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Classic Girls’ Names: How To Choose One That’s Truly Timeless

November 17, 2010 Pamela Redmond

So you’re interested in classic girls’ names for your daughter, and at first what constitutes a classic seems pretty clear: Katherine qualifies, for instance, and so does Elizabeth.

But very quickly, as Linda and I discovered classifying names for our books, what’s classic and what’s not becomes really murky.  Anne, sure, but AnnaAnnie?  If Annie’s in, does that mean that Laurie also gets to accompany Laura?

Then recently, we hit upon a quantitative formula for choosing the classic girls’ names: We’d define that as every name that had been in the U.S. Top 1000 every single year since 1880.

We came up with 114 names, but many on the list will surprise you as much as they surprised us.  Elizabeth is there, for instance, but so are Elisabeth and EliseJenny makes the grade, but not trendier sister JenniferCaroline and even Carolyn, yes; Carol, no.

To make the roster of classic girls’ names easier to digest, we’ve divided it into groups.  If you think we misplaced anything, let us know.  You always do!

Core Classics

  1. Alice
  2. Ann and Anne
  3. Caroline
  4. Catherine
  5. Charlotte
  6. Christina
  7. Claire
  8. Eleanor
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Emily
  11. Emma
  12. Frances
  13. Grace
  14. Helen
  15. Jane
  16. Josephine
  17. Julia
  18. Katherine
  19. Laura
  20. Lucy
  21. Margaret
  22. Mary
  23. Rose
  24. Teresa and Theresa
  25. Victoria
  26. Virginia (not sure this one belongs here, but not sure where else it goes either)

Variations

  1. Anna
  2. Carolyn
  3. Christine
  4. Clara
  5. Elisabeth
  6. Elise
  7. Ellen
  8. Janet
  9. Kathleen
  10. Kathryn
  11. Lorena
  12. Lucia
  13. Maria
  14. Marie
  15. Nancy
  16. Nina
  17. Rosa

Nicknames and Short Forms

  1. Angie
  2. Annie
  3. Jenny
  4. Jessie
  5. Josie
  6. Julie
  7. Kate
  8. Katie
  9. Maggie
  10. Molly

Biblical

  1. Deborah
  2. Esther
  3. Hannah
  4. Judith
  5. Leah
  6. Lydia
  7. Martha
  8. Miriam
  9. Naomi
  10. Rachel
  11. Rebecca
  12. Ruth
  13. Sarah (and Sara too)

More Classic Than We Gave Them Credit For

  1. Amanda
  2. Amelia
  3. Amy
  4. Angela
  5. Angelina
  6. Audrey
  7. Barbara
  8. Corinne
  9. Daisy
  10. Cynthia
  11. Eva
  12. Evelyn
  13. Georgia
  14. Iris
  15. Isabel
  16. Joanna
  17. Leslie
  18. Linda
  19. Madeline
  20. Natalie
  21. Nora
  22. Olivia
  23. Paula
  24. Ruby
  25. Sophia
  26. Susan

Outliers (aka Who’d ever guess these names had been on the Top 1000 for 130 years?)

  1. Alma
  2. Bridget
  3. Camille
  4. Cecilia
  5. Celeste
  6. Celia
  7. Claudia
  8. Cora
  9. Edith
  10. Elsa (who ever would have guessed?)
  11. Genevieve
  12. Irene
  13. Johanna
  14. Lena
  15. Lillian
  16. Priscilla
  17. Regina
  18. Sylvia
  19. Veronica

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.

View all of Pamela Redmond's articles

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