Only in the British royal family could the name Louis be greeted as a bold, unconventional choice. Louis is an age-old classic, well-represented in various forms in the royal family tree. It's also popular—in Britain, at least. The names Louis, Louie and Lewis all rank among the top 100 names for boys. Unlike the names of big siblings George and Charlotte, though, it wasn't one of the top predictions of London oddsmakers. And that's big news.
Choosing a royal name is an exercise in heritage and continuity. The name carries outsize symbolic weight, and has to extend a powerful and long-lived brand. You can't strip away all of the trappings of royalty and stay regal. Yet it's also parents naming a baby in the 21st Century. Royal parents William and Kate have proven to be masters at balancing the symbolic and personal sides of the process, and in the process they've demonstrated the subtlety and power to be found in even the most tradition-bound name choices.
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Their first child's name, George, was an inspired branding statement. The name put aside the troubled recent history of the royal family and harked back to the essential spirit of the realm. It was a nod to the patron saint of England, and to the last man to hold the throne, George VI. Yet the name George was also a contemporary choice, from the perspective of English name style. It was fashionable in England at the time, particularly in the higher socioeconomic strata. In other words, it was probably a name that the new parents just plain liked.
The name of their second child, Charlotte, was an elegantly woven fabric of individual connections and identity. The full given name was Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, a combination that honored William's iconic parents and grandmother (Charles, Diana and Elizabeth) as well as Kate's mother (Carole, which like Charlotte is a feminine form of Charles). Yet as "Princess Charlotte," the girl wouldn't actually share a first name with any of them. That artful balance of homage and individuality placed the young princess securely in the royal line, but outside of anyone's shadow. Once again, it was also a thoroughly fashionable choice.
For baby number three, they've already checked off all the key boxes, meaning some of the naming pressure was off, too. That's a familiar experience in larger families. With relatives already honored, traditions maintained, parents have freer reign to follow their own taste within the constraints of sibling fairness and cultural expectations. Which brings us to Prince Louis Arthur Charles. Louis (reportedly LOO-ee, not LOO-iss) is a classic with regal associations, yet compared to George it's lighter on symbolism, heavier on style.
First, the regal bonafides. Louis and Louise are prominent names in the Hanover family tree. Princess Louise was a daughter of Queen Victoria, and Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed by the IRA, was Prince Philip's uncle. Today, Lady Louise Windsor is William's first cousin. And yet, Louis doesn't come across as a core name of English tradition. The spelling Lewis is more distinctly English, while Louis (especially in the LOO-ee pronunciation) is linked more strongly with the French throne. As for an homage to Lord Mountbatten, William and George already bear the middle name Louis in his honor.
So why pick Louis for a new baby? Well, because it's Louis. Who doesn't love that name?
If you're an American, that statement may surprise you. Despite a modest recent uptick, Louis and Lewis remain decidedly out of fashion in the U.S. In Britain, though, all things Lou have been hot for the past generation. The trend peaked around the turn of the millennium, when Louis, Lewis and Louise were all full-on hits and Louise became a popular second element in combo names like Ella-Louise. More recently, with England in the grips of a nickname craze, Louie has taken off on its own and now ranks in the top 50. Louis offers that coveted nickname sound with a formal spelling that sits naturally alongside the formal George and Charlotte.
So much room for self-expression along with symbolism, all without leaving the narrow naming confines of the British royal family tree. It's a good reminder that every name is unique, even if it's shared with countless others throughout history. Sometimes, in fact, that sharing is the very source of the name's power.
When it comes go girls' names, the letter A reigns over the whole alphabet. It's the #1 first (and last) letter for American girls, by a mile. After A comes a powerhouse trio: E as in Emma, M as in Mia, S as in Sophia. Together, the four initials account for nearly half of American girls' names.
With such overwhelming popularity, you might expect that every traditional A, E, M and S name is already in heavy rotation. Yet a search through names of past generations reveals a bounty of underused possibilities. I screened for girls' names with these three properties:
No name on the list below ranks among the top 500 girls' names in the U.S. today. I also ruled out names like Ann which were so common in past generations that they still sound thoroughly familiar, even if they're currently rare.
2. Have some fashion momentum
Every name on the list has risen in popularity over the past five years.
3. Have some history behind them
I only considered names that appeared in the national baby name states prior to 1930. Most of the names chosen were given to hundreds or thousands of American girls from the 1880s-1920s.
That simple recipe yielded a bumper crop of names ranging from the stately (Seraphina) to the sweet (Edie) to the surprising (Amaryllis). Below are 50 of the most intriguing possibilities, 10 each of E, M and S names, and a double-helping of 20 for the super-popular letter A.
Intriguing A Names
Intriguing E Names
Intriguing M Names
Intriguing S Names
The top baby name of the 1970s was Michael, but meeting a man named Mike doesn't immediately conjure up the "Me Decade." Michael was too diffuse of a hit, encompassing half a century in its popularity wave. For a pure, potent dose of the '70s, you need names concentrated in that decade.
We've identified 20 names with pure '70s power. If you meet someone named Kojak, Chakakhan, or any of the other names on this list, you can be pretty confident they were born in the 1970s—and that their parents were steeped in the events of their time. Each name is listed with its "70s purity score," the percentage of all Americans with the name who were born from 1970 to 1979.
Mr. Drummond & friends of Diff'rent Strokes (Image: tvguidemagazine.com)
Kojak (M) '70s Purity Score: 100%. The police drama Kojak starred Telly Savalas as the titular NYC police detective. His trademark style of bald head and lollipop made such an impact in the '70s that the names Telly and Savalas could also qualify for this list…Telly for boys and girls alike.
Chakakhan (F) 100%. Once upon a time, a young aspiring singer named Yvette Stevens was dubbed Chaka by a Yoruba elder. She then married a man with the surname Khan, and under the bold new name Chaka Khan became the Queen of Funk. The name Chaka is heavily '70s in her honor, and the extended name Chakakhan is as pure '70s as they come.
Drummond (M) 75%. The most common memory of the sitcom Diff-rent Strokes is of young Arnold, played by Gary Coleman, saying "What you talkin bout, Willis?" But the character who sparked a '70s baby name wasn't Arnold or Willis but Mr. Drummond, the wealthy white man who took in the two orphaned African-American boys.
Sacheen (F) 95%. When the 1973 Academy awards announced Marlon Brando as Best Actor for The Godfather, Brando sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage on his behalf to refuse the award. Two lasting impacts: Oscar winners are no longer allowed to appoint proxies to receive their statuettes, and over a hundred American women were named Sacheen.
Travolta (M) 100%. A scattering of boys were named Travolta in the wake of John Travolta's star-making turn in polyester in Saturday Night Fever.
Ayatollah (M) 100%. There was a lot more to the '70s than sitcoms and disco. In 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini led the revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran—and before the extended Iran hostage crisis cemented Khomeini as a villain in the eyes of the American public—the name Ayatollah briefly caught on.
Darth (M) 100%. Yep, that would be the ultimate helmeted, hollow-voiced bad guy, Darth Vader. The name Darth popped up for a few years after the original Star Wars came out in 1977. Once the prequel trilogy appeared, parents opted for Vader's birth name, Anakin.
Shaft (M) 83%. The biggest name of the "blaxploitation" film genre, private detective Shaft was one tough dude with one catchy theme song.
Charo (F) 85%. Actress and flamenco guitarist Charo was a ubiquitous tv guest star in the '70s, known in the U.S. for her catch phrase "cuchi-cuchi."
Amitabh (M) 100%. Amitabh Bachchan was a towering superstar of 1970s Bollywood. Amitabh was one of the first Indian film star names to make a mark on U.S. name stats; today, top Bollywood stars and characters regularly register on the top-1000 name charts.
Starbuck (M) 100%. Before Seattle's Starbucks Coffee conquered the world (and long after chief mate Starbuck tried to counter mad Captain Ahab in Moby Dick), Starbuck was a swashbuckling space pilot in the 1970s tv series Battlestar Galactica.
Comaneci (F) 100%. Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci was a breakout star of the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Starsky (M) 85%. The police detectives of the action series Starsky & Hutch tore around the mean streets of Southern California in a flashy Ford Gran Torino.
Kizzy (F) 79%. The most popular name on this list, Kizzy was the daughter of Kunta Kinte in the 1977 miniseries Roots, a show which left behind a powerful legacy in American baby names. Kizzy was a nickname for Keziah, a biblical daughter of Job.
Benji (F) 77%. Why were girls suddenly named Benji in the '70s? The answer walks on four paws. The title dog of hit film Benji won hearts with his winsome manner and crime-fighting acumen.
Thalmus (M) 100%. Thalmus Rasulala may not be a well-known name today, but the actor was a staple of 1970s African-American productions from Blacula to Roots to What's Happening!!
Sossity (F) 100%. For a dose of the earnest, weighty folk-rock that helped define the spirit of the early '70s, cue up the Jethro Tull song "Sossity: You're a Woman."
Coffy (F) 100%. The 1973 film Coffy starred Pam Grier as a vigilante, "The baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad that ever hit town!" Grier's most famous role of the period, "Foxy Brown," also inspired a handful of Foxy namesakes.
Snapper (M) 100%. Heartthrob doctor Snapper Foster of the soap opera The Young and the Restless was played by a young David Hasselhoff, before he took on the mantle of Knight Rider.
Tennille (F) 71%. Songs like "Love Will Keep Us Together" and the rodent ode "Muskrat Love" made the duo Captain & Tennille one of the biggest musical acts of the mid' 70s.