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Category: vintage names for boys

rsz_1richny1916-2

If you’ve spent any time on Nameberry recently or if you get our newsletter, you’ve seen the ads for my new novel, The Possibility of You.  The story of three women at three key moments of the past century dealing with unplanned pregnancies and questions of motherhood, the book required me to spend a lot of time researching the fashion and music, home decoration and child-rearing practices of 1916.  And of course, while I was at it, I couldn’t resist digging up information about names.

One of the most fascinating sources I found was the 1916 Social Register, which listed everybody who was anybody in New York.  It took both money and social standing to get your name in the Social Register, and so it was a window into upper class naming practices at the time.

One notable trend in evidence, mostly with male names but occasionally with female ones too, was last names used in first place.  Long a practice in moneyed families looking to cement ties between fortunes, these surnames are not the faux Coopers and Parkers that rose up over the past few decades but the genuine article: wealthy Great Aunt Fanny‘s maiden name, for instance, or maternal grandfather’s surname.

Of course, if you’re interested in using a surname as a first for your child, it’s best to use one from your own family, honoring someone you love even if you don’t expect them to leave you a million bucks.  But failing that, there’s no reason you can’t steal one of these choices. If you like the whole last names as first style, these sound fresher and more interesting than Taylor or Logan.

Choices from the 1916 Social Register:

Abbot

Averell (an appealing April update)

Breevort

Bridgeham

Bronson

Caswell

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Old Man Names: Crusty or Cool?

Heidi_and_her_grandfather

Old Man Names are the new Old Lady Names.

They’re the next frontier of vintage names, we mean. Old lady names — from Beatrice to Violet, Florence to Eleanor — have been mostly cool and rarely crusty for several years now. As with other fashionable categories — Old Testament names for boys, say, or Irish names — parents seem to push continuously into new and braver territory, stopping just this side of Bertha.

But old man names have been a different story. Sure, you’d get a girl cutely called Sydney, or a boy named Harold the III — but always called Tripp. And Harvey and Stanley are very trendy in England — though Americans find that totally baffling.

Now, though, we think it’s time to take a fresh look at old man names. For boys, of course, and yeah, even sometimes for girls.

The first tier of Old Man Names are the Grandpa Names, some of them Biblical, that have become popular and have paved the way for their crustier brothers. In this group we’d include:

Caleb
Charley
Ethan
Henry
Jake

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fred_astaire02

There are the eternal boys’ classics that never leave the higher echelons of popularity—names like John, James, William and Daniel.

But then there are those boys’ names that move in and out of style, names that can appear timeless in one period and then seem tired and fusty in another. These names, once at the top of their class, are now nearer the bottom—in one case having slipped away completely.

Yesterday we looked at forgotten girls’ classics. Today we bring you a dozen classic boys’ names that have fallen off the radar but deserve a fresh look.

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nerd

When Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany recently named their newborn daughter Agnes, I was very excited.  For a baby name connoisseur, the choice of Agnes by two stylish and attractive stars heralded the arrival of a new kind of cool name: the slightly awkward, somewhat geeky name that’s so uncool it’s cool.

Of course, Geek Chic has been around for awhile now, in names as in other aspects of fashion.  In our book Beyond Ava & Aiden, we featured a category – now on Nameberry – of Clunky but Cool Names for boys and for girls.  (There are also more, similar choices on the lists of Old Lady Names and Old Man Names.  The list of Old People Names, taking off from the twitter sensation, is full of names that are terminally geeky.)

Some of these choices, like Hugo and Oscar for boys, for instance, and Imogen and Matilda for girls, sound a lot more cool than clunky these days.  As vintage names become more mainstream and our tastes broaden, names that seemed edgy just a few years ago now feel normal and pretty – pretty normal.

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1910boy

Do you love vintage names but want to move beyond the usual classics and Biblical choices?  We looked at the popularity lists of 1910 to uncover hundreds of vintage boys’ names that are no longer in use — but could be revived.

It’s odd that there seem to be more terminally-antiquated boys’ names from 1910 than girls’ names.  After all, girls’ names change more quickly and dramatically than do boys’, which tend to hinge more on tradition and less on fashion.

Yet beyond the Johns and Williams that have always predominated for boys (and still do today), there are dozens, even  hundreds of names that filled the Top 1000 list a hundred years ago and now are lost to time.

They include hero names, surname-names, nickname-names, androgynous names, and even regular old first names that few people seem to use any more.

Sure, some parents who love vintage names might revive Chester or Homer or Julius or Oswald.  But many of these popular names for boys in 1910 are rarely heard today

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