Classic Surnames You've Overlooked

Jun 5th 2017

As Harrison and Kennedy continue to receive acclaim, parents are on the lookout for similar names with more personality and pizzazz. Timeless surnames with roots in the British Isles provide some great options for fans of this elegant style.

Combining a masculine sound with a polished vibe, these fifteen names are sure to offer the best of both worlds. Best of all, none currently ranks on the top 1000, so they’re sure to feel unique to your little one. 

Image via Pexels

Montgomery. Part old Hollywood, part Southern gentleman, Montgomery is a vintage pick that’s just right for the modern age. While actor Clift is the most notable wearer, Montgomery’s appearance in a few contemporary television shows helps it feel more familiar than fusty.

Howell. Poetic and refined, Howell is a classic surname that sounds bolder when used as a first. Though nickname Howie adds an element of cuteness, the full form has a distinguished quality that works well for all kinds of personalities.

Thompson. There is, of course, the namesake factor - from Emma to Hunter S., creative Thompsons have been inspiring audiences across the globe throughout history. Still, Thompson’s simple vibe suggests friendliness over flashiness, especially when shortened to Tom or Sonny.

Fraser. The original Scottish spelling distances it a bit from TV’s Frasier Crane, but over time, this handsome choice will feel more unique. It's derived from the French word for “strawberry,” making Fraser’s fresh sound clear and strong.

Bingham. If you like the vibes of Bennett and Graham but want something less common, bright Bingham might be the choice for you. While Kate Hudson brought this name to light for her youngest son, Bingham already seems more affable than A-List.

Humphrey. The cobwebs are finally getting swept off this dashing choice. Humphrey merges the coolness of Bogart with a distinct literary style - both Shakespeare and Joyce used the name with gusto. While it’s growing in popularity in the UK, it’s been recorded less than 40 times in the last decade in the US.

Macallister. With Alistair finally cracking the top 1000, could merry Macallister find its footing as a first name? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer thinks so - her son was given this playful surname in 2016, making it usable for the next generation of Millennial parents. 

Griffith. An illustrious alternative to Griffin, Griffith is a well-loved Welsh choice with some Hollywood connections: actors Andy and Melanie have brought fame to the name, and Griffith Park and Observatory are notable spots in Los Angeles. Strong and substantial, Griffith is bound to stand the test of time. 

Prescott. This dignified surname has been a favorite for generations of American leaders, from the revolutionary politicians to the Reagans and Bushes. Along with its remarkable history, Prescott could be a subtle honorific for a familial Scott these days.

Hughes. If Langston feels too specific, Hughes would be a dapper route to honoring the esteemed poet and luminary of the Harlem Renaissance. It ranks among the most popular surnames in the US and the UK, with namesakes and family connections aplenty.

Calloway. Darling and delightful, Calloway is a fabulous name with an excess of spirit. It fits in with other Irish favorites Kennedy and Sullivan, but stands out in its unparalleled personality. Calloway is a novel path to the nickname Cal, but the long form is simply melodious.

Sinclair. Mixing a high class sound with a scholarly pedigree, Sinclair is an uncommon choice that’s never ranked in the top 1000. It’s sophisticated and stylish but not too prim, with a religious etymology and pop culture associations to boot. 

Guthrie. Folksy and fun, Guthrie combines a sweet twang with a Scottish background. It fits in well with more popular picks like August or Grady, but has its own warm unique quality that’s hard to find. While singers Arlo and Woody have gotten Guthrie some attention, this name feels more versatile.

Hamilton. The musical and worldwide phenomenon has brought the name Hamilton to everyone’s lips, and just at the right time - it harmonizes with Harrison and Hudson without their meteoric popularity rankings. Already on the rise over the past few decades, the show is sure to inspire many parents to name their sons after the Founding Father.

Campbell. Kind and accessible, Campbell has long flown just under the radar of the top 1000, occasionally jumping on for a year or two. It’s a gorgeous alternative to Cameron or Camden, but feels more historically grounded. Might Campbell’s “-bell” sound make it the boy’s answer to Isabelle?


Read More66 Fresh Masculine-Sounding Surnames


Biblical Baby Name Boom? Don't Believe It

May 31st 2017

Noah has been America's #1 boy's name for four years straight. Elijah just cracked the top 10 for the first time, and Ethan and Jacob are long-time fixtures there. At first glance, it might seem that we're in the middle of a biblical baby name boom.

Don't believe it. In fact, the popularity of biblical names has hit an all-time low in the United States. I first found that result when I ran a tally four years ago, and despite the rise of Elijah and friends, the Bible name rate has continued to drop since then.

You can see the historical trend in the graph below. The bold red line at the top represents the total number of American babies receiving Bible names since 1880. The dotted lines break down the total into Old Testament names, New Testament names, and names appearing prominently in both texts.

At the left of the graph you can see the traditional dominance of New Testament names like John and Mary start to decline. In the mid-20th Century they were joined by a new group of biblical hits like Michael, Deborah and Daniel, creating a second peak. Then in the 1970s a new rush toward Old Testament names like Joshua and Rachel kept pace with a further decline of the New Testament classics. Since the 1990s, though, the total trend is simply down.

Why then, does the top of today's popularity chart look so biblical, even compared to decades past? The short answer is style. The popular Bible names of the past were so very popular that we stopped hearing their roots. If you walked into a room and met four men named Dave, Tom, Steve and Jim, would it even register that they're an all-biblical group? Today's names, in contrast, are chosen for the fresh, bible-first style that comes from not being popular in past generations. (Read more about the evolution of biblical name style.)

There's another huge difference between then and now. Yes, a biblical name still tops the boys' charts, just as one did 50 years ago and 100 years ago. But take a look at the usage of those three generations' favorite names, John, Michael and Noah:

Even as today's #1, Noah doesn't come close to the top biblical names of the past. And it wasn't just John and Michael back then. Each of the top eleven biblical boys' names from 50 years ago -- Michael, David, James, John, Mark, Thomas, Timothy, Steven, Joseph, Paul and Daniel – was more popular than Noah is today.

Traditional namers may now be flocking to strongly biblical-styled names, but those traditional namers make up an ever-shrinking portion of America's parents. For every Peter, Paul and Mary born today, there are two Kaydens, Brysons and Skylars. So despite what the top-10 lists may tell us, the golden age of biblical baby names is in the past.


Greek Mythological Names for Girls

May 29th 2017

Penelope, Athena, and Phoebe - what do these popular feminine names have in common? They’re all associated with Greek mythology, a fantastic source for name inspiration today.

Strong but still graceful, tenacious yet feminine, these names of the goddesses, queens, and nymphs of ancient Greece balance the best of both worlds. Let’s take a look at a few divine choices that haven’t yet become popular.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Artemis. Confident and cool, Artemis has a modern sound despite its roots in the ancient world. The legendary Artemis is known as the goddess of hunting and the wilderness, giving the name a natural twist. With Arthur and Athena rising, parents may be drawn to the tenacity of Artemis.

Persephone. Another mythological alternative to Penelope, Persephone has a similar sound but a more ethereal vibe. She is the queen of the underworld in Greek myth, but she’s also associated with the springtime. If you’re looking for a name that balances the dusk and the dawn, Persephone is ideal.

Hestia. Derived from the Greek for “hearth” or “altar,” Hestia is a friendly and feminine pick. It’s akin to vintage names like Esther or Hazel, but doesn’t have their popularity - it’s never been recorded in the United States. Hestia is also an uncommon route to a multitude of nicknames, from Hattie to Tia.

Calypso. Edgy and dramatic, Calypso is a bold choice with a legendary backstory; she was a nymph who held Odysseus captive for years, with a name meaning “to deceive”. Such intrigue hasn’t deterred modern parents - Calypso’s melody (and connection to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise) has helped it find fans over the past few decades.

Althea. Pretty Althea fits in with popular A-a names like Amelia and Alexa, but maintains its rich and expansive history. Althea was the queen of Calydon, and her names comes from the Greek for “healer”. This unique connection would make Althea an appealing and subtle honorific for familial doctors or nurses.

Selene. Luna and Nova are shining bright - might Selene join their ranks? This celestial pick is the name of the goddess of the moon, and can be pronounced Seh-lee-nee or Suh-leen. Selene is a sleek update to Selena, with a sophisticated and elegant air.

Ianthe. This exquisite choice comes from the Greek for “violet flower,” but has a more delicate and resolute sound than vintage Violet. Ianthe was also the name of a nymph associated with flowers, making this an understated floral pick. It’s also been recorded sporadically since 1914, enriching its credibility as an established Western name.

Andromeda. Featured in both the Harry Potter series and My Sister’s Keeper, Andromeda is a pop culture pick with style and substance to back it up. In Greek myth, she was the daughter of Casseiopeia, and an early inspiration for the “princess and dragon” motif in storytelling. Today, ornate Andromeda would work well as an alternative to Amanda or Alexandra.

Echo. A modern word name that could harmonize with a musical family, Echo has been growing in popularity thanks to its amiable sound and attractive vibe. In mythology, Echo is a nymph cursed by Hera to repeat others’ words back to them - a rather unfortunate story that still doesn’t hurt the favorable qualities of this sweet name.

Cassiopeia. Beautiful and opulent, Cassiopeia is a fabulous way to reach the kind Cassie nickname through an unusual path. Once a proud queen of Aethiopia, Cassiopeia became a constellation after offending the god Poseidon. For today’s parents, Cassiopeia may raise some eyebrows, but it’s within the realm of lavish and luxurious name choices.

Hera. The queen of the gods, and the goddess of women, Hera has received surprisingly little attention despite its aural similarities to favorites Sarah and Hannah. Her mythological history is admittedly complicated, but this simple and graceful name deserves another look. Perhaps with Nora and Clara rising, Hera could finally find favor.

Demeter. With a one-of-a-kind sound and the adorable nickname Demi, this name may also appeal to fans of the natural world - Demeter is the goddess of agriculture. The boys’ list has seen Dimitri a few times, but Demeter brings strength and wisdom to the girls’. Variants Demetra and Demetria add a bit of flair to this divine choice.

Anthea. Like Ianthe, Anthea is an unexpected botanical pick, coming from the Greek word for “blossom”. She is, in fact, the goddess of flowers and one of the Graces in lore. Anthea is a great update to Andrea or Anita, and has been used quite a bit more in the United Kingdom.

Clio. Looking for an alternative to Chloe or Claire? Check out Clio - she’s the muse of history and great deeds in Greek mythology. This name is also associated with annual awards in advertising, but may yet appeal to fans of the creative and contemporary. It’s bound to be confused with Cleo, but remains a charming name nonetheless.

Rhea. Though lovely Rhea ranked highly at the end of the nineteenth century, it’s only recently come back into the spotlight after re-entering the top 1000 in 2015. Rhea is a Titan and the “mother of gods” in Greek mythology, giving the name more gravity. However, it’s also a type of large flightless bird, which could be a bit too eccentric for some tastes.