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Buttoned-up Girls’ Names

classic girls' names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

The trendiest girls’ names of recent years have been flowery and elaborate: Isabella and Sophia, Olivia and Arianna.  They end in vowels….and often begin with them too.  And if they’re not exotic confections, stylish girls’ names are often gender-and-tradition-confounding novelties such as Harper and Hadley and Neveah.

You can almost hear your granny asking: What ever happened to a nice name like AnneAren’t any babies named Mary these days?

Well, fewer and fewer, in many cases, yet all the frippery in girls’ names is enough to make the old-fashioned buttoned-up standards feel downright refreshing.

A few of these buttoned-up names – Eleanor, most notably – are already making a comeback.  But most are simply lovely standards that may feel buttoned-up, but come with fanciful nicknames for now that can be shed (or not) if and when the future demands more seriousness.

Supreme Court Justice names, anyone?

The buttoned-up names for girls we think deserve a closer look include:

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alice-in-wonderland (1)

What’s your favorite classic girls’ name?

And by classic, we mean timeless choices such as Elizabeth, Sarah, and Margaret.

We also mean currently fashionable classics such as Charlotte and Alice.

In fact, when you tell us which classic girls’ name is your favorite, maybe you can also tell us why you consider it a classic.

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classic girl names

By Pamela Redmond Satran

Think you have to pick between names that are classics, with deep roots and centuries of use, and names that are unusual?

You don’t, as these classic girls’ names, all ranked below the U.S. Top 1000, attest.

Some were popular in recent years and are now sinking from view — Pamela, Jean — while others are rising stars we predict will soon appear on the official Top 1000: Imogen is a prime example, along with Mabel, the Margos, and Clementine.

That still leaves dozens of classic girls’ names that are neither coming into style nor sailing out but simply holding steady below the radar.

A note on how we chose the names: We did not include variant spellings of more popular classic names such as Emilee, and for the most part excluded short forms unless they have been traditionally used on their own.  Our definition of classic embraces ancient names such as Phaedra and Keturah along with more recent widely-used girls’ names such as Maureen.

If you’re in search of a classic girls’ name that’s both traditional and unusual, consider these 100+ picks, ordered from those given to the highest number of baby girls in the U.S. in 2012 (Aurelia, at 250) to the least (Petal, used for just 5).

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Classic Baby Names: 10 timeless choices

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Classic baby names can encompass several different categories. There are Biblical names, from Anne to Zachary. There are names rooted in ancient cultures, including Atticus and Juno, which have survived or are being revived today.

And then there are the classic names that have been well-used in English-speaking cultures over the decades and centuries. While classic names by any definition do move in and out of style just like other names, some manage to endure better than others and become, well, the most classic classic names.

Here, our picks for ten of the best classic baby names today.

girls

Catherine — The Duchess formerly known as Kate has done much to swing fashion toward the C-beginning version of this most classic of girls’ names.  Catherine, classic in any spelling, has been borne by saints and queens along with some of the most inspiring literary heroines, including Heathcliff‘s Cathy of Wuthering Heights.   Greek for “pure,” Catherine comes in countless international variations and with a wide range of nicknames.  Most stylish today are Cate or Kate or the vintage-feeling Kay or Kitty.

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For the past couple of years, Charlotte has been at or near the top of the list of Berry favorites, and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s a name at the very center of the Sweet Spot of names with a ton of great attributes and references—literary, historic, and royal.  She’s demure, yet solid and strong, classic but not stuffy, British with the slightest trace of a French accent–one of the very best classic girls’ names.

She has so much going for her that we thought that she deserved a whole blog to herself.

History

Like her cousin Caroline, Charlotte is a feminine form of Charles, but arrived there in a roundabout way.  Charlotte is actually the English and French version of the Italian Carlotta, itself a feminine version of Carlo, the Italian Charles, and has been in English-speaking use since the seventeenth century.  In the fifteenth century, Carlotta of Savoy married King Louis XI of France, where her name became Gallicized as Charlotte, a form which then emigrated to England during the next century.

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