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Old Lady Names: Ready for the Next Wave?

Vintage Names

A sizeable number of people come to nameberry every day searching for Old Lady Names – and they’re not looking for a new moniker for Grandma.  Rather, they’re looking for Old Lady Names that sound new again for babies.

As a genre, Old Lady Names are approaching their third wave of stylishness.  The initial wave was identified in our first baby name book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, published in 1988, as the hot Grandma names and the edgier Baby Women names.

Hot Grandmas included such folksy choices as:

ANNA

ANNIE

EMMA

HANNAH

JESSIE

LILY

MOLLY

NELL

NORA

SADIE

SOPHIE

The more buttoned-up Baby Women names we called “the names of the rich great-aunts who, ten years ago, you might have prayed would not ask you to name your child after them.  These included such now-stylish (but then-outrageous) choices as:

BEATRICE

CLARA

CORA

ELEANOR

ELLA

EVE

FRANCES

HAZEL

JOSEPHINE

MADELEINE

MATILDA

NATALIE

OLIVE

By the third edition of the book, published in 1994, we’d added a section called Can You Really Name A Baby Edna?, in which we wrote, “Suddenly, these names that have moldered in the attic for so long seem stylish again.”  Among the Old Lady Names we deemed ready for revival are names we’ve indeed heard a lot more of in the ensuing 15 years, including:

ADA

ADELAIDE

ADELINE

AMELIA

ANASTASIA

ANTONIA

CORDELIA

ESME

EVA

EVANGELINE

EVELYN

FLORA

FLORENCE

IDA

IMOGEN

IVY

LEONORA

LOUISA

MAY

PEARL

VIOLET

We also predicted the rise of humbler old-fashioned names we dubbed Homestyle, such as:

ABBY

BELLE

DAISY

DORA

LULU

MABEL

MAISIE

MERCY

MILLIE

PATIENCE

RUBY

STELLA

Like Biblical Names for boys, parents have now moved through so many of the more obvious choices that they’re ready to embrace the wilder Old Lady Names.  Why this genre has proven so durable: The names are grownup yet quirky, traditional yet unusual, classy yet sassy.  Some of the examples we’ve been noting all along that may finally rise again with the third wave are:

AGATHA

AGNES

BERNADETTE

DORIS

DOROTHY

EDWINA

ELSA

ENID

ESTHER

EUDORA

FLORENCE

FREDERICA

GLORIA

HELEN

HILDA

MARIAN

MURIEL

MYRTLE

PAULINE

ROSALIND

ROSAMUND

ROWENA

THEODORA

URSULA

WINIFRED

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