Old People Names

Old people names – or rather #oldpeoplenames – has been this week’s hottest Twitter craze, with thousands of people tweeting their ideas of names that sound, well, old.

The fact that the Old People Names thing has reached this level of mania is evidence that there are a lot of secret name nerds out there. And it’s not the first time it’s happened; twice before in @nameberry’s Twitter lifetime, the #oldpeoplenames hashtag (that’s tweetspeak for subject matter) has flared up, only to quickly die down again.

I first heard about the current Old People Names resurgence yesterday when my friend Debbie Galant passed along Katie Couric’s tweet on the issue: “Dot, Herman, Frank, Betty

I dunno, berries, do you think Katie got it right?

In fact, Katie was more on the mark than a lot of the #oldpeoplenames tweeters, whose ideas evidenced a wide range of definitions for the term.

Some took it to mean really Old People Names, nominating Adam and Eve, Moses and Jesus, Voldemort and Copernicus.

Funny Or Die tweeted that any name with @aol.com after it was an Old People Name. And names that have devolved into rude words, like Dick and Fanny, are pretty much only borne by people so old that, waaaaay back when they were named, their parents didn’t see the problem.

Old People Names might be defined as those that carry the terminal whiff of nursing home. I know some berries love these names, but many of the tweeters nominated the following for this category:


Disconcertingly, some Middle-Aged Names seem to have tipped over the hill into being Old People Names, at least in the eyes of the teens and twentysomethings on Twitter. These include:

There are cultural differences. In the Philippines, @ivychang29 tweeted that Juan, Pedro, and Jose are #oldpeopleneames. An Indonesian tweeter said in that country, Old People Names include Oekarno, Soebardjo, Soeharto, and Mohammad, Muhammad being the Young People spelling.

And then there are the Old People Names beloved on nameberry for modern-day babies. While some of the Twitterati may not have mentioned these in a flattering way, we consider the following Old People Names to be very appropriate for New People:

But why let the tweeps have all the fun? How would you define Old People Names? And what names do you think fit the bill??

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34 Responses to “Old People Names”

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Penni Says:

June 1st, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I find myself recoiling more from the middle aged names as a 36 yo Australian. I am more open to names from my grandparents’ generation than my parents’.

Penni Says:

June 1st, 2011 at 11:09 pm

And I love Dot, Betty and Frank, very much hipster little people names round here. Not sure about Herman though.

Other Carolyn Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 1:41 am

Definitely agree that middle aged names are less attractive than grandma/grandpa names. Not because they’re inherently unattractive, just…middle aged. I guess we hear them more too — most of the people we deal with on a day to day basis are Barbs and Dianes, so they’re probably more tired. Though I have to say I’d have called most of your male middle-aged names grandpa names, especially Frank, George, and Richard.

I like almost all of the Old Names for New People names, except Joe (which seems more of a dad name to me). I like some of the so old they’re ancient names too, though I’d be hesitant to use them due to perception. I don’t see what’s so bad about Ethel or Ruth, and although it does seem old ladyish, Gladys is a secret guilty pleasure of mine. I mean, it has “glad” right in the name! I can see why it was 1910s-trendy, is all I’m saying.

tarynkay Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 8:29 am

Other Carolyn- I agree with you about Gladys! I also feel that way about Gloria.

Lola Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 am

I like almost all “old people” names. The “old people” in my life have been: Cecilia, Andrew, Helen (X3), Leo, Edward, Benjamin, Josephine, Florence, Violet, Stanley, Frances/Francis, Winifred, Anne/Ann/Anna, James, Theodore, Richard, Wayne, Leslie (g&b!), May, Lilian, Caroline, Elspeth, Maud, Cosmo, Julius, Aloysius, Ignatius & Balthasar.

That’s just the mainly English ones. I’m not even going to list the Russian ones, even though they’re all *very* old to me!

Meredith Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 9:04 am

My name is Meredith and I’m 17 years old. I hate that I have a “old person name” when all my friends have pretty, up-to-date names.

mermuse Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 9:56 am

John cannot be an old name. John is the most timeless of all names….

mairwen Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 9:57 am

I think a lot of “old person” names just sound harsh to my ears. They also sound really heavy on babies. I can’t imagine looking down at a baby and seeing a Dorothy, Evelyn, Ralph, Bruce, or Barbara. I have come to love some of the softer “old” names like Evangeline and Rose, and some of the spunkier names like Ruby and Mae, and off-beat Biblical/virtue names have always appealed to me, but I can’t get behind the idea that a lot of “old” names are really fresh, hip baby names.

Sj Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 10:32 am

My list of too old to use – Bertram, Bernard, Cornelius, Orville, Mervin, Milton, Oswald, Lawrence, Herman, Hubert, Stanley, Ethel, Eunice, Verda, Oma, Norma, Bertha, Belva, Shirley – I have more just working on the rest.

anniebee Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:11 am

I think a lot of these are old people names by virtue of the fact that people that are old now have these names, but who says that precludes them for being used?

At least they have some tradition and structure to them. And a lot of these names sound formal but come with cute as a button nicknames like

Minerva – Minnie
Gertrude – Gertie
Dorothy – Dottie or Dolly

which makes them both cute and professional if your want your child to ever get a job.

Give me an Alice, Martha, Henrietta or Pearl ANYDAY over a cheesy, trendy made-up Frankenname like Kaylee, Jayden, Nevaeh or Ainsley. Yuck.

katybug Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:25 am

Meredith, my cousin named her baby Meredith last spring, so it doesn’t feel “old person” to me!

agirlinred Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:37 am

I could argue about a lot of these, but Meredith??!! Since when is Meredith an old person name? Every Meredith I know is younger than 25!

Myka Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:57 am

Most of the names I think to be an old person’s name have already been mentioned. However, I would also like to include a few more ladies names such as Melva, Melba, Mamie, Cuba, Geraldine, Georgette, Bernadette, Sylvia, Beryl, and Dorothy.

For gentlemen, I find the names Herman, Virgil, Alan, Jeff and/or Geoff, Irving, Thaddeus, Elgy, and Vernon.

jpruitt76 Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:58 am

I think there is a fine line…there are very few that I would think couldn’t be used – one being my mother’s name, Gay. Of course, my brother just used it (spelled Gaye) in her honor for his daughter’s middle name.

In total agreement about Meredith NOT being an old person’s name. Love it!

Nancy25 Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I’m not surprised to see my Middle-Age Name as an Old Person Name seeing as it was going around like the flu in the 1950s. There were always several Nancys in my classes in school; my college roommate is Nancy, too. Many of my friends call me by last name, which was what my grandfather went by. He was Grover.

Anyway, my mom (Frances) said she didn’t want a family name, which is just as well as I might have been Beulah, Fairy,Effie, Nettie, Irene. But I might also have been Elizabeth, Caroline, Georgia or Lily.
Names come and go. The runner-up to Nancy for my mom was Jennifer. Her fondness for Nancy Drew won out!

purpleprose78 Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:34 pm

One think that will un-age any of these names is naming a little baby or several little babies with these names. If I were to meet a baby named Mildred or Bertram or any of the other names, I would be surprised and a little impressed with the parent’s courage.

Babies with old people names will grow into them. I know a girl a little younger than me named Ruth and it fits her. It is a name that I would have considered an old person name before I met her.

Leslie Owen Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Some of the names on the original old list I like or know versions which work for me. For example, my great-grandmother was Berte (Bayr-tuh) which I think is pretty. Constance could be Constant (old Puritan name) and suddenly it’s fresh. And I’ve always loved Ruth and Mildred. Of the middle aged names, I agree they sound much more dated to me, although I knew a little girl named Barbara and it was precious on her. And again, I’ve always loved Martha/Marta and I’ve known Merediths of all ages. But the Cindys, Pattys, Debbies, Bobbys, and Garys of my childhood just seem so dated.

Of the guy names, Cecil (prn Sess-uhl), Harald (the Norwegian version), Donal (Scots), Bertram, and Francis are all fine to me. George is my favourite name for a boy after Thomas, and I wish I could see more Johns in my class instead of all the DeJuans, Dyjauns, Dejons, Jashawns, etc. Other names on your list that I like are Richard, Edward, Frederick, Jeremiah, Nathaniel, Rufus, and Theodor (German version).

Names that I would never use: Wilbur, Herman, Ethel, Eunice, Shirley, Milton, and Vernon.

brannon Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I’m due with my Minnie next week … keep hearing it is too “old” (once they get over the mouse thing) … but we love it. Heard the same about our Oliver 5 years ago but now it is popular again. Dot and Betty are adorable 🙂

smidboe Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 3:52 pm

My Grandmother’s name is Mildred and I intend on using it as my daughter’s middle name. I think it is extremely unique. I thought about using it as her first name and calling her “Milly” but my husband didn’t like that idea.

Mischa Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I find the term “old people’s names” kind of offensive quite frankly. I try to make a valiant effort NOT to label people or put them in a neat little box. I call them “vintage” names and most of them are filled with “antique charm”. Wouldn’t that have been a more positive and less discriminatory term to use? Who are the “New People” anyway? People under 30? Most of these vintage names have a lot more character than today’s Jaydens and Madisons in my opinion. In a classroom full of “trendy” names, Agatha, Margaret, Pearl, Mae and Theodore seem charming, fresh and downright revolutionary! Give me a vintage name anyday!

Nell Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I was an Eleanor before being Eleanor was cool. I love my name now but I went through a stage when I was a kid when I hated it. I think TONS of people go through that stage though 🙂 I came out the other end loving my name! I’m proud of my name now and I love the reason my mother chose it (she thought it was elegant – not a good enough reason for a goofball 10 year old “Ellie” haha). I will totally pass on an “old” name to my child! Edith, Lisbette(Betty), Rosemary, Margaret, Constance, Miriam, Helena, Stella (or Estelle), Maeve, Hazel, Ruby, Tabitha, Viviana, Beatrice, Mayme, Blythe: all are family names or husband approved contenders!

Brandie Says:

June 2nd, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I actually work at a nursing/rehabilitation center for the elderly and a lot of the residents do have some of the names mentioned.


At least one of those names are sported by the people I care for. Other names that are common that I love are Anne and Ellen names like Ruthanne and Saraellen. Just this month we had got a new resident named Sylvester and the first thing I said was “I love that name! If I had eight more kids I would name them all Sylvester.” I was joking of course but I do love that name and some of the very best names you forget about are those of your grandparents and great-grandparents and their old school friends.

rollo Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 1:38 am

Love, love Meredith! It is beautiful not a bit old lady at all!

ruthy Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 1:04 pm

My name is an old peoples name! I love that my name sounds fresh though because no one has really been using it to much. A lot of the old people names I like but some of them are just a little too old. Names like:
are a little too old sounding for me.

Annalise Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I just have to say, the reason that “middle-aged” names are sounding old is because the Boomers with names like Nancy and Sally are no longer middle-aged. They’re in their 50s and 60s now! I’m sorry to say it, but that’s not middle-age!

That said, I find most of the names on this list usable. Minerva and Myrtle aren’t my personal style, but I can see why others would be drawn to them. Names like Dot and Frank sound kind of Hipster to me, fitting right in with Ruby and Atticus.

Kittyn Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I must say that Edna is one of my favorite names ever, and I don’t think that it’s “old lady” at all. It has a cool, lovely vibe to me.

In fact, I find most of the names listed here usable in this day and age. Next to Edna, I really love Meredith, and then Cecil for a boy of course.

jells106 Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 10:04 pm

I would love to name my girl after my Grandmother, but her name is old to me.. Marjorie Loucile. I will go with Ainsley (which is not a new trendy name as said above, but actually an old English name) and Loucile for the middle name. We recently thought if it was a boy we would name him Chett, which is very old fashioned – after my husband’s father, Chester. But… I’m not sure we’ll stick with it. We are waivering a bit.

Some of my “old” relatives names:

Gladys x2
Estil Amos (Grandpa!)

to name a few!

Olivia Says:

June 5th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I personally think that Meredith should be switched with Shirley onto the old peoples list, rather than the middle-aged sounding list. Of the 3 Shirley’s I know, not one of them can be over than 50. I do however, know a woman considering Shirley for her baby (Also considering Mary, Mortimer and Balthazar which are all brilliant!).

Anyway, I adore:

Pearl (LOVE!!!)

Lovely blog, by the way 😀

Sunday Summary: 6/5/11 | Appellation Mountain Says:

June 5th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

[…] thread on their message board.  At the same time, Nameberry’s Pam sourced an entire post on Old People Names from a Twitter […]

pdxlibrarian Says:

June 6th, 2011 at 8:15 am

I think Meredith may sound “old” because it is actually a 70s and 80s baby name and not a 90s or 00s baby name — so it misses the mark just by enough for our young author to feel out of synch with er classmates. Check it out: http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=meredith&ms=true&sw=f&exact=false

I’m betting Meredith’s classmates are all named Ashley, Brittany, Madison and Lauren. To our ears they may sound similar, but to this poster she may feel as if she should be 30 or 35, rather than 15 — I can see that as being a bit of a bummer. I think the difference of being 10-20 years out of synch will seem less though as she gets older.

pam Says:

June 6th, 2011 at 8:18 am

I’m sorry I included Meredith on the list! Although some idiot tweeter mentioned it, I don’t think it really is an Old People Name or even a middle-aged name but an ageless beauty. So there.

tian Says:

June 6th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

We named our 3 year old daughter Dorothy. Before it was cool! LOL 🙂 We call her Dot though. She actually was named after her great grandmother. So yes, an old name, but we get comments all the time that it’s such a “cute” name.

Libbie Says:

June 7th, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Oh, my…I LOVE the name Meredith. I think it’s gorgeous…it reminds me of a timelessly beautiful movie star, like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe…the kind of woman who will always be desirable! Young Meredith, be proud of your name. It will suit you throughout your entire life and will always give the impression of beauty, dignity, capability, and intelligence. I don’t think that’s the case for your friends named Kylee, Bree, Mykynzie, Mikayla, etc.

In my family, there are tons of “old people” names to go around. I have a very large family. Some of these I absolutely LOVE and would give to a child of my own in a heartbeat…others I don’t care for. I won’t tell you which I love and which I dislike. I’ll just offer them up for your entertainment, or in case it helps you choose a name:

Libbie (yeah, my name is a family name…and all our Libbies are just Libbies, not short for Elizabeth, thankyouverymuch! And spelled with an I-E, not with a Y! Er…obviously this is one I like.)


Good times!

Lea Says:

June 14th, 2011 at 6:08 am

I think people’s perception of a name has a lot to do with who they’ve heard it on. I grew up with a Constance, went to school with a Sheldon and a Sally, and have a cousin my age (21) named George. So I don’t consider any of those to be “old people names.” On the other hand, I know old people named Samantha, Olivia, Michael and Abigail (all of which are in the top 20 at the moment), so for me I associate those with old people. With this it’s all about perception; one man’s old-people-name is another man’s current-sounding gem.

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