W-Names: Where’s Waldo?
Once upon a time, in the now distant past, popularity lists–particularly for boys–were teeming with names starting with the letter ‘W’.
In 1920, for example, there were twenty-seven of them in the boys’ Top 500, including every conceivable appendage to the first syllable Wil. Aside from the eternal William, there were Willie, Willard, Wilbur, Willis, Wilbert, Wilfred, Wilson, Wilmer, Wilburn, Wilford, and Wilton, while for girls there were ten W‘s, topped by Willie at Number 74.
By 1950, the number of W-boys had shrunk down to nineteen, but with many of the Wils hanging in, and in that year only five girls remained: Wanda, Wendy, Wilma, Winifred and the surprisingly persistent female Willie. The 1980 Top 500 saw most of the fustier boys’ names having retired, leaving only seven stalwarts and just Wendy and newcomer Whitney among the girls. Currently, there are a mere five W-guys remaining in the Top 500—William, Wyatt, Wesley, Waylon and Warren, and one lone girl—Willow. There are a few others in the bottom half of the list, including Wilson, Westin and Winston, and the rising Willa.
But I’m sensing that the tide is about to turn, with a renewed interest in both the vintage W-names–many of which have that trendy Western feel– and some fresher options that are attracting attention. From the starbaby perspective alone, we’ve seen Rainn Wilson’s Walter, Jenna Fisher’s Weston, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willa, Billie Piper’s Winston and several Willows, to name a few.
Here’s a rundown of the W-names I see on the frontier of this resurgence :
Do you have any W-names on your list?
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on October 19th, 2011 at 12:55 am
I am in love with Wesley for a boy! I also like Wyatt. For girls, Winifred and Willa are on my list.
on October 19th, 2011 at 1:38 am
I’m married to a Warren, and despite his complaints that it always signals a dork on TV or in movies, it’s always felt like a very cute name to me.
on October 19th, 2011 at 5:18 am
Winnifred is a lovely name, and to me has a very refined sound to it. I can imagine it said with a British accent, and I swoon.
on October 19th, 2011 at 6:24 am
I love Wallis for a girl! And Winifred is really growing on me.
We had Walton on our list as a possible middle if #2 had been a boy. My father’s middle name was Walter, so I thought it would be a fresh update, plus I have nothing but good memories of watching The Waltons with my sisters and mom when I was little, so positive associations through and through.
on October 19th, 2011 at 8:41 am
I love Willa, Wynn, Wade, Warren, Wendell and Willough by. I just really love W names I guess!
on October 19th, 2011 at 10:12 am
We named our son Walker William. Waverly is a top girls name. I have really come to adore W names.
on October 19th, 2011 at 10:17 am
William and Wiley are both on our list for boys. I alos like Whit, but I’m scared that its too close to my name, Whitney. I really like Wyatt too, but my husband’s cousin named her baby that, and we see him all the time.
on October 19th, 2011 at 10:26 am
@ Lizardjay: I agree 🙂 Winifred is one of my favorite names of all time- it sounds so elegant, spunky and feminine to me (even with the rather clunky masculine Fred ending). The nickname Winnie = love!
My no. 1 “W” boys’ name on this list is Walter. I know a college-age Walter (Walt) so this name seems very fresh and youthful to me. Definitely reviving, yay!
on October 19th, 2011 at 10:55 am
Shh, I love Walter, too! I hope it doesn’t take off any time soon.
on October 19th, 2011 at 11:01 am
Winifred’s on my girls list with nicknames Winnie & Freda. I love the starchy sound and willowy look of Winifred. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the name of one of my favorite Aunts!
Willem was my OH’s Grandfather and I toy with it as a middle. I know too many Wiiliam/Will/Bill/Liam’s for me to use Wilem up front.
And the one ‘W’ name that gets no love was my beloved Pop’s name: Wayne. He hated his own name so I probably won’t ever use it myself. But I’m beginning to love the breezy, surfer feel of Wayne!
And the only other ‘W’ on my list is the surname: Wilder. I think he’s pretty cool too. 😀
‘W’ isn’t my favorite letter but I definitely like it more than Q!
on October 19th, 2011 at 11:06 am
It makes me so happy to see that you think Wilma is revivable! When I was pregnant, I thought if I had a girl, I would name her after my two grandmothers, Wilma Kathleen. I had a boy, so it got tucked away, and lately I’ve been worried that maybe Wilma is too out there, too old lady. You’ve given me a glimmer of hope if I end up having a daughter!
on October 19th, 2011 at 11:39 am
My brothers are Wade and Wyatt. I have Warren and Wesley on my list. I really can’t get behind any of the girl W’s though.
on October 19th, 2011 at 11:54 am
I love so many W names but Wolf has been at the top of our list for years as it’s an old family name. Walter and Wallace are great, too.
on October 19th, 2011 at 4:49 pm
I like the old standby William as being classically masculine (but I would not call him Bill!) and I like the variant Willem. I too am excited that Walter may be revived. I like West on a boy; I know of a cute sibset, Cadence, Haven and West (g/g/b). Some of the others are growing on me. I notice Worthy on the newer boy’s list, which reminded me of seeing the name Worth in several of L.M. Montgomery’s (Anne of Green Gables) short stories. She used it for girls. Has it seen use as a name, or was it an author’s fancy?
on October 19th, 2011 at 4:55 pm
Wynn is a MALE name godamnit!
on October 19th, 2011 at 4:58 pm
My favourite is Wylie for boys, Willa for girls.
on October 19th, 2011 at 5:21 pm
Some of my favorite boy names are on this list: Wallace, Wesley, and Wiley. So handsome.
on October 19th, 2011 at 5:23 pm
skizzo I don’t think we need to devolve to cursing on this forum. Wynn is male and Wynne is female, as far as I know they sound the same, but perhaps our Welsh friends can help us out.
My favourite unusual W name is the family name Wrestling, after Wrestling Brewster. I do like William, as it was my great-grandfather’s name — Georg-Willem. For girls, I have grown to like Winifred and Willow. And I also like Waldo, another family name.
on October 19th, 2011 at 5:37 pm
Don’t like Wynn, but the rest are pretty.
on October 19th, 2011 at 6:34 pm
I’m really rather shocked to see Wheeler in the “newer” boys list of names. My mother had a great-great uncle named Wheeler, and the name is listed on the SSA list sporadically between 1880 and 1906, but nothing more current. To me, Wheeler is more of a relivable name that fits current trend of occupational/surname names.
on October 19th, 2011 at 11:51 pm
I really don’t think Willie should be revived. It’s a slang word for penis.
I’m liking these from the list:
If Whit comes back for boys, surely Whitney could become wearable on a boy again? 😉
Wiley is not a new name. It appears on my family tree as a surname and was also my gg grandfather’s name.
May I request that the commentary be updated in the name descriptions? Names being suggested or recommended on blogs as ready for revival shouldn’t have negative commentary in the descriptions…
on October 20th, 2011 at 2:06 am
Thanks, miloowen, I would rather not see cursing on here either. It drives me nuts to see some of the recent male/female crossovers, but it’s a complex subject, and besides that there are gentler ways to express the range from pet-peeve-irritation to rational dissent.
I’m also coming round to Wrestling as a name, and yes, agirlinred, I’d like to see the guys take Whitney back. Any ideas on Worth as a girl’s name yet?
on February 24th, 2012 at 10:36 pm
I love the name Wilhelmina and Winifred reminds me of Tuck Everlasting and everyones fave bear Winnie the Pooh
on December 15th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
LOVE love love W names. Winsome is a favorite that, if the hubby would agree to it, I would name a daughter (sadly, I’ve already gotten the nix twice). Also love Willa, which I do have the go ahead on. There are some lovely sounding W word names like Whisper, Wisteria, Weather, Wait, Wander, Wish, Wonder, Wolf and Wren; some are more welcomed as names than others.
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