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10 Favorite Colonial Names for Today

Early American baby names that have stood the test of time.

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By Kara Cavazos @ The Art of Naming

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at some names that were used in Colonial America and could be still considered fashionable today. Colonial names are chock full of history and laced with virtues and biblical associations.

You probably won’t see many boys named Comfort or girls named Modesty today, and something like The-Peace-of-God or Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith wouldn’t exactly work well for official documents. Which led me to wonder what the most usable, wearable names that were favored in early America might be. I narrowed it down to my top 5 boy names and top 5 girl names that date back to the Colonial Era but can still sound fresh today.

I’ve also added a few middle name combo suggestions.

Girls:

Charlotte

Modern parents like the lovely French Charlotte this name so much that it now ranks at Number 10 and is the very top name on Nameberry. If that is too popular for you, there are several other forms of the name from Lottie to Charlize to Carolina to Karla. Charlotte dates back to 16th century England and has consistently been on the American popularity list.

Middle Name Ideas:  Charlotte Abigail, Charlotte Grace, Charlotte Louise, Charlotte Ruby

Eleanor
This name dates back to Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, the wife of King Louis VII of France in the 12th century. Eleanor became popular in England during the Middle Ages before it was carried to the New world. While there are a numberd of diminutives and other similar forms of the name, Eleanor itself ranks at Number 78 and has been climbing steadily.

Middle Name Ideas:  Eleanor Alexis, Eleanor Juliet, Eleanor Rose, Eleanor Sophia

Hannah

Hannah gained use in Europe after the Protestant Reformation and the Puritans took it with them to Colonial America, one of the many biblical names that gained favor at that time. A Hebrew name meaning “favour” or “grace”, it is related to Ann, Anne and Anna which were also in common use in the colonies. In modern times, Hannah‘s popularity peaked in 2000, reaching as high as #2 in the US. She’s declining now but was still ranked at #28 in 2014.

Middle Name Ideas Hannah Catherine, Hannah Josephine, Hannah Lily, Hannah Violet

Lydia
Another biblical favorite, the Greek name Lydia actually refers to a region in Asia Minor called Lydia. Like Hannah, this name has been in use since the Protestant Reformation. In the US, Lydia had small peaks of usage around 1916 and in the 1950s, but it is at its highest ranks today. With over 3600 baby girls given the name in 2014, it ranks at Number 84!

Middle Name Ideas:  Lydia Annabelle, Lydia Harper, Lydia Madeline, Lydia Scarlett

Susanna
Susanna is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Shoshannah. It means Lily in Hebrew and possibly Lotus in Egyptian. Susanna was used in the Middle Ages and was common after the Protestant Reformation in Europe but primarily as Susan.  These days, neither Susanna nor Susannah rank within the US Top 1000: Susanna fell off the list in 1998. Despite its low rank, Susanna is a lovely name that deserves more modern day usage.
Middle Name Ideas:  Susanna Elise, Susanna Hazel, Susanna Ivy, Susanna Willow

Boys:

Amos

Post-Reformation, Amos was very popular among the Puritans. Meaning “carried by God” in Hebrew, this is an Old Testament name that has been regularly used in the US at least since records began in 1880. It did well around 1920 but then began to decline. Currently, the name is on the rise again! It ranked at #693 in 2014.  With the newly trendy S-ending for boy names, Amos should fit right in.

Middle Name Ideas:  Amos Clark, Amos Joseph, Amos Michael, Amos William

Cyrus
This name has a long ancient history. Most notably, it was the name of several Persian kings, including Cyrus the Great.  It was well-used by the Puritans after the Protestant Reformation. In the modern US, Cyrus has been ranking in the #400-500 range for the past decade, ranking #461 in 2014. It is a cool, handsome choice that would work well on a boy today, and was chosen by Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy for their son.

Middle Name Ideas:  Cyrus Alexander, Cyrus James, Cyrus Oliver, Cyrus Quentin

Elias

The Greek form of the New Testament Elijah, both forms were popular among Puritans in Colonial America. There were many similar names beginning with El– that were used in those days; this one is gaining new popularity in the modern US. It has been on an upward path since the 1980s, ranking at a high of #103 in 2014.

Middle Name Ideas Elias Frederick, Elias Henry, Elias Julian, Elias Nathaniel

Levi
Another name that popped up after the Reformation, Levi is a biblical favorite meaning “attached” in Hebrew. This name ranks fairly well in many countries including #8 in the Netherlands and #22 in New Zealand. In the US, Levi has been climbing straight up the charts! In 2014, it hit a record-high of Number 45 with almost 8,000 births. With its biblical history and the appeal of the coveted letter V, Levi is definitely wearable today—it was chosen by the Matthew McConaugheys, Sheryl Crow ad Sara Gilbert.

Middle Name Ideas:  Levi Anthony, Levi Emerson, Levi Jackson, Levi Warren

Silas

Silas is the short form of Silvanus, which in Latin refers to “wood” or “forest”. This is another biblical name that popped up Post-Reformation among Puritans in Colonial America. Today, Silas is quite favored in the baby name community. The numbers agree: Silas has been climbing straight up the chart since around 2000. It currently ranks at #137 and will probably keep going up, especially since its choice by Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.

Middle Name IdeasSilas Adrian, Silas Damien, Silas Jasper, Silas Porter

Which of the above names do you like best? Do you like any other names favored by the Puritans?

 

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About the author

karacavazos

Kara Cavazos is a mother of two, a blogger and a baby name enthusiast. She loves ancient and vintage names most of all but she regularly features a variety of names on her blog The Art of Naming.
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1 Response to “10 Favorite Colonial Names for Today”

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ashbee Says:

November 25th, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Susannah is so gorgeous!

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