Unusual Antique Baby Names
None of these unique antique baby names currently rank within the US Top 1000. Popular international picks include Boaz in the Netherlands and Chester in England.
In addition to with fashionable vintage names like Alva and Amias, Phineas and Philomena, there are some truly unique old-fashioned baby names on this list, like Barnabas, Hester, Jethro and Pandora, which adventurous parents might want to consider reviving.
Discover more quirky and unique old-school baby names in the list below.
Meaning:"heart; daughter of the sea"
Description:Cordelia, the name of King Lear's one sympathetic daughter, has style and substance, and is exactly the kind of old-fashioned, grown-up name that many parents are seeking today. If you're torn between Cordelia and the equally lovely Cora, you can always choose Cordelia for long and then call her Cora for short—or Delia, Lia, Del, or even the extremely different Cordie. Cordelia is a Nameberry favorite—Number 106 on the site—and it reentered the US Top 1000 in 2014 after a 60+ year absence.
Meaning:"the golden one"
Description:Since Aurelius was given the supermodel seal of approval by Elle Macpherson, this is one of the Roman emperor names, like Augustus, now in the realm of possibility. Like the female Aurelia and Aurora, Aurelius has a particularly warm golden aura.
Description:Ignatius? Good gracious! This is a name making a truly surprising return, sparked by its selection by not one but two celebrities--Cate Blanchett and Julianne Nicholson.
Ignatius, the name of several saints including the founder of the Catholic Jesuit order, was considered more apt to be borne by churches and schools than babies in the recent past, though it was not unusual from the late nineteenth century to 1930; it ranked as high as Number 602 in 1913.
Origin:Feminine variation of Theodore
Meaning:"gift of God"
Description:Theodora is one of the most revival-worthy of the charmingly old-fashioned Victorian valentine names, softly evocative but still substantial, as is the reversed-syllable Dorothea. It was borne by several saints and by the beautiful ninth wife of the Emperor Justinian, who became the power behind his throne. A later royal was Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, the older sister of the present Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Description:The image of the lovely Lady Sybil, tragic youngest daughter of the Crawley family on Downton Abbey is likely to go a long way towards reviving this almost forgotten name, off the list since 1966 and most popular in the 1920s and '30s. Sybil is currently Number 253 on Nameberry;
Description:Amias or Amyas is a unique name with an attractive sound and feel and a lovely meaning. Though it might sound like a Biblical name, it is not, but is a surname that may be related to Amadeus or even be a male version of Amy--which would make it one of the few boys' names to be derived from a girls'.
Origin:Latin, from ancient place name Lavinium
Description:Lavinia is a charmingly prim and proper Victorian-sounding name which actually dates back to classical mythology, where it was the name of the wife of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who was considered the mother of the Roman people.
Origin:Latinized Greek variation of Hebrew Eleazar
Meaning:"God is my helper"
Description:Lazarus is a name that looks as if it could possibly be raised from the dead, just like its biblical bearer. Look for it in the next wave of Old Testament revivals that transcend their long-bearded images, the way Noah, Moses, and Abraham have for this generation.
Description:Rufus is a rumpled, redheaded (it was the nickname for red-haired King William) ancient Roman name popular with saints and singers (e.g. Rufus Wainwright); now, Rufus is on the cutting edge of cool.
Meaning:"fortress, walled town,"
Description:Chester is a comfortable, little-used teddy-bear of a name that suddenly sounds both quirky and cuddly.
Description:Phineas is the English variation of Phinehas, a Hebrew name likely derived from the Egyptian name Pa-nehasi. Pa-nehasi, meaning “the Nubian” can also be translated as “the bronze-colored one.” The Egyptians distinguished themselves from their Nubian neighbors through differences in skin tone.
Meaning:"one who pierces the valley"
Description:There are several Percivals scattered through the Harry Potter series, which might help transform the old-fangled, fussy image it has accrued. Actually, the original Percival was the one perfectly pure Knight of the Round Table, a worthy hero. The name was invented in the twelfth century by a poet named Chretien de Troyes, for his ideal knight in the poem Percevale, a Knight of King Arthur.
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.
Origin:Feminine variation of Cecil
Description:Cecily is as dainty as a lace handkerchief. Cecily has a wide assortment of namesakes. One Cecily was the mother of King Richard III, whose beauty gained her the title "the Rose of Raby," Cecily Parsley is a Beatrix Potter bunny, Cecily Cardew is a character in The Importance of Being Earnest, and the author of the Gossip Girl books is Cecily von Ziegesar.
Description:This name is a classic example of an underused golden oldie that ticks so many boxes - unusual yet traditional, heaps of cute nicknames, a statement name that exudes retro cool. Aloysius is the Latin form of many more common names like Louis, Luis, Luigi and the uncommon but symphonically familiar Ludwig.
Meaning:"with strong eyesight"
Description:Osiris is the name of Egyptian mythology god-king who died and was reborn every year. Emerging from centuries of obscurity, Osiris has several ingredients for success in the modern world: Roots in ancient myth, an uplifting meaning, an s ending and the cute nickname Os or Oz.
Origin:German, feminine variation of Wilhelm
Description:Wilhelmina was long burdened with the Old Dutch cleanser image of thick blond braids and clunky wooden clogs, but that started to be changed somewhat by the dynamic Vanessa Williams character on Ugly Betty, and even further by the choice of Wilhelmina by ace baby namers Natalie and Taylor Hanson. For the less adventurous, Willa is, for now, still a more user-friendly female equivalent of William.
Description:Pandora has occasionally been used by the British gentry (for girls with brothers who might be called Peregrine) and is now starting to be heard in the US too: It was given to 39 baby girls last year.
Description:Although Greek in origin--in the fourth century, a bishop by that name established the principles of the Greek Orthodox Church--Basil for years took on the aura of aquiline-nosed upper-class Britishness of Sherlock Holmes portrayer Basil Rathbone, then spiced with the fragrant aroma of the herb that entered with the Pesto generation.
Meaning:"father of light."
Description:This neglected Biblical name--it was the name of the commander of Saul's army and appears twice in the New Testament--is ready to flee Dogpatch. It was regularly used in the nineteenth century, but was pretty much demolished by the long-running hillbilly comic strip L'il Abner, which began in 1934 and ran through 1977. A more respectable namesake is Abner Doubleday, who has been credited with inventing baseball.
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.
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.
Description:Now that such Old Testament patriarchs as Elijah and Moses fill the playground, Boaz seems downright baby-friendly, having more pizzazz than many of the others, perhaps as a successor to Noah.
Meaning:"gift of God"
Description:Dorothea is a flowing and romantic Victorian-sounding name which was popular in the early decades of the twentieth century, but has been off the charts since 1970. Definitely on the brink of a revival!
Description:Jethro, though the biblical father-in-law of Moses, has suffered for a long time from a Beverly Hillbilly image, but some really adventurous parents might consider updating and urbanizing it and transitioning it into the hip o-ending category.
Meaning:"strong in work"
Description:Combining the mild and the innocent, this sweet and feminine name is worthy of a comeback, in the mode of Madeline and Cecilia. Its original, also attractive form is Melisende, which came from Germany to France and was borne by a daughter of Charlemagne.
Description:Amity--what nicer gift to give your little girl than a name that signifies friendship and harmony? This virtue name is also more rhythmic and feminine than the single-syllable Hope, Faith, and Grace.
Meaning:"gift of Isis"
Description:Isabel and Isadora are back: could it now be time for a more widespread revival of Isidore? In 2014, both Isidore and Isadore were on the list of fastest-rising names in the US.
Meaning:"lover of strength"
Description:Philomena is an earthy Greek name now used in various Latin countries. While it has felt simply clunky for many years, it's starting -- along with such sister names as Wilhelmina and Frederica -- to sound so clunky it's cool.
Meaning:"exaltation or little dwelling"
Description:An Old Testament name with a Puritan feel and post-Zachary possibilities--one of several routes to the cool nickname Zeb.
Origin:Variation of Matilda
Description:Maude, also spelled Maud, is a lacy, mauve-tinted name that was wildly popular a hundred years ago, but has been rarely heard in the past fifty. Some stylish parents are starting to choose it again, especially as a middle.
Maud's early popularity was influenced by the Tennyson poem that included the oft-quoted line, "Come into the garden, Maude." Then, in the 1970's, along came the sitcom Maude, featuring the vociferous and opinionated character Maude Finlay, putting a very different spin on the name. But enough decades have now passed for the name to have settled back into its soft, sweet pastel image.
Origin:English occupational name
Description:Foster is one commonly heard last name that makes a fine first. More unusual than Forrester or Gardener yet eminently first-name-ready, the only problem with Foster might be its association with "foster child."
Origin:English variation of Hebrew Zebediah
Meaning:"gift of God"
Description:Zebedee is an adorable and unusual New Testament name--which may sound like but is not a contradiction in terms. Unlike some of the longer biblical Z-names, Zebedee has a more lighthearted usability, with its gleeful ee-ending. And Zeb makes a fabulous nickname.
Description:Humphrey is an old name that might have faded completely were it not for that Bogie flair. A royal name in Britain, where it's used somewhat more frequently, Humphrey might just have some life beyond Bogart here, especially with the recent interest in the names of Golden Age Hollywood stars. His first name was the maiden name of his mother, Maud Humphrey, a well-known illustrator who used baby H. as a model.
Origin:Welsh, variation of Llywelyn
Description:Llewellyn/Llywelyn is a common patriotic first name in Wales, with its distinctive Welsh double LL's; in the U.S. Llewellyn would make a daring choice, though with the chance that some might find the ellen sound slightly feminine.
Description:Ancient martyr's name that, though not especially appealing, might still be mildly possible, especially for Anglophiles. It was widely used in early Scotland, but was overtaken by its nickname, EFFIE.
Meaning:"green river, sea friend"
Description:It might be surprising to know that this name originated as a Scottish place and surname name, as in Washington Irving. It became a popular choice for first-generation Jewish-American boys, such as best-selling authors Irving Stone and Irving Wallace, whose parents looked to surnames from the British Isles to confer a measure of assimilation and class. Irving Berlin changed his name from Israel; actor Ving Rhames streamlined and coolized it. Irving was a Top 100 name during World War I, and though we don't envision it reaching those heights again, we can see some hipster parents having their own little Ving.
Origin:Italian diminutive of Alphonso
Description:Alonzo is dashing and debonair, with a large measure of Latin flair.
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.
Origin:English occupational surname
Description:Booker would make for a very cool name, for writers, reformers, R & B fans and those wanting to pay tribute to Booker T. Washington.
Origin:Feminine variation of Augustus
Description:Augusta is a dignified name reminiscent of wealthy great-aunts, but with the fashion for both August and Gus for boys, Augusta could get some fresh energy.
Meaning:"leader of the elves"
Description:Elva is the anglicized version of Ailbhe, growing more popular in Ireland.
Description:Lowell is an upstanding and somewhat conservative name that calls to mind the genteel patrician families of nineteenth century New England, such as the one poet Robert Lowell was born into. Two other Lowell-surnamed poets are Amy and James Russell.
Meaning:"borne in pain"
Description:Jabez has a rare combo of three appealing elements: a Biblical heritage, a captivating Southern accent, and a jazzy feel. It was popular with the Pilgrims and on into the nineteenth century (there have been four U.S. Congressmen named Jabez), but it hasn't been in the Top 1000 since 1880.
Origin:Medieval variation of Esther, Persian
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.
Meaning:"son of consolation"
Description:Barnabas, whose birth name was Joseph, was one of the earliest Christian disciples in Jerusalem, who undertook missionary journeys with Paul the Apostle, His name is a bit Old World compared to the update Barnaby, but could gain some attention as boys' names ending in 's' are enjoying a comeback.
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.
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.
Description:Amabel is an older name than Annabel and a lot more distinctive. Amabel was a very common name in the twelfth and thirteen centuries, then was revived during the nineteenth century British fad for medieval names.
Description:Mirabel is one of those names that's not on the Top 1000 but ought to be — and undoubtedly will be soon. There's a real resurgence of 'bel' names like Isabel and Annabel, and Mirabel, a more unusual and elegant example, which has a wonderful Latin meaning, is also the name of a delicate French plum spelled Mirabelle.