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Old Lady Names That Sound New Again

Old Lady Names That Sound New Again
Old lady names are cool by virtue of their very disdain for fashion. These kind of old school girls' names are connected to tradition rather than modernity and gloss. What gets confusing is whether stylish vintage names like Adeline or Clara really qualify as Old Lady Names anymore, or if a name needs to be a bit dusty and unfashionable to be considered an Old Lady Name.

Along with Adeline and Clara, other old lady names in the US Top 500 include Cora, Elsie, Evelyn, Iris, Mabel, Miriam, Ruth, and Vera. If you prefer the clunky-cool variety of old lady names, consider adding Cornelia, Dorothea, Geraldine, or Henrietta to your list.

Unique Old Lady Names that might inspire you include Eulalia, Lavinia, and Millicent.

We've tried to make this list inclusive, pulling in all types of Old Lady Names. These range from sweet vintage names for girls such as Beatrice and Clara to so-clunky-they're-cool names such as Esther and Olive to old-fashioned names that have not yet made their comeback, such as Myrtle and Phyllis.

Old Lady Names
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IrisHeart

  • Origin:

    Flower name; also Greek
  • Meaning:

    "rainbow"
  • Description:

    Iris is directly derived from the Greek word iris, meaning “rainbow.” In Greek mythology, Iris was the goddess of the rainbow, a messenger for Zeus and Hera who rode the rainbow as a multicolored bridge from heaven to earth. In ancient times, the Iris was considered a symbol of power and majesty, the three petal segments representing faith, wisdom and valor. This colorful image led to the naming of the flower and to the colored part of the eye.

EleanorHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of French Provencal Alienor, meaning unknown
  • Description:

    While some think Eleanor is a variation of Helen via Ellen, it actually derives from the Provencal phrase alia Aenor, meaning "other Aenor," used to distinguish the original Eleanor, who was named after her mother Aenor. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine brought it from France to England in the twelfth century. Other spellings include Elinor and Eleanore.

CoraHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "maiden"
  • Description:

    In classical mythology, Cora—or Kore—was a euphemistic name of Persephone, goddess of fertility and the underworld. Kore was the name used when referencing her identity as the goddess of Spring, while Persephone referred to her role as queen of the Underworld. Cora gained popularity as a given name after James Fenimore Cooper used it as the name of his heroine, Cora Munro, in his 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans.

IvyHeart

  • Origin:

    Botanical name
  • Description:

    Ivy is derived from the name of the ivy plant, which got its name from the Old English word ifig. Ancient Greeks presented an ivy wreath to newlyweds as a symbol of fidelity. In the language of flowers, Ivy signifies faithfulness.

ClaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "bright, clear"
  • Description:

    Long relegated to an Olde World backwater, the European-flavored Clara has been speeding up the charts on sleeker sister Claire's coattails for the past few decades. Now, many would say the vintage chic Clara is the more stylish of the two names. Actor Ewan McGregor was an early celebrity adopter of the name for one of his daughters.
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CordeliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin; Celtic
  • 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.

FlorenceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "flourishing, prosperous"
  • Description:

    Florence is back, returning to the US Top 1000 girl names in 2017 after a nearly 40 year absence. Other English-speaking countries have been quicker to welcome Florence back into fashion.

BeatriceHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "she who brings happiness; blessed"
  • Description:

    Beatrice is derived from Beatrix, a Latin name meaning "she who brings happiness." Beatrice was the name of Queen Victoria's youngest child. And in Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy, Beatrice is his guide through Paradise and is idealized as the embodiment of the spirit of love. In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice is the witty, high-spirited heroine. Other variants of the name include the French Béatrice and the Spanish and Portuguese Beatriz.

JosephineHeart

  • Origin:

    French feminine variation of Joseph
  • Meaning:

    "Jehovah increases"
  • Description:

    Josephine is the feminine form of Joseph, a name ultimately derived from the Hebrew Yosef, meaning "Jehovah increases." In French it has an accent over the first E, which was omitted in the English, German, and Dutch translations of the name. Empress Joséphine du Beauharnais was born Marie-Josephe-Rose, but called Josephine by her husband, Napolean Bonaparte.

AdelaideHeart

  • Origin:

    Variant of Adelheidis, German
  • Meaning:

    "noble, nobility"
  • Description:

    Adelaide is now heading straight uphill on the coattails of such newly popular sisters as Ava, Ada, and Audrey, and in the company of Adeline and Amelia. It was chosen by actress Katherine Heigl for the name of her second daughter.
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EvelynHeart

  • Origin:

    English from French and German
  • Meaning:

    "desired; or water, island"
  • Description:

    Evelyn derives from the French feminine given name Aveline, which is from an obscure Germanic root which may mean "desired, wished for" or "water, island". The name Aveline was brought over to England by the Normans, but it first became popular as a masculine name – a transferred use of the surname Evelyn, which comes from the same source. Variations include Evaline, Evalyn, Evelin, and Eveline.

AdaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "noble, nobility"
  • Description:

    Ada is derived from the German name Adelaide, which came from the ancient name Adalheidis. The root, adal, is a Germanic word meaning "noble." Ada can also be considered a variation of the biblical name Adah, pronounced AH-da, one of the first girls’ names mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

ImogenHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    "maiden"
  • Description:

    The story goes that Imogen originated as a Shakespearean printer's misspelling of the traditional Celtic name Innogen, used by him for a character in one of his last plays, Cymbeline. The Innogen of legend, who Shakespeare’s character was based on, was the wife of Brutus of Troy, the first king of Britain. Earlier versions of her name, including Ennoguent, Innoguend, and Innoguent, were found in Brittany from the 9th-11th centuries. They are probably derived from the Gaelic word inghean, meaning "daughter" or "maiden," and possibly have a connection to the Proto-Celtic word for "white," from which the suffixes -gwyn and -gwen evolved.

MabelHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Amabel
  • Meaning:

    "lovable"
  • Description:

    Mabel is a saucy Victorian favorite searching for its place in modern life; if you love offbeat old-fashioned names like Violet or Josephine, only sassier, Mabel is one for you to consider--it's started making a comeback and could rise to popularity a la Sadie. Several celebs have chosen it, including Chad Lowe, Nenah Cherry, Bruce Willis and Dermot Mulroney.

MatildaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "battle-mighty"
  • Description:

    The comeback of this sweet vintage name, one of the most stylish girls' names starting with M, has been prompted by a boomlet of starbaby Matildas, beginning with chef Gordon Ramsey's in 2002 and Moon Unit Zappa's two years later. But the renaissance of this name of the charming Roald Dahl heroine was assured when Michelle Williams and the late Heath Ledger chose Matilda for their daughter.
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HazelHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "the hazelnut tree"
  • Description:

    Hazel is a name applied from the English word hazel, referring to the hazelnut tree. The word was derived from the Old English hæsel of the same meaning. Historically, a wand of hazel symbolized protection and authority.

AnastasiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek, feminine variation of Anastasios
  • Meaning:

    "resurrection"
  • Description:

    Anastasia is the feminine form on Anastasius, a Greek name derived from the word anastasis, meaning "resurrection." It was a common name among early Christians, who often gave it to daughters born around Christmas or Easter. There are handful of saints named Anastasia, including the patron saint of weavers.

ElsieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Elizabeth via its Scottish variation, Elspeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Not so long ago, Elsie might have been on a list of Names Least Likely to Succeed—but look at her now! She is currently ranked very highly in the U.K., and in the US, she's widely used as well, having returned to the popular names list in 2005 after a thirty-year hiatus. Elsie is now one of the fastest-rising girl names starting with E.

AdelineHeart

  • Origin:

    French, diminutive of Adele
  • Meaning:

    "noble, nobility"
  • Description:

    Adeline originated as a French diminutive of Adele, which came from the Germanic root adal, meaning "noble." Adeline was introduced to England by the Normans in the eleventh century, was very common during the Middle Ages, then vanished until the Victorian Gothic revival. Common variants of Adeline include Adalynn, Adalyn, Adelyn, Adelynn, Adelina, and Adaline.

EdithHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "prosperous in war"
  • Description:

    Edith was a hugely popular name a hundred years ago that's being revived among stylish parents in Stockholm and London. It's currently beginning to gain traction in the US among those with a taste for old-fashioned names with a soft but strong image.
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VeraHeart

  • Origin:

    Russian
  • Meaning:

    "faith"
  • Description:

    Vera was the height of fashion in 1910, then was for a long time difficult to picture embroidered on a baby blanket. Now, though, it has come back into style along with other old-fashioned simple names such as Ada and Iris.

OliveHeart

  • Origin:

    English, from Latin, nature name
  • Meaning:

    "olive tree"
  • Description:

    Though greatly overshadowed by the trendy Olivia, Olive has a quiet, subtle appeal of its own -- and is now enjoying a remarkable comeback. Olive is one of only four girl names starting with O on the US Top 1000. Cool couple Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen chose it for their daughter, reviving the name to stylishness, and now Drew Barrymore has a little Olive too, as has country singer Jake Owen.

FloraHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "flower"
  • Description:

    Flora, the name of the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, who enjoyed eternal youth, is one of the gently old-fashioned girls' flower names we think is due for a comeback--alongside cousins Cora and Dora. Also the name of a saint, Flora has long been a favorite in Scotland where it was the name of the young heroine who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie make his way to France. Florence, Fiorella, Fleur, and Flower are translations, but we like Flora best of all.

EstherHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian
  • Meaning:

    "star"
  • Description:

    Esther was derived from the Old Persian word stāra, meaning "star." In the Old Testament, Esther, originally named Hadassah, was the captured Jewish wife of the King of Persia who risked her life to save her exiled people from annihilation. This story is celebrated by Jews on the holiday of Purim, so that it has traditionally been given to girls around that time.

SadieHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Sarah
  • Meaning:

    "princess"
  • Description:

    Sadie started as a nickname for Sarah, but their images couldn't be more disparate. Where Sarah is serious and sweet, Sadie is full of sass and fun.
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FrancesHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from France; free man"
  • Description:

    Frances is the feminine form of Francis, the English variation of the Latin name Franciscus. Franciscus, meaning "Frenchman," was taken from the Germanic tribe the Franks, which got its name from the francisca, the axe they used in battle. Until the seventeenth century, the spellings Frances and Francis were used interchangeably for both sexes.

TheodoraHeart

  • 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.

EttaHeart

  • Origin:

    English and Scottish, feminine diminutive suffix of Henry
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Etta, once a short form of Henrietta, has long been used on its own, and we wonder if it could follow the progression of Emma to Ella to...Etta.

MiriamHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

    "drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved"
  • Description:

    The oldest-known form of Mary, serious and solemn Miriam has been a particular favorite of observant Jewish parents. But we can see it extending beyond that sphere into the next wave of Old Testament names post-Rachel, Rebecca, Sarah, Hannah, and Leah. Miriam is currently the Number 1 girls' name in Israel.

JuneHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin, month named for goddess Juno
  • Description:

    June, a sweetly old-fashioned month name derived from the goddess Juno, was long locked in a time capsule with June Allyson (born Ella) and June Cleaver, but is rising again especially as a middle name.
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AgnesHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "pure, virginal"
  • Description:

    Agnes is the Latin variation of the name Hagne, which itself derived from the Greek word hagnos, meaning "chaste." In medieval times, St. Agnes was a very popular saint, leading to its popularity as a girl's name. Agnes Grey is the title of one of the two novels written by Anne Brontë.

WinifredHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "blessed peacemaking"
  • Description:

    One of the few remaining unrestored vintage gems, with a choice of two winning nicknames--the girlish Winnie and the tomboyish Freddie--as well as the slight stretch Freda. Winifred, the name of a legendary Welsh saint, was a Top 200 name into the mid-1920's.

EstelleHeart

  • Origin:

    French
  • Meaning:

    "star"
  • Description:

    Maybe it's because she shares that winning -elle sound with Isabel and Bella, but Estelle is no longer seen as a muumuu-wearing canasta player of a certain age (think George Costanza's mother on Seinfeld or Joey Tribbiani's talent agent in Friends). This could be in part thanks to the young Royal Couple of Sweden, who chose it for their firstborn daughter, or the single-named British R&B singer. It reentered the US Top 1000 in 2012 after a nearly fifty-year absence.

ConstanceHeart

  • Origin:

    English version of Latin Constantia
  • Meaning:

    "steadfastness"
  • Description:

    Constance is one of the more subtle of the virtue baby names, but still has quite a prim and proper image. One impediment to its revival has been the decidedly dated nickname Connie, though modern parents might well opt for using the strong and dignified name in full.

SybilHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "prophetess"
  • 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;
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PearlHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin gem name
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Pearl, like Ruby, has begun to be polished up for a new generation of fashionable children after a century of jewelry box storage. The birthstone for the month of June, Pearl could also make a fresher middle name alternative to the overused Rose. Cool couple Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson named their daughter Pearl Minnie, followed by Jack Osbourne, and several celebs have put it in the middle spot, as in Busy Philipps's Cricket Pearl, Jake Owen's Olive Pearl and Caleb Followill's Dixie Pearl .

RuthHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "compassionate friend"
  • Description:

    Ruth, with its air of calm and compassion, was the third most popular name in the 1890s, remaining in the Top 10 through the 1920s. It's still in use today as some parents tiring of Rachel and Rebecca are giving Ruth a second thought. Some see such Old Testament girls’ names as Ruth and Esther rising on the heels of boy equivalents Abel and Moses.

IreneHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    Serene Irene, the name of the Greek goddess of peace and one of the most familiar Greek goddess names, was hugely popular in ancient Rome and again in the United States a hundred years ago.

LouiseHeart

  • Origin:

    French and English, feminine variation of Louis
  • Meaning:

    "renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    Louise has for several decades now been seen as competent, studious, and efficient—desirable if not dramatic qualities. But now along with a raft of other L names, as well as cousin Eloise, Louise is up for reappreciation—sleek and chic, stylish in Paris, and starting to become so in the US as well. Louisa is perhaps more in tune with the times, but Louise has more edge. Louise has been on the rise lately, and reentered the US Top 1000 for the first time in a quarter century in 2016.

VivianHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    Vivian, once an elderly lady name, is on the rise, along with all form of girl names that mean life -- from Zoe to Eva to those who share the vivid Viv syllable.
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IdaHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "industrious one"
  • Description:

    Many vowel names stylish a century ago are coming back, and Ida seems like a possible, logical successor to Ada and Ava.

LaviniaHeart

  • 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.

HarrietHeart

  • Origin:

    English variation of French Henriette
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Harriet has long been considered a stylish, upscale name in England, but it's still waiting to be revived in the US—though some parents seeking a solid, serious semi-classic are beginning to consider it.

ElsaHeart

  • Origin:

    German diminutive of Elisabeth
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Lost in limbo for decades and decades, Elsa now stands a good chance of following along in the progression from Emma to Ella to Etta, thanks to the ice queen heroine who "Let It Go" in the wildly popular Disney movie Frozen. The name shot all the up to Number 286 (its highest ranking since the 1890s) in the year after the release of the movie, though it's now dropped back down the list in the US.

HermioneHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek, feminine version of Hermes, "messenger, earthly"
  • Meaning:

    "messenger, earthly"
  • Description:

    Hermione's costarring role in Harry Potter has made this previously ignored, once stodgy name suddenly viable. Hermione could really take off once today's children start having kids of their own.
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MinervaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "of the mind, intellect"
  • Description:

    Minerva is the long-neglected name of the Roman goddess of wisdom and invention, the arts and martial strength, one of the mythology names for girls that might appeal to adventurous feminist parents.

BeaHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Beatrice
  • Meaning:

    "she who brings happiness"
  • Description:

    Bea is a former old lady name that's cute again as a short form -- and is now beginning to stand on its own. Bee is a variation that, like Bea, can work as a diminutive for any name that starts with the letter B, or in the middle. Bea actually stood alone on the popularity lists for four years at the beginning of the twentieth century--and it could happen again.

CeliaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "heavenly"
  • Description:

    Celia, splendidly sleek and feminine, is a name that was scattered throughout Shakespeare and other Elizabethan literature, but still manages to feel totally modern.

SylviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "from the forest"
  • Description:

    The musical, sylvan Sylvia seems poised to join former friends Frances and Beatrice and Dorothy back in the nursery.

WilhelminaHeart

  • Origin:

    German, feminine variation of Wilhelm
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • 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.
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