Vintage Baby Names

What brought back Cyrus and not Cyril? ?

By Linda Rosenkrantz

I was asked by a magazine interviewer recently why I thought some vintage names come back and others don’t. Why Cora and Flora and not Dora? Why Edward and not Edwin? All of which got me thinking about the influences that do propel names out of the attic and into the spotlight.

The most obvious and evident of these is the celebrity factor in all its manifestations. Stars’ names, stars’ baby names and the names of characters they play:

Some examples:

ScarlettYes, the name of Miss Scarlett was used by a handful of parents following the publication of Gone With the Wind, but it wasn’t until Ms. Johansson burst on the scene that it really took off, bringing it now into the Top 50.

Isla –This old Scottish name was barely heard of or even pronounceable in this country before the emergence of the rising redheaded star Isla Fisher. Now it’s one of the fastest rising girls’ names—it entered the list in 2008 and is now at Number 167, with almost 2000 little American Islas born last year.

SiennaSiena was a picturesque town in Tuscany until English actress Miller publicized the Sienna spelling and was instrumental in advancing her name into the Top 300 in the US, the Top 40 in England and Wales, and Australia.

AvaAnd yes, stars of the past can also continue to exert an influence far beyond their own era. The sultry Ava Gardner was in her prime in the 1950s, yet became a 21st century hit, in the Top 10 for the last decade.

It’s also celebrity parents who have revitalized a whole raft of neglected names of the past, as in:

AgnesJennifer Connelly & Paul Bettany

AliceTina Fey

BirdieBusy Phillips, Maura West

ClaraEwan McGregor

CyrusClaire Danes & Hugh Dancy

Elsie—    James Morrison, Ioan Gruffudd

Ethel—   Lily Allen

HattieTori Spelling

HazelJulia Roberts, Emily Blunt & John Krasinski

Olive—   Isla Fisher & Sacha Baron Cohen, Drew Barrymore

Otis—     Tobey Maguire, Olivia Wilde & Jason Sudeikis

PearlMaya Rudolph, Jack Osbourne

Silas—   Jessica Biel & Justin Timberlake

VioletJennifer Garner & Ben Affleck + several others

WinnieJimmy Fallon

Indelible characters in blockbuster books and movies and TV shows have spawned a large share of the vintage name renaissance, particularly from franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight . Here are just a few:


Downton AbbeyCora, Edith, Mary, Sybil, Elsie


Harry PotterArabella, Minerva, Lavender, Luna, Poppy


Sex and the City-Charlotte, Miranda

The Fault in Our Stars—Hazel

To Kill a Mockingbird—Atticus, Scout, Harper

Twilight—Edward, Isabella, Bella, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, Esme, Ephraim

And then there are less concrete factors.

The British Influence—Let’s face the fact that our cousins across the pond have been way ahead of us in certain significant trends. The vintage Amelia is their #1 name and Poppy is Number 7. It was the Brits who started the whole vintage nickname revival trend, with Evie, Millie, Rosie, Maisie, Ellie, Elsie, Tilly, Alfie, Archie, Freddie, Charlie, Theo, Frankie, Louie, Ollie, Teddy, Ronnie and Sonny all on their Top 100. As are Mad Men-era names that have yet to make it back big time in the US: Arthur, Harvey, Stanley, Leon—though there are signs that may be coming.

Sight & Sound—Both visual and aural pattern trends can lead to the advancement of some vintage names as well. A couple current ones:

S-ending boysOtis, Atticus, Augustus, Rufus, Linus, Lucas, Silas

Ella girlsBella/Isabella have led to Stella, Arabella, Mirabella, Anabella

Ett boys—Everett, Emmett, Beckett, Bennett

The X-factor—Dexter/Dex, Felix, Axel, Knox, Maximus, Maxine, Beatrix, Xavier

One thing leads to another: Emily to Emma to Ella to Elsa to Elsie

So what could bring back Dora or Edwin? It might just take one cool character or one cute starbaby.

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7 Responses to “Vintage Baby Names”

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mermuse Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 8:16 am

These are my favorite kinds of nameberry posts–love the analysis (also love lists of unique categories)!

I think some parents just like vintage style. “Vintage” is big in fashion, weddings, etc. It’s the 100-year rule for some people who can look for names for themselves.

epowell Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 8:58 am

Silas has already been on the rise. I think the Timberlake fam is on trend and not making one…

EthelBeavers Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 9:50 am

Agree 100% with epowell.

peach25 Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 10:50 am

Vintage names are more my style than “creative smooshes,” but that being said, it’s still a matter of pick and choose. I love Alice, Louise, Charlotte, Caroline, and Sarah, but am still getting used to Olive, Hazel, Pearl, Ruby. Just can’t see naming a contemporary child Beulah, Myrtle, Bertha, Ethel, Thelma. They seem fusty old-fashioned instead of charming vintage. Then again, I once thought the same about Mabel, Edith and Maud!

chi1127 Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Cool analysis. I’m definitely attracted to sound first, and having a good fictional character associated with a name is a bonus. I think sound preference is huge. Just looking at my great grandmas’ names: I have always preferred Violet and Pearl to Ruth and Mary.

southern.maple Says:

April 16th, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Twilight had no impact on Edward’s popularity. Why are we still perpetuating the myth that Twilight “resurrected” Edward? And Isabella’s meteoric rise began in the 90s… Twilight was published in 2005…

UselessKitty Says:

April 18th, 2015 at 7:47 am

I think the writer over estimates how much influence celebrities have on name trends. I think celebrities are more likely to be on trend rather than setting trends.

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