Word Names Our Ancestors Used that We Don’t Dare

Feb 21st 2018

Titan. Cairo. Royalty. Exotic word names like these are a hallmark of our naming era. With parents constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas, attractive titles, concepts, place names and more turn into popular names overnight. Yet as ultra-modern as these name styles sound, they’re not unprecedented. Our ancestors already gave them a spin generations ago.

Creative place names? Try Oklahoma for a baby girl. That name last registered in the U.S. name stats back in 1907. Unlikely pop-culture-inspired word names? The 1950s tv series Buffalo Bill, Jr. sparked a brief flurry of girls named after the title character’s sister, Calamity. And if it’s an exalted title you’re after, the name President was heard for boys in the 1910s and ‘20s.

Yes, those names were the exception in their days. They surely stood out against the steady background of English classics that dominated American naming. But it’s remarkable how many names of past generations still sound, well, remarkable, even by today’s standards. Here are 34 names plucked from past baby name stats that today’s parents haven’t touched…yet.

WORD NAMES OUR ANCESTORS USED THAT WE DON’T DARE

Abundance

Ample (F)

Fountain (M)

Profit (M)

Wealthy (F)

Titles

Doctor (M)

Lieutenant (M)

President (M)

Pope (M)

Places

Armenia (F)

Boise (M)

Crete (F)

Illinois (F,M)

Nebraska (M)

Oklahoma (F)

Palestine (F)

Vermont (F,M)

Cute-y

Cozy (F)

Dainty (F)

Frosty (M)

Jolly (M)

Spicy (F)


Congeniality

Fair (F)

Friend (M)

Gentle (M)

Lovely (M)

Pleasant (M)

Welcome (F)

Watch Out

Battle (M)

Calamity (F)

Omen (M)

 

Comments

1
February 22, 2018 1:19 PM

The boy's word name that jumps out at me is Pink.  Our cultural context for Pink has changed so much I don't think many would choose this name today for a boy, though I could see it making a comeback for girls.

2
February 22, 2018 2:42 PM

What really stands out to me is that all the occupation names are (unsurprisingly) all male, but so are the majority of the congeniality ones. I would have expected Gentle, Lovely, and Pleasant to be used more for girls. Or maybe that's just my modern perspective showing.

3
February 22, 2018 9:59 PM

The current mayor of Rochester, NY is a woman named Lovely Warren.

4
February 23, 2018 11:16 AM

Well there you go! Q.E.D. ;)

Actually, Lovely seems to have a significant female bias, while Gentle and Pleasant skew heavily male.

In 2016, Lovely was given to 61 girls and no boys. It also appears on the list for girls in 74 years but only 2 for boys (with only 12 boys total in the two years combined). Checking out a random sample, it appears that for girls, Lovely stayed between 5 and 10 girls per year from 1918 until the 1970s, more or less under 20 in the 1980s, mid-to-low 20s in the 1990s, 35-45 from 2000-2008, but then spikes to 89 in 2009 (pop culture reference?), then fluctuates between 55 and 82 between 2010 and 2016, which brings us to now. So perhaps there was an error in which sex was assigned to that one in the article above.

Gentle and Pleasant didn't make the 5 baby threshold for either sex in 2016, but historically, (if my searching is correct,) Pleasant has made the boy's name list in 63 years but only 13 years for girls, while Gentle has never made the list for girls and 28 times for boys. The latter really surprises me, since the virtue of gentleness feels like it would stereotypically be a female one. 

5
February 23, 2018 4:01 PM

While I was also surprised at first about Gentle being a male name, I thought it about it a bit more, and I'd guess that it's associated with the term gentleman.

6
February 26, 2018 8:18 PM

I'd be interested to know the year(s) of top popularity (well, for some value of "popular") for each of those names. Yes, I know I could look it up in the SSA data myself, but I'm lazy.

7
March 18, 2018 1:36 AM

 Deeply southern, my great uncle was a Pink.  Pinkney, I believe.  my grandmother was a prudence.  She hated it.j

8
March 19, 2018 5:22 PM

I wonder if these names were more common in a particular region? I can practically see an eccentric spinster Aunt Dainty sitting on a Southern porch...

9
March 30, 2018 12:12 PM

Although it's not specifically on the list, I have met a Prophet. I told him I like the name, and he replied that it's a lot to live up to.