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15 Old-but-New Names for Boys

April 27, 2016 Pamela Redmond
boys' names

by Pamela Redmond Satran

Vintage baby names have been so widely used for so long that the parent in search of a boys’ name that’s both old-fashioned and fresh-feeling may have to search long and hard.

On the boys’ side we’ve seen waves of Biblical baby names, from Adam and Zachary to current Top Ten favorites Noah, Jacob, and Ethan.

Traditional names are perennially popular for boys, with James and William leading the current pack that includes Michael, Alexander, and Matthew.

And then there are the quirkier vintage boys’ names that are stylish today and have even risen into the Top 100: Oliver and Sebastian, Josiah and Tyler.

Given all this popularity, if you’ve been looking for a vintage boys’ name that feels fresh and new, you may feel frustrated. So we’ve done the searching for you. These 15 boys’ names are all well below the Top 1000 yet can work in the modern world. They’re distinctly vintage — some Biblical, some from ancient cultures, some international — yet feel surprising cool.

Our picks for old-school boys’ names that feel new again are:

Ansel — This old German name has two great references: revered classic photographer Ansel Adams and hot young actor Ansel Elgort, who gives it a decidedly modern spin. It reached its zenith on the US popularity list in 1893 but fell off the Top 1000 nearly a century ago.

Casimir — The dashing royal Polish and Slavic Casimir was surprisingly high on the US popularity list a century ago, but fell off completely in 1942, perhaps because of anti-Eastern European sentiment during World War II. Last year only 30 boys in the US were named Casimir, which comes with the great nickname Cas.

Cassian — We’re total fangirls of the name Cassian, an ancient saints’ name ready to pop. But it hasn’t yet: Only 19 boys were named Cassian in the US last year. Pronunciation is CASH-en.

Clement — Now that Clementine is breaking through on the girls’ side, maybe Clement will be rediscovered for boys?  It comes with a papal history, a pleasant meaning, and the folksy nickname Clem.

Lazer or Lazar — This name with two spellings, both variations of Eliezer or Lazarus, has biblical roots but a modern bad boy feel. We’re betting most little boys, once they reach school age, will be delighted to be named Lazer — though last year only 32 received this spelling with another 23 named Lazar.

Levon — This Armenian version of Leon enjoyed some light use in the US from the 1930s through the 80s, and has a cool edge thanks to musician Levon Helm. Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke named their son Levon.

Linus — Linus has finally let go of his blanket, and the only downside of using this underrated name is that you’ll hear lots of Peanuts jokes like the one we just couldn’t resist making. Linus has roots in Greek myth and was also the name of the second pope. It was at its peak in the US the year the name standings started, 1880, but fell off the Top 1000 in the early 1940s. Linus is in the Top 50 in Germany, Sweden, and Norway.

Montgomery — Fashionable in England but little-used in the US, Montgomery is a surname-name best known via the dashing actor Montgomery Clift. Monty is the wonderful short form.

Morris — Morris is an Old Man name definitely ready for his comeback. In the Top 100 at the turn of the last century, Morris disappeared from the US standings two decades ago.  Nickname alternatives: Mo, Morrie, or Moss.

Octavius — This Ancient Latin name related to the number eight is in the spotlight again along with all names Roman. Octavius has many august and diverse relations.

Odysseus — The adventurous Odysseus might finally be ready in this era of ancient revival to climb out of his myth and into the playground. If Odysseus is too odd for you — it was given to 30 baby boys last year — you might consider Homer. But Mr. Simpson might have marginalized that one even further; last year it was given to even fewer boys, with 28.

Orson — The surnameish Orson, with its bear-related meaning, has some celebrity cred: both Paz Vega and Lauren Ambrose have sons named Orson, and the creator of Citizen Kane was Orson Welles.  It peaked in the US in 1883 and hasn’t been on the Top 1000 since 1901.

Raoul Raoul is the much-more-dashing French form of Ralph and Raul is the Spanish version.  But while Raul is in the Top 500, Raoul was given to a mere five boys last year.

Sampson — Sampson is the Biblical strong man whose name has a sunny meaning. It dropped off the US roster a century ago and is an original route to Sam.  Samson is a more popular spelling.

Wilber or Wilbur— Wilbur is the sweet pig in Charlotte‘s Web, which you may consider a plus or a minus. Taken together, the two spellings are given to only about 50 boys. And Will is a great if much-more-ordinary short form.

About the author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry. The coauthor of ten bestselling baby name books, Redmond is an internationally-recognized name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show,, CNN, and the BBC. Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its new sequel, Older.

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