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Vintage Baby Names: Testing the 100-year rule

Check out our list of Vintage Baby Names.

In the world of baby names, there used to be something  called The Hundred Year Rule, based on the assumption that it took a full century for a name to shake off its dusty image and sound fresh again.  I use the past tense because this obviously doesn’t hold true anymore; like everything else, the process of name resuscitation has speeded up wildly.

So when we look at the popularity lists for a hundred years ago–1910– we see any number of names that have already popped back—names like Grace, Ruby, Emma, Ella, Violet, Sadie, Ruby, Isabel, Max, Oliver and Felix.

The question is, are there any names from a century ago that we’ve overlooked and are still worthy of re-evaluation?  Here are some you might consider, all in the Top Thou of 1910—although we do have to keep in mind that the US population then was about 30% of what it is now, so some of these names were attached to a very small number of babies.

GIRLS (starred names were in the Top 100 then; none of them appears on the current list)

ADELIA

*AGNES

AILI

ALBERTINE

AMALIA

ANTONIA

ARA

AURELIA

AVIS

BERNADINE

BETHEL

CELESTINE

COLETTA

CORDELIA

DELPHINE

DELTA

DOROTHEA

EASTER

ERIE

FLORRIE

GENEVA

*HATTIE

*INEZ

KITTY

LELIA

LOTTIE

LUCRETIA

*LULA

MAGNOLIA

*MAMIE

MAY

MINERVA

NELLA

NOVA

OCTAVIA

ODESSA

*OPAL

OPHELIA

OUIDA

PALMA

*PAULINE

POLLY

ROXIE

THEODORA

THORA

TILLIE

VERONA

VEVA

*VIOLA

WINIFRED

WINNIE

ZADIE

Probably not slated for return:

FAIRY

PINKIE

TINY

BOYS

 ABNER

AMBROSE

ARCHIBALD

AUGUSTINE

BASIL

BENEDICT

CASPER

*CHESTER

*CLAUDE

CLEMENT

CLEVE

*CLYDE

DORSEY

DOYLE

DUDLEY

*FLOYD

GROVER

HARDY

HIRAM

*HOMER

JARVIS

JUDSON

KERMIT

LEMON

LEMUEL

LIONEL

LONZO

LOYAL

LYLE

MACK

*MORRIS

NORRIS

OTTO

PERRY

RALEIGH

ROSCOE

RUFUS

SMITH

VALENTINE

*VERNON

VIRGIL

 

A few we don’t expect back:

BUCK

BUSTER

CURLEY

DOCK

NAPOLEON

ORA

OTHO

One interesting thing on this 1910 favorites list is the number of gender reversals.  In the girls’ column, we find:

CECIL

CHARLES

HENRY

IRA

LOUIS

ROBERT

THEO

And, even more dramatically, though there are no boys named Sue, there are boys—and enough of them to make the list—named the following, a few harking back to the time when they were male or unisex:

AGNES

ALICE

ANNIE

AUDREY

BEATRICE

BONNIE

DOROTHY

ELSIE

ETHEL

GLADYS

HAZEL

HELEN

IRENE

IVY

JEWEL

MARIE

MARTHA

MARY

PAULINE

THELMA

For more Vintage Baby Names, check out our list page.

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33 Responses to “Vintage Baby Names: Testing the 100-year rule”

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Holly Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 1:46 am

those poor boy babies with the girl names

Elle Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 4:25 am

Wow I love so many of these names. I suppose it is because I’m not a fan of cutie sounding names.
Antonia is becoming my star name. I find so much beauty and class in this name and I do not understand why it is so underused. It is on my name list!

I also really like Geneva, Theodora, Lyle, Perry and Smith.

Jill Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 5:23 am

Great blog! I love so many of these names, especially Cordelia!

My favorites:

Cordelia
Adelia
Dorothea
Delphine
Polly (I think this name is adorable!)
Theodora
Viola
Winifred

Archibald
Basil
Claude
Clyde
Lionel

Girls named Charles, Henry, and Theo? Wow…I can see Cecil though, because it was a female character in Deep End of the Ocean.

Boys named Beatrice, Annie, Dorothy, Mary, etc.? Interesting…Today, boys with those names would totally be the recipients of many a wedgie.

I have no idea how you two (Pam and Linda) come up with such interesting blogs day after day! You’re the best!
🙂

Kirrily Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 7:08 am

My favourite girls name is on the list – and I really like Agnes, which was my Nana’s name, it may be the middle name we use with it!

Tamara Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 7:16 am

I love Amalia, Antonia and May for girls! And for boys I love (from this list) Lionel and Rufus.

From the boys named girls names list I love these (FOR GIRLS!) Alice, Annie (nn), Audrey and Marie.

xiabelle Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 7:21 am

Fascinating! And especially for girls, some of these have been discussed or are on our list.

Cordelia
Dorothea (my grandmother was Dorothy)
Viola (on our serious consideration list, we much prefer it to Violet)

For girls, I also like:
Agnes
Aurelia
Geneva
Lucretia
Minerva
Verona

I’ve also heard recently of somebody considering Thora for their daughter (and there’s also the actress)

For boys, I like
Augustine
Benedict
Claude
Judson

I can definitely see Lemuel and Jarvis and Judson and Raleigh (possibly also for a girl) coming back for boys.

Lola Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 9:05 am

There’s my gorgeous Rufus & Winifred! 😀

I love so many of the names on this list, Lucretia (my preferred girly Luc- name), Dorothea, Florrie (as a nn for Florence), Aurelia, Tillie (for Ottilie) & Hattie (for Henrietta). Agnes is one I’m hoping my boys put on a grandaughter for me.

The boys of this era completely thrill me, always have. Ambrose ( my seconds middle), Casper, Chester (one of Josie’s stuffed buddies along with Floyd & Clyde), Claud, Clement, Grover (I’ve always thought Grover was jazzy cool), Valentine, Otto & Perry. I’m smitten with Perry. And surprisingly, I find Loyal a very attractive virtue.

So I’m really hoping these come back. I can’t possibly use them all myself! 🙂

Mary Beth Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 9:44 am

Like the previous posters, I like a lot of these, and it seems that the 100-year rule stands up because many of these seem fresh and fitting the current trends.

I would suggest Albertine as one that I’ve never heard used but I think it nice. She was a main character in Remembrance of Things Past.

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January 15th, 2010 at 10:16 am

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gingerkid Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 10:36 am

One of the women in my birthing class last fall just named her daughter Cecil. She’s pronouncing it SESS-ul. It’s not a bad name, but I bet the poor kid will have to endure being asked if it’s really Cecilia or Cecily all the time, not to mention correcting people on the pronunciation (I imagine most people will think it’s SEE-sull).

My husband really wanted Mack if our daughter had been a boy. All I could think of was a redneck trucker with a beer gut. I finally gave in and accepted it as the middle name, and was REALLY relieved she was a girl. Our son would have been Oliver Mack, and my husband was planning to call him Mack, while I’d use Olly. Well, apparently, my husband is ahead of the curve on trendy boy names, ha ha! I like it better than I used to…I could see a teenage boy really liking Mack as his name. You would think with the popularity of Jack and Zack that it would have come into more use. Who knows…maybe by the time I’m pregnant again, Mack will sound better to me?

namefan Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 10:46 am

I think that most of those cross-gender names you mentioned are not actual babies that were given those names, but rather accumulated errors by the SSA (you will notice that on the other lists through the 1980s or so some of the most popular names for each gender that are obviously not unisex will sometimes show up low on the list for the opposite gender for that reason).

k_lareese Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 10:48 am

I am in agreement with many of the previous posters, I love so many of these names. In fact, many of the names were on my list when we were expecting my daughter. Of course, DH vetoed most. On the list:

Adelia (actually been in my top ten since I was 13)
Aurelia
Cordelia
Geveva
Ophelia (using this one would take a lot of courage)
Verona
Viola

olivegreen Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 11:28 am

Inez is my latest love–the ‘z’ gives her a little sass. And Adelia is a family name so she’s still a likely possibility if we ever have a daughter. Cordelia, Delphine and Viola are also lovely. From the boy’s list, I love Ambrose, Otto and Rufus.

Jaime Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 11:45 am

I love Aili – haven’t seen it before and find it very charming. And I’ve had a long-term crush on Nova…unfortunately, I already have a Norah so that won’t work if I have another girl down the road.

Hoping Rufus becomes just a tad more mainstream if I have a third and its a boy…it was my grandfather’s name and my husband merely laughed when I brought it up last time. 😉

Nephele Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 11:46 am

I have to agree with Namefan who wrote here that most of those apparent “cross-gender” names appearing on the early SSA names lists are probably due to accumulated errors in recording.

Namefan has written an interesting little article on the Nameberry board titled “Artifacts on the SSA Lists,” which also covers the frequent appearance of nicknames and “placeholder” names.

http://nameberry.com/nametalk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6087

To add to what Namefan wrote here… We see the same thing with the 1990 census sample of names made available to us by the U.S. Department of the Census. Names such as “Dorthy” and “Joesph” appear among the top 1,000. While there’s a possibility that these may have been very, very popular variants of “Dorothy” and “Joseph” back in 1990, it is perhaps more likely that the appearance of “Dorthy” and “Joesph” among the top 1,000 are more likely due to accumulated spelling errors in the compiled 1990 census sample.

A very nice compilation here of “Hundred Year Rule” names worthy of a come-back! These three girls’ names from your list were my special favorites: Celestine, Delphine, and Minerva.

— Nephele

spicedchai Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Is Aurelia usually pronounced uh-RELL-ia or uh-RAIL-ia?

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I pronounce Aurelia aw-reel-ya, but it seems as if each syllable is up for grabs. The first syllable can be pronounced uh, oh, ah, or aw. Second syllable rell, rail, or reel. Third syllable might be ya or might become third and fourth syllable, ee-ah. Gives you a lot of creative freedom, but no matter what pronunciation you choose, someone is going to pronounce it “wrong.”

rbyndlrsn Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

That’s funny, I actually know a “Buck”! He was one of my brother’s best friends growing up, I guess that would put him in the early 20’s age group. Not that this name was all that unusual in the family, he has siblings named “Coco”, “Skip”, and “Sunshine” to name a few.

jess Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Lemon for a boy!!!! Cutest name on the list!

justthinkin Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Very cool!

I like:
Adelia
Amalia
Aurelia
Hattie
Lelia
Magnolia
Polly
Judson
Mack

I’d actually consider using Aurelia and Mack someday.

phoebesmom Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

I like Buck! I know a couple of them (mid-twenties) and they wear it well. I have actually toyed with using it as a nn if we name our son Benjamin after his father (as he already uses Ben.) I don’t see it as completely obsolete, but it may play better here in Texas, I guess, or other big hunting states.
I think Judson could come back. Kind of a spin on Jackson. I know a brand new baby named Mack (nn for a Mc-surname.)

moxielove Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

LOL I’m ahead of my time and chose 2 names for my daughter that were at their height in the 1920’s! (Petra & Estelle)

Odessa & Basil are definitely my 2 favorites from the above list

snowblonde Says:

January 15th, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Great post!

*AGNES – I’ve loved this since I read The Thorn Birds in the 8th grade. The main character, Meggie, names her doll this because it’s the only name she can think of elegant enough.
DELPHINE – I love this.
*LULA – I’ve heard this a couple times as a nn for Talula.
*MAMIE – getting some press now that Meryl Streep’s daughter is making films and using this as her nom de guerre.
ODESSA – I love this, especially as a Texan. There’s a west Texas oil town called Odessa.
*OPAL – Awesome.
OPHELIA – Love this.

BOYS

ABNER – This is good.
AUGUSTINE – I’m Catholic, so I know a couple women with little Augies running around, named after the saint and early church father.
BENEDICT – also not unheard of around Catholic babies.
*CLYDE – This also has a cool Texas connection. Both Bonnie and Clyde are buried a few miles from my home.
LEMON – I actually kind of like this is a nn for a girl.
*VERNON – Another Texas town.
VIRGIL – Great cowboy feel (I’m thinking of Wyatt Earp’s brother) but unfortunately too close to “virgin” to avoid teasing, I think.

http://legitbabenames.wordpress.com/ Says:

January 16th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

One name that I am surprised not to see in the U.S. top 1000 is Willa. She seems like she would fit right in with the current trend, what with names like Ava and Ella and nature names like Willow and Autumn.

From this list, I can definitely see these catching on:

AMALIA-especially with the nickname of Malia, I can definitely see this rising very soon
AURELIA
BETHEL
CORDELIA
GENEVA
*HATTIE
LELIA
LOTTIE
ODESSA
POLLY
TILLIE
VERONA
VEVA-a nickname for Genevieve
BASIL
BENEDICT
CASPER
*CHESTER
HARDY
JUDSON
LEMON-I don’t think this will catch on, but just wanted to add that this was usually a nickname for Lemual
LEMUEL
OTTO-I have already seen this quite a few times in the Birth announcements, I am serious
RALEIGH
IRA
LOUIS
ROBERT
THEO

ALICE
BEATRICE
BONNIE
ELSIE
HAZEL
IVY

susan Says:

January 17th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Love Cordelia, Pauline, and Lionel the most.

Vikki Says:

January 17th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Buck also plays well in SC. Its a good nickname.

VINTAGE BABY NAMES: Testing the 100-year rule | Ondelet Says:

January 24th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

[…] Link: VINTAGE BABY NAMES: Testing the 100-year rule […]

Kaylan Says:

October 25th, 2010 at 1:44 am

I LOVE the name Lottie if i ever have a lil girl i am going to name her Lottie Ashton.

crazynamegirl Says:

March 27th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I LOVE PRETTY MUCH ALL OF THESE!!!!!! I am adding a middle name to my name and I’m considering Verona. Sounds fabulous with my first name, and I’m 1/4 Italian. If only there were a bunch of children in my near future so I could give them these names…:)

Catastroffy Says:

January 11th, 2015 at 7:21 am

I love Lavender, Evelyn, Ginger, Ivory et cetera on boys, but Mary and Beatrice? 0.0
I expect in a hundred years people will be goggling at all the girls with boys’ names on our lists and thinking it’s delightfully old-fashioned.

31 Girls’ Names In ‘Limbo’ – Parenting News Says:

October 15th, 2018 at 7:00 pm

[…] of these names aren’t vintage enough to benefit from the 100-year rule. And many are recent enough to still bring up images of moms and aunts and grandmas. A few of them […]

31 Girls’ Names In ‘Limbo’ – Parenting Hours Says:

October 20th, 2018 at 11:24 pm

[…] of these names aren’t vintage enough to benefit from the 100-year rule. And many are recent enough to still bring up images of moms and aunts and grandmas. A few of them […]

31 Girls’ Names In ‘Limbo’ – Levpros Says:

November 5th, 2018 at 11:30 am

[…] of these names aren’t vintage enough to benefit from the 100-year rule. And many are recent enough to still bring up images of moms and aunts and grandmas. A few of them […]

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