Nameberry Picks: 12 Best Old Lady Names

Old lady names are wonderful because they’re both classic and quirky, timeless yet intriguing. And they tend to have admirable antecedents, whether they’re famous women, literary heroines, or even beloved members of your own family.

Here, our favorite 12 old lady names right now.

Ada

Picture 1 of 12

Ada is an old lady name that's simple enough to appeal to the modernist, who may also be inspired by namesake Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and the first female "computer programmer." Ada was also the name of a heroine of novelist Vladimir Nabokov and the wife and muse of artist Alex Katz; this is one of Katz's many paintings of her.

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52 Responses to “Nameberry Picks: 12 Best Old Lady Names”

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Whit Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 1:54 am

I love Beatrice, Flora, Imogen, Josephine, Margaret, Pearl, Violet, and even Winnifred. Winnie really does save it.

Stefanie Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 2:15 am

I love Imogen, and LOVE that you featured a photo and bio of Imogen Cunningham for that name – she is one of the reasons why I love the name so much. An incredible photographer to be sure!

Charlotte Vera Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 2:29 am

This is a fantastic list! A number of my personal favourites are up there, as well as a few that I find quite attractive, even if I wouldn’t use them. One of my personal favourite old lady names is the much-hated Gertrude — I wish she could make a comeback!

Em Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 3:22 am

Beatrice, Cordelia, Helen, Pearl, and Violet are all on my short list for a girl. I’m warming up to Flora, Imogen, and Leonora. I thought it was interesting that Margaret was included in this list- I know tons of Margarets of all ages! It doesn’t seem to have the same feel as the others.

Kathryn Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 4:19 am

I love just about all of them. I have a Cordelia, so old lady names are very much my thing. Poor Winifred gets such a bad rap, I think it is darling.

Mystery0_0 Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 5:38 am

Both Cordelia and Winifred are names from the Buffyverse. I wonder how many old lady names are used in Fantasy/Scifi series.

Whistling Girl Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 6:44 am

I love Leonora; it’s such a musical name, by far the prettiest of all the Eleanor derivatives. And Winifred is just so cute, I don’t see why more people don’t like it.

Danni Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 7:55 am

I am falling in love with Margaret! It’s my dear grandmother’s name, but when I was younger I thought the name itself was frumpy despite my energetic Mimi. Nowadays, however, Margaret is making quite a comeback. I can definitely see myself using Margaret with the nicknames Maisie, Daisy, May, or Maggie.

Also love Cordelia off this list!

Toni Vitanza Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:24 am

The palindromic Ada is also the heroine of the novel/movie Cold Mountain — she was portrayed by Nicole Kidman.
My husband is Italian — he pronounces Beatrice “be-uh-tree-chay” with an accent on the “tree.”

Toni Vitanza Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:28 am

Pronounce Imogen quickly: “imma-jin.” I love the way Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York, or former, at least) pronounces the names of both her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie. “Beh-triss,” the way she says it, is especially nice.
In Poland, where I taught once, Eugenia is nice … “ay-yoo-zhayn-yuh.”

Vanessa Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:54 am

I love Leonora but not sure of pronunciation. Is it Lee-O-nora or Len-ora?

Lola Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:02 am

I love a good number of these lovely old lady names! Helen, Josephine, Flora, Margaret & Winifred. I already have a Josephine/Josie but could happily add Florence/Flora, Helen/Nell & Winifred/Winnie (or Freda if she’s as funky as Josie)! Margaret is one I really like both in her nickname forms and in full. But alas! No family member named Margaret (unless you count my neice Megan). So Margaret/Maisie is a long shot at best for me. 🙁
I love old lady names and can’t understand folks that don’t.

CC Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:10 am

I honestly love all of these, although I have never cared for Violet (I can’t even explain why).
I really love Helen, Cordelia and Josephine, too bad they were too old-ladyish for my husband’s taste. I also liked Margaret nn Maisie, but he thought Margaret was too clunky. Men have no taste sometimes, lol. So many of these names are classically beautiful, and have super cute nicknames! I definitely have a love for old lady names — they are solid, beautiful, and they age well…….yet they are all cute and quirky at the same time. I hope they don’t get TOO popular! =)

Stacy Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:26 am

LOVE Beatrice, Cordelia and Margaret. They were all discussed and Margaret made it to our short list (and it’s a family name to boot.)
I also like Violet, but her cousin Viola is what made our short list.

I’ve been trying to lobby got Margaret/Margot if we have another and it’s a girl.

Elowen Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:52 am

Cordelia, Margaret and Josephine are all on my short list!

pam Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 10:15 am

It was VERY difficult to choose my top dozen in this category! There were at least another dozen choices that I hated to leave behind. Such a great group of names.

Kathy Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 10:35 am

Helen is one of my favorite names. It holds wonderful associations for me–I’ve loved every Helen I’ve ever met (most of them are my mom or grandmother’s generation). I would have used it for my daughter if our last name wasn’t two syllables ending in -en. Dang!

JustADad Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 10:44 am

I really like Leonora, one of my favorite names. Also really like Cordelia, Josephine, and Margaret (esp for the Meg nickname).

I remember a line in Stephen King’s The Shining, when the female lead is introduced as Winifred and is asked if she’s a Winnie or a Freddie. (She’s a Wendy). It’s my least favorite on this list but I do see how it has a charm to it.

SadieSadie Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 10:59 am

I love Beatrice and it is on my short list. So is Imogen. The rest are sweet but I wouldn’t use them. I prefer Eleanora to Leanora and I concur with a previous poster, Gertrude is adorable!

Emma Lou Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 11:40 am

I LOVE Cordelia and Beatrice, but my husband won’t go for them. I like Flora, Violet (prefer Viola), Margaret (nn Maggie), Pearl, and Josephine, as well. I definitely go for old lady names, and I’ve experienced personally how well an “old fashioned” name can serve you though life (and then get outrageously popular!) as an Emma born in the 1980s. The thing that makes this sort of name so wonderful is that they’re rare to hear, but still familiar to the general public.

I’m just going to have to work a bit harder with my husband so he sees the light!

Ruth Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I like all the names except Helen! As a matter of fact one of my top three names combinations include the middle name Cordelia! My great grandmother’s name was Florence and Flora would be a good way to honor her.

Ruth Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

When I read the post by JustADad and saw that the Winifred in the book had the nn Wendy it made me love the name even more! I love the name Winifred but I had never really cared for the nn Winnie but Wendy would be soooo cute!

British American Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I especially like one of the names on this list for our spring baby, but hubby says it sounds ugly. 🙁 I like that our daughter, Rose, has an old lady name.

I know an almost-6-year-old Pearl, which makes me like that one a lot too.

I knew a Helen who was my age, growing up in the UK. So that one doesn’t read ‘old lady’ to me personally. I’ve not met any children with that name though in the last 5+ years though.

Bella Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I love old lady names, I feel as if I’m a slave to the hundred-year rule.

Everything from Mathilda, Tabitha, Alma, Beatrix and Ivy appeal to me! Helena is just gorgeous; I am beggining to grow really fond of Josephina and Marguerite, and Winifred has been a secret love of mine since Tuck Everlasting.

brannon Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Love so many of these – taught a Winifred last year who went by Freddie … too cute!

Madi Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Is anyone else having trouble with the slide show? No matter what I click (back or next) it stays on Ada. I was tried reloading the page several times.
🙁

Jennifer Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I’m having the same problem

Lisa Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Madi, me too. I think can see the majority of the names by reading the comments though! 😉 We have a Cora Rose and a Violet Mae, so we love the old lady vibe…

pam Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Hey everyone, I think something must have just broken. I’m going to go into the back end to check and I hope fix!

pam Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

What a bummer! The slide show is broken, but I reconstructed the text and at least added one of the lovely pictures. Sorry, everyone, but at least you can get the message!

Helen Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

i guess b/c i’ve grown up with this name and i’ve never felt like an old lady (i’m now 30), it doesn’t sound “old lady” to me 🙂 so it’s always weird to hear that connotation with it, even though i completely understand why the connotation exists. in any case, i guess i should feel good my name’s even on the list, even though the writer of the blurb under “helen” gave the name of a bit of a back handed compliment. however, i was happy to hear many who left comments–except for @ruth–like the name 😉 i know, we are all entitled to our own preferences. i’m just sensitive 😉 @kathy’s especially gave me a smile!

CanaLyn Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Margaret may be my least favorite name. Ever. (No, really.)

Beatrice, however, and Cordelia, are both absolutely gorgeous and (while not my favorites) WAY up there on my Super-Duper List of Awesome Names. Especially with Cordelia’s nn possibilities of Cora and Delia (both also on the SDLAN).

Jeannie Says:

December 13th, 2010 at 11:28 pm

I loathe the name Winifred/Winnie. Just loathe it. I find it to be a horrid name and I can’t imagine why anyone would foist that unforunate name on a child.

I do like Margaret and love Meg and Maggie as NN’s.

The rest are just OK.

linzybindi Says:

December 14th, 2010 at 2:08 am

So many fantastic names on this list! I love Ada! Love that she is a Biblical character too.

My niece has a friend named Helen…she is 12 and is named after both of her grandmothers.

Imogen is just adorable!!!

My grandma’s name was Margaret…my oldest sister (41) has this for a middle name. She hates it with a passion and always makes fun of my love for “old lady” names.

Leonora would be on my list but my sister’s name is Leora (she is also the one with the middle name Margaret…yes Leora Margaret) and I think they are too similar.

Violet is one of my favorites! But my niece named her bird Violet :o(

Becca Says:

December 14th, 2010 at 10:56 am

I like Cordelia, Josephine & Pearl!
I really like Pearl the best because my grandmas mn was Pearl! She was such a great lady!!

Michelle Says:

December 14th, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I feel like some names such as Helen, Margaret and Josephine are actual old lady names, while others such as Cordelia maybe not so much.

I liked:

Beatrice
Helen
Josephine
Margaret

My own old lady names:

Agnes
Sylvia
Matilda
Hester
Alice
Anna (according to my mother!)
Clara
Mary
Adelaide
Iris

Caroline Ruth Says:

December 15th, 2010 at 10:04 am

I love Cordelia and Winifred. I tried very very hard to get my husband to agree to Winifred after my mother. Her name is Wanda, but I was looking for another W name.

Macy Says:

December 15th, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Leonora I really like, though I prefer Leonor. Imogen is great, as is Josephine (know one that’s danish in her 20s), as is Cordelia, Ada, Pearl, Beatrice and Flora. Not a big fan of Winifred.

I’ll pick Ophelia and Odette as favourites of mine not on this list.

ghoti Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 5:32 am

Iwas expecting my daughter;s name (Judith)… not Helen! I know one Helen older than me, and the rest are early thrities or younger, so I’d never think old lady. Interesting the different connotations on either side of the pond.

Chloe Says:

February 11th, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I Like A Lot Of Old Women Names. My Favorites Would Have To Be:
Margret
Peggy
Susana
Maggie
Daisy
Janet
Cammie

Sarah May
And Beatrice
:]

Namegirl Says:

February 27th, 2011 at 11:43 am

Great post! I like some old lady names, but deffinitely not all of them, although I don’t loathe any of these. Nobody mentioned the nn Greta for Margaret, which I like much better than Maggie/Marg(y/ie)/Mamie, ect. Some of these (Violet, Helen) don’t seem like old lady names to me. I sort of like Cordelia. Cordie could be used as a more informal nn. I like Beatrice, but only pronounced the Italian way. Within my family, sort of as a joke, I went by Winnifred and my bro was Walter. We called eachother Win and Walt.

Louise Says:

March 19th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Two and a half of my four daughters are here! I have a Margaret Rose, Beatrice Sarah, Florence Elizabeth (not Flora) and a Genevieve Felicity. I guess I’m an old fashioned girl.

Jane not plain Says:

April 14th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I vote for my name, Jane. A child of the 80’s, I was so jealous that all of my friends were named Jenny, Amy, or Stephanie, but since my late teens, I have LOVED my name! My closest friends and family call me Janey, which is like a term of endearment all its own.

Sarah Says:

June 17th, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Ada (I like it ended with an H) was my great grandmother’s name and I love it. It’ll be a middle name for any girl I’m lucky enough to have.

Namelover Says:

July 15th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I love Winifred, always have, not even sure why. I think the name is whimsical but strong. Exactly how I would want my child to be. Freddie, Freya or Win would be my pick of nicknames. I love Josephine aswell.

Reeny Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 3:39 am

I especially love Imogen. I think it sounds beautiful – a rather lilting quality without being too frilly. I think it also looks really beautiful in written form, important to a name. I love that it is a Shakespearean misprint too (Innogen). I used it for one of my characters (I am a writer) and have ended up falling for it!

The other traditional name I love, which was my great aunt’s name, is Rosa.

astraelly Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Minor quibble on an old article:

Ada Lovelace is often considered the first computer programmer — not the first female one, and not computer programmer in quotes. Saying it any other way diminishes her achievements.

HerMajesty Says:

November 2nd, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I never really thought if my name as oldladyish, so its odd seeing my name, Helen, on this list since I am 15. But, I was named after my Grandna, so that coukd explain it.

harleyhazard Says:

February 12th, 2014 at 10:50 pm

My actual name is Beatriz [a latin variation to it] and i actually quite like it now, not much as a kid, though…

ladyhatshepsut Says:

February 13th, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I LOVE Leonora! It’s been on my list forever and I plan to use it if I ever have a daughter. I also love Cordelia, Josephine, Flora, and Pearl. I like Beatrice, but I think I prefer the Beatrix variation. I also prefer Helena to Helen.

Cheex223 Says:

March 5th, 2014 at 12:53 am

I love Leonora, but I would spell it Lenora, Nora for short, after Nora Ephron, one of my favorite writers. Other antique names I like are Alice, Agatha, Amelia, Florence and Sylvia.

OpheliaFlora Says:

March 13th, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Leonora is Lee-O-nora, you do not drop the “O” when saying it.
I love so many on this list but were surprised by some of them since I don’t consider them old lady names.
My favourites are Flora, Leonora, Violet, Ada (Ida would fit great as well), Pearl and Cordelia.

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