The past has as many moods as the present. Old-fashioned names can be sturdy, quirky, or playful. But if there's one feeling that's best captured by an antique, it's elegance – like the elegance of a long gown back in the days when gowns were still more clothing than costume.
That throwback elegance is starting to reappear in modern baby names. Its standard-bearer is Olivia, the graceful Shakespearean invention that has become a new American classic. More throwbacks like Arabella, Valentina and Genevieve have followed. Now a new group is rising and pushing the opulence and literary style even further.
The names below hold little back. They are grandes dames, not shrinking violets (make that Violettas). Even the most modest of them have a drawn-out grace, while the showier could fairly be called sumptuous or imposing. They're all risen in popularity, but none ranked among the top 200 names for American girls last year. That means that individually they still have the power to surprise, and collectively they point in a blossoming fashion direction.
|63 ELEGANT ANTIQUE NAMES FOR GIRLS|
Across the pond, nickname names like Alfie, Freddie, and Archie have risen to the top of the charts. They combine familiarity with friendliness, and they strike a nice balance between classic and modern. Here in the United States, however, such names are less likely to end with “ie” - at least for boys. Many American parents prefer striking, single-syllable choices - with nickname style, if not origins - that are at once recognizable and memorable.
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For fans of the crisp nickname sound, with a few original options, here are thirteen options that fit the bill.
Sam. Though it’s a short form of Biblical favorite Samuel, Sam has long been established as its own brand of boyish. It’s unassuming and accessible, with hundreds of great namesakes across history and fiction. Sam been decreasing since it was first recorded in the United States, making it a relatively uncommon choice today.
Ben. Mellow and kind, Ben is a name often given to characters who are especially caring (see Ben Wyatt in Parks & Recreation or Uncle Ben in Spider-Man). Perhaps it’s the “benevolent” or “beneficial” sound? Longer forms of the name include Benjamin, Bennett, Benedict, or Benicio, but the short form is fantastic all by itself.
Ash. While 90’s favorite Ashley is on the decline, boys’ names Asher and Ashton are still rising. Why not skip the suffixes entirely and stick with active and engaging Ash? Kids like the connection to Ash Ketchum of Pokémon fame, and parents like the effortless style and simplicity it offers. Celebrity Seth Meyers brought this name back into the spotlight when he and his wife chose Ashe (a surname choice) for their son last year.
Zac. Modern and edgy, the “Zac” spelling was given a major boost in the mid-2000’s via Zac Efron, the teen heartthrob of High School Musical fame. Still, the classic Hebrew choice Zachary gives more substance to its nickname. Zac is cool and attractive, overcoming trendiness by appealing to all kinds of personalities.
Bo. This lovable, rugged name jumped into the top 1000 in 1977, the same year Smokey and the Bandit - featuring a main character called Bo - appeared on movie screens. Two years later, Bo Duke debuted on television, and a new standard was cemented. An ageless name with Southern charm, Bo is likely to increase in popularity, and for many good reasons.
Win. A mix of virtue, action, and success characterize this attractive name - Win has all the positive energy of Chase or Lance with the respectability of Winston or Winslow. It also sounds like other popular playground picks, Brynn and Quinn. Win is an excellent choice for any upbeat and dynamic little boy.
Cal. Though today’s Cal’s are more often Caleb’s or Calvin’s, the nickname deserves closer study: it’s adorned a president, a vast array of athletes, and a character immortalized by James Dean. Cal is also a great pick for denizens (or devotees) of the Golden State. For a uncommon route to the nickname, try Callahan or Calloway.
Kip. Quick and bright, Kip has a crisp sound all its own. It’s another popular name among sports stars, but Kip is also an ageless choice, well-suited to any boy from 8 to 88. Kip has long been short for Christopher, but literary Kipling would be a stellar option, too.
Van. While Van’s popularity peaked in 1891, its masculine and accessible tone appeal to twenty-first century parents as well. When associated with famous last names, like van Gogh or van Dyke, it feels refined; when connected with music and film, like Van Morrison or Van Johnson, it feels rugged. Since it’s also jumped into the top 1000, one can be sure that Van is going places.
Nat. Classic and cool, Nat is the kind of retro nickname that’s sure to blossom in the next decade. With so many Natalie’s and Nathaniel’s, the Nat nickname is already prevalent. By itself, however, the name calls to mind iconic American singer Nat King Cole, a fantastic namesake. For a different path to Nat, try Ignatius or Renato.
Art. This offbeat choice has a wide array of connections and connotations, perfect for the namer who wants a bit of everything. There’s the vintage name Arthur that’s making a comeback, the direct aural link to art and artistry, and the multitude of musicians, athletes, and even royals with the name. One drawback - Art’s ability to rhyme with certain words will not be lost on other children.
Ned. Despite not having ranked on the top 1000 list since the 1970’s, the name Ned has experienced a bit of resurgence. From Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide to Game of Thrones, characters named Ned aren’t hard to find. Still, such cultural popularity hasn’t quite translated into a numbers boost, making this friendly, geek-chic nickname for Edward all the more attractive.
Lee. For decades, names ending in the -lee sound have conquered popularity charts, from Emily to Riley to Bentley. But Lee on its own deserves another look. Its neat and polished tone help it stand out in a crowd of trends, and its use as a last name helps link it to family and friends (and heroes) with the name. With shorter names growing year by year, Lee is bound to climb - without being relegated to the second or third syllable.
You think you know baby name trends? Even if you have a keen ear for style, some of today's rising hits might surprise you.
I've assembled a cross-section of names of different styles which are sneaking up in popularity. While many may be familiar to you, I'll bet that most are far more popular than you would have guessed. For perspective, I've included a selection of well-known names which rank below each on the U.S. top-1000 name charts.
Nixon (M) #512 (Ahead of: Frederick, Wade, Winston)
Here's solid evidence that in modern baby names, style comes first. Nixon has a great sound, a trim surname built around the super-hot letter x. Unfortunately, it's also the name of a U.S. president who resigned in disgrace. For a generation of parents born long after Watergate, that's clearly not a deal breaker.
King (M) #163 (Ahead of: Colin, Patrick, Kyle)
King isn't a new name. Back in the early 1900s it was modestly common, but nothing like this. Over the past dozen years we've seen the name explode, up from 70 newborn Kings per year to a whopping 2,540. King is leading a wave of exalted names that includes Royal (#465), Legend (#392) and Messiah (#243).
Collins (F) #704 (Ahead of: Claudia, Dorothy, Elisabeth)
A surname ending in s for a boy – Jennings, Evans, Travers – is pure preppy starch. On a girl, though, it's uncharted waters. Until recently, no s surname had ever come close to the girls' top 1000. Collins has changed that, leaping up from obscurity thanks to Collins Tuohy, the adoptive sister of football player Michael Oher seen in the film "The Blind Side." Tuohy was given a family surname in classic Southern fashion, and parents who saw the movie liked the style.
Hazel (F):#63 (Ahead of: Maya, Taylor, Kylie)
Hazel is the queen of the "quirky classic names." Its contrarian style is a key part of its charm. Now here's the alt darling, outpacing many supposedly mainstream hits without losing its own identity. Apparently you can stand out while fitting in.
Axl (M) #761 (Ahead of: Chad, Harry, Gerald)
If you just liked the sound of this name, you'd go with the traditional spelling Axel. Dropping the e makes it a pure rock-and-roll tribute to Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose. Axl's popularity has tripled since singer Fergie chose the name for her son, causing parents around the country to realize "OMG, we could actually do that!"
Athena (F) #157 (Ahead of: Rachel, Amy, Rose)
There's hardly a more powerful, classic name than the ancient goddess of wisdom and war. Traditionally it was considered a little over-powered for an English-speaking human, though. That has changed in a hurry: the name has doubled in popularity just in the past five years.
Serenity (F) #71 (Ahead of: Katherine, Ashley, Bella)
This nouveau virtue name started rising in the '90s due to a character on the animated series Sailor Moon. It then got a second boost from the spaceship Serenity of "Firefly." So you might not be surprised that the name has become more popular…but did you guess this popular?
Giovanni (M) #130 (Ahead of: Alex, Everett, George)
You can't ask for a more classic name than Giovanni in Italy, where it's the local form of John. The name was always a tougher sell to English speakers because its sound and spelling are far from the English classics. (It's traditionally three syllables, jo-VAHN-nee.) Today Giovanni follows in the footsteps of names like Dante as an Italian-to-English crossover hit.
Hattie (F) #488 (Ahead of: Michaela, Raven, Holly)
Once upon a time, there were a ton of these names: Ettie, Lottie, Mittie, Nettie, Ottie and even Zettie were common in the 1800s. But only Hattie, as in Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel, has made a sudden comeback. It was originally a nickname for Harriet, which is rising more slowly.
Leonidas (M) #519 (Ahead of: Jakob, Casey, Raphael)
Leonidas is a classic Greek name, which doesn't sound so surprising. What's surprising is that it's suddenly being chosen by hundreds of American families of all ethnicities in honor of the ancient Spartan King Leonidas, who died at the Battle of Thermopylae. The name's popularity has risen by 2800% since that battle was brought to life in the movie "300."
Maximus (M) #197 (Ahead of: Paul, Jake, Finn)
Leonidas wasn't enough ancient machismo for you? Then turn the dial up all the way with Maximus, the hero of the film "Gladiator." Unlike Leonidas in 300, Maximus was a purely fictional character. His name, though, is an ancient Roman family name and well suited to an action hero of any era.
Ember (F) #366 (Ahead of: Camilla, Veronica, Megan)
No, not Amber, the 1980s mainstay. Ember, as in the last glowing fragment of a dying fire. Give the earlier name credit for making this one sound natural for a girl. You can think of it as a red-hot update on Amber's golden glow.
Harvey (M) #439 (Ahead of: Alec, Donald, Scott)
Harvey was a hot name a century ago when its sound fit in alongside hits like Irving and Marvin. That sound has been a tough sell in recent decades, and Harvey all but vanished. Now it's back, suddenly leaping up into the top 500 even as similar-sounding names continue to languish.
Jaxson (M) #86 (Ahead of Zachary, Jason, Nathaniel)
If you're into baby names, you may have watched the presidential surname Jackson morph into action-minded Jaxon, a top-50 hit fueled by the desirable letter x. What you might not realize is that the hybrid spelling Jaxson ranks in the top 100 as well.
Malaysia (F) #438 (Ahead of: Julie, Brittany, Maeve)
Geographical baby names typically take their style from the place they represent. This name, though, seems to be all about sound. It has become an African-American favorite with an assist from "Basketball Wives LA" star Malaysia Pargo.
Knox (M) #258 (Ahead of: Seth, Martin, Reid)
This is a celebrity-sparked name that took off when actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose it for a son. And of course, it has the "x" power so many parents are looking for. Yet it's still an unlikely hit. No kname – sorry, name – starting with a silent consonant has ever been knearly so popular.