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Forever Geeky Names

Forever Geeky Names
Some baby names just seem irredeemably geeky, on a permanent no list for the modern child. The baby names here qualify for now — though we've learned in the world of baby naming, to paraphrase Heidi Klum, one day you're out, and the next day you may be very very in.

While all of these names sit outside the realm of fashion, some have their geekiness enhanced by a connection to a particularly dorky character from pop culture. Among them, Elmer, Velma, Cletus, Barney, Dwight, Kermit, Dilbert, and Waldo.

You can give one of these names to your child…if you dare. Will they be lost to time or eventually make a comeback? We’re betting on the former. These are our picks for the geekiest, dorkiest, absolute-nerdiest names around.

Forever Geeky Names

WilburHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "resolute, brilliant"
  • Description:

    Wilbur is a stylish name in the UK whose merits are just starting to be discovered in the US. Wilbur, the loveable pig who Charlotte of the Web called Some Pig, is an inspirational hero. And Wilbur and Orville Wright were early aviationists.

ErnestHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "serious, resolute"
  • Description:

    Ernest is one of those sober, so-far-out-they're-beginning-to-be-reconsidered Great Uncle names. It was a Top 40 name from 1880 to 1926, and has never been completely off the Social Security list.

EnochHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "dedicated"
  • Description:

    A major figure in the Old Testament, Enoch was the son of Jared, the father of Methuselah, and the great-grandfather of Noah whose Book of Enoch provides a focal point for ancient Jewish mysticism. Another Enoch was the son of Cain. "Enoch Arden" is a famous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. On the negative side, British politician Enoch Powell gave the infamously racist Rivers of Blood anti-immigration speech, taking the name out of consideration for many parents in the UK.

EphraimHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "fruitful, fertile, productive"
  • Description:

    Ephraim is an Old Testament name we would place high on the list of neglected Biblical possibilities, solid but not solemn.

WandaHeart

  • Origin:

    Slavic or German
  • Meaning:

    "shepherdess; wanderer"
  • Description:

    Rarely heard, and when it is, usually attached to a witch. Historically, though, Wanda was a legendary eighth century queen of Poland, and in literature it is the central character of Ouida's eponymous novel Wanda. A musical namesake is the great Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska.

DickHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Richard
  • Meaning:

    "dominant ruler"
  • Description:

    Dick was a once-common short form of Richard; replaced by Rick or Richie, and finally by the full name itself. Rude meaning -- make that two rude meanings -- pretty much knocks this one out of consideration.

KermitHeart

  • Origin:

    Irish, variant of Diarmaid/Dermot
  • Meaning:

    "free man"
  • Description:

    Kermit was a Top 500 name until the 1960s, not coincidentally the decade in which Kermit the Frog became well known, proving that it isn't easy being green, even for a name. But we think it's time for some of those appealing Sesame Street names--Kermit, Elmo, Grover--to be taken out of that context and be considered on their own.

DorisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "gift of the ocean"
  • Description:

    Doris had long been on our so-far-out-it-will-always-be-out-for-babies list, and seemed to be written there in indelible ink. But there are signs of a sea change, that Doris could profit from the revivals of Dorothy and Dorothea.

CyrilHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "lordly"
  • Description:

    A British-accented Greek name with an intellectual image that has been off the U.S. charts since 1966, but was a Top 300 name at the turn of the last century.

GilbertHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "shining pledge"
  • Description:

    Considered ultra debonair in the silent-movie era, Gilbert then went through a nerdy phase, a la Gilbert Gottfried. Now though, like Albert and Alfred and Walter and Frank, it could be in for a style revival.

BarneyHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Barnabas
  • Meaning:

    "son of comfort"
  • Description:

    The name Barney is hot among hip Londoners and it has been above the Top 500 in the UK since 2012. You can see why - it's got a friendly happy sound and a lovely meaning and is more easily worn than Barnabas. However, Barney is a more difficult sell in America, due to Barney the Dinosaur and Barney Gumble, the loveable lout from The Simpsons. In the positive column for Barney are jazz clarinetist Barney Bigard and guitarist Barney Kessel. For those who love the name but can't get past the dinosaur, may we suggest the related names Bernard or Barnaby?

GladysHeart

  • Origin:

    Possibly a form or Claudia or Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "land, nation"
  • Description:

    Hard as it might be to believe, Gladys was the Harper of 1900, emerging almost out of nowhere to take the naming world by storm. It became a favorite among parents — and writers of romantic Edwardian novels, seen as alluring and unusual. One impetus was the 1870 Ouida novel Puck, whose heroine was the idealized beauty, Gladys Gerant.

MortimerHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "dead sea"
  • Description:

    Other kids might see a teasible connection to mortician or mortuary. Mortimer is an English family name used a few generations ago as an Anglicization of Moses; it was Walt Disney's original choice for the name of his mouse, until his wife talked him out of it.

SeymourHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "marshy land near the sea"
  • Description:

    Out playing shuffleboard at his condo and not expected back for several generations -- unless it morphs into a girls' name, a la Sydney.

ClarenceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "bright"
  • Description:

    The name of the guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life is rarely heard the rest of the year because of its studious, near-nerdy image, but this could change in the current naming climate.

MiltonHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "settlement with a mill"
  • Description:

    Once an upper-class British surname conjuring up the epic poetry of John Milton, it then descended to the antics of "Uncle Miltie" Berle, and now has left the stage completely.

HesterHeart

  • Origin:

    Medieval variation of Esther, Persian
  • Meaning:

    "star"
  • Description:

    The disgraced heroine of The Scarlet Letter's name, after long neglect, just might have a chance at revival, following in the wake of sister-name Esther. We've characterized her elsewhere as an eccentric aristocrat, much more accepted in the U.K. than she has been here.

HiramHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "brother of the exalted one"
  • Description:

    Hiram is the kind of forgotten biblical name that adventurous parents who wish to move beyond David and Daniel are beginning to reconsider--even though it has bits of its old stiff-collared image clinging to it, along with a little hillbilly feel as well. The name belonged to an Old Testament king of Tyre who helped David and Solomon plan and build the temple in Jerusalem, and was a favorite in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, though a couple of well-known bearers dropped it--Ulysses S. Grant was orignially Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he didn't like having the initials H.U.G., and country singer Hank Williams was also born Hiram. With its definite funk factor, and its friendly nickname Hi, Hiram would make a distinctive choice.

GertrudeHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "strength of a spear"
  • Description:

    Could cute nickname Gertie, remembered as cute five-year-old Drew Barrymore in E.T., revive the long shunned Gertrude?

CletusHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "called forth"
  • Description:

    Sometimes used as a short-form of Catholic Pope name Anacletus, Cletus is an ancient name that has not-yet found the popularity of Theodore, Leo, Atticus and Max. It perhaps suffers from its association to the yokel character in The Simpsons , but we think it's time for a reconsideration, given how well it fits into several current trends. Nickname Clete is cute as a button!

DrusillaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "fruitful"
  • Description:

    Drusilla is an ancient Roman name, (probably) borne by descendants of Antony and Cleopatra, and is one of the 'illa' names that are ready for a comeback, especially with its cute short form Dru.

MyrtleHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek botanical name
  • Description:

    Long in our category of so-far-out-it-will-always-be-out category, once seen as a gum-cracking 1940's telephone operator, we think it's time to reassess Myrtle, and look at is as a nature name, a plant with pink or white aromatic berries. Ruled by Venus, myrtle is a plant associated with love, peace, fertility and youth.

VirgilHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "staff bearer"
  • Description:

    The name of the greatest Roman poet and an early Irish saint who believed the earth was round, Virgil is heard most notably today as the name of designer Virgil Abloh of Off-White.

ElwoodHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "elder tree forest"
  • Description:

    The "el-" sound is red-hot these days, and a myriad of place names and surnames give this name a wealth of possible namesakes. The main drawback is its kinship to the name of the hero of the Legally Blond series, Elle Woods, though that will fade with time.

PhyllisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "green bough"
  • Description:

    Phyllis has been used by classical poets for the idealized pastoral maiden. A Greek mythological name of a woman who was turned into an almond tree, Phyllis was in the Top 100 from 1916 to 1958, reaching #24 in 1929, and has the (remote) possibility of joining other revived s-ending names like Iris. In the 'St Clare' book series by Enid Blyton Phyllis is nicknamed Fizz. Just a thought. Phyllida is a variation that sounds at once more old-fashioned and more stylish.

GeraldineHeart

  • Origin:

    German and French, feminine variation of Gerald
  • Meaning:

    "ruler with the spear"
  • Description:

    Though twin brother Gerald is still in baby name limbo, Geraldine is in line to follow the path of Josephine to imminent revival—even though Gerry is not as spunky a nickname as Josie.

EuniceHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "good victory"
  • Description:

    Eunice is a New Testament name of the mother of Timothy, long associated with one of the Kennedy sisters, the founder of the Special Olympics. As high as Number 106 in the early 1900s, it lasted on the list until 1995. Eunice was the birth name of Nina Simone, which gives it a modicum of cool.

ArnoldHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "ruler, strong as an eagle"
  • Description:

    Strange as it may now seem, the venerable St. Arnold was a Greek by birth, a musician who became a member of the court of Charlemagne. The name is said to have been introduced into Britain by the Normans in the form Arnaud.

HoraceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin clan name
  • Meaning:

    "timekeeper"
  • Description:

    The ancient name Horace sounds fustily fuddy-duddy, and yet, with the resurrection of Homer, and the new interest in old Roman names...who knows.

BeulahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "married"
  • Description:

    In the Bible, Beulah is a place, not a person, applied to the land of Israel by the prophet Isaiah. The land of Beulah has sometimes been considered a reference to heaven. Beulah began to be used as a given name in England at the time of the Reformation and was used by the seventeenth century Puritans.

HubertHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining intellect"
  • Description:

    A name that sounds so old-fashioned some parents out there might conceivably find it quirky enough for a comeback, along with other one-time fuddie-duddies like Oscar and Homer.

DorcasHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "doe, gazelle"
  • Description:

    Classic name used by the Romans, the Puritans, and the Bard, but pretty much taboo today due to the objectionable connotations of both its front and back ends.

WilmaHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Wilhelmina
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • Description:

    In the US, Wilma is appears to be eternally fossilized in Bedrock as Fred Flintstone's wife, but in Sweden it's a Top 10 hottie. It did have its moment in the US--from 1912 to 1940 it was a Top 100 name. One notable namesake: track and field star Wilma Rudolph.

HortenseHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "of the garden"
  • Description:

    Hortense is actually the French feminine form of Hortensia, the name of a strong, politically active early Roman woman. Hortense began to be used in the English-speaking world in the nineteenth century. Napoleon had a stepdaughter named Hortense, it was the name of one of the main characters in the film Secrets and Lies and is also associated with novelist Hortense Calisher. As unappealing as it might be to most American parents, Hortense is now Number 311 in France.

ElmoHeart

  • Origin:

    Italian from German
  • Meaning:

    "protector"
  • Description:

    Elmo, like fellow Sesame Street characters Kermit and Grover, has a hard time being taken seriously. (It isn't easy being red either.)

GaylordHeart

  • Origin:

    French
  • Meaning:

    "brisk, high-spirited"
  • Description:

    Best left on the old southern plantation, sipping his mint julep.

BerthaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "bright, glorious"
  • Description:

    Ever since the enormous German cannon was dubbed by Allied soldiers "Big Bertha" in World War I, this name hasn't worked for a sweet little baby girl. But this was not always so. Hard as it might be to imagine now, Bertha was a Top 100 name until the 1930s, and in the 1880s was the seventh most popular name in the land--the equal of Joseph.

LorenHeart

  • Origin:

    Variation of Lorenzo
  • Description:

    A variant form of Laurence or Lawrence which ranked in the #200s in the US from the 1900s through to the 1960s. Now well outside of the Top 1000 for both genders, it has since become rather more popular for baby girls in the US, as a spelling variant of Lauren.

OlgaHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian
  • Meaning:

    "holy"
  • Description:

    This Russian classic still has an international feel. Olga was one of Chekhov's Three Sisters, the name of the saint who was instrumental in spreading Christianity in Russia and the name of one of the USSR's most famous and popular gymnasts, Olga Korbut.

MerleHeart

  • Origin:

    French
  • Meaning:

    "blackbird"
  • Description:

    Originally a nickname for someone who loved to sing or whistle, Merle is even less masculine than Meredith.

IngaHeart

  • Origin:

    Norse
  • Meaning:

    "guarded by Ing"
  • Description:

    Ing was a powerful Norse god whose name inspired several modern variations -- though Inga has become a caricatured Scandinavian choice.

RudolphHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "famous wolf"
  • Description:

    Sure, he'd probably get a certain amount of red-nosed teasing around the holiday, but a boy named Rudolph could probably take it. Besides, he's got other, more distinguished namesakes -- the great ballet dancer Nureyev, silent screen Lothario Valentino and 9-11 Mayor Giuliani.

MyronHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "fragrant, an aromatic shrub, myrrh"
  • Description:

    One of many M names -- including Murray, Melvin, Morton, Milton, and Marvin -- given to first-generation Jewish boys to replace the old-fashioned Moses. Now we'd pick Moses over any of them.

VernaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "springtime"
  • Description:

    Verna may mean "springtime," but May or Spring is fresher.

WendellHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "to travel, to proceed"
  • Description:

    This name has hardly been used since Wendell Willkie ran for president in 1940, and doesn't feel anywhere near ready for a revival.

GodfreyHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "God's peace"
  • Description:

    Godfrey was very popular in the Middle Ages, but today you're more likely to hear it as a surname than a first name. It has a solid, old-man charm, but a couple of possible deal-breakers: the first syllable being God, and no obvious nickname. Goff, maybe? For a different feel, we also like the Italian artist's version Giotto.

GomerHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "to complete"
  • Description:

    Gomer is that rare beast, a unisex biblical name. Gomer was both a son of Japheth (and therefore grandson of Noah), and the wife of the prophet Hosea. It has lingering associations with the hayseed Gomer Pyle character, but may just about be ready for rehab.

MelvinHeart

  • Origin:

    English and Scottish
  • Meaning:

    "council protector"
  • Description:

    This once perfectly respectable surname has suffered decades of abuse, not least by Jerry Lewis's character in the fifties. NFL running back Melvin Gordon stars for the Los Angeles Chargers.

HelgaHeart

  • Origin:

    Scandinavian
  • Meaning:

    "holy, blessed"
  • Description:

    A traditional Nordic name, Helga was extremely popular throughout Scandinavia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In Germany, it was a Top 10 pick from 1924 to 1943. And it still ranks in the Icelandic Top 50 today.
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