You know the '80s, right? Big hair, shoulder pads, acid-wash jeans...and in baby names, Ashley, Justin and Tiffany. But the '80s didn't really own those names. In fact, the majority of Ashleys you'll meet were born outside the decade of Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson.
For pure '80s names, we have to dig deeper. I've identified 10 names with full 1980s bona fides: they mostly existed in that decade, and from our 21st-Century perch we can't miss their cultural links to it. Some of the names below were big hits, others were rarities, but all are loving tributes to their times.
In ascending order by "80s purity score," the percentage of all people with the name who were born during the decade:
1. DeLorean (62%) -- The 1985 film Back to the Future cemented the ill-fated DeLorean sports car as THE emblematic '80s ride. No other vehicle so immediately summons the decade, from its style to its greed. Through the power of cinema and memory, the DeLorean truly has become a time machine.
2. Sheena (74%) -- Not the purest of '80s names, but one of the very biggest. A smattering of girls were named Sheena in the 1940s-70s thanks to various incarnations of the pulp character "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle." But '80s pop princess Sheena Easton ushered in a decade of over 16,000 little Sheenas, with a notoriously bad 1984 jungle-Sheena movie pitching in.
3. Jarreau (76%) -- Can you hum the chorus of "We're in This Love Together"? How about the theme song from the tv series Moonlighting? If so, you're in the capable '80s hands of singer Al Jarreau.
4. Jenilee (82%) -- Actress Jenilee Harrison ushered in the decade by replacing Suzanne Somers on the sitcom Three's Company in 1980. She later boosted her '80s cred with a stint on Dallas, where her character had the distinction of being killed off twice: once before and once after the series' notorious "it was all a dream" rewind.
5. Krystle (84%) -- Every spelling of Crystal was a hit in the '80s, but this version hit the decade bullseye in the prime-time soap Dynasty. Linda Evans played Krystle Carrington, the innocent blond secretary who married into a nest of millionaire vipers.
6. Jon-Erik (85%) -- Actor Jon-Erik Hexum was a rising '80s star and heartthrob. He died suddenly and tragically on the set of his tv series Cover Up via a self-inflicted wound from a prop gun.
7. Travanti (86%) -- Looking for that elusive "Hill Street Blues" baby name trend? You could go with Kiel, after actor Kiel Martin, but my vote goes to this less likely name. Actor Daniel J. Travanti played stalwart Captain Frank Furillo on the seminal cop drama.
8. Toccara (89%) -- Avon introduced a perfume named Toccara in 1981, and a one-decade name was born. Model Toccara Jones was among the Toccaras born in 1981.
If you like melodic girls' names with a classic but individualistic style, you're in good company today. From Emily to Olivia, pretty sounds and vintage vibes are especially prized. But that doesn’t mean all the good names are taken - they’re just hiding in plain sight!
The 15 girls' name below were chosen for their harmonic tones and cultural substance. They feel timeless, yet unlike Emily and Olivia, they've yet to reach the top-1,000 names list. Let’s take a look.
Image via StockSnap.io
Briony. This literary name came to national attention with Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, featuring a curious and determined main character named Briony (played by Saoirse Ronan in the film adaptation). The name is also botanical in origin, referring to a type of flowering vine. Briony is bright and beautiful - and rare in the United States.
Jemima. While it’s long been associated with the eponymous Aunt, Jemima could surpass its syrupy links with such a pretty sound. It’s similar to Gemma, but with a Biblical twist - Jemima was the daughter of Job, and means “dove” in Hebrew. Quirky yet classic, Jemima is a fabulous choice for lovers of literature, too (Beatrix Potter and William Thackeray both used the name).
Mirabelle. Dozens of -elle, -ella, and -bella names rank in the top 1000, but Mirabelle has stayed far under the radar. How has it avoided such popularity with an attractive melody, the meaning of “wonderful,” and a few great pop culture connections? It can also shorten to Mira or Belle, both excellent vintage picks.
Cecily. Sweet and sincere, Cecily has all the gorgeous qualities of Cecilia with a personality all its own. Cecily was popular during the Middle Ages, but has since been eclipsed by its Latin sister. Though it bears the trendy -ly ending, Cecily’s retro vibe makes it more friendly than faddish.
Isadora. An elegant alternative to Isabella, Isadora maintains the aural harmony with an uncommon ending. The name comes from the Greek for “gift of Isis,” and showed up recently in the children’s books A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s got quite a lot of nickname potential - Isa, Izzy, Dora - but the long form Isadora is truly stunning.
Elodie. Not Melody, Emily, or Eloise - Elodie is a hit in the UK and France, but hasn’t ranked in the United States since 1886. It’s a feminine, French pick that fits in with the El-names, but has a more subdued, melodic sound. There are plenty of great namesakes too, from athletes to actresses - Elodie is bound to find an audience soon!
Camellia. With Spanish Camila becoming a popular pick, why not floral Camellia? It’s soft and graceful, but allows for the edgier nicknames Cam and Cami. It’s especially perfect as an alternative to blossoming Amelia. In Korea and Japan, the camellia flower is a symbol of faithfulness and longevity - another fantastic connotation.
Juno. Mythological yet modern, Juno feels like a twenty-first century choice - but its numbers disagree. Europeans have taken to the name, but the recent indie film starring Ellen Page made Juno a nonstarter in the states. Now that the spotlight has passed, however, Juno could use its queenly history and accessible sound to gain a different kind of notoriety.
Beatrix. Since 1902, Peter Rabbit and his friends have delighted families everywhere, thanks to the impeccably named Helen Beatrix Potter. Beatrix’s connections extend from the literary to the cinematic (Uma Thurman’s character in Kill Bill) to the royal, with Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands reigning until 2013. If you want something energetic but more offbeat than Beatrice, look no further than this Latin choice.
Coralie. A favorite among francophones, Coralie is a lovely and poetic name that could be an alternative to vintage Cora (or a route to the nickname Cora). French chanteuse Coralie Clément is one notable wearer, with others appearing in film and fiction. It’s derived from “coral,” giving it an attractive nature link as well.
Marlowe. Sitting just under the top 1000 is this appealing surname option, with spelling variations Marlow and Marlo on the rise as well. It sounds like celebrity darling Harlow, but lends itself to being a unique honorific name as well, for Marys, Margarets and Marias alike. Noir detective Philip Marlowe adds an element of mystery to this cool unisex name.
Tamsin. The “in” sound is in, with Quinn, Brynn, and -lyn dominating the popularity charts - but Tamsin’s background gives it real substance, not flash. It’s a traditionally Cornish name derived from Thomas, with a plethora of namesakes in the UK. Tamsin is unexpected yet engaging, a choice that will will with all kinds of personalities and styles.
Avis. It’s got the sassy sound of Mavis and the contemporary feel of Avery, with a bonus connection to birds - in Harry Potter, the spell used to conjure a flock of birds is literally “Avis.” Though the rental car company has monopolized this charming name for a while, Avis may be ready to spread its wings with the rise of Ava and Alexis.
Jessamine. Originally a form of Jasmine, Jessamine is a great discovery for today’s namers: it’s similar enough to Jessica and Jessie to feel familiar, but the botanical link and old-fashioned -mine ending gives it character. Jessamine is a favorite among modern authors, too.
Cleo. Fearless and affable, Cleo works well for parents who like the sound of Chloe but want something with a little more spirit. There’s the obvious namesake Cleopatra, but Cleo names were also popular in the beginning of the twentieth century - Cleola and Cleona among them. Variant Clio is another option, with an ethereal edge.
Read More: Quirky Classic Names for Girls
"If only there were more names like Scarlett." That's a common refrain of expectant parents, judging by internet search traffic. Users scour this website and the whole wide web for "names like Scarlett" at a remarkable rate. It's not just that the name is popular. In many ways, Scarlett truly is one of a kind.
BabyNameWizard.com readers rated Scarlett as the #1 sexiest name for girls. That bold, confident sexiness is the name's hallmark. Yet in sound and style, Scarlett doesn't fit the usual mold of sensuous names. After Scarlett, the rest of the "sexiest girls' names" list was silky, lacy, and overwhelmingly French and Italian. Scarlett is steely, with a rat-a-tat sound and thoroughly American heritage.
Scarlett owes its unique position to Katie Scarlett O'Hara, the indomitable heroine of Gone With the Wind. She was a dangerous beauty: desirable and vain, charismatic and manipulative, resourceful and ruthless. The name choice was inspired. The word scarlet is the boldest of colors, with sinful connotations via phrases like "scarlet woman" and "The Scarlet Letter." Yet the double-T ending showed that Scarlett was a surname in classic Southern family style. (The book character was named after her grandmother.)
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara: Wikimedia Commons
Upon the release of Gone With the Wind, Scarlett instantly became a recognized girls' name. Over the decades it maintained modest popularity, moving in and out of the top-1,000 rankings. The name's sultry/dangerous edge was reinforced starting in 1949 by the board game Clue (aka Cluedo) which named its femme fatale character Miss Scarlet.
That was the name Scarlett as of the year 2003. Then actress Scarlett Johansson had a breakout year, and the name had a new standard bearer. Johansson, with her glamorous looks, outspoken activism and roles like the superhero Black Widow, gave Scarlett a perfect update. Even more importantly, she reintroduced the name at a point when the double-T name style was poised to explode. (Read more about the rise of double-T names.) It was the perfect meeting of fame and fashion, and the name soared.
If you love Scarlett but can't use it, how can you capture its magic? Other sexy word-based names like Heaven are more soft than steely, and have less of classic image. Other -TT names like Elliott and Beckett sound masculine or androgynous, whereas Scarlett is all woman. In short, there is no perfect match – but one of the names below may show enough of the same spirit to win you over.
Read More: More names like Harper