Retro-Cool, Vintage Baby Names for Girls
A List of Old-Fashioned Names for Girls
Names are constantly moving up and down the popularity list. I remember when I was a teenager, many, many years ago, I had a friend whose mother's name was Emma. Emma was the "mean mom" (meaning the strict mom), and oh, how our group of friends loved to take little digs at Emma when her daughter—our friend—wasn't around. Somehow such an ugly name seemed fitting for this mean mom, who we felt kept our friend under lock and key and had a long list of unreasonable chores for her.
Today, I look back and laugh at that scenario, not just because I'm a mother myself and know that Emma wasn't being mean at all, she was just making sure her daughter stayed on the straight and narrow. I also laugh because "Emma" is one of the most beautiful names I've ever heard. How could we have thought it was as homely as Beulah, Myrtle or Gertrude? What sounded awkward and ugly back in the 1980s has become a beautiful, feminine, extremely popular name twenty-odd years later.
Old-fashioned names have always been used to some extent. In the recent past, they've been given to baby girls by parents who feel obligated to name their little girl after a grandmother, great-grandmother, or great-aunt. These duty-bound parents would often use the out-of-fashion name as a middle name, hoping that would be enough to make grandma happy without their child actually having to go by a dated moniker.
Old Names Are a Trend
These days, the trend of using old-fashioned names is running strong. Parents are using "old lady" names more and more, but not out of obligation, but because many formerly out-of-date names like Emma are coming back around and sounding fresh and pretty to today's young parents.
There is also a second wave of parents riding the "old lady" name trend: hip, independent-minded parents who are choosing old-fashioned names for their retro quirkiness, and in the expectation that their daughter will likely be one of a few girls with that name. These parents are likely to be educated, independent thinkers who would like their child to have an uncommon name such as Enid, Trudy, or Roxanne, but not a silly, made-up, so-called "unique" name like ShyAnn, Kymbreigh or Lexus.
Old Names Have Meaning
Another attractive aspect of old-fashioned names is that they come with meanings. While "Kymbreigh" doesn't mean anything, and a Lexus is a car, old-fashioned names can be traced back to Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Celtic, Hebrew, German and other languages, in which the names actually mean something. Parents can give their darling daughters a name which reflects the baby's attributes, the attributes the parents hope their child will possess, or perhaps a word that has some sort of significance to the parents or the family. For example, the name Neva means "snow," which in my opinion is quite beautiful. Imogen means "beloved child," Clementine means "merciful," Della means "noble," and Vera means "truth," all of which could have special meaning to a family.
Old Names Return to the Top of the List
Just a generation or so ago, girls were being named Wendy, Lisa, Michelle, and Shannon, while today's most popular girls' names were considered dated. The tables have turned. What was popular then sounds dated now, and what sounded worn and clunky then has taken hold in a big way. In fact, of the USA's top ten names of 2011, nine of them could be considered members of this "old lady" list, as they are names that were common generations ago and have come back around to surge in popularity once again: Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Lily, Chloe, Emily and Abigail. Some old-fashioned names, such as Elizabeth, Grace and Sarah, are long-lived classics that have held strong for years; while others, such as Nora, Violet, and Evelyn, have more recently become popular again.
Many more "old lady" names (indicated below by an asterisk) showed up in the top 100 list.
List of Retro-Cool Names for Girls
(* = among top 100 girl names of 2011)
Names We're Not Quite Ready for
Perhaps the retro trend will eventually bring the names below back to the top of the list, but at the present time, they sound drab, harsh, or archaic. However, some may be on the verge of going back into favor. Several people have told me they love the name Agnes, and I know two little girls named Esther. Who knows? In a few years, these may be the hottest names around.
I Would Love to Hear From You!
What names have you given your children? What names do you love, and what names do you hate? What names have I left off the list? I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.
Have a boy? Here's a list of retro names for boys.
You may also want to read my other name lists: