By Abby Sandel
Vintage girl names can make great choices for a daughter born today. They’re tied to the past, have plenty of great namesakes, and yet feel fresh and unexpected, too.
The only problem? Many of them are far more popular than you might expect.
Anna Chlumsky, the My Girl child star turned Emmy-nominated Veep cast member, recently welcomed her second daughter. She and husband Shaun So embraced the vintage girl names trend with her name: Clara Elizabeth, a little sister for Penelope Joan.
What’s a lover of vintage names to do? Look farther down the list, of course! Here are nine vintage girl names that remain quietly under-the-radar – for now.
Vera – An early 1900s favorite, Vera is back, more popular today than in half a century. It comes from the Russian word for faith, but brings to mind the Latin verus – truth, too. Vera shares the V of chart-toppers like Ava and Olivia. Lastly, designer Vera Wang lends this name some glam, taking it to Number 312 as of last year.
Willa – A short, sweet, and complete name, Willa currently ranks Number 481. It’s fresher than Top 100 darlings Ella and Stella. American author Willa Cather makes it literary. Keri Russell put it on the list of fashionable choices for girls when she welcomed Willa Lou in 2011.
Matilda – Love longer vintage picks, rich with nickname potential? Move over, Amelia and Madeline! Matilda makes a much less common alternative. At Number 535, it’s familiar, but seldom heard, at least in the US. In Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, Matilda has already arrived.
Maisie – Maisie, originally a Scottish short form of Margaret, is another pick more popular in England than the US. But with choices like Sadie and Ellie big with American parents today, Number 624 Maisie is prime for discovery. Henry James and Rudyard Kipling both gave the name to characters; Maisie Dobbs is a 1920s-era lady detective created by Jacqueline Winspear.
Pearl – Elegant Pearl has ties to pirates (Jack Sparrow’s ship is The Black Pearl) and the art world (Girl With a Pearl Earring is an iconic painting by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, so famous it inspired a novel and a 2003 film.) At Number 628, Pearl could substitute for simple and refined Top 100 choices like Alice and Claire.
Martha – It’s a former First Lady name with a traditional vibe, crooned by the Beatles. And yet Martha ranks a chilly Number 791. There’s a homespun, Americana vibe about this name, a fresh alternative to former Top Ten name Hannah, or long-time staple Leah.
Clementine – Caroline, Madeline, and Adeline are so very stylish. Could Clementine be next? It’s a –tine rather than a –line, and some rhyme the last syllable with “keen” rather than “wine.” But at Number 819, this sweetly vintage name is broadly familiar, but seldom heard. Another ends-in-ine idea is Emmeline, currently Number 809.
Louisa – Love Sophia, but crushed that the name has become a perpetual Top Ten choice? Consider Louisa instead. Literary, nickname-rich, and undeniably traditional, Louisa ranks a mere Number 809. In fact, Louisa failed to rank in the Top 1000 at all for five decades. Sister name Louise still remains just outside of the charts.
Cordelia – Cordelia, the name coveted by Anne of Green Gables herself, combines a feminine, frilly style with quite a bit of strength. The name of King Lear’s loyal daughter comes in at just Number 948 in the US. An alternative to Victoria or Lydia, it’s also a more elaborate form of another rising vintage favorite – Number 88 Cora.
What are your favorite vintage names for girls?