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Serious Names

Serious names used to be favored for boys but recently it's been serious names for girls, such as Edith and Alice, that have gotten more attention, as parents try to do everything they can to help their daughters succeed in a serious world.

Along with Edith and Alice, other serious names in the US Top 600 include Charles, Dorothy, Edward, Faith, Frances, Louise, Nathan, and Victor. Many serious names could be considered stodgy or old-fashioned, but some, such as Alfred, Theodora, Winifred, and Howard, are in the beginning stages of a comeback.

Serious names are easiest to define by what they're not: They're not invented, not nicknames, not celebrity influenced (unless that celebrity is the Notorious RBG), not creative or fanciful in any way. They probably do not start with or even contain an X, a Z, or a Q. Serious names are somber, straightforward, buttoned-up, ready for a future as a lawyer, an accountant, or maybe President.

Serious names for boys and girls include the following.
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TheodoreHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Theodore is a derivative of the Latin Theodorus, a variation of the Greek name Theodōros. The components are from the Greek words theos, meaning “God,” and dōron, meaning “gift,” giving Theodore the meaning “God-given” or “gift of God.” Names with similar origins include Theodora, Dorothy, and Dorothea.

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.

ArthurHeart

  • Origin:

    Celtic
  • Meaning:

    " bear"
  • Description:

    Arthur, once the shining head of the Knights of the Round Table, is, after decades of neglect, now being polished up and restored by some stylish parents, emerging as a top contender among names for the new royal prince.

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.

AliceHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "noble"
  • Description:

    Alice was derived from the Old French name Aalis, a diminutive of Adelais that itself came from the Germanic name Adalhaidis. Adalhaidis, from which the name Adelaide is also derived, is composed of the Proto-Germanic elements aþala, meaning “noble,” and haidu, “kind, appearance, type.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland popularized the name in modern times.
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ThomasHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic
  • Meaning:

    "twin"
  • Description:

    Thomas is the Greek variation of the Aramaic name Ta’oma’. It came about because there were too many apostles named Judas; Jesus renamed one Thomas—meaning "twin"—to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot and the Judas also known as Thaddeus. At first, it was used only for priests.

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.

CharlesHeart

  • Origin:

    French from German
  • Meaning:

    "man, free man"
  • Description:

    Charles derives from the Germanic name Karl, meaning "man" or "freeman", and is a royal name in multiple European countries. A famous early bearer is Charlemagne, King of the Franks and Lombards and then Roman Emperor in the 8th-9th centuries. The word for “king” in several languages came from Charles, including Slavic, Russian, and Polish.

WilliamHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "resolute protection"
  • Description:

    William is derived from the Germanic name Wilhelm, composed of the elements wil, “will,” and helm, referring to a helmet or protection. The name was introduced to England by William the Conqueror, with William being the Norman variation of the name. In Central and Southern France, it was translated as Guillaume.

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.
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LydiaHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "woman from Lydia"
  • Description:

    Lydia is a very early place name, that of an area of Asia Minor whose inhabitants are credited with the invention of coinage and of having strong musical talent—as well as great wealth.

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.

ElizabethHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Elizabeth is derived from the Hebrew name Elisheva, formed by the components ’el, meaning “God,” and shava’, “oath.” In the Bible, Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist, and two of England's most notable queens have been Elizabeth I and II. Another memorable bearer was Elizabeth Taylor—who hated to be called Liz.

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.

LeahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "weary"
  • Description:

    Leah was derived from the Hebrew word le’ah, meaning “weary.” In the Old Testament, Leah was the first wife of Jacob, the mother of one daughter, Dinah, and six sons including Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. She is considered one of the most important biblical matriarchs.
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CatherineHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "pure"
  • Description:

    Catherine is one of the oldest and most consistently well-used girls’ names, with endless variations and nicknames. The Catherine form feels more gently old-fashioned and feminine than the more popular K versions. Most stylish nickname for Catherine right now: Kate...or Cate, a la Blanchett.

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.

JohnHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "God is gracious"
  • Description:

    John is an English derivative of the Hebrew name Yochanan via the Latin name Iohannes, itself coming from the Greek Ioannes. John was a key name in early Christianity, borne by John the Baptist, John the Apostle and John the Evangelist, plus 84 saints and 23 popes, as well as kings and countless other illustrious notables. Contrary to popular belief, the names John and Jonathan are unrelated, the latter being an elaboration of Nathan.

MargaretHeart

  • Origin:

    Greek
  • Meaning:

    "pearl"
  • Description:

    Margaret is derived from the French Marguerite, which in turn came from Margarita, the Latin form of the Greek Margarites. Margarites was based on the Old Persian word margārīta, meaning “pearl.”

NathanHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "given"
  • Description:

    Nathan was derived from the name Natan, which came from Hebrew verb natan, meaning “gave.” In the Old Testament, Nathan was the name of a prophet and also that of one of King David's sons. Nathaniel and Jonathan are related names.
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RachelHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "ewe"
  • Description:

    Rachel was derived from the Hebrew word rāchēl, meaning “ewe.” In the Old Testament, Rachel was the favorite wife of Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. International variations include the Spanish Raquel and Israeli Rahel.

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.

JosephHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "Jehovah increases"
  • Description:

    Joseph evolved from the Hebrew name Yosef, which was derived from the verb yasaf, meaning “to increase.” In the Old Testament, Joseph is the 11th and favorite son of Jacob and Rachel; in the New Testament, it is the name of the carpenter husband of the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. Joe and Joey are common nicknames for Joseph, and Josephine is the feminine form.

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.

WalterHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "army ruler"
  • Description:

    Walter was seen as a noble name in the Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Walter Scott era, but it then spent decades in baby name limbo. Now quite a few independent-minded parents are looking at it as a renewable, slightly quirky, classic, stronger and more distinctive than James or John, second only to William among the handsome classic boy baby names starting with W. The recent popularity of Breaking Bad has brought us Walter White, conferring on the name Walter a new kind of cool and prompting a fresh wave of popularity.
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EdwardHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "wealthy guardian"
  • Description:

    Unlike perennials William, John and James, Edward is a classic that moves in and out of fashion. This royal Anglo-Saxon standard has benefited in recent years from the popularity of the hot hero of the vampire sensation Twilight -- Edward Cullen -- who has given his name a new infusion of cool.

VictoriaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "victory"
  • Description:

    Victoria is the Latin word for “victory” and a feminine form of Victor. It is the name of the ancient Roman goddess of victory, the equivalent of the Greek Nike, and also a popular third century saint. Queen Victoria, for whom the Victorian Era is named, ruled over England for over sixty-three years.

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.

OctaviaHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "eighth"
  • Description:

    Octavia began as the Latin, then Victorian name for an eighth child. While there aren't many eighth children anymore, this ancient Roman name has real possibilities as a substitute for the overused Olivia; recommended for its combination of classical and musical overtones. It was chosen for his daughter by Kevin Sorbo.

ThaddeusHeart

  • Origin:

    Aramaic, meaning unclear, possibly from Theodore
  • Meaning:

    "gift of God"
  • Description:

    Thaddeus, a distinguished, long-neglected name, has several areas of appeal: a solid New Testament legacy, a nice antique feel, and the choice of several more modern nicknames and international variations.
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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.

LillianHeart

  • Origin:

    English from Latin
  • Meaning:

    "lily; pledged to God"
  • Description:

    Lillian is having a remarkable revival, rising to a peak of Number 21 in 2010 (the highest it's been since the 1920's) before dipping slightly in recent years. It was a Top 10 name in its Lillian Gish-Lillian (born Helen Louise) Russell-Floradora Girl heyday at the turn of the last century.

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.

FrederickHeart

  • Origin:

    German
  • Meaning:

    "peaceful ruler"
  • Description:

    Frederick, and friendlier nickname Fred, seemed almost to have disappeared, leaving just the memory of Freds past such as Astaire, Mr. Rogers and Flintstone. But today's parents are beginning to recognize it as a strong classic and one of the top royal baby boy names.

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.
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RobertHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "bright fame"
  • Description:

    Robert was derived from the ancient Germanic name Hrodebert, from the elements hrod, meaning “fame” and bertha, “bright.” Robert was the name of three kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce, who freed Scotland from English rule. The name was brought to England by the Normans.

IngridHeart

  • Origin:

    Norse
  • Meaning:

    "fair; Ing is beautiful"
  • Description:

    The luminous Ingrid Bergman's appeal was strong enough to lend universal charisma to this classic Scandinavian name, which has been somewhat neglected in the US. Even today, a child named Ingrid would be assumed to be of Scandinavian ancestry, signaling the name has never been fully integrated into the English lexicon the way other European choices from the same era like Danielle or Kathleen have.

MaryHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew or Egyptian
  • Meaning:

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

    Mary is the English form of Maria, which ultimately was derived from the Hebrew name Maryam/Mariam. The original meaning of Maryam is uncertain, but theories include "drop of the sea" (from Hebrew roots mar "drop" and yam "sea"); "bitter" (from Hebrew marah "bitterness"); and "beloved" (from the Egyptian root mr).

AlfredHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "wise counselor"
  • 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.

FrancisHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "Frenchman or free man"
  • Description:

    Since this was the name chosen by the current Roman Catholic pope, Francis has come into the spotlight.
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LauraHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "bay laurel"
  • Description:

    Laura is a hauntingly evocative perennial, never trendy, never dated, feminine without being fussy, with literary links stretching back to Dante. All this makes Laura a more solid choice than any of its more decorative counterparts and one of the most classic girl names starting with L.

AmosHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "carried by God"
  • Description:

    Amos is a robust biblical name that's being discovered by a new generation of parents in a major way.

VictorHeart

  • Origin:

    Latin
  • Meaning:

    "conqueror"
  • Description:

    Victor is one of the earliest Christian names, borne (as Vittorio) by several saints and popes, symbolizing Christ's victory over death. It has been quietly in the Top 200 since 1880, but just recently has taken on a cool edge by fashionable parents in London and seems ripe for a similar reevaluation here too.

SarahHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "princess"
  • Description:

    Sarah was derived from the Hebrew word sarah, meaning “princess.” Sarah is an Old Testament name—she was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. According to the Book of Genesis, Sarah was originally called Sarai, but had her name changed by God to the more auspicious Sarah when she was ninety years old.

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.
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SolomonHeart

  • Origin:

    Hebrew
  • Meaning:

    "peace"
  • Description:

    Solomon, a name that evokes wisdom and peace, is an Old Testament name that, along with other patriarchal classics, is finally beginning to shed its long white beard and step from the pages of the Old Testament into modern nurseries.

RowenaHeart

  • Origin:

    Welsh
  • Meaning:

    "white spear or famous friend"
  • Description:

    A fabled storybook name via the heroine of Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe (1819), which featured a heroine called Rowena of Hargottstanstede, and also a Harry Potter name, as Rowena Ravenclaw, founder of one of the Hogwarts houses.. Rowena has some old-fashioned charm, though most modern parents seem to prefer Rowen. Pronunciation, however, is NOT like Rowen with an a at the end, but with a long e and an emphasis on the middle syllable.. She was on the popularity list until 1963, several years in the Top 500.

DariusHeart

  • Origin:

    Persian or Latin from Greek
  • Meaning:

    "weath, kingly"
  • Description:

    Darius is a historic name via Emperor Darius the Great, a key figure in ancient Persian history, and several other Persian kings. His name today has an appealingly artistic image, which might well be found on a concert program or gallery announcement.

RalphHeart

  • Origin:

    English from German
  • Meaning:

    "wolf-counsel"
  • Description:

    Ralph has two diametrically different images: there's the suave Ralph Fiennes-type Brit (often pronounced Rafe), and then there's the Jackie Gleason blue-collar, bowling blowhard Ralph Kramden bus driver. It's all in the eye of the beholder, though its hip factor did rise when it was chosen for his son by cool U.K. actor Matthew Macfadyen.

EdmundHeart

  • Origin:

    English
  • Meaning:

    "fortunate protector"
  • Description:

    The sophisticated Edmund and its nearly-identical French twin Edmond are coming out of mothballs now that Edward, inspired by Twilight, is once again a hot name.
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