These Old-Time Baby Names are Still Rare, But Coming Back

Jun 28th 2017


Looking for a name that's traditional and familiar, but has an element of surprise? Outside the mainstream, but not unfashionable? It's the elusive dream of many baby namers, and today I'm offering up 64 candidates.

I've scanned historical baby name stats for old-time names that spent generations in "hibernation" and are still unusual, but have seen steady and significant growth over the past few years. The long quiet period makes them intriguing to modern ears. The modest current popularity helps them stand out. And the upward momentum suggests they have some style energy to them.

I've divided the names by popularity. The "Uncommon" names below are currently ranked #500-1,000 for boys or girls, meaning they're still rarely heard but likely to be well accepted. The "Scarce" names are ranked below #1,000, in some cases far below. That makes many of them bolder choices — potentially high-impact, but riskier. Not everybody is ready for names like Wolfgang or Opie…yet.


Image: statelibraryofnsw/flickr

UNCOMMON OLD-TIME GIRLS      UNCOMMON OLD-TIME BOYS
Mabel Lionel
Renata Conrad
Beatrice Forrest
Pearl Fletcher
Dorothy Langston
Rosie Clyde
Louisa Benton
Maxine Shepherd
Ramona Louie
Frankie Lyle
Sylvie Otto
  Gus

 

SCARCE OLD-TIME GIRLS              SCARCE OLD-TIME BOYS
Opal Edmund
Octavia Murphy
Florence Wolfgang
Loretta Merritt
Winnie Woodrow
Viola Allister
Eleanora Conway
Flora Booker
Ida Archibald
Rae Prescott
Imogen Opie
Rosalind  
Letty  
Marceline  
Edie  
Cleo  
Julietta  
Millicent  
Lois  
Lula  
Goldie  
Josephina  
Violetta  
Joan  
Lottie  
Theodora  
Sybil  
Philomena  
Leonie  
Dorothea  

 

Read More:
The Timeless Baby Names You've Overlooked
Every Single 1920s Baby Name with Comeback Potential

Comments

1
June 28, 2017 3:17 PM

I am surprised at how many under 15 year old people I've meT with these names. (I teach, so I do get to meet lots of kids). Many of these names are in the "gone but not forgotten" camp. 

2
June 28, 2017 7:55 PM

Not pregnant, so this may change, but quite a few of these were already on my list. 

3
June 29, 2017 3:36 PM

I love Edmund so much, but my husband vetoed it due to King Lear! Would love to see it used more.

4
June 29, 2017 7:44 PM

About a dozen of the names on the girls iist are on my long list of names... not so many of the boys ones, but I like a lot of them still.

Some names surprise me that they haven't gotten more popular yet, like Ida, Cleo and Lula all sound like they should be trendy already. 

I know a sibset of Otto and Loretta, so I guess their parents like this style of names!

5
June 29, 2017 9:56 PM

If you combine the spellings Edmund and Edmond, this name would make the uncommon rather than the rare list. I love it.

6
June 29, 2017 11:50 PM

Edmund, Rosalind, and Sybil are on my list, I love them. I'm only slightly hesitant to use Edmund, as I loathe the obvious nicknames. It didn't stop me from using Arthur for our first, though, so who knows. 

7
July 12, 2017 1:38 PM

I've heard many of the 'scarce old-time girls' names on young children here in the UK - I'd not bat an eyelid at little Florence, Flora, Ida, Imogen, Lula, Lottie or Leonie, for example.

8
July 16, 2017 5:59 AM

jelizabeth, yeah, I've noticed Leonies here and there in London. When I lived in the States, I never heard this name, never ever -- didn't even know how to pronounce it!

I'm trying to help a couple with a name for a baby girl right now, and this list seems to fit their style. Laura certainly captures the American name zeitgeist with "traditional and familiar, but has an element of surprise; outside the mainstream, but not unfashionable."

One name I could see fitting in well in the girl stack is Cecily, and Cecil for a boy.

9
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10
July 26, 2017 11:48 AM

I love Lionel and Loretta. My mother's name was Joan.

11
August 20, 2017 12:34 PM

I Love Florence rather Florentine may be due to my Italian descent.  

 

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