Old People Names
Old people names that rank in the US Top 1000 include Alfred, Barbara, Roland, Eileen, Harold, Joyce, Maurice, and Patricia. Along with Alfred and Roland, other old people names starting to come back into style in the 2020s include Betty, Basil, Clarence, Loretta, Ned, Percy, Thora and Winifred.
Like a loud vintage sweater or a pair of granny-chic glasses, the coolest old people names make a strong retro style statement, but feel close enough to contemporary trends that they stand out for all the right reasons.
Some of these old people names seem like they’ll never feel youthful again, but who knows? Maybe your grandchildren will be called Nelda and Norman, Velma and Vernon.
Below, a selection of choices widely considered to be old people names – but possibly soon ripe for revival.
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.
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:German variation of Robert
Description:Rupert is a charming-yet-manly name long more popular in Britain (where it's attached to a beloved cartoon bear) than in the U.S. Yet we can see Rupert as a more stylish, modern way to honor an ancestral Robert.
Description:Alfred is up off his recliner! If you're looking for a path to Fred, you can go directly to Frederick or take the long way around with the so-out-it's-in-again Alfred. Alfred is quite popular in several European countries, especially England and Wales, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Origin:French surname from place name Perci-en-Auge
Description:Percy is an adorable old name that is finally shedding its pampered Little Lord Fauntleroy image in this new era of boys with soft yet traditionally male names like Jasper and Elijah. Originating as an aristocratic Norman name, Percy became fairly widespread in England--and to some extent in the US--as an offshoot of the fame of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
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:"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:English from German
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.
Description:Albert has acquired a new gloss as one of the top royal baby boy names, a serious upgrade from its serious, studious image (think Einstein, Schweitzer). Albert remained popular for 80 years, and though it's far less fashionable today, it's still a widely used choice. Still, along with such stalwarts as Walter and George, it could now make an unusual yet classic choice. It became especially popular in Britain following the 1840 marriage of Queen Victoria to the German Prince Albert. Enlivening nickname Bertie is popular on its own in England.
Description:The patron saint of comedians and dancers (also known as St Vitus) has a name that is both the ultimate everyman, and has a hint of British aristocracy. In the States, Guy was most popular in the 1950s. Now he hovers steadily below the Top 1000, in the sweet spot of familiar but not overused. With the meteoric rise of Kai, Guy may have potential with parents looking for a more classic name with a similar sound.
Origin:Scottish variation of Evelyn
Meaning:"desired; or water, island"
Description:Irish Aileen continues to be more popular than Scottish Eileen, though both names have seen an unexpected resurgence since 2012. Nicknames for Eileen include Isla, Lee and Lina. Eileen is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic Eibhlin or Aibhilin, which is technically a form of to Evelyn/Aveline, but is also sometimes considered part of the Helen family of names. It was quite popular in the early part of the twentieth century.
Origin:English variation of Barnabas, Aramaic
Meaning:"son of consolation"
Description:Barnaby, a genial and energetic name with an Irish-sounding three-syllable lilt, is an ancient appellation that manages to be both unusual and highly attractive and deserves to be used more than it is. A sweet-spot name that's a real winner.
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.
Description:Wilfred is one of those Old Man Names that still sounds fusty in the US but is fashionable in the UK. It comes with readymade short forms Will or Fred and might make an adventurous alternative to the ubiquitous William. The central character of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe is the knight Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Wilfred Owens was a well-known British poet.
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.
Meaning:"famous throughout the land"
Description:Roland is a chivalrous old name made famous by the supposedly eight-foot-tall romantic hero and nephew of Charlemagne, celebrated in medieval poetry and song. It is more widely heard in the US now in its Spanish form, Rolando. You might want to consider rollicking short form Rollo, either on its own or as an abbreviation of Roland. Orlando is the graceful Italian form.
Description:Eugene is a classic that has rather lost its way. On the one hand, it's a grandpa, even great-grandpa name that hasn't been one of the cool kids recently—or to quote Jim Carrey, who bears this name in the middle spot, "You can never get too cool with a name like Eugene." The hero of Disney's Tangled felt the same way, when he changed his birth name of Eugene to the more romantic Flynn.
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.
Description:This image of this distinguished Anglo-Scottish surname, drawn from the French place name of the ancient castle of Saint Foi de Montgomery, is rapidly shifting from fusty and formal to cool. And dashing short form Monty (or Monte) nudges it to cute.
Description:The eternal fiancee of Superman turned sweet gray-haired lady who's always available to babysit her grandkids. Lois is actually a New Testament name of Greek origin: she was converted by Paul and was the grandmother of Timothy, who became one of Paul's disciples. Other s-ending names are making a comeback, as is Louise, so why not Lois?
Description:Wallace is so square could almost be ripe for a turnaround, especially with the hipness imparted by the British Claymation series Wallace & Gromit. And Wally makes an adorable Leave it to Beaver retro-style nickname.
Origin:English, diminutive of Edward
Description:Ned is a gently old-fashioned Nancy Drew-Bobbsey Twins-era short form for Edward that sounds cooler than Ed and is enjoying a small style renaissance.
Description:Although pinochle-playing partner Sam came out of retirement, we don't see it happening to Sol. Near soundalike Saul has more of a shot.
Origin:Diminutive of Elizabeth
Meaning:"pledged to God"
Description:Combine the popularity of Betty White and Mad Men's glamorous Betty Draper Francis, with the residual sweetness of Ugly Betty's Betty Suarez, and the result is an impending return of the name. It's got presidential cred via Betty Ford and feminist history through Betty Friedan.
Description:The name of the last Anglo-Saxon king of England before the Norman conquest, and a name that's long been associated with a pipe-smoking, bespectacled grandpa or uncle.
Meaning:"brave as a bear"
Description:Although feminizations ending in "ette" are not particularly popular now, Bernadette is a pleasant, feminine, but strong name that doesn't feel prohibitively dated. And though strongly associated with the saint who saw visions of the Virgin Mary—Saint Bernadette of Lourdes—it is now no longer strictly inhabiting the Catholic diocese.
Description:Patricia still sounds patrician, though its scores of nicknames definitely don't. Wildly popular from the forties (alternately Number 3 and 4 throughout the decade) to the sixties, Patricia has been fading ever since. But a comeback in its full form is definitely conceivable—just look at Penelope.
Description:A contraction name, Sidney comes from Saint Denis and is related to Dioynsius, the Greek god of fertility and wine, although another theory is that it derived from an Anglo-Saxon place name, meaning 'at the wide island.'
Origin:French from Latin
Description:Claude is a soft-spoken French name that conjures up the pastel colors of Monet and harmonies of Debussy. In France, it is used for girls as well, in fact in the Tracy Chevalier novel Lady and the Unicorn, the protagonist is a female Claude.
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:"father of multitudes"
Description:Abraham is among the most classic baby names that's still widely-used today, popular for its references to both the Bible and American history. The Biblical Abraham was the first of the Old Testament patriarchs and is considered the founding father of the Jewish people. He was originally named Abram, until, according to Genesis, he was told, "No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations."
Origin:Slavic or German
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.
Description:The short form Archie is so open and friendly --and very trendy in the British Isles--that some parents are now beginning to consider the formerly fusty Archibald as well. SNL comedians Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are one couple who made this breakthrough choice.
Meaning:"lady of sorrows"
Description:Though it's related to the Virgin Mary, this name was once perceived as the height of sensuality, a role since taken over by nicknames Lola and Lolita.
Origin:German or English
Meaning:"high guardian or brave heart"
Description:Howard, once hugely popular -- in the Top 50 from the 1870s to early 1950s, hitting Number 24 in 1920 -- has been stuck in Dad-Grandad limbo for decades, but is showing some signs of stirring back to life. Along with such formerly-fusty names as George and Harold, Howard may soon feel baby-appropriate, perhaps with the short form Ward.
Origin:Feminine variation of Cornelius, Latin
Description:In ancient Rome, Cornelia was considered the paragon of womanly virtue, making it a handsome name with an excellent pedigree. It's rare today, so if you want a name no one else is using, somewhat reminiscent of Amelia and the Shakespearean Cordelia, Cornelia should be on your list. Cornelia's short forms might include Cora, Nelia or Nell--anything but Corny.
Description:Edna is one of those names that, until what it seemed like a few minutes ago, felt so terminally frumpy that no one could imagine a parent choosing it for an innocent modern baby girl. But with the great upswing in names honoring ancestral family members, several of them being other four-letter, e-ending names, we wouldn't be so sure.
Description:Clement, the name of fourteen popes and several saints, has a pleasantly, positive, slightly antiquated feel, like the phrase "clement weather."
Origin:Diminutive of Jane
Meaning:"God's gracious gift"
Description:Janet started as a pet form of Jane but has long been used independently. Jane is a feminine form of John, which derived from the Hebrew name Yochanan. Janet can also be considered a variation of Jeannette, a derivative of Joan and another feminization of the name John.
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.
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.
Description:Ethel is a name we once declared as 'So Far Out They'll Probably Always Be Out,' but with the return of other names on that list and with its new starbaby cred via Lily Allen, its soft sound and admirable meaning, we're not so sure.
Description:Norman, perhaps because it sounds so much like the word 'normal', conjures up the image of a normal-looking guy with a normal kind of job-- not necessarily an image many modern parents seek for their sons. But though it's been off the national popularity list for several years, Norman is Number 694 on Nameberry. It was a Top 100 name for more than half a century, hitting a high in 1931 at Number 36, but today it's nowhere near one of the most popular boy names starting with N.
Description:In the World War II era, Roger had nothing but the most positive associations, actually used by military personnel to mean 'Received and understood'--or A-OK, and though it is now on extended furlough, it does have a long and distinguished history. Introduced to England after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Roger soon became very popular there, with nicknames Hodge and Dodge, and had a long run later in the U.S, remaining in the Top 100 for 55 years.
Description:If you can get the lively young Barbara Bush to replace her grandmother's white-haired image, you might discover a rhythmic classic with an interesting history. Barbara is undoubtedly among the most classic girl names starting with B.
Description:Ransom may be rakish and handsome, but it carries an unavoidable association with holding someone for ransom. But that kind of bad boy image might be exactly what attracts you to Ransom in the first place. While Ransom feels like a modern appellation ala Breaker or Ranger, it's interesting to note on the popularity chart that it was actually quite popular at the end of the 19th century but fell off the Top 1000 around 1930.
Description:This Welsh surname was taken up as a first in the English-speaking world in the early twentieth century, originally as a nickname for someone gray-haired. The original Welsh name was Llwyd, and pronounced LHOO-eed. Beau Bridges was christened Lloyd after his actor father.
Origin:French "king,"; Celtic "red-haired"
Description:We've seen Ray regain his cool, but could this country/cowboy name epitomized by Roy Rogers (born Leonard Slye), Acuff, and Clark, do the same?
Roy came into use in the late nineteenth century, probably influenced by the main character of Sir Walter Scott's novel Rob Roy, in which the historical character Robert M'ac Gregor is nicknamed Roy for his red hair.
There have been lots of notable non-country namesakes, including baseball's Roy Campanella, humorist Roy Blunt, Jr., Walt's brother and partner Roy Disney, singer Roy Orbison and pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Roy Hobbs was the protagonist of the Malamud novel The Natural, played in the film by Robert Redford.
Meaning:"strong, brave as a bear"
Description:Bernard is obviously a saint's name, but how did it get to the big, benevolent dog? The eleventh century monk, patron saint of mountain climbers, who lived in the Alps, was famed for setting up safe houses for pilgrims on their way to Rome over the treacherous St. Bernard Pass, and the canine breed, also used to rescue people in treacherous conditions, was named for him.