What Are The Classiest Names?
Names and class is a touchy issue, particularly for Americans. In the U.S., we like to pretend that class doesn’t exist, much less get signaled by factors like names.
In Britain, the class standing of names may be more widely acknowledged, yet everywhere the question of which names are classy and which are trashy changes over time.
Take Harry, the name of one of the young princes of England. A royal connection definitely gives a name class. Yet for years in the U.S., Harry has been one of the ultimate working man names, its image more pauper than prince.
Names like Tiffany and Crystal, drawn from expensive status products and meant to convey class, often do just the opposite. Plain and down-to-earth names — Anne, Charles, Philip — might be born by someone from any social or economic standing.
For a fascinating analysis of higher and lower class names in late 19th century London, read this blog at The Orangery. The short story: Margaret and Edith are most likely to be high class girls’ names at that time and place, while Sarah and Jane are most likely to be servant names. For males, Frederick is the highest class name while James and George are lower class.
Things are very different in the modern age, yet perhaps no less confusing. In today’s world, does a name have to be old — pegged to traditional ideas of class and social status — to be classy, or is money or fame a better indicator of contemporary class? When modern royal babies are named Savannah, are traditional standards of what makes a name classy outmoded? Is class itself an outmoded concept?
Do you believe names convey class? And which names to you have the most of it? (Let’s stay away from the negative side here, please, and focus on which names have class rather than which names don’t!)
The adorable crocheted baby crown here is from MitziKnitz on Etsy.
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on December 12th, 2012 at 12:50 am
Savannah Phillips was not a royal baby. She is a commoner just like her parents.
on December 12th, 2012 at 2:33 am
To me, classy names for girls are feminine, but not frilly: Charlotte, Eve, Elizabeth/Eliza and Lucy.
Boys names are trickier, I think Benjamin and other Bible names are classy, also names like Everett and Lucas… Actually boys names are way harder, curious to see what everyone else says!
on December 12th, 2012 at 3:45 am
I do think that older, CLASSIC (it’s right there in the word!), perhaps quite British names hold more connotations of class than perhaps ‘newer’ names as many of them are associated with, for example, royalty or literature, which both possibly indicate people of high education &/or wealth.
Elizabeth, Emily, Charlotte, Catherine, Margaret, Victoria, Charles, Samuel, Thomas, Edward, William
If a name is associated with a person or group of people that are perhaps of lower education &/or income, a name can become thought of as low-class or even ‘trashy’.
on December 12th, 2012 at 6:41 am
I agree with @namenutt: Classic is the key word in this discussion, with royal or literary ties.
on December 12th, 2012 at 9:01 am
I agree with the notion of CLASSIC names being some of the classiest. That is not to say there aren’t other names outside of classic names that sound “classy”.
However, I do find most names with odd spellings or that sound made up to not have as “classy” a feel as others even if they might be classic names in sound. Catherine = classy. Kathrynne = not classy. They might sound like the same name when said aloud, but for me one is a higher “class” than the other.
on December 12th, 2012 at 10:45 am
I think it is often easier for society to find a mutual opinion on which names are not classy than those that are.
on December 12th, 2012 at 10:50 am
While I agree that a lot of Classic names are indeed a good standard for Classy names – I think it’s really a name by name judgement call. And it’s probably a very personal choice and not truly objective.
I have both Ismene and Josephine on my favorites list and to me Ismene is very classy but Jospehine not so much.
on December 12th, 2012 at 10:51 am
I agree with vicioustrollop9 (by the way – awesome name!). I find that some spellings give off a classic, elegant feel while others give off a either a trying to be different, or not so classy feel. For example, Caitlin. That name, spelled this way, is a very classy name to me. However, once changed to Katelyn (no offence to any Katelyn’s out there) the name looses some of its “royal class” for me. It becomes just another name, not not-classy but just ordinary. Another example is Annabel/Anabel/Annabelle/Anabelle. For some reason, and this is probably just me, two n’s in Annabel always seems more classic to me then the Ana beginning. That goes for Anna vs Ana as well. Anna=classy, Ana=not so much. I have no idea why I get this feeling…
It is very subjective, which variations people believe carry more class. And now in an age where social class does not meen as much , it is a very interesting topic.
on December 12th, 2012 at 4:09 pm
I don’t think we pretend that class doesn’t exist in the U.S. but we believe that we have greater social mobility to move between classes, and we think class is achieved, not ascribed–all of which is highly debatable.
on December 12th, 2012 at 4:32 pm
I agree with previous posters, in that classic names spelled using traditionally accepted spellings are generally the classiest.
on December 12th, 2012 at 5:22 pm
1. A classy name to me would be classic, as many have said.
2. Yes, like others, I do believe spelling is a major factor.
3. A name associated with a group with a lower education or income (such as Hispanics in the southwest – not being racist, it’s true – or made-up names) would not be considered classy. The flipside, which is a name being associated with class, makes a name classy, obviously.
4. People on here haven’t really mentioned this, but sounding mature and grown-up. Such as Katherine, but not so much Katie. Lucille, not so much Lucy.
on December 12th, 2012 at 5:27 pm
Spelling, as many have agreed, is a major factor. Emily can be anyone, but Emyleigh seems low class.
Madeup names and yunike spellings are the only ones to me that can take away the ‘class’ value. And, names meaning ‘son’ on girls.
Addison, Nevaeh and Izzybelah automatically seem trashy to me.
on December 12th, 2012 at 5:52 pm
I think that it’s a bit different in the US than Britain. You mentioned the names James, George, Sarah, and Jane as the less classy names, but I’d put those names in the classy list. Anything old-fashioned would be on the classy end to me, no matter how common or low class they were historically, because more modern names are being used, and those are the least classy. -aiden names or misspellings are the worst.
on December 12th, 2012 at 10:59 pm
Also, thinking about it, I’d like to expand on that list:
5. Not overused to the point of sounding ordinary and generic. There are exceptions, though – John, James, George, and Mary still sound classy even though they used to be extremely common. There are less classy names that are more popular now, so they sound classier and more distinct than they used to. But some names like Sarah, Barbara, and David (at least to me) sound more ordinary and generic than classy, even though they are a bit classy.
6. The last name counts, even though people wouldn’t normally take that into account. David Roberts sounds like an average guy; David Collins, David Cambridge, or perhaps David Alexander sound classy. For some names, the name together sounds classier when the first name’s origin matches that of the last name.
7. Okay, so we’ve established classic names are classy. But to me, typically it’s the names that are classic in a sense of elegant and sophisticated that ring more classy than the names that are classic in a stern, proper sense. I don’t think I need examples here; you guys know what I’m talking about.
on December 14th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
I agree with most of the posters, here would be my definition list;
Spelling matters, made up names or names spelt uniquely never sound classy – but foreign names which are of a different spelling to the original classic are fine.
Calling your child after a job, product or food (Mercedes, Bentley, Brie, Apple, Tanner, Hunter).
Names that connote royalty or classic historical and literary figures are often classy (Elizabeth, Henry, Edward, Catherine).
Names which attempt to illustrate wealth or luxary are never classy (Diamond, Earl, Duke)
You can have new names which are classy, I think as long as they follow the above rules.I do disagree about names like Jane being servents names, I think they are firmly rooted in classic and have gone in and out depending on the fashion of the time (Jane Seymour later Queen of England for example)I can see a maid and a queen called Jane or Mary to be just as likely.
on December 14th, 2012 at 8:32 pm
The stats about Jane and Sarah are from Victorian England, not modern day. They definitely don’t read low-class anymore.
I think in general things that are classy have a patina of history to them. I agree with the historical/literary names above, for sure. Classy names have deep roots–to old heroes, to ancestors, to stories. Invented names (hypothetically) can be classy, if they’ve sprung from something more substantive than the fashionable sounds of the moment. I think names are classy if the namers have an authentic claim to them–I’m a big fan of honor names, names that recall personal or family history. If Wayne was your beloved grandfather, well, I think naming your son after him is pretty classy.
Classy names also don’t try too hard to sound upscale. Classiness is restrained; less is more. While I would choose an overly fancy name over yet another Jayden or Nevaeh, the multisyllabic princess name trend is not classy. Arabella Victoriana from Omaha is the slightly more subtle version of Tiffany. The same kind of signal is intended.
And when in doubt, I’d fall back on the advice of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy:
“Number one, don’t overthink the names. Stick to kings and queens of England. There will never be a president Ashton, or a Dr. Katniss.”
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