Glamorous Baby Names Inspired by Old Hollywood

Feb 18th 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

It's safe to say that lots of us love star-gazing on the night of the Academy Awards, with it's roughly 40 million viewers. And while we are intrigued and inspired by today's celebrities, we're over the moon for the days of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The styles were classic and seductive, with an understated glamor that some of today's stars still try to emanate.

The legends of the silver screen from the Golden Age (late 1920s–early 1960s) are deeply fascinating. But it's not just the personalities and talent that we hold dear, it's their names as well. They evoke glitz and glam, while at the same time communicating humble beginnings and old-fashioned charm.

Many of them are iconic, but they can all be worn confidently and separately from the star. They are perfect for today, whether it's the first name or surname in the spotlight. Part darling and straight-laced, part glamorous and undone, they make idyllic hybrid charmers that have become runaway hits on the naming stage.

  1. Audrey: The lovely British actress, humanitarian, and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn is still a true inspiration, even down to her given name. Audrey is a hit, sitting at 32 out of the top 1,000 girls' names. Even with a namesake from Shakespeare's As You Like It to add to its history, as well as a saint and a princess, Hepburn remains the most famous Audrey of all time.

  2. Ava: Ava is a Latin form of Eve with loads of Hollywood appeal, starting for some with the past group of celebrity babies born with this name, including daughters of Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Jackman, Heather Locklear, Eli Manning, Martina McBride and oh-so-many more. But the original inspiration straight out of Tinseltown came from Gardner, a glamorous actress and wife to Sinatra (among others). It's stylish, pretty, and simple, and this darling name, ranked 5th in America, has momentum that seems unstoppable.

  3. Clara: This new favorite was worn by perhaps the most iconic flapper and sex symbol of the roaring twenties, "The It Girl," actress Clara Bow. Today her name may not ring as many bells as it once did, but it's the spirit of the silent films that makes the name Clara as glamorous as it is darling.

  4. Clark: Frankly, my dear, we DO give a damn about the dashing name Clark. Actor Gable, known for delivering that iconic line among many others, was the King of Hollywood who knew how to dazzle audiences and wear a mustache with expertise. We love his name for its straightforward, classy image with a delightfully handsome demeanor, thanks also in part to Superman's alter ego, Kent.

  5. Cooper: Among the popular surnames that recently became a favorite as a given name, Cooper stands out as an unassuming, friendly choice. Legendary actor Gary Cooper makes this name shine with natural charm. It's been a top-100 choice since 2007, and even though it's trendy it feels as reliable as Gary Cooper himself.

  6. Dean: It took A Rebel Without a Cause to draw attention to this clean-cut name with a bit of an edge. That edge is enigmatically supplied by the sensitive, tortured soul of teen icon James Dean, heartthrob actor who rode his motorcycle at full throttle and smoked in the rain without a thought of an umbrella. He's one compelling reason why the name Dean is doing pretty well today, sitting in the low 200s and rising.

  7. Flynn: This surname was famously worn by debonaire swashbuckler and spirited rake Errol Flynn, who starred in a countless number of adventuresome films in the 30s and 40s. He inspired the expression "in like Flynn" and these days, he's inspiring parents on the hunt for the perfect alternative to contemporary favorite Finn. Flynn was also the name of Rapunzel's love interest in Disney's Tangled.

  8. Grace: Academy Award winner and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly did it all and lived up to her name with stylish elegance. Today we're wild over this perfectly classic virtue name, as it's stayed in the top 30s since 1999 and is a favorite for a short-and-sweet middle name as well.

  9. Grant: Everybody wants to be Cary Grant, including the actor himself, as he was famous for saying. The quintessential leading man during the Golden Age, actor Cary Grant has a surname that's right on track with today's trends. And while President Ulysses S. Grant gives this name a star-spangled vibe, actor Cary Grant adds a dashing, gentlemanly quality as well.

  10. Harlow: The original blonde bombshell, Jean Harlow, was a captivating actress with a trademark look (that made peroxide sales skyrocket). Her talent and style embodies Old Hollywood, and her untimely death at only 26 makes her forever young and glamorous in our eyes. Her surname has a soft sound and makes for a perfect throwback name in honor of a true beauty. The name Harlow may not be popular, but it's doing better each year. It was used by Nicole Richie and Joel Madden for their first daughter and transformed into Richie's jewelry brand name, House of Harlow.

  11. Holden: Golden Boy was actor William Holden's first film and the rest is history. A prolific and talented actor with a compassionate and philanthropic side, William Holden has a devoted fanbase even today. His surname is trendy and, while it may be known better as the main character in The Catcher in the Rye, actor William Holden's contribution to the appeal of this name is strong. Holden sits at 287 and is getting more popular with each year.

  12. Laurence: Olivier was a British gent with an elegant name, known for his performances on stage as well as on screen. Even though Laurence is the traditional spelling, the surname Lawrence took off in its place. It's very English and proper, until the overdone nickname Larry comes into play.

  13. Mae: Actress, screenwriter, and sex symbol West takes this old-fashioned name from sweet and darling to sassy and daring. It's a change of pace from the Spring spelling May, which is nowhere to be seen these days, while this form is showing lots of promise on a sharp upward trend. We're glad Mae is moving up from the middle spot, where it's been a tried-and-true favorite for ages.

  14. Marilyn: This once unassuming elaboration of Mary became steamy with the fame of sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, and its link to her has stayed cemented in our culture. But even though this name brings to mind a 50s icon, we find it fresh on a girl today. It sits well next to names like Madelyn and Evelyn, and its lovely sound is hitting the mark for expecting parents, as stats show Marilyn gaining momentum in the past couple of years.

  15. Marlon: Brando's reach as one of the most influential actors of all time included influencing baby naming, helping the unique name Marlon hit the low 200s in the 1970s. It may be on a downswing today, but we think Marlon is a fantastic name with Hollywood appeal. It's currently worn by actor/comedian/director Marlon Wayans and former Jackson 5 member, Marlon Jackson.

  16. Monroe: There isn't another Golden Age star that has an up-and-coming first and last name, but the singular Marilyn Monroe has managed both. While her first name shouts classic 50s revival, Monroe makes a definitive contemporary statement. This is a trend that was sparked by Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon's daughter, Monroe, who was born in 2011 and named after the star.

  17. Rita: This short form of Margarita owes all its glamor to "The Love Goddess," actress and dancer Hayworth. The name Rita was a hit in the 1930s, making it on the cusp of relevant for revival today. It's spirited and sexy, with a dash of pure cute. As names like Mia, Gianna, and Sophia are current favorites, it's only a matter of time before Rita follows suit.

  18. Sophia: She's the epitome of grace and beauty, and whether we're talking about the name itself or the actress Loren is up for debate, because both fit that description. It's hard to top the number one girls' name in America, which evokes charm, style, and wisdom (its meaning!) all at once. It has a quite literal soft sound and a classic feel, though it's never been as popular as it is now. Ms. Loren only helps characterize this name with glamor and wit, making it a favorite from every angle.

  19. Spencer: Distinguished actor Spencer Tracy had a classic English surname that has stood the test of time. Even though Spencer hit its high point in the 90s, its has a fairly steady history as a given name in the US, and there's no need for it to ever fall out of fashion now. As one of the top actors of his time, Tracy gives this name a depth it wouldn't have had otherwise.

  20. Vivien: Actress Vivien Leigh, most famous for her performance as Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, lends this name a romantic quality between her on-screen love affairs and her off-screen relationship with Laurence Olivier. Add to that Tennyson's poetic retelling of a legend entitled Merlin and Vivien, an enchantress whose seduction tricks Merlin, and this name earns its love-struck reputation and vivacious sound.

Love these names? You may also like 20 Roaring 20s Names Making a Comeback.

Survey Reveals the Most Sophisticated Baby Names

Feb 12th 2015

The first in a series of reports based on exclusive user ratings of names.

What makes a name sound sophisticated? Is it the rhythm, or the origin, or the public figures you associate with the name? And do other people hear sophistication the same way that you do?

These are among the questions we've tried to answer with a long-term user survey. For the past five years, we've asked BabyNameWizard visitors to rate the names they view in Namipedia. On a scale from 1-100, how smart does the name sound? How sexy, creative, friendly, sophisticated? With 1.5 million sets of ratings submitted, the results paint an unprecedented picture of the way we view names.

Before presenting the list of most sophisticated names, I'd like to make clear that none of these dimensions are "good" or "bad." There are tradeoffs: no name hits every target. The survey's job is to identify which kinds of names have these qualities. It's up to each parent to decide which of the qualities matter most to you.

The names rated most and least sophisticated are: 

      BOYS     GIRLS
1     Kingsley     Katharine
2     Dorian     Lavinia
3     Edmund     Jacquelyn
4     Atticus     Evangeline
5     Edward     Gwyneth
6     Maximilian     Antoinette
7     Alessandro     Kensington
8     Alistair     Simone
9     Preston     Elyse
10     Anderson     Leighton


      Boys     Girls
1     Koda     Nevaeh
2     Mike     Sunny
3     Rocky     Dixie
4     Bodhi     Harley
5     Colt     Britney


Based on these results, here's a recipe for baby name sophistication:

1. The longer the better. The average American baby name is 6 letters long. The names rated most sophisticated averaged almost 8 letters, while the least sophisticated name averaged just 5. Just like a long, flowing gown, a long, multisyllabic name seems to convey elegance, dignity, and formality.

2. Cuties and tough guys need not apply. With names like Colt and Rocky near the bottom of the list, it's apparent that macho swagger and sophistication don't go hand in hand. The greatest enemy of sophistication, though, is cheery cuteness. 60% of the least-sophisticated names end in the "ee" sound, which is the key marker of cuteness in English names. Sophistication, it seems, is stern rather than "Sunny."

3. No nicknames. Every name on the ultra-sophisticated list was in its most formal form, while several nicknames, including America's #1 nickname Mike, were rated at the bottom. Going back to our clothing analogy, nicknames are like a t-shirt and jeans: comfortable and appealing, but not sophisticated. Nicknames tend to be shorter than full names as well, but the nickname effect still applies even when the nickname is at least as long as its original source (e.g. Jack vs. John, Nancy vs. Ann).

4. Stay traditional. The least-sophisticated list features plenty of contemporary names like Nevaeh, Britney and Koda. The most-sophisticated names, in contrast, lean traditional. If that tradition includes European royalty (e.g. Maximilian, Antoinette), so much the better.

5. Surnames suffice. English surnames and place names (Anderson, Kensington) can provide the traditional feeling along with the length and that spell sophistication, even if they're not traditional as given names.

Based on those criteria, do you think your favorite name comes across as sophisticated? And do you care?


Methodology Notes: Rankings are based on names rated by a minimum of 150 users. Rare names (outside the current top 1,500 for boys and girls and no apperances in the top 500 in the past century) are excluded as they are easily dominated by a particular character; e.g. Severus and Draco rate low on friendliness.


15 Girls’ Names that Sound Like Love

Feb 9th 2015

 baby name roundups by theme

If there's one thing we've learned in the last few decades, it's that sound matters when it comes to baby names. In the list of important factors in today's naming landscape, sound often trumps all—over family traditions, meaning, and even cultural associations. Todays' favorite names for girls roll off the tongue with airy femininity.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, we think that the word "love" has a perfectly appealing sound too. That's why we're inspired to find names with flowing vowels surrounding consonants like l and v. Whether they are longer or short-but-sweet names, they each have a softness that makes us swoon.

  1. Alva: It's a bit sad that Alva is known mostly as Thomas Edison's middle name. While it was once given to boys as well as girls, this Scandinavian choice feels decidedly feminine to our ears today. It's a bit no-nonsense, but Alva is also a darling name straight from one of today's favorite decades for names—the 1890s.

  2. Amara: Amara is a beautiful name that found its way on this list because of its similarity to the word "amor" (we had to cheat just a little). In the Nigerian language Igbo, Amara means grace, making this a near-virtue name with a proud heritage.

  3. Ava: You can find this beautiful choice across the globe, worn by girls in Europe, Australia, and North America . It may be short, but it has loads of appeal, and it makes a perfect little palindrome. As the number 5 girls' name in the US, it's not unique, but Ava is truly well-loved.

  4. Clove: Clove may be a spice name, but it's far from the popularity of more established choices like Ginger and Sage. Its use in The Hunger Games series has given Clove more attention, while solidifying its quirkiness. No matter how you view it, Clove is seriously charming and simple, and it has "love" built right in.

  5. Dove: A nature name that conjures up peace, Dove is also just one letter away from  love. It may be far out of the top 1,000, but parents do tend to like this simple, sweet name for the middle spot.

  6. Evelyn: Most people wouldn't have guessed that Evelyn would be a top 20 name today, but looking at the trends, this one has had an almost predictable rise to the top over the last 30 years. No matter what, Evelyn will always feel stylishly vintage, thanks to its popularity in the 1910s and 20s.

  7. Lavinia: Lavinia is a flowing, gorgeous Victorian choice that just begs us to dot its "i"s with tiny hearts. This name is besties with Olivia but has experienced none of her success. And Lavinia has a surprising history with namesakes from Roman mythology, Shakespeare, and even Downton Abbey. For those turned off by the nickname Vinnie, Linnie is another possibility.

  8. Love: Sometimes the most obvious choice is the best. Love has immediate meaning, and it's simple, beautiful, and pretty to look at as well as to say. Love is rare for a first name, but parents have favored it for the middle spot, à la Jennifer Love Hewitt.

  9. Maeve: A powerful name taken from the pages of Irish mythology, Maeve has crossed the Atlantic and is having a moment here in the US. It's unusual, but in the top 500 and rising with some momentum. Maeve is both a simple and spirited one-syllable choice (pronounced MAYV) that's rich in heritage and full of fashion.

  10. Nova: A bright, rising star of a name full of sparkle and modern sensibilities, Nova is going to catch on quick. It only recently appeared in the girls' top 1,000 and at last check it sits at 529. We love its sound, meaning, and how it feels like a twist on names like Norah and Noelle.

  11. Olive: Rearrange the letters in this name and you can spell "I love". It's a Victorian favorite that sounds perfectly old-fashioned and pretty, without being frilly. And we have nothing but positive associations with olives, as a staple in mediterranean cooking or an olive branch that symbolizes peace. Drew Barrymore would agree, who chose Olive for her first daughter, born in 2012.

  12. Sylvie: This sweet form of Sylvia is surprisingly out of the top 1,000, while Sylvia is starting to make waves in the US once again. Its charming sound and French stylings make Sylvie a graceful, alluring choice.

  13. Valentina: Google this first name and you'll see the most famous women to wear it come from a variety of countries across the globe: Italy, the Ukraine, Argentina, and Russia. Aside from having the v-and-l factor we're looking for, its connotations are especially appropriate this time of year. It's a beautiful name that's doing very well in the US, aiming for the top 100 soon. Chosen by actress Salma Hayek as well as Victoria Secret model Adriana Lima for their daughters.

  14. Valeria: This name feels like it's part Valentine, part exotic foreign land. It shares roots with Valentina and is another top pick in places like Russia, Spain, and Latin America. Here in the US, Valeria hit a peak in 2009, but it's still in the top 200s today.

  15. Viola: This violet-colored floral name blooms with old-fashioned charm. It's rare but packed with theatrical and artistic qualities, thanks to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, as well as Shakespeare in Love and actress Viola Davis.

What names make you spell L-O-V-E? Share them with us, or get more inspiration from 20 Forgotten Victorian Names to Put on Your List or 42 Fresh One-Syllable Names for Babies.