Stalking the Next Comeback Names
What makes an old-time name come back? Why is Hazel a darling of 21st Century parents, while Ethel remains in hibernation? The answer lies deep in the mysterious heart of contemporary style. Today, we’re digging to try to find that answer—then use it to identify still-dormant names with comeback potential.
Image: Shutterstock/Anna Kraynova
I rounded up 25 names that first peaked in the decades between 1890 and 1920 then fell out of fashion, only to surge back into style in the 21st century. Then I paired each of those revivals with a name that was a statistical match for its first popularity wave, but hasn’t come back. Take a look at the paired lists:
|Revival Name||Dormant Match Name|
Reading the two lists, I think we can all sense a fashion divide. Here are some of the key ways the sets of revival and dormant names differ.
Revival names are more likely to…
• Feature long vowel sounds. 50% more of the comeback names include a long vowel (a vowel pronounced like the name of the letter).
• Feature exotic, sharp-edged consonants. 9 of the revivals include a rare naming letter like X, Z or V, vs. only Orville, Ervin and Velma from the dormant list.
Dormant names are more likely to…
• Include consecutive consonant sounds. This may be the single starkest difference, with 16 of the dormant names featuring consonant clusters, 10 of those being clusters of voiced consonants. Among the revivals, only the biblical names Ezra and Abraham have consecutive consonants.
• Be stressed on the last syllable. None of the multisyllabic comeback names are stressed at the end in typical English pronunciation, while 6 of the dormant names are.
In addition, the two lists differ in their approaches to nicknames. Several of the revivals, such as Lola, Max and Theo, are short for longer names, but none have diminutive endings like Johnnie and Willie from the dormant list.
So, Let’s Go Name Hunting!
Now that we have a sense of what makes up fashion’s target, what other names might hit it? I screened popular names of past generations for matches. The resulting list reads like a roadmap for parents who love the quirky, retro edge of name style. Some of these names may still sound old to you, but among them you’re likely to find a few hidden gems.
|25 Old-Fashioned Names with Revival Potential|