Old-Fashioned Names Are New Again
Alfred is having a major resurgence in Scandinavia and England, and the US is hopping on that bandwagon as well, with Alfred leaping 95 places in the past five years on record. A royal name in the UK, Alfred has lots of other distinguished namesakes as well, and — big plus — four hip nicknames: Alf and Alfie and Fred and Freddie.
Clyde still has a cool-cat image for a name that peaked in the year 1900, bounding up 275 places over the past five years. Basketball great Walt Frazier’s nickname is Clyde and Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler was known as Clyde the Glide. Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney were ahead of the curve when they used this old-fashioned boys’ name for their son in 1999.
Dorothy’s not just in Kansas anymore — she’s been growing in popularity across the country, rising over 200 places from 2013-2018. That wide-eyed Wizard of Oz image has managed to keep her somewhat youthful despite being the Number 2 name in 1920 and a Golden Girl in the 80s. Scarlett Johansson used Dorothy as daughter Rose’s middle name.
Faye reentered the Top 1000 in 2014 — after being MIA for 35 years! (And sister Fay has been off even longer). Faye may be slipstreaming along behind the new popularity of May/Mae, or might have received a bounce from being a Mad Men character or — here’s a thought — because everyone loves Tina Fey.
Sweet, gentle Frances is definitely on the upswing, gaining almost 250 places in the past five years. She’s become a celebrity fave, chosen by such stylish parents as the late designer Kate Spade, actress Amanda Peet — who opted for fresher, spunkier, nickname Frankie over the more dated Fran, and the Jimmy Fallons, who call their Frances Franny.
The popularity of nickname Harry has rubbed off on one of its more formal forms. Harold has many distinguished namesakes, including two British PMs and playwright Pinter; kids might relate to Harold the helicopter in Thomas the Tank Engine and the classic Harold and the Purple Crayon. Greta Gerwig recently named her son Harold, and it’s the middle name of Jenna Bush Hager’s son Henry (called Hal). Harold was up 96 places from 2013-2018.
The roster of attractive current high-profile Hughs — including Jackman, Grant, Laurie, and Dancy — has probably contributed to the resurgence of this sophisticated one-syllable name. Hugh moved up 30 places in 2018.
The first First Lady’s name has always had a rather prim image, but the new generation of parents are beginning to appreciate her traditional, can-do Martha Stewart virtues, while the Beatles made it endearing in the song ‘Martha, My Dear.” The name has hovered around the 800th spot since 2013.
Is Otto the new Oscar? It’s a palindrome name with trendy O’s at the start and finish and is climbing each year — it currently sits at Number 430, but it didn’t even break the Top 1000 a decade ago. Otto’s popularity is even greater on Nameberry —the Berries have it at Number 96. Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, chose it for his son.
After a decades-long downturn, Ralph is finally on the up-and-up. It was a Top 50 pick from the 1880s through the 1940s, but enough time has passed that Ralph is beginning to feel fresh and charming again. It is currently ranked at Number 951. The nickname Ralphie calls to mind the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story.
Ramona is back, and it’s about time — the name peaked in the 1920s, so according to the 100 Year Rule, this is the decade Ramona should reemerge. Right now Ramona is ranked at Number 835, but it’s rising quickly. It’s a popular starbaby name, having been chosen by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard for their daughter in 2006, and then in 2019 by Ryan Lewis, as well as Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey.
Rhea has experienced exponential growth since its return to the Top 1000 in 2015. It’s climbed almost 100 spots each year and sits at Number 761 in the official 2018 data. In Greek mythology, Rhea is the mother of all the gods — it also may remind you of Cheers actress Rhea Perlman.
Rosalyn remained in the Top 1000 for the first 80 years of the 20th century, only to drop from sight….until 2014. A modernized version of the classic Rosalind, Rosalyn‘s reemergence owes something to the style for lyn-ending names, such as Brooklyn and Evelyn. In 2018, the last year on record, Rosalyn ranked at Number 868.
Vera firmly established herself as a Top 300 name in 2017, and it will likely break the Top 250 when the 2019 data comes out. It is even more popular in Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Designer Vera Wang and Ukrainian-born actress Vera Famiga are current bearers. And it’s the birth name of both Jayne Mansfield and Mindy Kaling.
You may not have met any baby Wallaces yet, but trust us, you will. It rose 144 spots from 2017 to 2018, now ranking at Number 879. If it continues on that trajectory, there are going to be a lot more little boys named Wallace around. It’s connected to modernist poet Wallace Stevens, actor Wallace Shawn, and the claymation series Wallace & Gromit. Retro nickname Wally only adds to the appeal.
Presidential name Warren, which peaked in popularity in 1921, the year of Harding’s inauguration, is suddenly back in play, both here and, strangely enough, in France. There have been X-Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Warren characters. Iconoclastic financier Warren Buffet could be an inspiration. Warren was up 141 places in the past five years.
Watson was the fifth fastest-rising boy name of 2018, jumping over 300 places and back into the Top 1000 at Number 711. It has a distinguished, intellectual image thanks to associations with IBM’s Watson computer — named after IBM founder Thomas Watson — and Dr. John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s brainy partner.
Zora fell out of the Top 1000 in 1940 but has staged a 21st-century comeback, making her reappearance in 2018 at Number 982. And it’s no surprise, given the recent success of similar names Nora and Cora. Zora is often tied to author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
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on June 11th, 2015 at 10:51 pm
Faye and Otto are the only two I would actually consider using.
on June 11th, 2015 at 11:09 pm
My husband really likes Otto and it would work for a third son because our first two sons’ German names and our German last name. We’ll see if it grows on me.
I was trying to like Alfred (and Albert) but I don’t think I’m there. One of our sons is Frederick, so I don’t think I’d use Alfred anyway. I was thinking about Dorothy the other day because it was one of my great-aunt’s names. I think Dot as a nickname is super cute!
on June 11th, 2015 at 11:55 pm
These are WONDERFUL names, just what I love. The only one that does not seem to fit (to me) is Rosalyn. It sounds modernized. Rosalind, Rosemary, Rosalie, Rosamund, Rosamond, yes, but not so much Rosalyn.
And I love these illustrations. Are they from Little Golden Books? Would love to know the source.
on June 12th, 2015 at 1:31 am
LOVE Dorothy and Vera! The others I can take or leave for the most part, except for Frances. I’ve never been fond of any variation of Frances.
Other old-fashioned names I love:
on June 12th, 2015 at 2:08 am
As an old-fashioned-names lover, I love most of the names on this list!
The only names here that I actually dislike are Harold and Martha. My particular favorites are Alfred, Ernest, Faye, Frances and Vera <3
Rosalyn is lovely, though I prefer Rosalind, and I’m not too keen on the War- sound of Warren though it's not that noticeable when you're used to the name.
It's nice to see some fresher options here, besides the already trending/in the spotlight choices like Hazel, Felix, etc.
on June 12th, 2015 at 2:43 am
Ooh some of these are lovely.
For the little gentlemen I really like Harvey, Warren and Otto. From the girls I only particularly like Vera.
on June 12th, 2015 at 5:02 am
I like Vera, Rosalyn, Frances (as a middle only), and Alfred.
Side note, Harry Styles given name is not Harold. His given name is Harry Edward Styles.
on June 12th, 2015 at 7:56 am
I’ve actually really fallen for Alfred lately, a name I never thought I’d like!
Have long loved Vera and Warren, too!
on June 12th, 2015 at 10:41 am
I love Harvey!
on June 12th, 2015 at 11:14 am
Martha and Vera are the only two that I consider “nice”.
on June 12th, 2015 at 1:33 pm
A girl I went to HS with named her daughter Vera (6) and Faye (2). Guess she’s ahead of the game.
My sister has Warren (or Werner) on her list for their next baby. My other sister has Otto on hers. Frances and Rosalyn are on mine.
on June 12th, 2015 at 3:06 pm
I also love these images – where are they from? They would make such cute prints!
I really love the name Otto. I totally see how he’s rising! (Full name nerd disclosure: I renamed two of my work USB drives so I recognize them when they pop up in my computer, and one is Otto.)
I also thought Harvey was cool way back when he was Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s boyfriend!
on June 12th, 2015 at 4:56 pm
I love Harvey! Warren is nice too, though I may prefer Warner.
on June 12th, 2015 at 5:14 pm
Sorry, I still have great aunts and uncles with all these names, except for Otto, which I don’t care for either. The only ones that don’t make me flinch are Frances, Vera, Rosalyn (although prefer Rosalind and Rosemary) and Hugh, or Harry, but not Harold!
on June 12th, 2015 at 7:53 pm
@lesliemarion – Rosalyn has been in use since at least 1903. How old does a name have to be to be considered old-fashioned?
on June 12th, 2015 at 8:45 pm
1903 qualifies it as old-fashioned, certainly. It just doesn’t sound old-fashioned to me, if that makes sense. It sounds more made up. I just prefer Rosamund, Rosalie, Rosalind, Rosemary.
on June 12th, 2015 at 8:56 pm
I’m surprised Martha’s taking so long to revive. It’s a nice biblical name.
I’d like to see Howard, Norman, Arthur, Richard, Robert, Rosemarie and, Rosemary come back.
on June 12th, 2015 at 10:47 pm
I love Otto and Alfred. 🙂
on June 13th, 2015 at 7:42 pm
Not everyone loves Tina Fey 🙁
These are spot-on, though. Alfred, Hugh and Harvey have been on my radar for a while, and Otto, Ernest and Clyde are more recent additions. One of my friends was disappointed by many people’s negative reactions when she named her baby boy Ernst, and I have tried to comfort her with the information that Ernest is rising. I’m acquainted with a 5-year-old Clyde and a Hugh who’s probably 4 or 5.
Didn’t Tobey Maguire name his son Otto, too?
on June 13th, 2015 at 10:08 pm
Someone commented that these names sound too much like her great aunts. I always loved my great aunts’ names: Birdie, Marvel, Peg, Helen, Dorothy (Dot), Myrtis, Beatrice, Marguerite, Jane (Jenny), Ada, Marjorie, Virginia…
These names have substance (well, OK, Myrtis is a little weird in a David Lynch way, but not the others). 🙂
They are the genuine article. Duncan Phyfe rather than Ikea, if you will. They will last, they HAVE lasted, and that’s OK by me.
on June 13th, 2015 at 11:56 pm
Well, we all have different opinions on names…I’d never use any of these, regardless of how long they’ve lasted. They’re just not my style. However, I’d also never use Neveah, Genesis, Trinity, Jaxon, Jayden, or lots of other trendy modern names. They’re not my style either. But most people probably find my favorite names off-putting, & that’s okay…to each his or her own. 🙂
on June 15th, 2015 at 4:31 pm
I’ve always loved the name Martha. But Clyde is still too closely associated with Bonnie. And, at least to me, it has a bit of a hillbilly connotation.
on June 16th, 2015 at 9:39 am
I’ve always loved Clyde
Harvey and Hugh are indeed short and sophisticated – that I like. Not sure that any little boy (especially a less-than-perfectly behaved) could get past a nickname of 2-faced-Harvey though, and with Hugh: I don’t think my dad could ever get over a grandson named after the man who founded Playboy.
Verda was my great-grandmother’s name. Although I like a V initial, I prefer less Vera sounds and more Valentina sounds… Faye is my aunt’s middle name! Alfred, Dorothy, Martha, Ernest, Harold… are absolute no’s for me.
on August 13th, 2020 at 12:21 pm
Ralph and Vera are two of my favourites and I’ve been warming up to Martha in recent times. Wallace is great but I prefer Wallis and for a girl, at that.
on August 13th, 2020 at 1:30 pm
My favorites from this list
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