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Cool Classic Baby Names

May 30, 2017 Abby Sandel

They know their style: a mix of cool, classic names and rich meanings. But after successfully naming their first son and daughter, they could use some help with baby number three!

Jennifer writes:

My husband David and I are expecting our third child this December. Our son’s name is Luke David and our daughter’s is Claire Emma. We like classic names, easily recognizable but not ubiquitous.

The meaning and context of the name is especially important to me as well. I like the hero archetype of Luke Skywalker and Paul Newman‘s Cool Hand Luke for our first son.

For our daughter, I interpret the names’ meanings as “clearly whole,” a nod to the work of Brené Brown and her concept of living “wholeheartedly.” Claire is also the name of the main character in the first book my husband gave me when we started dating, A Time Traveler‘s Wife.

For boy names, we liked Christopher Francis, which are the names of our fathers who are still living. However, the baby’s due date is my father Chris‘s birthday and now it seems way too much.

For girl names, we like Lauren Elizabeth, but I fear Lauren seems dated. There are other Elizabeths in the immediate family which is why we are hesitating to consider it as a first name. Our last name starts with a J, and ends with a –son.

Can you suggest any empowering and cool classics for baby #3?

The Name Sage replies:

I love the thought that you’ve put into your children’s names! A mix of meaningful stories and personal significance can make even the most traditional name shine. You’ve achieved exactly that for Luke David and Claire Emma.

Let’s start with girls’ names, because you raise an interesting question. Is Lauren an evergreen classic, or a fading name?

Lauren peaked in the late 80s and early 90s. That puts it in mom name territory circa 2017. And yet, if it had not caught on then, it could easily be the height of fashion today. A tailored, feminine choice, Lauren (Bacall) fits right in with Hollywood glam names like Ava (Gardner) and Audrey (Hepburn). Claire and Lauren sound like sisters. Plus, Lauren is associated with laurel leaves, an ancient symbol of triumph and achievement. It checks all the boxes!

Still, it’s hard to deny that Lauren has dropped dramatically in use over the last few years. One possibility might be to choose Lauren as a middle name, but we’ll put a poll at the bottom to gauge others’ reactions to Lauren.

Let’s take a look at some more options for a first name:

Alice Alice comes from a Germanic word meaning noble; it’s actually a cousin to Adelaide. With centuries of use behind it, Alice feels like a classic. But like Claire and Luke, it’s quite current today, too.

Carys Carys comes from a Welsh word meaning love. It might make a great middle name option.

Eliza – If Elizabeth is out, would Eliza be an option? On the negative side, both could shorten to some of the same nicknames. But Eliza is typically used in full. The name has quite a bit of spirit, but feels every bit as familiar as big sister Elizabeth.

Felicity – I suspect Felicity is too elaborate for your tastes, but it’s hard to argue with the meaning! From the Latin felicitas for luck, happy and fortunate Felicity has gone from rare to mainstream since the 1990s. Similar virtue names include Amity (friendship) and Verity (truth).

Grace Do word names appeal? Traditional Grace signifies elegance – think Grace Kelly – but also has a spiritual dimension.

Laura, Laurel – If Lauren tops your list, but feels dated, maybe Laura or Laurel would substitute? Both have long histories of use – yes, even Laurel! They share the same roots as Lauren, and thus the same ties to laurel leaves and the idea of success.

Ruth – Determining a name’s meaning can be tricky; sometimes the cultural associations overpower the actual roots. Ruth has both. It comes from a Hebrew word meaning friend, but is associated with loyalty, thanks to the Old Testament figure. It’s one of the longest and most consistently used <a href=”https://nameberry.com/baby-names/158/Hebrew-Names”>Hebrew names</a>.

Vera – I mentioned Verity above; Vera is the more familiar name sometimes associated with the Latin verus – truth. But it actually comes from the Russian word for faith. Either way, Vera makes for a meaningful choice with a traditional vibe.

Eliza Lauren is my favorite for you, especially because it’s a twist on your almost-favorite name. But I could mix and match this list for days! Ruth Carys is another favorite, especially because the meanings loyalty and love seem so compelling together.

Now, on to the boys.

One of the challenges with family names is the desire to be fair. Would it be difficult to choose Christopher or Francis, only honoring one father?

It strikes me that you might consider using Frances for a daughter’s middle name, and Christopher for a son. That takes the decision out of your hands. (Or, of course, Francis for a son and Christine/Christina for a daughter.)

Or perhaps it is best to start fresh.

Abel Abel has a long history of use, and Hebrew roots. But it sounds like the English word able, meaning capable – a worthy meaning for a son’s name.

Daniel Just as Luke brings to mind Skywalker, Daniel conjures up the lion’s den. While the name doesn’t mean brave or courageous, there’s a strong association with those qualities.

Foster Foster feels like a modern surname name, a brother for Hunter or Carter. But to foster is to raise or encourage – one of those great meanings. While it has been used in small numbers for years, maybe this fits better in the middle spot.

Hardy – Again, this might be more of a middle name option, but surname Hardy means just that. It means to be confident and brave, and brings to mind hearty, too – all positives.

Jack John means God is gracious; Jack started out as a nickname for John, but has long stood on its own. Luke and Claire and Jack sound very much like siblings. If Luke has his action hero inspiration, so does Jack.

Leo – Having mentioned Daniel, I can’t possibly skip Leo! In our age of Bear and Wolf, Leo remains a traditional pick, even as it brings to mind the king of jungle, and all the strength that goes along with the image.

Max – Most names starting with Max ultimately come from the Latin maximus – greatest. And yet, Max feels traditional, even vintage. It’s not a showy, flashy name like Maverick or Legend. It stands up nicely to the heroes associated with Luke.

Theo Theodore means gift; shorten it to Theo, and I think you can retain the meaning. There are some great possibilities for phrases, like whole-hearted, with Theo.

Overall, I love the sound of Max Christopher or Jack Francis. But if honoring one father is problematic, maybe a name like Leo Foster – strong and encouraging – or Daniel Hardy – strong and confident – would appeal?

Readers, I know you’ll have some amazing suggestions for Jennifer and her family. What are your favorite cool classic baby names, and do any of them have meanings to match Luke David and Claire Emma?

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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