Classic Baby Names: Where do they stand?
There were dozens of stories in the baby name news last week, but they all shared a common theme: the Social Security Administration’s release of the 2012 baby name data
We talked about Titan and Briggs, Landry and Geraldine. About how Jacob remained number one, but only if you didn’t tally up the many spellings of Aiden, Jackson, and Jayden. Television’s influence was clear – Arya and Aria, Litzy, Major, and Jase. Movies, sports, and music shaped our choices, too, as did faith. Nevaeh’s little brother might just be called Messiah.
But what about the quiet classics, the names that rise and fall, but still appear in nearly every generation? Hemlines change. We graduated from the party line to the iPhone, the horse to the Prius. And yet these names remain, worn by men and women, boys and girls of every age.
Yet there were plenty that we embraced, too. Here are nine boys’ names and nine girls’ names that all saw more use in 2012 – but would be at home in any era.
CLASSIC BABY NAMES FOR GIRLS
Elizabeth – She’s back in the US Top 10. This Biblical staple never strayed far – she ranked #11 last year, and has been in the Top Ten more years than she’s been out. Perhaps we love her for her incredible versatility. Is there a name with more nickname possibilities?
Caroline – She brings to mind the Kennedy family, as well as the Neil Diamond song. Her –line ending stirs pronunciation debates, but despite that, Caroline rose from #87 to #80. While she’s eclipsed by fellow Charles feminine form Charlotte – now at #19 – I’ll admit a preference for Caroline.
Alice – Tina Fey’s firstborn and Lewis Carroll’s heroine, I’ve been tempted to call Alice trendy. But how can a name so rich in history be anything but a classic? She charted at #127 in 2011, up from #142.
Beatrice – She’s a perpetual name nerd favorite, but she’s still surprisingly rare. At just #691 in 2012, Beatrice improved her ranking slightly from #701. Still, she’s a former Top 100 name, so this saintly, regal, literary appellation seems like a classic likely to come back.
Miriam – Once upon a time, Miriam was your babysitter’s mom – definitely from another generation. But nicknames Miri and Mimi make her feel current today, and she’s up from #336 to #314. Actually, Miriam has hovered between 250 and 350 since the 1940s. Perhaps she’s not catching on as much as she’s remaining in steady use.
CLASSIC BABY NAMES FOR BOYS
Charles – He inched from #62 to #61. That’s not much of a move, and yet Charles feels like a classic especially at home in 2013. Maybe it is friendly short form Charlie, or maybe it is a mix of the many famous Charles – from monarchs to the creator of Peanuts to Charles Dickens and beyond.
Henry – A stalwart classic who manages to be fashionable, too, Henry is up from #57 to #43. He’s a favorite of mine, and a Hollywood baby name staple. Minnie Driver and Heidi Klum are just two famous moms who have embraced the name.
Theodore – He climbed from #230 to #197, buoyed by Theo, an on-trend diminutive, an alternative to Leo. He’s a brother for the equally ancient Alexander – or maybe a substitute. Another similar choice is Benjamin, up from #19 to #16.
Patrick – Patrick went from #143 to #142. It’s not much of a gain, and the potential nickname Pat still gives parents pause. But he remains a handsome Irish classic far more timeless than Brady or Aiden.
Joseph – The classic J name that everyone loves is James, but let’s not overlook fellow saints’ name Joseph. He rose from #22 to #20. Joseph is a classic, while Joe feels cheerful and a little bit retro.
Phillip – Here’s a surprise! Phillip went from #378 to #350. Was it all that talk about Pippa Middleton during the royal wedding? An affection for Philip Seymour Hoffman? Or is Phillip just the kind of classic appellation that never falls too far out of favor, a brother for Miriam?
Matthew – Strictly speaking, Matthew held steady at #12. But there was a slight uptick in the percentage of boys receiving the #12 name in 2012. I can’t resist thinking that Matthew, like Anna, was boosted by Downton Abbey.
Louis – Sandra Bullock revived this classic for her son in 2010. Now he’s up from #332 to #312. Besides the celebrity connection, Louis brings to mind New Orleans and all of those great Lu– names, like Lucy and Luna.
Francis – Before this name made headlines from Rome, Francis was already on the upswing, jumping from #617 to #593. In previous generations, Francis was almost always shortened to Frank. (Think Sinatra and Valli.) Today, I suspect most of those boys will answer to Francis.
Which classic baby names are your favorites? Are they gaining in popularity, falling out of favor, or holding steady? Would you hesitate to use Elizabeth, Joseph, or another classic name that was very popular?
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on May 13th, 2013 at 4:26 am
I LOVE Anna, Caroline and Elizabeth. I have had Jane on my mind lately, too!
For boys, my favorites are Charles, Henry, Patrick and Matthew.
on May 13th, 2013 at 4:58 am
Classic names are so refreshing and sweet on a little baby. How lovely to meet a little Caroline or Beatrice, Charles or Theodore.
on May 13th, 2013 at 5:44 am
I love Alice , Anna and Henry. The others don’t really suit children. I really don’t understand this new obsession with Beatrice- it’s clunky and I think of old ladies with purple hair…
on May 13th, 2013 at 6:04 am
Phillip was also probably influenced by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips!
on May 13th, 2013 at 8:07 am
Love every single one of them!! Seriously considering Anna Caroline! Love Alice Jane. Love Elizabeth!! I know a little girl named Beatrix, and she is adorable! Wears the name well!!! All the boy names, are so strong and Handsome!! My faves are Patrick, Henry, Matthew, and Francis!
on May 13th, 2013 at 9:22 am
I’m the mom of an Elizabeth born last year. The nickname factor is what made it okay for me despite its popularity. We have other family and friends with little Elizabeths, but ours is the only one we know called Betsy. It’s a great combo of solid tradition and quirkiness that suited our naming style.
on May 13th, 2013 at 9:51 am
I used to love modern and unique names, but now I feel so surrounded by other parents with the same taste, that I have fallen for many of the classics. I especially love underused classics like Beatrice, Margaret and Jane, but I still love some of the more popular ones like Caroline, Catherine/Katherine and Elizabeth. Mind you, where I live, non-French classics are quite uncommon, Elizabeth included.
on May 13th, 2013 at 9:55 am
I love Miriam and Beatrice!
For boys I like Theodore and Francis from this. Matthew, Joseph and Charles are hideously overused, too many of them around.
on May 13th, 2013 at 10:27 am
There were two babies named Philip on The Office. That could definitely have influenced popularity.
on May 13th, 2013 at 10:31 am
Parents often forget that children are only young for a short time. Most of their lives are spent as adults. I always advise to choose a name that can easily crossover into mature adulthood. Any classic name on this list is quite suitable for any age. The key is their flexibility: an adorable nickname can be used throughout childhood and when a child outgrows it, he or she can revert back to the more formal name.
Faves: Jane and Alice for girls and Theodore, Louis and Francis for boys.
on May 13th, 2013 at 10:59 am
I love classic names. And I don’t care the popularity of them, either. I love that they all have history. You aren’t going to read about any Queen Addisons or Prime Minister Ryders, but Katherine? Charles? Caroline? Phillip? Each has so many historical, strong, lovely associations. Much nicer than a trendy name, in my opinion.
on May 13th, 2013 at 11:25 am
I love all of these. I could pretty much throw them all in a hat and pick out my future child’s name at random, and would be happy, though Beatrice, Miriam, Caroline, and Theodore are my favourites. The only less usable one for me is Francis, just because my dad’s family has so many Francois that it’s already confusing!
on May 13th, 2013 at 2:27 pm
Shhh about Eleanor! I love that it’s not in the top 100, yet it doesn’t sound too clunky or odd.
on May 13th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
Eleanor to me is old and frumpy. I can’t believe it’s so popular. I like the rest of these names. Miriam seems less old lady and more Jewish of any age. I like most of these names and both of my parents are here.
on May 13th, 2013 at 3:34 pm
The majority of my favorites are all classic. I love Charlotte, Alice, and Henry!
on May 13th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
Hopefully my son Arthur will have a little sister named Miriam one day. 🙂
on May 13th, 2013 at 4:17 pm
Jane is my favourite girl’s name at the moment…
I also love Miriam, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Anna, Caroline, Alice, and Charlotte.
I also love Henry, Theodore, Patrick, and Joseph.
I’m a classic girl all the way!!
on May 13th, 2013 at 5:36 pm
I love love love Beatrice, it is my favourite, but alas, it sounds just awful with my partner’s last name, so no little Beatrice in my future.
Other classics on my list include…
Girls: Jane, Elisabeth, Matilda, Louisa, Eleanor, Miriam, Cecelia, Cordelia…
Boys: Frederick, Arthur, Simon, Edwin, James…
on May 13th, 2013 at 10:04 pm
i live for the classics as I have a little Caroline myself.
on May 13th, 2013 at 10:39 pm
@geeknamezyo – Of course! Forgot about the double Phillips on The Office. Pam’s after her grandfather, and Angela’s after her cat, right?
@maggiefromcanada – Loving the image of picking a child’s name from a hat! Family legend is that my grandmother chose my father’s middle name from a hat. (It was Walter.) No idea what the other possibilities were, or where she got Walter …
@ClaireElise – I’m always shocked at how underused Cordelia is! Not in the Top 1000 …
@jenjenbarnes – Oh, I love Caroline – possibly my favorite from the list!
on May 17th, 2013 at 2:04 am
I’m starting to realise that my grandparents were brilliant baby namers! Their three children, born from the late 1950’s to the mid 60’s are Phillip, Caroline and Jane. So classic and not at all dated!
on July 12th, 2013 at 8:15 am
Love Beatrice, Theodore, and Miriam (always wish this had been my name). Louis is great, although I prefer Lewis.
on January 21st, 2014 at 1:50 pm
I’m an Anna and I love my name.
on February 9th, 2014 at 4:23 am
twins in the family are Peter and Paul. The others are Emma and Abigayle. my older sons are Rene and Andre and my younger two are Emily and Richard. Richards middle name is Reece. I wanted Rhys but hubby won out. now Richard wants to change his name to Rhys. My daughter wants to name her son Alexander ( family name back to the 1600’s) middle name Brynmor. her dads middle name. babys dad wants Larabee in front but still call baby Alexander. Apparently his family are all Larabee but they go by their middle name. So give in to Larabee or not that is the question.
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