Little Ladies & Gents Names: William, Willa, Winston, and Pearl

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Some weeks, the baby names in the news are aggressively modern.  Rocket and Rebel, Ryder and Stryker.  Girls can be James.  While boys can’t be Sue, there’s no guessing if Kayden, Peyton, and Riley are boys or girls.

Factor in names borrowed from nature, colors, virtues, meanings, and the map, and it can feel like every parent-to-be is considering names that would be right at home in The Hunger Games.  Welcome to the world, Ocean, Indigo, and Haven.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

All of that novelty can make classic, even conservative names seem refreshing.

Little ladies and gentlemen dominated this week’s headlines.  They’re names with history and roots, vintage revivals that are back in 2014, or will be back by 2024.  Or 2054.  And they’ll always come back – eventually – because they’re just that enduring.

The nine most intriguing baby names in the news are:

WinstonIdris Elba is well known for gritty HBO series The Wire.  You might guess that the famous tough guy would pick a bold name for his baby boy.  Instead, the British actor and his girlfriend Naiyana Garth went with the very English, and rather aristocratic, Winston.  An homage to Churchill, or just a name they love?  No word from the couple yet, but Idris‘ dad is named Winston, too.  Elba is also father to 11 year old daughter Isan.

Ayer – Speaking of surprises, here’s one from Pharrell’s interview with Oprah.  Oprah asked about Pharrell and wife Helen Lasichanh’s name choice for their now five year old son.  Dad explained that they liked the idea that rockets are meant to ascend.  But here’s the even bigger take-away: Rocket’s middle name isn’t Man, as previously rumored.  It is Ayer, in honor of jazz-funk composer Robert Ayers.

Theodore Freeman – The bloggers at Young House Love welcomed their second this week, a little brother for Clara Kenley.  As expected, they went with a traditional, but on-trend choice for baby #2.  I love the sound of Theodore Freeman, and can’t wait to hear their explanation.  Here’s guessing that Freeman, like Kenley, has family ties.  Maybe my favorite part of this name?  They’re calling their new arrival Teddy.

AugustusAugust is a great compromise for parents stuck between traditional picks and modern word names.  He’s a word name borrowed from the calendar, but also a literary, traditional choice.  John Green gave the elaborate, imperial Augustus to his teenage cancer patient in The Fault in our Stars.  Green is a great namer, and the big screen adaptation of his bestselling novel hits theaters on June 4.  Augustus fits with Atticus, another ancient choice on the upswing.

WilliamAugustus might have been a title in Ancient Rome, but William is the given name of a future king.  New dad Prince William is getting lots of press as he, Kate, and baby George wrap up their Australian tour.  Last week we learned that William is also the #1 name in Quebec for 2013.  He’s top ten in much of the western world – where will he rank when the US numbers come out in a few weeks?

Willa – From William to one of his many feminine forms.  The Stanley Cup playoffs are on, and the Anaheim Ducks’ captain Ryan Getzlaf went from taking a hit to the face to welcoming a newborn daughter – before returning to the ice for yet another game.  Getzlaf and wife Paige are also parents to sons Ryder and Gavin.  Willa has never been wildly popular, but this could be her moment.

Edith ViningFor Real Baby Names spotted this combination in Georgia.  Edith is a vintage charmer.  Impossibly fusty a few years back, today Edith seems like the name destined to return to the Top 100.  I’m guessing that Vining is a family surname.  In any case, that sharp, unexpected sound really works with antique Edith.

Clotilde – Part-Chloe, part-Matilda, but more French than either, and much clunkier, too.  I’m partial to the spelling Clothilde, with an extra ‘h’ thrown in.  An aristocratic socialite by the name was featured in Town and Country’s story on designer Giambattista Valli and his loyal clientele, and then the name appeared in Zeffy’s look at French names circa 1800.  Call her a wearable rarity.

Pearl Diana – Blogger Kate at My Kids Eat off the Floor welcomed daughter #4, a little sister for Tempe, Helena, and June!  Pearl is such a lovely name, gentle and meaningful, too.  And I love the unconventional rhythm of a short first name paired with a longer, ends-in-a middle.

What are your favorite vintage names?  Do you prefer rarities, even if they’re a little bit clunky?  Or are you into mainstream antiques?

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14 Responses to “Little Ladies & Gents Names: William, Willa, Winston, and Pearl”

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mill1020 Says:

April 20th, 2014 at 11:17 pm

“Ayer” is also Spanish for “yesterday.” Pearl is gorgeous, and I’ve liked it since reading Steinbeck’s The Pearl in seventh-grade Spanish (not that the pearl is really a positive symbol there). Winston is interesting but makes me think of old roadside billboards with cigarette ads.

sahd721 Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 12:25 am

If I remember correctly, John & Sherry @ Young House Love said that Theodore is after her grandfather, another Teddy, and Freeman is after John’s grandfather – and is also John’s middle name.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 4:20 am

I love the name Winston, and how nice that it’s a family name. I like Clotilde too, and it does seem wearable although clunky.

colfr Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 4:44 am

The Fault In Our Stars AND Young House Love in one post? I’m in heaven! I just knew that John and Sherry would pick a classic name for their little boy, Clara and Teddy is just perfect. And of course, being a name fanatic, I’m already thinking about what they could name a (someday potential) third bun!

indiefendi Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 7:25 am

Pearl Diana is very pretty!

skizzo Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 8:38 am

Hopefully people will see that William is completely overused and it wont get a boost.

Also why is Indigo highlighted with a pink color? Should be yellow at the very least.

miloowen Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 9:14 am

I love vintage names. William is a family name and would have been the name of a second son if I had had one. Edith is also a family name — Cousin Edith with her mansion in Marblehead, no less….I’ve never liked Pearl, however, as I knew someone with this name who was a terrible person.

I also like Wilfred and Enid, two names that are similar in many ways to William and Edith.

iwillpraise Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 11:35 am

If I were a “mainstream” antique person, I’d be all over Rose, Grace and Ava like everyone else; however, I’m more of a Claudina/Adelaide kinda girl. So yes, I suppose my loves would be considered a bit vintage-clunky, especially heavy on the “d”s …and inspired by the names on the list this week, I’d swoon over a name like Edie Pearlina!

Speaking of clunk… not long ago, I heard the name Clodine which sparked my interest and would certainly be my preference over the awkward “clot” of Clotilde.

I look at William as the boy version of Marie —> the overused middle names of my generation. Bland. Nothing refreshing or exciting at all. Proving my point, William is my husband’s middle name. I suppose I should cut it some slack because it has been a name tried and true, passed down from both sides of his family. A long time ago, I casually suggested the name Liam to my husband and now he thinks it’s pretty cool. I’ve since then moved on – I’m not sure it’s my style. He shoulda liked it when I did – lol! I do, however, like Willa and Winston. And what an adorable sibset Theodore Freeman and Clara Kenley is – such a tailored fit, totally cut from the same cloth! I wonder if “Freeman” actually started as a variation of Charles (also a name from my husband’s family), since it means the same? Pretty cool, if you ask me!

eleminty Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 11:36 am

John Green IS a great namer. Along with his wonderfully named characters, he has two children named Henry and Alice.

mickie86 Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I love Pearl, it was my great grandmother’s middle name. I may use it someday! I also love Winston, but I had a cat with that name so I’d never consider it usable for my child. William is a classic but I’ve had too many Bill, Billie, Will and Willy’s in my life that it’s just not on the table for me.

Vespertinerose Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I like Clotilde/Clothilde, it has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. It has a bold sound and meaning. I also love Enid, Edith and Ethel, Bathsheba, Richenza, and Ottile/Ottoline . They seem so underused like Clotilde. :-/

LunaCross Says:

April 21st, 2014 at 10:45 pm

when I hear Augustus, I have two associations. Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Hazel’s love interest in Fault in Our Stars. You did forget to include a Roald Dahl character for the name Augustus, and when I hear Pearl, I think Pearl Harbor, but there is a whale on SpongeBob SquarePants named Pearl. By the way, for George, I don’t think you included George Harrison or Clooney. I also noticed for William, you didn’t include Will. I. Am. or even Bill Clinton. His name was William.

Blog in the Spotlight: Nameberry – KendraNicole.net Says:

April 22nd, 2014 at 12:32 pm

[…] Twice daily, the Nameberry blog posts about all-things names, from current naming trends and celebrity babies, to seasonal names and historical favorites. Each week, readers are asked to weigh in on a […]

alphabetdem Says:

April 22nd, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Theodore, nn Theo and Teddy and Willa are two of my absolute favorite names.

My SO thinks Theodore is ridiculously old sounding, which I sort of understand.

But he thinks Willa is too trendy! BAH! WHAT?!

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