Category: classic names for girls
With a number of classic names taking a downward turn these days, it’s nice to see that a few are going in the other direction—William, James, Charlotte –and one that we’re especially happy to see making a return: our featured name of the day, Alice.
Alice is unique among the body of traditional, classic girls’ names. She’s more feminine and dainty than Mary and Helen, more substantive than Ann or Jane or Jean, yet with more lightness, sweetness and innocent charm than Margaret and Katharine.
From the late nineteenth century through the 1920s, Alice was an enormously popular Top 20 name–reaching as high as Number 8 several times—then slowly made its way down until 2005 when it suddenly reversed direction again. Tina Fey named her baby Alice the following year, and from then on its upward trend has accelerated, with the name getting to 142nd place last year.
Maybe because Nameberry attracts such serious name lovers, many visitors to the site can’t settle for choosing just one name for their babies.
I’m not talking about the trend toward picking two middle names but about the taste for baby girl names that have two very different versions: a classic, elaborate, elegant, formal name with a cute, modern, spunky nickname that may be very distinct in sound and feel.
These two-for-one names seem to work best for girls, as evidenced by a recent message board rundown of the possibilities. And of course it’s a phenomenon we’ve come across frequently on Nameberry before.
Many parents, in fact, say they’re only interested in baby girl names that go two ways. And most don’t want to settle for the obvious, traditional short form — Penny for Penelope, for example — but are seeking a proper name and an inventive short form.
Some examples of fresh two-for-one names for girls, with thanks to our wonderful berries for some of these creative ideas:
The news was filled with so-called normal names this week. But what defines a normal name? Is it a Top Ten choice that plenty of people your age share? Or are normal names the ones that remain in popular use for decades?
Singer Ne-Yo insisted that his son’s name is fit for a gentleman, and I wouldn’t argue – it’s a great name. But it is also a name that seems poised for the Top Ten, meaning that some perceive him as trendy, a cousin to Jayden and Aiden.
A widely-discussed report trumpeted the demise of Mad Men names, citing Don and Betty as examples of the most endangered appellations in all of nameland. There’s some truth to that, but it is equally true that plenty of names are enduring classics, the kind of choice that makes it difficult to pin down a child’s year of birth.
Normal changes, at least when it comes to given names. The endangered name list included plenty of perennial favorites, and that leads us right to our nine most newsworthy names this week:
James – The buzz about poor Betty and Don being so out of fashion included a list of others supposedly on the brink of extinction, like James – a name never out of the US Top 20 – and William, currently in the US Top Ten. The boys’ list was packed with timeless choices, including David, Charles, and Thomas. Maybe you won’t name your next son Roger, but many of us would consider one of the names on their so-called watch list.
In this era of boys’ or at least boyish names for girls, feminizations — classic feminine forms of male names such as Charlotte and Georgia — seem almost quaint. Why not just name your daughter Charlie….or George?
Well, there are a lot of reasons. And choosing a more traditional feminization can give you the best of all name worlds. Most are distinctly female without being frilly, have deep roots yet feel right for the contemporary world, let you honor a male ancestor without creating any confusion about the gender of his little namesake.
There are so many great feminine forms that it was difficult narrowing the list down to just a dozen. But these are our current favorites:
Antonia – Antonia is a lush and gorgeous name that has not found favor the way sisters Charlotte and Georgia have. In fact, it fell off the US Top 1000 in 2007 — which may be a very good reason to use it now. While some may find it too Old World, we think it’s lovely in its full form, not shortened to the considerably less classy Toni or Tonia.
I recently watched one of the seemingly countless Masterpiece Theater/BBC/theatrical versions of Jane Eyre, and I couldn’t help noticing how many times this particularly dreamy Rochester (Toby Stephens) repeated the heroine’s name, imbuing it each time with various shades of sweetness, sadness, passion, and more–and it made me fall in love with not only him but the name Jane. And to start wondering what’s become of baby-name Jane, one of the most classic girls’ names.
For a long time Jane was so popular that she became the Generic American Girl’s Name, as in Jane Doe/John Doe and G.I. Jane/G.I. Joe and the everygirl in the Dick and Jane readers. In 1935 there were 8,900 baby Janes born in this country, whereas in 2010, there were just a little over 800 in all of the U.S.
So why did Jane get shunted aside, while her male equivalents have survived and thrived? Was it because—unlike Mary and Elizabeth—she didn’t have biblical roots? Was this strong, simple name a victim of over-smooshing—too many Maryjanes and Bettyjanes and Sarajanes for it to stand alone? Was it mortally injured by the pejorative phrase Plain Jane?