Classic Baby Names on the Rise

Theo, Rose, and the Lou-names are all back according to the new popularity list

By Abby Sandel

When it comes to classic baby names, there are two stories we like to tell. Sometimes it’s that classics have been abandoned. Time to name your baby Chicago, Koala, or True, because nobody would dare call a kid Elizabeth or James in the year 2018.

The other story? Classic baby names are back. Everyone is taking a page from Kate Middleton’s book, and sticking to the most enduring of choices, naming their children Caroline and Henry.

Neither of these extremes is true.

Instead, classic baby names rise and fall, just like every other kind of name. Even though we’d never call them trendy, it’s easy to see that they do trend, just as surely as Justin and Brittany, Maverick and Everly.

The new most popular baby names list reveals some of the hottest of the classics. In many ways, stylish, traditional baby names are the perfect compromise. They feel fresh and current, but they’d be equally at home in nearly any decade.


Eleanor – One-part legendary queen, one-part inspiring First Lady, Eleanor sounds romantic and serious, daring and capable. Eleanor rose six places to Number 35 last year. This name also proves that it often takes a century for names to cycle in and out of fashion. Way back in 1918, Eleanor ranked Number 26.

Eliza – Boosted by Hamilton’s Schuyler sister, Eliza soared 34 spots to Number 140. Originally a form of Elizabeth, today Eliza stands on its own. If you’re worried that your Elizabeth might become Ellie or Betty, naming her just Eliza sidesteps that issue, and gives your daughter a name that feels modern and traditional at once.

Frances – As gentle as Alice, as enduring as Mary, Frances rose to Number 438 this year. A decade ago, Frances ranked Number 828. It’s gained nearly 400 places over the last ten years! Like Eleanor, Frances was an early twentieth century favorite. A handful of celebrity children and a popular Pope have boosted the name, too.

Judith – Beautiful and fearless, the Biblical Judith has inspired countless parents over the centuries. Judy became a mid-century favorite, as in Garland and Jetson and Blume. But shorten Judith to Jude instead and it feels surprisingly fresh. Another reason this name climbed 45 places to Number 846? It’s the baby on The Walking Dead.

Louisa and Louise Even before the newest prince was named, Lou– names were rising. They logically follow Lucy, Luna, and Eloise up the charts. Plus, nicknames like Lulu surely appeal to some families. Louisa jumped 75 places to Number 752; Louise gained 88 spots to reach Number 805. Back in the 1910s, Louise ranked in the Top 20, so both names could have farther to go.

Marianna Mary Ann is still on Gilligan’s Island, a sweet name from the middle of the twentieth century. But Marianna feels richly elaborate, jumping 91 spots to Number 749. Meanwhile, Marilyn, Marie, and Mariam all fell slightly. So did Mariana – with a single ‘n’ – even though it remains more popular than Marianna – for now.

Rose, Rosalie, Roselyn, and Rosalyn Rose has occupied the middle name spot in big numbers for years, but lately it’s getting more love as a given name. It’s up a dozen spots to Number 141. If that’s not impressive, consider that ten years ago, Rose languished in the mid-300s. Rosalie, Rosalyn, and Roselyn were all up, too – the last gaining an impressive 164 places.

Ruth – The Old Testament Ruth was known for her loyalty. The name became a Top Ten favorite at the turn of the twentieth century thanks to the birth of “Baby Ruth,” President Cleveland’s daughter. Now the name is back again, up 33 spots to Number 265. As for nicknames? Ruthie belongs on the same playground as cozy, casual favorites like Millie, Winnie, and Jack.


Arthur – Back around 2010, Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town character mentioned this as a favorite boy’s name. A year later, Selma Blair named her son Arthur Saint. It’s climbed the popularity charts ever since, with another 28-spot jump taking this regal name to Number 244.

Francis – The real name of legendary singer Frank Sinatra, and the name of the current Pope, this former Top 100 mainstay had fallen out of the Top 500 just ten years ago. Today it’s reversed course, reaching Number 461, a gain of 20 places (and over 150 in the last decade). Based on the name’s history, it’s easy to imagine it continuing to rise.

Frederick – With longer boys’ names like Alexander and Sebastian so in favor, why not Frederick? British parents love Freddie, and there’s a heroic Harry Potter character by the name. Frederick currently stands at Number 494, a far cry from its former Top 100 status. But that’s a gain of 19 spots.

Hugh and Hugo – A Germanic name with a great meaning – heart – Hugh and the Latin form, Hugo, have been worn by saints and kings over the centuries. Straightforward Hugh has rebounded to Number 836, up sixteen places. Meanwhile, energetic Hugo reached Number 418, up a dozen spots. With Leo and other –o ending boy names so popular, Hugo almost certainly has farther to go.

Louis Even before Will and Kate delighted the world with their new prince’s name, Louis was going places. This traditional choice rose by twelve this year; it’s gained over the last decade. Sandra Bullock welcomed son Louis Bardo in 2010; a year later, Louis Tomlinson took the world by storm as part of pop sensation One Direction. The royal baby’s arrival could push this traditional pick even higher.

Philip and Phillip – Speaking of royals, there was much speculation that a new prince might be named Philip, for his great-grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh. It didn’t come to pass, but Philip has been attracting attention ever since Pam and Angela argued over the name on The Office back in season eight. The single-L spelling rose ten places to Number 425; meanwhile, Phillip also gained ten spots, to land right behind at Number 426.

Theo and TheodoreTheo is to Theodore as Jack is to John. One is casual and modern; the other, more traditional and buttoned-down. But both the short and long forms are very much in favor today. Bright, o-ending Theo rocketed 65 spots to land at Number 289; meanwhile Theodore continued to ascend, coming in at Number 62, a twenty-spot gain.

Walter – Like Arthur, Walter comes by its –r ending naturally, a first name that fits with surname favorites like Hunter and Carter. It’s less common than William, but nearly as familiar. Now it stands at Number 265, up 37 spots. Plenty of distinguished men have answered to the name, from journalist Cronkite to poet Whitman to Walt Disney himself. Time for a new generation to join them!

Did any of your favorite classic baby names make this list?

BONUS: And here we have the nuggets Katinka unearthed from the forums last week:

• Lots of new 2017 name data nerdery! Kudos to @mccharlie for compiling this awesome preliminary list of the Top 100 combined spellings for boys 2017, and to @enthusiast for this neat list of all the new entries to the Top 1000 this year.

• It’s striking how many of the fastest-rising names for boys and girls on the latest list are either invented names or creative adaptations: think Arlowe and Westlyn, Oseias and Rhyatt. How much do you think a name’s “legitimacy” matters?

• Lots of intriguing new inspiration to be found in this longlist of i-ending names from all over the world!

Full names with fun noun nicknames, for a brother or sister to BeatriceBee“. Love this idea, and some of the suggestions are ingenious!

• And last but by no means least, a fantastic old list from @davisellu of European royal and aristocratic boy names. I’m so glad this resurfaced! Here’s the girls’ list, too.

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13 Responses to “Classic Baby Names on the Rise”

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SunKissedChild Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 1:35 am

My 2 year old’s name is Walter Theodore, and we get compliments on his name every where we go!

thesilenceinbetween Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 8:53 am

This list is fantastic. I love Eleanor, Eliza, Louisa, Rose, Rosalie, Ruth, Arthur, Hugh, Philip, and Theodore.

JH Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 10:04 am

We have a three year old Frederick nn Freddie. I love his name and the fact that we have yet to meet another little boy with it.

Arthur, Philip, Louis, and Theodore are all on my list if we have a fourth boy. My husband doesn’t like those though. Would it be weird if we had a Teddy and Freddie? We already have a Leo, so Theo is out. Louis is out too because it’s a bit too close to Leo. I just love Arthur though. Maybe I can convince my husband. 🙂

mill1020 Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

No. I don’t want Rose to be climbing the charts!

I love Beatrice “Bee”, too.

LowSlash Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 12:34 pm

My kids are Arthur and Adell (family name, hence the non traditional spelling). So glad others are discovering the joys of having a baby Arthur!

elliejsmith Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 1:05 pm

I love all the old-fashioned names : ) When we chose Theodore (called Theo) for our son, it was #197; now it’s risen to #62! Philip and Frederick were also on our list. I’m a bit surprised (pleasantly so) that Sylvia/Sylvie (our daughter’s name) hasn’t risen much. Louisa was a top choice for me for baby #3 due in June, but my husband vetoed it, and Eliza was a top pick for a middle name, which he also didn’t love. Hopefully the name we choose won’t become a top ten name! It’s especially hard when your last name is Smith and you don’t want your kids to share names with multiple classmates or have to spell/explain their names to everyone.

marisarose Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Our baby girl (born in July 2017) is Rosaline (rhymes with Queen). We get so many compliments on it!

Aunt_ning1 Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 3:51 pm

I love all of these names! My son is 2 and his name is James Louis. I have yet to meet another James under the age of 4. I love how classic and simple it is, and yet still not heard of as much in my area.

fromtheocean12 Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 7:11 pm

I LOVE Eliza, and Eleanor and Rose, and I’m beginning to warm up to Frances as well!

For boys, I’ve always absolutely loved Arthur, Hugo and Theo, and I quite like Philip as well!

Arthur and Eliza would be an adorable sibset as well!

CocoaPuff Says:

May 16th, 2018 at 11:41 pm

My Arthur turned two today! I’m a little sad that it’s becoming more popular 🙂

greta-elizabeth Says:

May 17th, 2018 at 9:27 am

I was sad to see that Richard fell again this year, from 160 to 171. It was in the top 100 as recently as ten years ago, though, so maybe it needs more time.

Walter, Francis, Ruth, and Eliza are all excellent.

I see Winnie was mentioned…if you look at the numbers, Winnie had the same number of babies as the 1000th most popular name but happens to fall later in the alphabet. It’ll definitely be on the list next year.

Steph794 Says:

May 17th, 2018 at 7:10 pm

So many great names here!! I personally prefer some of both, some classic names and also some unique names too. I love some unique names, but none that are too out there. I’ve always loved biblical boy names so much. From this list, I love Theo, Elizabeth, Henry, and mostly all of the classics listed here lol. Great list! 😊

Kate4hisglory Says:

May 23rd, 2018 at 2:00 pm

I think the average person just hears modern names, so when they hear older names, names out of the top 100 or even 200, they take more notice. A lot of people don’t really look into names or read about names, so they don’t really know many names.

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