured and feminine.

      I have seen the occasional character on TV with this name. They are tomboyish, in that they are not afraid to be strong, yet dressed very young and fashionably and dont mind being girlish. GH (soap) just created a Marjorie character as a person in a character's screenplay this week.

    

18
November 22, 2015 2:01 PM

My great-nephew's GF is going to name their baby Adaline which I think is a beautiful name for a little girl and is not in your list.

19
February 5, 2016 11:30 AM

I wanted either Tobias Mearle or James Buckley, for a boy...but hubby didn't like either.  :\

I think I ALMOST had him warmed up to Tobias, but then we found out it was to be a girl.  So, he got his first choice, of Rachel.  ;)

20
April 6, 2017 4:14 AM

I am named after my Grandmother who was born in the 1880's.  Her name was Stacia (no middle name), and I became Susan Stacia, born 1959.  I like the name, but never had a daughter to carry it on.  My Grandfather was Augustus, and was called Gus.  I was happy to see Augustus on the list.