20 Forgotten Victorian Names to Put on Your List
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?