Vintage Girl Names: How To Find A Cool Old Name
Vintage girl names are back in style, which choices such as Emma, Olivia, and Adeline ranking high on the popularity lists. But maybe you want a vintage name for your daughter and are hoping to uncover a hidden treasure from the past.
But what about the names in the Top 1000 of 1910 that are virtually unknown now? A hundred years ago, Helen was the number 2 name for girls, right behind Mary. Mildred was number 8, Ethel number 13, and the dubious Gladys hot on her heels at 15. You don’t meet many Ethels and Gladyses (Gladysi?) anymore outside the nursing home.
Several months ago we looked at the Lost Names of 1880, and were surprised by how many there were. We declare ourselves surprised anew by how many lost names we’ve located on the 1910 roster that are different from those we listed in the 1880 story.
The first group are not lost, exactly, as they’re still heard from time to time. A few — Blanche, Lula, Viola — may even make a comeback. But most of these names, popular in 1910, have been in mothballs for decades now and may never make it out.
- Veda or Vida
The second group are names that have already slipped under the surface. While I’m certain that some of you knowledgeable berries will protest about the visibility or viability of a handful of these names, most seem to me to no longer be part of the basic American name lexicon. Your opinions on exceptions welcome.
I want to note that several of these names seem like quasi-names, a group we singled out in the 1880 story. We include here choices not included there — Alta, Elva, Lera, Rilla — and there are enough of these name snippets to assume it was still a trend in 1910….though it is not today.
- Idell or Idella
- Leatha or Letha
- Myrtice or Myrtis
- Reatha or Retha
And then there are the lost nickname-names, epidemic in 1880 and still raging in 1910. We listed a lot of those names in the 1880 story and didn’t want to repeat, but here are several that were hot in 1910 and are rarely heard now, though we think Addie is an American Girl doll.
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on August 26th, 2010 at 12:34 am
I love Alma – the main character in the book The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) is named Alma. I’d love to see it used more often.
Charlotte Vera Said
on August 26th, 2010 at 1:02 am
I’ve known an Alpha and a few Erma/Irmas. The latter have always been older women. I have a German aunt named Meta and know people with both Novella and Idell as last names.
on August 26th, 2010 at 1:20 am
I love Nova & Alma and I know a little girl named Delphia so that one doesn’t seem so strange to me
on August 26th, 2010 at 1:32 am
I have a sister named Leora. She is 40 and hates her name! When I tell her that I have been hearing it lately she can’t believe it because the only other people she has ever met with her name have been like 90! I think her name is beautiful and unique. She goes by Lori.
on August 26th, 2010 at 1:42 am
My nickname is Flossie! Short for Florence.
Toni Vitanza Said
on August 26th, 2010 at 7:17 am
Love Eunice, Inez and Myrtle. British PM has named his new daughter Florence. Love it. Reminding me of all the old ladies that lived in my grandmother’s neighborhood. My great-grandmother was Hortense…looked for it on the list but didn’t see it.
on August 26th, 2010 at 8:22 am
I could definitely see these making a comeback:
•Leona-its French form of Leonie is already rising among celebrities, whyn not this?
•Pansy-at least in Britain I could see this catching on again, what with the popularity of names like Poppy, Lily etc
•Emmer-interesting, I think if this name was known, all the Emerson parents and Emma parents would jump on this bandwagon
•Lela-Instead of the rising Lila/Lilah, I could definitely see this catching on
•Zola-in place of Lola, why not?
•Addie:this also seems to be getting more trendy
•Callie: I’ve already seen this get used quite a bit
•Macie-this is already tryndee in the form of Macee. Macy, Macey. I am surprised it was used as far back as 1910
on August 26th, 2010 at 8:42 am
I know an Alma, but she’s in her 60s. I also know a Hilda in her 40s. And Viola was on our serious list for our baby girl. I think Clarice has a strong chance of coming back ad just the other day I heard somebody talking about how they liked the name Fern. I also think Iona, Opal, Pansy, Elnora, Leona and Veda have a chance of coming back.
I also once knew somebody (who is probably in her 50s or 60s now?) named Elva. And I know somebody my age (late 30s) named Della. And a Mozelle who is in her 20s.
Rilla is a name from Ann of Green Gables.
I think Mazie could be a variation on Maisy, which is making a comeback.
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:07 am
Flash in the pan names. I had a great-aunt Myrt (I think it was short for Myrtle) and was fond of her, though I have a hard time seeing it ever coming back into style. One of my grandfather’s sisters was named Mildred, which reminds me and pretty much everyone else of mildew. Lois was my fourth-grade teacher, who is now in her mid 80s. If it comes back at all it will be thanks to Lois Lane. Alma is still fairly common with Spanish-speakers and I think of it mainly as a Latina name now. Rilla will forever live on as Bertha Marilla, daughter of Anne of Green Gables. In the books she thought Bertha was an incredibly elegant name and longed to be called that instead of her nickname Rilla. I suppose Big Bertha killed that image of elegance. Little girls might name their future daughters Rilla, but I bet more of them would use Avonlea.
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:10 am
*Bernice — I kind of like this, but would never use it. I like Berenice too.
*Ernestine — I have a great Aunt, named Ginny Ernestine, who actually goes by Teen!
*Fern — LOVE LOVE LOVE! My mom had a Great Aunt Fern, that I knew when I was little. Her sister was Aldine. I think Fern is just so sweet.
*Inez, Iona — Don’t like them, but can see them coming back.
*Leona — With the singer, I’ll bet this comes back!
*Lorena — Surprised this isn’t becoming more popular. My mom used it for an important character in the novel she wrote, and I always did love Lonesome Dove!
*Velma — My daughter’s favorite on Scooby Doo!
*Viola — Can be really neat!
*Albina — Almanzo Wilder, husband of Laura Ingalls Wilder, had a mother named Angeline Albina Day. 🙂
*Almeda — My parents named their dog Alameda!
*Glenna — I read a book once with a Glenna in it. I remember thinking it was very pretty and wondered if it would ever start getting used.
*Idell or Idella — This is cute, I think. I also like Adele/Adela and Odella.
*Leatha or Letha — I knew a Letha once. Wish it wasn’t so close to Lethal, because I like it.
*Lela — I like this. I’ve known lots of variations/close forms. Leela, Leila, Lila, Lilia, Leelea, Layla, etc.
*Nedra, Neva — I think they’re cute!
*Rilla — I know a Rilla. She was actually named Marilla and called Rilla, after the character in the Anne of Green Gables series “Rilla of Ingleside”
*Addie — Cute and should be coming back with all the Adelines and Addisons out there!
*Callie — I’ve known a whole lot of these, various ages.
*Macie — Know quite a few little girls named this in various spellings. It doesn’t seem very 1910s to me at all!
*Versie — I had a student named Vircie after her grandmother.
I do know a whole bunch of elderly ladies with a lot of these names!
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:36 am
My BFF’s little sister is named Glenna (she’s in her mid-twenties). I love the name. I also met a Glenna where I use to work. She was in her 60’s I think. I also know a Myrtle and I met an Alta last year, both over 60.
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:46 am
Social changes during the 20th century are a cause of the decline in popularity of many of these names. For example, during the 19th and early 20th century, African-Americans often had “nickname” names, such as “Vergie” or “Gussie” instead of Virginia or Augusta. European immigrants may have chosen more accessible variants of names from their country of origin, such as Hilda or Rosina. And, a 1910 family with no sons was more likely then to give a daughter a feminine version of dad’s name, such as Bernice or Glenna. Also, in 1910, this was a largely rural country, and the general culture of farms and small towns tended to be religious and more conservative, which also influenced name choice.
first or last? Said
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:54 am
Oh my goodness. I love your suggestion of Avonlea, Andrea.
I also think that Fern has a chance. I can easily imagine a Fern talking with her contemporary friends Violet and Olive.
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:56 am
Just came across the name Leda recently on a woman and thought it was fantastic. What about Leda instead of Letha (which also reminds me too much of lethal)?
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:57 am
I’m surprised at some of the names that are listed as out of the lexicon of today. I seriously considered both Iona and Glenna for my two year old and find Della extremely accessible – although admittedly I’m not a barometer of mainstream names!
on August 26th, 2010 at 10:01 am
In addition to Addie being an American girl now, there are lots of Addies about with all the Addisons (as well as some Adelaides and Adelines). Callie is very well-known now too–I know a Kallie (actually pronounced Kaylee) and I hear Callie as a nickname or given name often on the internet (spelled Calleigh a disturbing amount of the time). Gussie seems to pop up occasionally as a nickname for Augusta too. I rather like Lonnie, though it’s not a name I would use….
Erma is very associated with Erma Bombeck, I think, and thus accessible. I know an Irma in her mid-twenties, and I think it’s a nice name because of her; her parents are Austrian. Ira fits a current trend–boys’ names on girls–though today people probably wouldn’t realize it. I rather like Glenna, Marvel, and Vesta, for different reasons; Glenna seems very usable, as it’s close to Gwen, or Gwyn, and there’s Glenne Close (not sure on sp). Marvel fits in with Precious or Miracle, but not quite so obvious…. Vesta’s fun and I like the meaning.
Alma I have an aunt by this name who hates it and goes by her middle name; I rather like it. I believe it’s the name of Colin Powell’s wife.
Avis always seemed masculine to me; also reminds me of Ava, so I could see this coming back.
Beulah I do like Beulah a bit, but don’t see it making a comeback… ever.
Bernice Kinda pretty. Like Nici as a nn.
Bertha Very much has ugly and fat connotations for me; sorry to any Berthas out there. Not a name I want to see more of.
Blanche Not positive for me, despite the Golden Girls, because of the word
Clarice Rudolph (the red-nosed reindeer)’s girlfriend.. kinda pretty.
Doris Like this. My husband’s grandma’s cousin (once removed?) who used to live with his family had this name; I also had a classmate with this name in elementary school, so it doesn’t feel impossibly old to me. I could see it (to honor my husband’s “aunt”) but it’s never been on the list.
Elnora Eleanora is much better, imo; this just seems like leaving out a syllable, and doesn’t flow as nicely.
Ernestine Like this; my grandfather was Ernest (and my uncle). If I never had another boy, I might press DH on this one, but he’s not fond of it.
Eunice Not fond of the look or sound, but like the meaning and the Biblical connection (Timothy’s mother)
Fern Like this very much.
Hilda Old, ugly name to me… or from Sabrina the Teenaged Witch.
Inez Love it, but too Hispanic for me to use. Sounds much prettier than Agnes, imo.
Iola/Iona pretty, good meaning, exotic. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if these came back. A potential problem is that Iona sounds like I own a.
Leona Gorgeous; know at least one online.
Lois… Lane. Not fond of it.
Lorena Very pretty. Not over Lorena Bobbitt. Lorraina might be okay.
Lula Close to Layla, which is popular, but I don’t like either. Seems too childish/made up.
Melba Just sounds like toast.
Merle Way too masculine.
Myrtle This one could totally come back. I don’t love it, but it seems a style some would like.
Opal Could come back. I see it popping up online as a consideration.
Pansy Too much implication of “weak person”
Rosetta Would not be out of place at all; I’ve seen Etta and Rosalie….
Thelma Can’t decide if I like this or not; wouldn’t be shocked if it came back a bit.
Veda or Vida Like Vida.
Velma Velma is sweet. She’s smart on Scooby Doo…
Verna I could totally see this.
Viola I think this might be coming back
Wilma Still too Flintstones
on August 26th, 2010 at 10:12 am
Tamsie, thanks for the insights into the social forces that shaped 1910 name trends. I knew some of that but not all, and find the African-American nickname-name trend and the daughters-getting-dad’s-name trend particularly fascinating. A hundred years later, nickname-names and boys’ names for girls are popular again, but for different reasons. What’s the same is that choosing either a diminutive or a masculine name for a girl always carries symbolic weight.
on August 26th, 2010 at 10:13 am
There are some beautiful gems here.
Rosetta (from the first list) was the name of my great-great grandmother. Admittedly, I’m not fond of it. Leola was the name of my great grandmother (another side of the family). I may use it in a novel one day. Rilla of Ingleside is my favorite Anne of Avonlea book. I read that book until the covers fell off at least three times. I had to keep repurchasing new copies. (Same thing with Charlie and the Chocolate factory).
I love Beulah, Myrtle, Zelma, Fern, Alva, and Lela.
I can never name a daughter Doris. It is my mother’s first name (She goes by her middle name) and she hates it with the passion of a thousand suns. She would think that I was cursing my daughter.
on August 26th, 2010 at 10:37 am
I did some research on the name Lorena when I was updating the list of most popular given names on Wikipedia. It is fairly popular in the Alps — Switzerland, particularly among Romansch speakers, and in Liechtenstein. In the United States it first came into use due to a Civil War song. The title of the song was actually an anagram of Lenore from a Poe poem. Both were Gothic and about lost love. Lorena was probably on the charts for the next 40 years thanks to that song and would have gotten another boost after “Gone with the Wind” was published. Scarlett’s daughter is named Ella Lorena after the Civil War song. It probably took a hit because of Lorena Bobbitt, but I bet a few more people will name their kids Lorena because of the vampire character on True Blood. It’s still in use according to Social Security stats, just doesn’t show up in the top 1,000. Avonlea is also in use. Amazing what budding trends show up when you look at the names that have 100 or fewer uses.
on August 26th, 2010 at 11:47 am
Exie reminds me of this urban legend…
on August 26th, 2010 at 12:24 pm
Many of these names are in my family — great aunt Alta (in her 60s) and my great grandmother (only recently passed) was named Flossie (not short for anything, just Flossie). I have an aunt Hilda (in her 40s) and an aunt Reva (in her 40s), and we have a close family friend (like an aunt to me) named Mozelle (in her 60s). Granted, everyone listed her lives in the Appalachian Mtns of NC (i.e. the south), and I think naming traditions hold on longer there.
on August 26th, 2010 at 12:30 pm
Exie or Xie was a Victorian nickname for Alexandra and the other Alex names. The was a girl named Alexandra “Xie” Curtin (pronounced Ecksy) in 1870s London who was a favorite photographic subject for Lewis Carroll. The “Xie” pictures are collectors items.
on August 26th, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Oops. Her name was actually Alexandra “Xie” Kitchin.
on August 26th, 2010 at 1:27 pm
Although it was popular in the 1910’s, Doris is really a 1920’s/30’s name, because that’s when its popularity peaked. It will appeal to our kids more than it does to us. Same with Lois.
Blanche and Lula were already in sharp decline by the 1910’s.
See more here: http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager
on August 26th, 2010 at 2:03 pm
Funnily enough, I know two Trevas, and a Reva. The Reva is only 18 or so.
on August 26th, 2010 at 2:57 pm
My mother-in-law was named Mildred, and her sisters were Ethel, Doris, and Helen. Although I loved all these women, I heartily dislike their names. Their mother was named Mathilde (pronounced Matilda), which isn’t quite as bad as the names she chose for her daughters. Her son was named Frank, popular in the same era.
on August 26th, 2010 at 4:36 pm
My brother and sister in law named their little girl Leora! It was her grandmother’s name..
on August 26th, 2010 at 6:44 pm
I’m in my 20s and am friends with girls (also in their 20s) called the following:
decades now and may never make it out.
I think all of those names are very suited to their personalities – although Beulah is lucky to be as beautiful and charismatic as she is, otherwise she might have run into troubles!
on August 26th, 2010 at 7:04 pm
What an interesting list! I think this proves that invented names are nothing new to this generation. My personal favorites:
on August 26th, 2010 at 7:51 pm
I know a Della, Callie, and Ollie – and and old lady Rosina. I love Opal, and think Arie has possibilities. The name Vada is in the song, “The Tide” by The Spill Canvas
on August 26th, 2010 at 8:54 pm
I know a Veerla (Verle is on one of the lists). She’s Belgian, the mum of a friend of mine.
My grandma (& my great grandma, for that matter) is named Hilda. She hates it and her middle name is Veronica, so she goes by Vicky. I’ve always wondered how she got Vicky out of Veronica. My great grandma went by Hilda, though. She’d be about 85 or 86 now (she died last year).
I also know a Blanche.
I love these names:
Calle – really not my style, but I love it anyway for some reason
Lela – but I could never use it because of the Futurama character
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:02 pm
My great-grandmother was Alta Plennie – other than her, I’ve never heard of anyone with either of those names. And my father says he had an elderly female cousin named Emmer…I always figured it was an odd/unique nn for Emma.
I actually know of a few little Vedas out there. And I know a somewhat young Virgie. Mazie is the name of our dog…and I know a gazillion Addies and Callies. I can see Rosetta rising a bit due to the Tinker Bell movies (Rosetta being one of the main characters). And while I don’t care for Leona or Leora, I do love Leonie.
Helen is my top choice for baby girl #3…but my husband insists we can only use it as a mn. Sigh…
on August 26th, 2010 at 9:25 pm
I know an Alma who is 27 and a Reva who is 24. I think Della will definitely come back… by way of Bella. And Gussie is not far a stretch from Gus, which you know is very popular with the boy babies. Rosina is very pretty, Mazie is gutsy, and I love LULA. Lula…lullaby.
on August 27th, 2010 at 11:27 pm
I know many Alma’s as it is a fairly popular name in Latin America for girls of all ages. I also know a little girl who is 4 named Elva very cute.
Emmy Jo Said
on August 28th, 2010 at 11:34 pm
I was subbing last week in a fifth-grade class and met a little girl whose middle name is Beulah! I wonder if it was after someone, or if her parents just liked its biblical connotations. She had a very common last name, so perhaps they deliberately chose something “different.”
on August 29th, 2010 at 11:08 pm
My daughter (five-months-old on Tuesday!) is named Helen, after my dad’s mom and my mom’s grandma. My grandma’s sister was Alta. My boss is in her early thirties and is named Alma, which I think is really pretty. We talked about using Opal, and my sister plans on using it for herself.
Laura Blackwell Said
on August 29th, 2010 at 11:49 pm
What an interesting list! I think Clarice is poised for a comeback, and Clarissa along with it. They have a classic feel, but they share sounds with other names that have been popular in more recent decades.
on September 10th, 2010 at 7:30 pm
My Great Grandmother’s sisters were Mildred and Beulah. Her name was Carrie Lee and the youngest sister was Elizabeth. Its funny that 2 sisters got names that were very ‘of the moment’ and two got ‘ahead of their time’ names!
Ver;a Jackson Said
on October 10th, 2010 at 10:57 am
My mother told me I wasn’t named after anyone she knew. I just found out that my mother discovered the name Verla in a book she was reading (back in 1924) I wish I knew the name of the book. Does anyone out there know the name of the book?
on December 3rd, 2010 at 12:39 am
i spent alot of time with my grandparents growing up so i knew many of people with these names- and my grandmothers name was Verlie Virginia. i have never heard of another named Verlie. she had a sister Naoma, and friends by the names of Alta, Vida, Myrtle, Avis. my Mothers name was Florence, but she went by her middle name, Marie, my aunt’s name is Odilla Estella after her 2 grandmothers, my other great aunts were named Luella, and Evelyne. personally i always liked Verlie alot.
on January 8th, 2011 at 11:52 am
Being a teacher, I see all sorts of unique names. Nice article! I noticed a lot of these names are very popular with my Hispanic students from Mexico… Eunice, Vanessa, Gladyis, Maribel, Adreana.
I am having my first child and she’s due March 19! Some of my favorite names are Lillian, Ava, and Maisy (or Maisie). I don’t want anything too popular or overused though. Ava is already too common for me, so it’s out 🙁 Lillian is getting there. Do you think Maisy will make top 100?
on February 6th, 2011 at 1:04 pm
i think Zella is sweet and spunky, an unusual -ella name.
Reatha Kenny Said
on February 13th, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Funny to know my name was once popular! Even funnier I love things vintage and specialise in vintage photography using old cameras. I especially love the Art Deco era. Maybe theres something in the name? 🙂
on May 6th, 2011 at 5:50 pm
I absolutely LOVE Fern, Veda, and especially Viola.
on May 6th, 2011 at 7:00 pm
My daughter (21 months) is Lula Belle. We heard Lula for the first time in Hawaii bit had no idea that it dated back beyond 1910. Everyone tells us how unusual it is except for one older lady who said ‘wow, you must love really really old names’!
on June 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 pm
My great grandmother’s name was Ethel and I love the name. I also really love the name of my other great grandmother, Adah.
My grandmother and her sisters are: Frances, Arlene, Astrid, Honor, Nesta, Patricia, Olive, and Nita.
My other grandmother was Dolores Florence, with sisters Margeaux, Evellan, Dorothy, Frances and Minnie.
on June 11th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
Love Della, Leona, Leora, Lorena, Alma, and Viola!
on June 22nd, 2011 at 6:21 pm
I now a Leona who is 6 and an Astrid who is 7, and I think those names are just SO cute. I also now a 13 year old names Evellan, and a 8 year old names Patricia.
Katie Ann Said
on June 27th, 2011 at 5:15 pm
I have met
a twenty year old Alta– I love it, she hates it
a fifteen year old Macey– she is very defined by it
on June 30th, 2011 at 4:40 pm
I have an 11 year old daughter named Vada 🙂 I originally picked it because of the main character on the movie “My Girl”……i LOVE that name. After reading this list, I am seriously considering the name Lula for her little sister 🙂
on October 12th, 2011 at 4:11 pm
I’m a British teen, and there is a Clarice, Fern, Hilda, Leona, Lois and Viola in my year group alone (14-15 year olds).
Claudie is so sweet. Most of these are just gorgeous, though.
on December 19th, 2011 at 8:02 pm
Bring the snippets trend back!:)
on November 23rd, 2012 at 12:19 am
I know little girls named Hazel and Mabel. So I think there are most certainly many young parents waiting to use even more vintage names.
on December 8th, 2012 at 9:10 pm
There are twin girls at my school named Ethelle and Murielle. I am fifteen and my name is Helen. My cousins 23 year old step sister-in-laws name is Gladys and my sisters friend is Velma though she goes by her middle name. We call my sister Nettie from her middle name Jeannett. At least here these names are still heard of in younger generations.
on December 30th, 2012 at 10:57 am
I know a couple Leora’s, both of which are 14 and under, and my grandmother (a Kiwi) is named Verlie as was her mother and mother’s mother so Verlie is quite a prominent family name for me.
on March 5th, 2013 at 4:17 pm
I recently named my baby Neva!
on January 19th, 2019 at 2:14 pm
My nickname is Lera but my full name is Valeria.
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