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How to Name Your Baby After Your Grandpa

How to Name Your Baby After Your Grandpa

You want to name your son after your beloved grandpa… but Richard just isn’t your style. What to do?

The good news is there are lots of other options. You could stick Richard in the middle name slot, or try an alternative honor name that connects to him in a different way. OR! You could use a modern-sounding version of his name that’s still connected to the original. Like Hudson, for example.

Classic boy names tend to rise and fall in popularity more slowly than girl names. So when it comes to great-grandpa names, the problem often isn’t that they’re out of fashion (although some are, cough cough Larry) but that they're so timelessly classic they can feel overused and a bit… boring.

You might not want your son to be Yet Another James. Or to be the sixth cousin named after Grandpa Joseph. Or maybe your style is fun and adventurous, and William just doesn’t feel right.

If that’s you, read on for our best ideas to update old man names, while honoring the original. We’ve reimagined the 20 most popular 1930s names and 1940s names for boys, combining both decades from the USA’s list of popular names.

Updating 1930s and 1940s Boy Names

1. Robert

Robert is a true classic, and still ranks in the Top 100 boy names. But as it was the number 1 boy name of the 1930s — and popular for centuries before that — you may feel it needs a refresh. Perky Robin started as a diminutive of Robert, and vintage nicknames Bertie and Bobby are popular in Britain. Or you might prefer a surname-style name like Robson, Robertson or Robinson.

2. James

Crowd-pleaser James has never been out of the Top 20, making it truly timeless. But what if you want to honor a James without repeating his name? Jacob comes from the same root, and is less likely to belong to a grandpa, as are nicknames like Jake and Coby. You could use an international variant, like Jago, Jaime or Hamish, or another derivative like Jamie or Jameson.

3. John

The most classic name of all time has an abundance of honor name options. Among the variations of John, some of the most popular now are Jack and Jackson (and Jaxon and Jaxson), Evan and Ivan. Lesser-used versions we love include Italian Gianni, Cornish Jowan, British favorite Jenson, and preppy Jones.

4. William

Liam, the Number 1 boy name, is the most obvious update to William (if you need one). Bill and Billy might make a comeback one day, but are counter-cultural nicknames at the moment. A more on-trend update would be a William-derived surname like Wilson or Willis — or just keep the first syllable and make it Wilfred, Willoughby, or even Wilder. For international variations of William, Dutch Pim is one of our favorites.

5. Richard

Richard was a Top 5 name for most of the 1930s and 1940s, and has fallen from favor a little. Hudson, which comes from an old short form, is red-hot right now. We also like rare-but-cool Rico, a Spanish diminutive. Because Richard is made of the elements ric “rule” and hard “strong”, you could make a subtle link with a name that shares one of them, like Frederick, Henry, Everett or even Wulfric.

6. Charles

Buttoned-up Charles is a steady presence in the US Top 100, but you might want to skip the formalities and use Charlie, one of the most popular unisex names. Cal is another great modern nickname. International versions like Carl are also a little dated, but you could follow the surname trend with Charleston or Charlton.

7. David

A Top 10 name from the 1930s through to the 1990s, David is classic but very well-used. Cool surname versions include Davis, Dawes and Dawson. The Brazilian form Davi is becoming more popular in the States, or for something completely different we like Welsh Dai and Finnish Taavi. Other names meaning love or beloved include Amias, Erasmus and Milan.

8. Thomas

Thomas is evergreen everywhere, and a Top 10 name in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Tommy is super-hot in Britain, and Tom on its own is big in France. Surprisingly rare variants are Thom, Maso, and Thompson. For adventurous namers, a name with a connection to Thomas’s meaning of “twin”, like Gemini or Romulus, could be an option. I also kind of love Atom as a space-age update.

9. Donald

At last! A name that’s decidedly on the way out of fashion. Donald ranked in the Top 10 all through the 1930s, but is down in the 600s now (though that’s still over 400 boys a year). The variation Donal is pleasingly minimal and closer to the original, and Donovan has a similar sound and Celtic origin. We also like Landon and Lando as nearly-anagrams.

10. Ronald

Ronald is in style limbo, but the unrelated Roland has had a revival recently, so a simple letter swap gives you an honor name that’s also an underused vintage choice. Ronnie is one of the most popular names in nickname-loving Britain, though parents elsewhere have yet to embrace it. The medieval name Reynold, now a rarity, comes from the same root, and closely related are viking-chic Ragnar and surname-esque Rayner.

11. Joseph

If Grandpa Joe’s name is too classic, how about a rare diminutive like Joss, Dutch Zef, or Croatian Josko? You could also honor a Joseph with other biblical names starting with Jo like Josiah, Jonah, or Joah, or the Arabic name Zayd which shares the meaning of “increase”.

12. George

The coolest way to update George is to shorten it: Geo and Gio are both rare but rising in popularity. Some international variations of George don’t come easily to English speakers, but Jory and Jordi have great potential. Or you could try an occupational name that shares George’s meaning of “farmer”, like Bauer, Kemper, or even Farmer itself.

13. Michael

As the top boy name for over 40 years, you may feel like there are enough Michaels in your life. Biblical names with a similar sound are Micah and Micaiah, or you could use another angel name, like Gabriel or Raphael. Or remove a few letters to get Cael or Mael, both real (unconnected) names with a modern feel.

14. Kenneth

Kenneth and his diminutives are classic grandpa names, but there are cooler Ken names out there. Japanese import Kenzo entered the Top 1000 in 2018 and is rising fast, hot on the heels of Enzo. Kendrick and Kendrix are spunky musical options, while Kenton has a sober placename feel. More unusual options include Kenner and Kennan. Shave off one letter and you get Kennet, a rare British river name.

15. Edward

Instead of Edward, you could try a less expected Ed name like Edmund, Edric or Edison, or skip straight to a diminutive, Ned or Ted. Rising favorite Otto also comes from the same Germanic root, meaning “wealthy, prosperous”.

16. Larry

Larry is short for Lawrence, which is the more popular and timeless name today. Several stylish surnames, like Larkin and Lawson, have the same origin, or you could reclaim Laurie (as in Little Women) for the boys. The Italian form, Lorenzo, is the one of the hottest international baby boy names right now, and we also like Lars and Laurent.

17. Paul

Paul doesn’t have many derived surnames used as first names — Paulson has charted only once — so we have to get more creative. Saul was St Paul’s name before his conversion (and also rhymes). Or you could also use a stylish name that echoes Paul’s sound, like Apollo or Palmer. Vaughn shares the meaning of “small”, and depending on how far you’re willing to stretch the connection, any Irish name with the -án ending, such as Logan or Kieran, has a diminutive “small” meaning too.

18. Gary

Gary was a rising star in the 1930s and 40s, and reached the Top 10 in the 1950s, meaning it’s unlikely to be back in style any time soon. Garrett is a next-generation update, though is starting to feel date-stamped, while gentle Gareth is surprisingly underused in the USA. Other under-the-radar names echoing Gary include Garrison, Gardner, Garner, and Garland… or can we tempt you with the fantasy name Garion? Oscar comes from the same root, and names meaning “spear” in other languages include Corrigan, Zubin, Sinan, and Quirin.

19. Jerry

Jerry was in the Top 20 in the 1930s and 40s, and today could be honored with a longer Jer- name. The obvious choice, Jeremy, is also somewhat dated, but Jeremiah, Jericho, Jerome, and Jersey are all more unexpected. Or could it be time to bring back Gerard?

20. Frank

Both Frank and Frankie are popular vintage revivals for boys in Britain, but not yet Stateside. Franklin is the coolest alternative, while the more formal Francis and its Spanish counterpart Francisco remain classics. Alternatively, you could use another name meaning “free”, like Kanoa, Azad, or Jephthah.


Read next: How to Name Your Baby After Your Grandma

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from the next high-rising names to how to choose a multilingual name, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and lives in England with her husband and toddler. You can follow everything she reads about names on Twitter or Scoop.it, or reach her at clare@nameberry.com