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Cool Midcentury Baby Names

Cool baby names from the middle of the 20th century are coming into style on the heels of midcentury houses and furniture. True, some baby names popular from the 1940s through the 60s may feel like dowdy, overplayed Baby Boomer names just heading into retirement and not due back in style for another generation or two. But some cool guy and girl midcentury names, with their sleek lines and no-nonsense feel, are starting to feel fresh again to the adventurous baby namer.
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RoseHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "rose, a flower"
  • Description:

    Rose is derived from the Latin rosa, which referred to the flower. There is also evidence to suggest it was a Norman variation of the Germanic name Hrodohaidis, meaning “famous type.” In Old English it was translated as Roese and Rohese.

JaneHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    No, we don't consider Jane too plain. In fact, for a venerable and short one-syllable name, we think it packs a surprising amount of punch, as compared to the related Jean and Joan.

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.

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.

EveHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "life"
  • Description:

    Eve, the oldest name in the Book, is now coming back into style, having the virtues of simplicity and purity, yet with more strength and resonance than other single-syllable names like Ann. British actor Clive Owen chose Eve for his daughter, as did Jessica Capshaw.
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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.

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.

RayHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Raymond
  • Meaning:

    "wise protector"
  • Description:

    Ray, still and forever, is one of the all-time hippest boys' names, with its jazzy Ray Charles biopic overtones. It's one of the coolest middle names), but works perfectly fine as a first.

NancyHeart

  • Origin:

    English diminutive of Ann
  • Description:

    Nancy originated as a contraction of “mine Ancy,” with Ancy being a nickname for Annis, a Medieval English variation of Agnes. In the 18th century it began being used in its own right, as well as a nickname for Ann. Related names include Nan, Nance, Nanette, Nanny, and Nanou.

FrankHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Francis or Franklin
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    A Top 10 name from the 1880s until the 1920s, Frank has fallen from favor but still has a certain warm, friendly real-guy grandpa flavor that could come back into style, like other such choices as Jake and Jack. Maybe thanks to Sinatra, it's become a new hipster favorite with such couples as Diana Krall and Elvis Costello.
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BillieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Wilhelmina, Wilma
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • Description:

    Billie is a tomboy nickname name, part of the growing trend for using boyish nicknames for girls and now destined for stardom along with its most famous contemporary bearer, music sensation Billie Eilish.

DeanHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "church official"
  • Description:

    Dean may sound to some like a retro surfer boy name, but it is once again climbing up the popularity chart in the USA. For decades it was associated with Dean (born Dino) Martin; more recent representatives include Dean Cain, Dean McDermott and Dean Koontz -- not to mention Jared Padalecki's dreamy Dean Forester in Gilmore Girls.

EdieHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Edith
  • Meaning:

    "prosperous in war"
  • Description:

    Edie is part of the Evie-Ellie et al family of cute and friendly short forms that sometimes stand on its own. Briefly popular in the 1960's, it could well be due for rediscovery.

HelenHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "bright, shining light"
  • Description:

    Helen is a name that has connoted beauty since ancient times – Helen of Troy was the the mythological "face that launched a thousand ships," over whom the ten-year Trojan War was fought.

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.
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MackHeart

  • Origin:

    Scottish or Irish
  • Meaning:

    "son of"
  • Description:

    Mack, when "formalized" with the final k, makes an engagingly amiable choice, a far more

MargoHeart

  • Origin:

    French, diminutive of Margaret
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Margo and Margot sound exactly the same, so why has the Margot spelling hopped back onto the Top 1000, outpacing Margo in numbers more than two to one? (Over 350 baby girls were named Margot in the most recent year, versus 150 named Margo.)

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.

KitHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Katherine
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Kit is a crisp, old-time British-accented unisex nickname that sounds fresh and modern today. Kitty is another so-retro-it's-cool nickname.

LoisHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "most desirable"
  • 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?
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SallyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Sarah
  • Meaning:

    "princess"
  • Description:

    Sally is a cheerful, fresh-faced girl-next-door name that was originally a nickname for Sarah, but has long been used independently. Sally was popular in the eighteenth century and then again from the 1920s to the 1960s--it was just outside the Top 50 around 1940. Though it hasn't been heard as a baby name for decades, we can see Sally bouncing back, especially after her exposure as young Ms. Draper on Mad Men--the Nameberries rank it at Number 621, and it's a Top 100 name in Sweden.

VanHeart

  • Origin:

    Dutch
  • Meaning:

    "of"
  • Description:

    Whether it's used as a short form or on its own, this jazzy midcentury name is poised for a comeback along with brothers Ray and Walt.

LouHeart

  • Origin:

    Short form of Louise
  • Meaning:

    "renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    Lou is usually a short form of Louise, Louisa, or Lucy in English-speaking countries, when Lou is used for girls at all. But in France and Germany, it's a fashionable choice all on its own, sure to gain even more widespread style credibility since Heidi Klum and Seal chose it for their daughter.

BettyHeart

  • 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.

HankHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Henry, German
  • Meaning:

    "estate ruler"
  • Description:

    Hank is a midcentury guy nickname (which actually dates back to the seventeenth century) of the Al/Hal/Dick school, which has been on recess from the playground for decades. Now it's just beginning to be given on its own again, appreciated for its earthy, sportsguy cool. Hanks Aaron and Greenberg (born Henry) and Hank Williams (born Hiram) Sr and Jr. are worthy namesakes.
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ArtHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Arthur
  • Meaning:

    "noble one; bear man"
  • Description:

    Though short and brisk, no nickname name could have a more creative image. Comic actor Chris O'Dowd named his son Art, as in his native Ireland it's used as a name on its own, separate from Arthur., coming from an ancient word for “”a bear,”” and used in the sense of “”outstanding warrior”” or “”champion.”” A pagan High King of Ireland, Art’s rule was so honest that two angels hovered over him in battle.

JeanHeart

  • Origin:

    English and Scottish, from French variation of Johanna
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    Originally a feminine of John, Jean was popular in Scotland long before it found favor elsewhere, and had its most shining moment here in the era of Jean Harlow (born Harlean), ultimate symbol of silver screen glamour. Now, though there are many grandmas and even moms with the name, it doesn't seem all that baby-friendly. Though that could change, and Jean could join Jane.

RoyHeart

  • Origin:

    French "king,"; Celtic "red-haired"
  • Meaning:

    "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.

RogerHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "famous warrior"
  • 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.

BarbaraHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "foreign woman"
  • 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.
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HalHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Harold and Henry
  • Description:

    Could Hal be the Jack, Max, or Gus of the future? It just might happen in the new nickname environment. Hank Azaria put it on his son's birth certificate.

OzHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "strength, powerful, courageous"
  • Description:

    This may be a legitimate Hebrew name denoting power, but to any American kid, it will evoke ruby slippers and a yellow brick road. The full Hebrew name is Ozni, who was a grandson of Jacob in the Bible.

VaughnHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "small"
  • Description:

    Vaughn, also commonly spelled Vaughan, has been used quietly over the years, reaching a peak of Number 349 in 1949. It is now in the process of rediscovery, being seen as a good Sean alternative or an updated way to honor an ancestral Paul (which also means small).

LouHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Louis or Lewis, French and German
  • Meaning:

    "renowned warrior"
  • Description:

    Lou, all by itself, is become fashionable for girls, which usually makes a name LESS fashionable for boys. But Lou, like Bill or Jim, is rarely used on its own for boys anyway. (You wouldn't name a boy Frederick Lou the way that girls are named Mary Lou or, in the case of Keri Russell's new baby, Willa Lou.) Long form Louis is getting cool again and, with the Lewis spelling, is the Number 2 name in Scotland.

TomHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Thomas
  • Meaning:

    "twin"
  • Description:

    Just like Sam and Ben, Tom could be revived as a simple, well liked name on its own. Tom, just Tom, is one of the Top 100 Boy Names in France
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ChetHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Chester
  • Meaning:

    "fortress, walled town"
  • Description:

    Chet is an old-fashioned short form that, ala Ned and Joe, is starting to sound cool again.

CyHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Cyrus
  • Description:

    Where Sam, Max, and Gus may be leading us.

DotHeart

  • Origin:

    English, diminutive of Dorothy
  • Description:

    Old-fangled nickname could make dot.com era short form or middle name.

LynnHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Linda or Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "lake"
  • Description:

    Lynn arrived in the 1940s, spinning off from the wildly popular Linda, to become a top midcentury middle name. Now, Lynn's in limbo.

LeeHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "pasture, meadow"
  • Description:

    The original brief, breezy name is somewhat out of favor now even as a middle name. The Leigh spelling has more substance and is more identifiable as female.
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StanHeart

  • Origin:

    Short form of Stanley
  • Meaning:

    "near the stony meadow"
  • Description:

    One of the old-school nicknames -- think Ray, Vince, Frank -- that's on the brink of coming back into style. Name him Stanislav or Constantine and he'll have a groovier long form to fall back on.

WaltHeart

  • Origin:

    German, diminutive of Walter
  • Description:

    A straightforward, down-to-earth nickname many Walters, from Whitman to Disney, have chosen to go by.

DesHeart

  • Origin:

    Diminutive of Desmond
  • Description:

    The cool clipped Des may be the part of the name wave of the future, with midcentury names like Des and Vic and Stan riding back into style on the heels of big brothers Max and Sam and Ray.