How To Find An Antique Gem

One of the most popular lists on nameberry is the Old Lady Cool Names: names that have been in retirement for several decades now but just might be ready for a comeback.

Antique names for both sexes are popular too, as parents search for names that are out of the ordinary yet have the backing of tradition.

Of course, not every neglected name deserves to be revived.  Gertrude, Ethel, Melvin: These may be best left in the time capsule, at least for now.

Some of the quirkier old-school names — Olive, Rufus, Hazel, Edwin — have already been resuscitated by hipster parents.  But what are the less obvious old gems worthy of a fresh look?  We wouldn’t necessarily stake the farm (or the loft) on the comeback of the following, but parents who are both adventurous and tradition-minded may want to consider these choices:

































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14 Responses to “How To Find An Antique Gem”

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Lyndsay Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 10:55 am

the baby name i’m using is in there! I never intended to be a hipster, but there you have it. I love the boys names on this list and would be thrilled if some of them made a comeback, particularly Walter, George, Howard, Arthur, and especially Alfred! Though I’d like for mine to be the only one he knows. I’m not as fond of the girls names, but I have always loved Faye, and Adelia is cute.

Elisabeth Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:32 am

My predictions for underground risers:


August (-us, -in, -en, -ine)
Hugh & Hugo

pam Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:35 am

I think you’re absolutely right, Elisabeth. In fact, I’d say that Clementine, Edith (usually as Edie), the Mauds, the Augusts, Hugo and Theodore are already here. But, Lyndsay, I don’t think you have to worry about meeting too many little Alfreds or Arthurs.

Ash SP Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:35 am

I personally know of two babies named Ruth so I think Ruth is definitely becoming more appealing than it was only a short while ago.

Oh! And Sylvia as well. I’ve heard that a few times in the past few weeks.

As for boys names, one of my best friends just named her new little one Ira. I think it’s fun but definitely was an
“older person” name for quite a while.

pam Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:39 am

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop seeing Ira and Ruth as stooped and semi-bald…..

namefan Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:49 am

An “old name” that hasn’t been mentioned yet that I like is Mabel.

Elisabeth Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 11:55 am

I do think most on my list are no longer “less obvious.” They’ve yet to hit widespread national use though as far as I know. I have met several Georges, Helens, Agathas, Esthers, Sylivias, an Arthur, and a Victor, so they all have about an equal feeling of usability to me.

Other, less obvious thoughts:

Gladys (I actually think this is kind of “happy” and pretty)


Andrea Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

I’ve interviewed a couple of young Esthers, one in high school and one in elementary school, both the daughters of fairly religious Protestants. One Esther has little sisters named Sarah and Hannah and the other has a younger sister named Camilla, nicknamed Millie. There is also a young MarthaJoan at the Catholic elementary here. There’s a junior high boy named Gus at one of the tiny rural schools here and he has a younger sister named Gracie. They’re heavily into the rodeo circuit. Gus is not a terribly popular name here yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of them. His parents are ahead of the curve.

Going by the birth announcements from the Irish papers, I’d say Fay/Faye is fairly popular there, so it might become well used here as well. The Brits and the Irish also seem to like some of the nickname names such as Nancy, Sally, Polly, Bonnie.

I don’t think Ethel is all that ugly. It’s the sort of name I could see a certain kind of person using. Selma, Velma, Enid, etc., (smart know-it-all girls wearing glasses like Velma from Scooby Doo or Ghost World) and Fred (but not Freddie, thanks to Nightmare on Elm Street), Frank, Hank, Chuck are all that sort of “See how hip and how much I DON’T care what you think” name.

berlinea Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I was going to say mabel too! Such a cute name I think it could come around again…

L Says:

December 12th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Thinking back on family names perhaps Virginia, Viola, Zetta, or Goldie (named during the gold rush). I have a great grandmother named Karma, but that sounds so 70’s now.

susan Says:

December 13th, 2008 at 2:15 am

I think for girls, Rosemary nn Romy or Rosie, Frieda, Trixie, Francine nn Francie, Pippa, and Aurora nn Rory might get popular with the hipsters. For boys future popular names might be Hector, Ansel, Alban, Clement, Rupert, Willis, and Franklin.
I wish Paulina nn Lena and Lilias would be stylish because I love them! And I love Vito and Viggo for boys.

marty Says:

July 17th, 2009 at 12:44 am

For boys I love the name Phineas (Fin) and also Seamus. For girls, Bridget with the nickname (Bridie) and Molly.

Cora Says:

August 27th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I have a Hazel she is 22 months old and I receive compliments daily on her name. But I like old names.. I loved that no one had my name (Cora) growing up.

CsprsSassyHrly Says:

July 13th, 2013 at 1:56 pm

My aunt is Esther, though she added the h. She had originally been Ester. It’s funny because she’s the youngest girl and fifth of six but the only one with a non-J name. Her siblings all got saddled with J names. My uncle Johnny kept the tradition going by giving all his kids J names. My tia Joaquina took the tradition a step further by giving all her kids J first names and A middle names, a tradition every single one of her kids has kept going, which is starting to get really difficult to not reuse a J name. This tradition has even been passed onto a very close family friend, who named all four of her little girls with J names.

But, I digress. My tia Esther was supposed to be named Jemima (oh, the jokes I could’ve made about having a literal Aunt Jemima!) but no one apparently liked that name, so instead, she was named Esther, after the town barmaid, who my grandpa was rumored to have had an affair with, though he denied it to his grave.

Her daughter, named Elis, pronounced like Elyse, has three little girls (all of whom have some form of her name in theirs, it’s weird and a little narcissistic) whose first name initials are E, E and K (Ha, EEK!). My aunt mentioned not liking being different in that sense when she was growing up and sometimes still feels left out at being the only non-J name so she didn’t like when little Karmen was saddled with a non-E name.

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