Classy Classics Picked by Celebs

John and Jane, William and Mary have suddenly become surprise starbaby picks

By Linda Rosenkrantz

John and Mary? Not exactly the starbaby names that hit the headlines. And yet, under the radar, there are a number of celebs who have quietly chosen from the canon of traditional names–not the trendier classics like Beatrice and Charlotte, but the solid old historic stalwarts, the most established of the perennial classics. Which kind of makes John and Mary and Jane and Joseph register surprising picks today.

The baby son of Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter is Christopher Carlton. Christopher is the name of a character Cumberbatch played in a Tom Stoppard play, and Carlton is a family middle name worn by Benedict, his dad and grandfather. This saintly Greek name was second only to Michael for 16 years straight beginning in 1979, is now at Number 26.

Czech model Eva Herzigova is clearly a classics fan—she has a George and a Philipe as well as an Edward. Popular in England since the Norman Conquest of 1066, with a substantial royal heritage, Edward was a Top 10 name in the US until the 1930s, and recently came back into the limelight via Twilight’s Edward Cullen.

The young Prince George of Cambridge has brought a cute, cuddly, chubby-cheeked image back to this regal classic that’s been shared by six British kings. In the US Top 10 until 1940, it has now fallen to 157, though little Georgie may reverse that tide—it’s now back at Number 7 in England. Zac Hanson is the latest celeb parent of a George, but Tina Brown and Kristin Scott Thomas also used it for their sons.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Jane is not plain. This short-one syllable classic choice of Jimmy Kimmel (who also has a daughter named Katherine) projects a rare combination of sweetness and strength. Once so common it became generic (as in Jane Doe), Jane is now down at Number 322—though it’s in the Top 50 on Nameberry.

Actress Bridget Moynahan (born Kathryn Bridget) went triple classic when she named her son John Edward Thomas. Now at Number 27, this most archetypal of traditional English names, after being in the Top 10 for well over one hundred years, has dropped to Number 26. Other celeb parents who took this well-traveled route include Michelle Pfeiffer, Denzel Washington and Rob Lowe.

After picking the elegantly frilly vintage Arabella Rose for her first child, Ivanka Trump went much more conservative with son Joseph Frederick’s name. Biblical, multi-cultural and regular Joe, Joseph has always been in the top echelons of the popularity list, now in 20th place.

James Marsden’s daughter Mary James was named for her mother, born Mary Elizabeth but called Lisa. Marsden’s classically-named family also includes son William, father James, sister Elizabeth and brother Robert. The venerated New Testament Mary was the top girls’ name from before records were kept through 1947, when she was toppled by Linda, and has since dropped precipitously to 120.


Although Owen Wilson honored his father by naming his son Robert after him, the boy is called by his middle name, Ford. Robert has been a common English name since the Middle Ages, a Top 10 choice in the US for 110 years straight, twice hitting #1. Today, Robert and Richard are among the less stylish classics.

Since both Jack Black and his father were born with the name Thomas, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out where his second son Thomas‘s name came from. Another of the most enduring male classics, Thomas was a Top 10 name for over a century, though he has now slid down to 54, while it’s 6 in England and 7 in Australia.

Another classic name chosen by James Marsden, for his third child, William was second only to John in the English-speaking world for centuries, and popular Prince William has added some contemporary charm to its image. MaryLouise Parker also chose it for her son, as have Billy Crudup and Colin Firth. It’s a popular Nameberry classic as well, standing at Number 18.

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9 Responses to “Classy Classics Picked by Celebs”

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AldabellaxWulfe Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 5:43 am

It was a good post but I find myself disappointed by the content, simply because the names listed are nothing new. Perhaps for the children of celebrities these names might be unusual (in amongst the likes of Blue Ivy and Titan, at least) but for your average Nameberry users, they’re really nothing new. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they’re standard fare. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I just don’t see the point in advertising names that are so well known to most of us, just because ‘starbabies’ have started using them.

Still, as I said, it was a good post and I look forward to the next one.

Maple10 Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 7:19 am

Is anyone else having trouble loading nameberry the past few days? And the popular names of the day are all weird. And why aren’t we talking about Zooey deshanell’s baby name? It was just announced, Elsie Otter, and I’m obsessed. I thought I would see something about it on nameberry today.

CaitlinBrittin Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 7:22 am

I love this list! my favorite is Jane, I think this name is so perfect

Amapola_Iris Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 10:17 am

I believe Mary Louise Parker and Billy Crudup share a son named William.

TheHumanCanvas Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 10:47 am

@Maple10 Elsie Otter? LOVE. Also, this post is wonderful. I get so excited whenever celebrities use real, solid choices 😀 Some of the best names in the world fall into this category. I REALLY love Mary!

LuMary Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 4:53 pm

I love all these names, but alas they’ll get shopworn once again. I think of the meteoric rise of Hannah. Isabella, and Grace, for example, and wondered how in the world we could have let go of such beauts, but unfortunately they lost their luster once again all too soon. There are few true perennials, James and Michael being among them, and I venture to say Noelle will always sound fresh and pretty.

I’ve said it before here that I await the classic Richard’s return, but I think the usual nickname pool holds it back, even though parents are still tending to stick with the formal versions.

lee_augusta Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Nice post, but MY NAME LISTS HAVE DISAPPEARED. I’m no longer having problems with the website loading, and it looks like the graphics problems have been fixed, but the name lists I’ve spent years lovingly cultivating are still gone, gone, gone. What’s the deal, NB??

linda Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 5:42 pm

@lee-augusta: Our engineer reports that they should be back shortly–he’s working on it.

LuMary Says:

October 22nd, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Little Henrys, Williams, and Charleses abound, but I still have not seen any baby Edwards, Philips, or Roberts. Christopher is a great classic with Kit and Kip as nice diminutive alternatives to the 1970s Chris.

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