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

April 20, 2014 Abby Sandel

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?

About the author


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

View all of Abby's articles


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