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

14 Girls' Names with a Modern Refinement

Jun 26th 2017

Finding names that strike the right balance between feminine and tailored can be harder than it seems - names in the former category tend to be long and luxurious, while names in the latter tend to be concise and no-nonsense. Popular names like Audrey and Lauren have managed to toe the line, but their widespread use can be off-putting.

Here’s a list of fourteen names that fit this elegant style without feeling overly trendy: both refreshing and refined, these names are bound to make an impression and stand the test of time.


Image via Pexels

Maren. Chic Maren is a worthy successor to previously popular Karen, but with a more sophisticated sound. It developed as a variant of both classic Mary and ancient Marinus, making it especially ideal as an honorific. Maren’s notable namesakes span from Germany to Norway to the US, lending it some cross-cultural appeal.

Drew. This sweet diminutive of Andrew was made available to girls via actress Drew Barrymore, but still ranks outside the female top 1000. Polished yet sassy, Drew has a substantial history in literature and television - from Nancy Drew to Rugrats - and has a sound that’s fresh and cool.

Tierney. This Irish surname fits in with popular Riley and Kennedy, but has a more feminine and fashionable vibe. Well-known Tierney’s are an especially creative bunch, from Old Hollywood actress Gene Tierney to jazz singer Tierney Sutton. While Tierney has been used regularly in the US since 1957, it’s never made the top 1000.

Bristol. This tailored choice was brought into the top 1000 via Bristol Palin, daughter of politician Sarah and now a prominent reality television figure. The name is brisk and bright, genial and geographic, with a bit of a Commonwealth tone. Bristol now sits at the sweet spot of the popularity charts, familiar yet far from common. 

Hollis. Attractive and friendly, Hollis is a unisex pick that’s increasingly going to the girls. Whether the long form version or nickname Holly is used day to day, this name is a smart and appealing choice that works for all kinds of personalities.

Sutton. A traditional English surname meaning “southern town,” Sutton is both dignified and cute as a button. Broadway and television star Sutton Foster has brought the name increased notoriety, but it still sounds crisp and unusual.

Darby. Though this lovely name was relatively well-known in the late 1990’s, it’s never become particularly popular. Could its happy Irish sound and accessible vibe bring it back into play? Darby is also the name of a few cities in the United States, making it a novel contender in the current place-name trend.

Arden. This graceful name has extensive literary roots, used in both Shakespeare’s and Tennyson’s work. Arden sounds both passionate and pleasant, a feminine name that’s not frilly or faddish. Famous women with the surname Arden include actress Eve and businesswoman Elizabeth, but Arden as a first name is sure to grow over time thanks to its wonderful balance.

Neve. Derived from the Irish Niamh and pronounced “Nehv” or “Neev,” charming Neve originally came to prominence in the US via actress Campbell. Today, as more parents explore their genealogical roots, Neve works well as a heritage choice and as an amicable modern pick.

Romilly. If you’re looking for an alternative to Riley or Emily, bold Romilly may be right up your alley. It’s still rather uncommon in American playgrounds, but has a rich historical background as a variation of ancient Romulus and as the name of an English admiral. 

Greer. Engaging and kind, Greer as a Scottish surname with quite a few prominent wearers, from actress Greer Garson to writer Germaine Greer. It’s originally a diminutive of Gregory, making it a cool yet unexpected honorific for a family member. While the Grier spelling is also in play, pretty Greer is an underused choice today.

Tamsin. Exceptional even in its native country, English Tamsin fits in well with modern name trends - two-syllables, “in”-sound ending - while maintaining a unique personality. It’s a feminine variant of Thomas, and feels like a winsome successor to Tammy or Teagan.

Adair. In the age of Ad-names - Addison, Adeline, Adriana - Adair is a refreshing alternative, both accessible and extraordinary. It’s been a beloved pop culture pick, appearing in television and literature, but it’s notoriety hasn’t yet translated to use. Might cultured Adair one day follow Claire or Avery into the top 100?

Ellery. A unique route to the nickname Ellie, Ellery is a delightful pick associated with mystery writer and character Ellery Queen (the pseudonym of two co-authors). Today, the name sounds more feminine - like Everly or Ellen - with a pleasantly euphonic melody.

 

More Names Like Miles and Brooks: The Search for Alternatives

Jun 21st 2017


Some baby names have a special spark. They hit a style bullseye and make us wish, "If only there were more names like that!"

Our "Alternatives" series looks at these objects of desire, the baby names that send waves of parents to the Internet searching for more of the same. In reviewing the more-like-that names I noticed two with a lot in common, Miles and Brooks. They're both fashionable boys' names with some obvious similarities, but also key differences that give each a unique impact.

First, the common ground. Miles and Brooks are:

1. One-syllable names ending in S;

2. Formal, sophisticated names with no obvious nicknames;

3. Not -S extensions of classic male names (a la Williams, Adams);

4. Familiar with a traditional but uncommon feeling, thanks to long histories of occasional use with a few prominent examples;

5. Enjoying a new level of popularity today.

That's a lot for any pair of names to have in common. I'm sure that many parents who like one of the names are also drawn to the other. Yet no two names are alike, and even these two diverge in surprisingly significant ways:

1. Surname style. While Miles exists as a surname it is an age-old given name, a form of Milo. Brooks is a transferred surname, and that origin is front-and-center in its style.

2. Miles Davis vs. Brooks Brothers, aka jazzy vs preppy. Legendary clothier Brooks Brothers roots the name Brooks firmly in the world of blue blazers and blue blood. Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis pulls Miles in a more artistic direction.

3. All-American vs. more global. Brooks has mostly been used in the U.S. and Canada. Even its blue-blood image is of the American variety; note that Brooks Brothers bills itself as "the original authority on American style." The name Miles has a more global style, and is as much English as American.

4. Smooth vs. crisp. Miles is all smooth, worldly elegance. Brooks is crisp, crackling and precise.

Together Miles and Brooks lay out a spectrum of style, all within the narrow realm of classic, formal one-syllable male names ending in s. In hunting for names with similar appeal, I've divided the prospects into three groups: the smooth, artistic international given names; the crisp, preppy American surnames; and the cross-appeal names that could lure in parents coming from either direction.

SMOOTH, ARTISTIC, INTERNATIONAL GIVEN NAMES
Blaise
Giles
Graeme
Ives
Jules
Niels/Nils
Piers
Rhys

FLEXIBLE CROSS-APPEAL
Ames
Clemens
Davis
Eames
Gaines
Gray
Haines
Hayes
Hobbes
Keats
Mills
Pryce
Reeve/Reeves
Rhodes
Travers
Welles/Wells

CRISP, PREPPY, AMERICAN SURNAME
Banks
Barnes
Collins
Gates
Jenkins
Jennings
Oakes
Parks
Stiles
Wilkes
Yates

 

Read More: More Names Like Scarlett: The Search for Alternatives