It's time for the old-time gent names to take another turn in the spotlight.
I'm not just talking about the ones with a light touch, like Emmett and Theo, or quirky charm, like Oliver and Felix, or dashing elegance, like Silas and Sebastian. Those ships have already come in. I'm talking about the hardcore throwbacks, the names as weighty and dignified as granite pillars. Conrad, Frederick, Edmund, step on up.
I know, these names may be a hard sell. Lightness and vowels have dominated the name scene for the past generation, so much so that it can be hard to picture a name like Edmund on a little boy. But the weighty gent names offer some key qualities that a lot of parents say they're looking for. They're traditional names with deep roots. They have an old-fashioned luster. They're clearly masculine, without being cartoonishly macho. And best of all, they're not overused.
That last, much-sought quality can be hard to find in an old-fashioned boy's name. When you go hunting for antiques on the boys' side, you're fighting the tide of history. At the turn of the 20th Century, parents were very conservative with boys' names. A girl might be given a trendy modern name like Gladys or Evelyn, but the classic English kingly stock still ruled for boys: John, William, James. That means there weren't a lot of distinctive turn-of-the-century boys' names to disappear and be revived four generations down the line. Which means that the ones that do exist, particularly the light and quirky ones, end up swarmed by tradition-minded parents.
If you want old-fashioned and you want unusual, something's got to give. The stern and sturdy old names are one way out. If you're ready to go hardcore gent, here are a dozen of the most promising prospects.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The brand new college students moving into dorms across the country have something none of their predecessors had: a birthdate in the new millennium. As the Year 2000 babies settle in to their new lives, it's time to take a new look at the names going back to school this fall, from the kindergarteners to the collegians.
First-Year College Names, at a Glance
At the turn of the millennium, a generation of "new classics" was still holding strong. The top 10 was dominated by long-time favorites like Matthew, Christopher, Jessica and Samantha, while the surnames Tyler and Taylor snuck in as portents of a surname surge to come.
Kindergarten Names, at a Glance
The names of new kindergarteners born in 2013 lean toward the light and trim, with newcomers like Noah, Liam, Ava and Mia ranking the top 10. The presence of Jayden at #9 hints at the huge rhymes-with-Aidan wave that had just crested.
From Zero to 60
Dozens of names that didn't even register on the top-1000 charts in 2000 were bonafide hits by 2013. The prize for the dizziest rise goes to Harper, which rose by 6,000% to become the 16th most popular girl's name in America. Runners-up: Bentley for boys and Nevaeh for girls. Of all the skyrocketing names, only a few like Penelope and Arabella could be considered traditional as given names.
The Classics Fell, Fast…
In 2000, the name Mary still ranked among the top 50 names for girls. By 2013 its usage had dropped by more than half, and its rank was down to #120. Most of the core English classics like Robert and Katherine experienced similar declines. Even William, the top kingly classic at #5, saw a 20% drop in popularity.
…But the '90s Favorites, Even Faster
The sharpest declines were reserved for names that helped define the sound of the 1990s: Jessica, Nicholas, Ashley and Megan. The drop in Jessicas alone accounted for over 13,000 babies.
...And Some Names to the Brink of Extinction
Many names that are commonplace among the college students are all but unheard of in the kindergarten set. They include such familiar choices as Shannon and Heather for girls, and Bailey for boys. The name Katrina also did a disappearing act, as the devastation of Hurricane Katrina hit between the two birth years.
The #1 Boys' Names of the Two Classes Tell a Tale
The #1 boy's name of 2000 was Jacob. The #1 boy's name of 2013 was Noah. Stylistically, those two Old Testament revivals may not seem like a dramatic change over the course of 13 years. But take a look at how many babies those #1 names represented:
Jacob, as #1 in 2000: 34,471
Noah, as #1 in 2013: 18,241
In the space of a K-12 education, the status of a #1 name was utterly transformed.
The Takeaway Message: Modern Name Fashion Works at Warp Speed
We last looked at the back to school names five years ago, and this new kindergarten class already shows major changes from that group. Brand-new popular names include Arya, Iker, Messiah, Nova and Knox, while previously red-hot names like Makayla, Madalyn, Braden, Diego, and Hayden (M & F) have already dropped sharply. Expect change to keep speeding ahead in the years to come.
Why did Addison and Emerson become popular names for girls, while Harrison and Jefferson stuck to the boys' side of the charts? The answer is in the nicknames. Addison and Emerson trim down to the familiar girls' nicknames Addie and Emmy—cozy counterweights to the unisex formality of the full surnames.
This 2-for-1 punch of surname and pet name has propelled a series of hit names for the past generation. Contrasting nicknames offer a best of both worlds scenario for parents who like the two different styles. Even more importantly, their daughters get a choice of how to present themselves as they grow into new roles.
With another wave of cozy nicknames on the rise, are there more undiscovered surname options ready to meet them? I've identified 38 prospects. Some may be hard for you to picture as girls' names right now, but remember that it wasn't so long ago that Cassidy and Madison meant Butch Cassidy and James Madison, not Cassie and Maddie.