Comeback Classic Baby Names
By Abby Sandel
The new US Top 1000 list is out, and while it’s easy to focus on the trendy and the novel – Saylor is up for girls, Baylor for boys, and Oakley for both! – plenty of classic baby names are also making a comeback.
Last year we looked at nine boy names and nine girl names that were both traditional and trending. Happily, it was easy to find eighteen more great baby names that were on the rise this year.
Cora, Ezra, and Theodore all broke into the US Top 100, and Benjamin is now in the boys’ Top Ten. But let’s consider the names a little farther down the list – traditional picks that aren’t super popular just yet. If you’re after a name that’s familiar, with history galore, and not too common, this is your list.
Read on for some great comeback classic baby names.
COMEBACK CLASSIC BABY NAMES: GIRLS
Emmeline – Emma and Emily have become Top Ten staples for modern families. Add an –’ine’ to Em, and you’ll have a name that is vintage and novel at once. While Emeline was the preferred spelling in the nineteenth century, the ‘mm’s are on top now. Emmeline ranked Number 809, and the –lyn and –lynn endings are even more popular.
Estelle – Sassy Stella became a star, while the elegant Estelle hovered in style limbo. Now Estelle is also finding favor with parents, possibly inspired by other –elle ending names like Isabelle. As of the most recent rankings, Estelle was up to Number 823 – the name’s most popular ranking since in the 1960s.
Felicity – Keri Russell played our favorite college freshman in 1998’s Felicity. The virtue name immediately debuted in the US Top 1000, and rose quickly. It might have faded with the show’s end, but instead Felicity is gaining again, up to Number 360.
June – Short and sweet, June is part of stylish nature name Juniper and edgy ancient pick Juno. But just June is the most popular of them all, currently standing at Number 280. Other trending mini names with a similar vintage vibe include Ann and Mae.
Louisa – Literary Louisa returned to the US Top 1000 in 2014. Last year, it climbed to Number 908. That’s far from common, but Louisa was a nineteenth century favorite – and could be again. Many of the Lou-/Lu– names are having a good moment, from Luke and Louis for the boys, to Lucy and Luna for the girls.
Mabel – Retro Mabel was the baby name that made waves on Mad About You in the late 1990s, but it wasn’t until recently that parents took a good look at this vintage charmer. A top twenty name in the 1880s and 90s, today Mabel is up to Number 578.
Paula and Paulina – Here’s a surprise! On the heels of two celebrity birth announcements in 2015 – Vin Diesel‘s Pauline and Mike Myer’s Paulina – two Paul– names for girls on the rise. Paula, a 1950s favorite, jumped 100 places to Number 889, after teetering on the edge of the rankings. And Paulina climbed to Number 878.
Vera – Vera means faith in Russian, but it dovetails with the Latin verus – true. A sister for Emma or a substitute for Cora, Vera rose to Number 312 in the current rankings. With ‘v’ names like Evelyn, Ava, and Olivia so in favor, Vera seems like an obvious name to watch.
Willa – Gentle Willa was obscure from the 1960s until recently. Keri Russell welcomed Willa Lou in 2012, just as the name was returning to favor. Now Willa is up to Number 481. Writer Willa Cather makes it literary; actress Willa Holland makes it current; and thousands of men named William, plus surnames like Wilson, make it a family name for many.
COMEBACK CLASSIC BABY NAMES: BOYS
Abel – Abel is an Old Testament name, just like Number One Noah. But Abel also sounds like able, which gives it a capable, modern virtue name vibe. Abel is up to Number 125, and could follow names like Gabriel into the Top 100.
Conrad – There’s something distinguished about Conrad, a name with Germanic roots and ties to nostalgic 1960s musical Bye, Bye Birdie. It’s masculine, traditional, and still feels unexpected. Conrad has climbed more than 200 places in the last five years, to Number 625.
Graham – This Scottish surname name has recently gone from steady to stylish in the US, gaining more than 200 places over the last decade. Graham currently ranks Number 176. It brings to mind inventors Alexander Graham Bell, of telephone fame, as well as Sylvester Graham, the man behind the graham cracker.
Malcolm – A second Scottish import, Malcolm has been given to kings, featured in Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, and worn by Civil Rights leader Malcolm X as well as current thought leader Malcolm Gladwell. Sci fi fans will remember that space cowboy Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. Nearly as classic as William, but far less common, Malcolm rose to Number 420.
Otis – This friendly name was once reserved for the canine half of classic children’s film duo Milo and Otis. But Otis has a long history as a form of Otto, and it is also the surname of a prominent Massachusetts family during the American Revolution. Now it’s a stylish baby name choice once again, thanks to Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis. The couple welcomed son Otis Alexander in April 2014. Otis is up to Number 848.
Raphael – The name of an archangel, a Renaissance master, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Raphael has long been used throughout Europe and Latin American, but remains relatively rare in the US. It’s on the rise now, a classic baby name with a global vibe. Raphael ranked Number 537 on the updated list.
Roland – Tristan is falling, and Romeo, too. But romantic hero Roland is here to save the day, a name made famous by a medieval French poem. Brad Pitt wore the name in 2015 movie By the Sea. Roland rose to Number 586 last year.
Stefan and Stephen – Steve is your uncle but Stefan – or Stephen pronounced with an ‘f’ rather than a ‘v’ sound – is newly fashionable, thanks to Golden State Warriors’ MVP Steph Curry. In 2015, the basketball star led his team to their first NBA Championship in decades, and Stephen climbed modestly, to Number 246, while Stefan was up to Number 800.
Thaddeus – Theodore is back, and Tobias is leaping up the charts. It’s no surprise that this New Testament name is also catching on, up to Number 703. Thaddeus peaked back in the 1910s, meaning it’s about time for this old school favorite to feel fresh and new.
Which classic baby names are you watching? Are there any on this list that you would consider?
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on May 16th, 2016 at 6:45 am
I’m due in July and all our top picks are here! This baby is a Malcolm but would have been Willa or Mabel had he been a she. I’m fine with Malcolm climbing to the low 400s but a little nervous it could go the way of my old favorite, Henry, and explode. Although once he’s here, I’m sure I won’t even care if every baby shares his name.
on May 16th, 2016 at 9:36 am
I’m a typical Berry: vintage names are my bag. I love pretty much everything on this list. I would use Estelle, Louisa (and Louise!), Willa, Conrad, Malcolm, Raphael, and Thaddeus. I’ve also been a longtime fan of Mavis, which feels like it belongs on this list.
on May 16th, 2016 at 10:12 am
Hmmm… I’m hoping Raphael doesn’t keep rising. It’s our pick for a future son, so here’s hoping it stays in the 500s!
on May 16th, 2016 at 11:36 am
I’m with you guys; I hope these names, (especially the boy’s), remain relatively uncommon.
FluffleSprouts, I feel your anxiety! As the mom to a Liam born in the nineties, I knew his name would become much more popular going forward, but I did not anticipate the epidemic. Malcolm is a wonderful choice; Mac makes a cool short form, and I would imagine he will be the first Malcolm in his school. (My Liam was always the first, and generally the only, in the several schools he attended. He’s in college now.)
I never did get why names such as Michael and Gabriel were well used, but Raphael, not so much. That’s a beautiful name.
And I would definitely incorporate either Louisa or Louise into a little girl’s name, if I’d ever had a chance to name a daughter!
on May 16th, 2016 at 12:15 pm
So many favorites on this list but then again, I’m a Berry. Emmeline is my number one choice for girls. Willa is a new addition to my list to honor William’s. June battles it out against Junia on my list and Felicity bounces around on it. Conrad is my favorite from the boys list.
I do know kiddos named: Vera (7y), Graham (4y), Estella “Esti” (8y), Felicity (2y and 10y), Mabel (2y), Konrad (5y) and Stefan (10y).
on May 16th, 2016 at 2:11 pm
At first I thought I love this list and there are some of my favourites on here but… I’ve read the comments and realised I’m just ANOTHER Berry!
I love Louisa, Felicity, Raphael and Malcolm, and even though they are not in my top 10 they’re close enough. I’m just thinking I should watch out for my favourites when I plan a pregnancy, as they might be on the rise or even get trendy by that time ; )
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