New Names that Sound Old: Eden, Paisley, Romilly

New Names that Sound Old: Eden, Paisley, Romilly

by Angela Mastrodonato, Upswing Baby Names

Determining what makes a name contemporary vs. what makes a name established can be tough.

For example, if a name was first used by one notable person (real or fictional) in the 17th century, but hadn’t become widespread or familiar until within the past decade, does that qualify the name as established or modern?

There may be some debate, but to me, any name that hadn’t been widely familiar or used until within the past 20-30 years is a modern name. That isn’t to say that sometimes modern names can’t have historic origins. Modern names with historic origins are new names that sound… well… old.

Here are some examples:

Auden – is the surname of a poet born around the turn of the 20th century, but hasn’t been used much as a first name. That may soon change. Its sound is definitely on-trend.

Calloway – This surname with jazzy ties has a wonderful three-syllable rhythm and would make a wonderful unisex choice.

Dashiell – This Anglicized surname was introduced by author Dashiell Hammett, born in the late 19th century, but the name has yet to become widespread and familiar. This name could soon catch on since it has the vibe of a modern breakout hit.

Eden – Has Biblical roots and sounds like early 20th century favorite Edith which was popular among Anglo-Saxon royalty. Despite the historic sound, Eden had never hit the top 1000 until the ‘80s.

Everly – Undeniably, this name has a trendy sound. Its origins are unclear, but the theories involve variations on older names, such as a combination of Eve + Emily and Beverly without the B.

Gatsby – Included in the name of a classic novel, Gatsby sounds familiar, but has never caught on as a given name. Gatsby’s spirited sound make it a wonderful possibility.

Haven – wasn’t used much until the 21st century, yet word-names, specifically place-names like Haven, have been around for centuries.

Maple – may sound a bit fanciful and contemporary at first, but then its similarity to Mabel and fellow plant-name Myrtle, give this name old-time charm.

Paisley – sounds contemporary yet comes from the name of a pattern which put the town Paisley, Scotland on the map in the 19th century.

Romilly – sounds like a hybrid of the modern name Romy and the vintage nickname Milly.

Rowan – Here’s a name that hadn’t seen the top 1000 until the turn of the millennium (on boys) and yet is similar to more established names like Owen and Rowena.

These names have one foot in the past and one foot in the present and therein lies their appeal. If you don’t want your child’s name associated too much with one era, these names make great choices.

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find that different but not too different name. She muses about names on their way in and on their way out in her book, The Top 22 in 2022, which she updates every year in May once the newest U.S. name rankings become available.

About the Author



Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.