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20 Old-Fashioned Baby Names That Are Back in Style

Everything old is new again in baby names. As names data from the Social Security Administration shows, many parents have recently been choosing names popular in years long gone by—vintage names from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s—that eventually fell out of style. Old-fashioned names are cool again—retro is so now.

The names that are back are traditional and familiar, yet sound fresh. Bonus: If you like the antique charm of one or two of the names on this list, chances are good you’ll take a fancy to several; they have a similar feel, and pair nicely. So if you’re pregnant, find one you like and start taking mental notes for future siblings.

All of the boys’ and girls’ names here popped up on the SSA’s list one or more times in the years noted above, and then fell out of favor, either dropping off the list entirely or falling significantly—until the last decade. Every name we’ve included saw significant growth in popularity from 2000 to 2010. But none of them has managed to eke their way into the Top 10 lists, so they’re not yet overused and are still ripe for the picking.

Read on to find the old-style name that suits you.


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Clear, bright”

Like Gertrude, Nellie and Ida, Clara was for years a name that felt more church lady than classic and cool—but unlike some of its early contemporaries, it’s rebounded with modern parents. Soft and sweet—and reminiscent of Claire—it also follows the trend of popular girls’ names ending in the letter “a” (Check out the Top Names for Girls and note the first five: Isabella, Sophia, Emma, Olivia and Ava.) But it hasn’t cracked the Top 100 yet, so it still feels like a find. And little girls will heart the association with the famous Clara in the Nutcracker, the brave heroine who takes on the Mouse King.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #354
2010: #167


Origin/meaning: Hebrew, “Uplifted”

This vintage name, like popular cousins Elias and Elijah, is on a major upswing and has seen big-time growth over the last decade. It straddles old and new effortlessly, with an ancient biblical connotation and a modern sports mega-star association (football player Eli Manning.)

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #235
2010: #65


Origin/meaning: Hebrew, “Pleasant”

Unlike many popular girls’ names, this one doesn’t have a soft and gentle lilt; its triple-threat of long vowel sounds combines to give it a sense of strength and determination when you say it. And a positive association with famously beautiful ladies, actress Watts and supermodel Campbell, enhances its appeal. Popular decades ago, Naomi disappeared for a while but is making a comeback. It’s a strong, sophisticated choice that now has a modern feel.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #185
2010: #96


Origin/meaning: English, German, “Strong”

Parents tend to be more conservative when naming boys, and traditional names like William, James and Charles are perennial faves—but this once-popular, sweet boy’s nickname has taken off in its own right recently, and holds appeal for parents who want a choice that’s solid and old-style, but has a bit of playfulness, too. It fit the bill for Tiger Woods, who has a son named Charlie.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #449
2010: #244


Origin/meaning: German, “Noble”

Alice has an old-fashioned but undeniably dainty vibe—and there’s no question that after decades of being out of style, it’s on an upswing with parents. There’s the literary, Alice in Wonderland association, of course, and one of America’s favorite funny ladies—Tina Fey of SNL and 30 Rock—chose the name Alice for her eldest daughter.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #422
2010: #172


Origin/meaning: German, “Ruler of the household”

Long ago, Henry enjoyed a place in the Top 10 names for boys. A classic choice, it continued to hang around, but dropped in popularity. It’s currently back in the Top 100 and climbing every year. It’s sweet and familiar, but sounds less “old school” than Harold, Walter or Frank. Julia Roberts bestowed it upon one of her sons; Colin Farrell and Brandon Flowers did, too.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #126
2010: #67


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Olive tree”

Olivia was popular on and off again years ago, and it’s bounced back big-time: it’s landed in the Top 10 names for girls’ names for almost the last decade. But don’t lump Olive in with it; this name has a style and appeal all its own. Also a common old-fashioned choice back in the day, it fell completely out of fashion, but it’s now a cute choice on the rise. While it may not be hunkering down in the Top 100, it’s made a huge leap in just the last three years. And with flower and nature names becoming ever more popular, we bet more of an upswing is still in store. Isla Fisher chose the name Olive for her daughter.

Popularity in the last decade:

2007: #988
2010: #546


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Lion”

A short name that exudes strength, Leo is a fresh throwback choice that makes a nice alternative to the more popular Jack and Luke. A positive association with Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t hurt, but the name stands on its own, as the SSA growth reflects. (Close cousin Leon has grown in popularity, too, though not as significantly.)

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #390
2010: #193


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Lily flower”

Another once matronly-sounding choice that’s new again, Lillian is a pretty antique moniker with an easy and appealing flower nickname and numerous spelling variation options. Television actress Mary McCormack recently named her new daughter Lillian. Stately and refined in its full version; playful in short form, Lily.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #129
2010: #21


Origin/meaning: English, “Precious stone”

This old-fashioned nature name offers style, originality and a Southern-sounding, artistic twist thanks to Georgia-born artist Jasper Johns. It’s an up-to-date alternative to popular boys’ J-names Jacob, Joshua or Jayden.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #592
2010: #286


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Variation of Emily

This old-fashioned, pretty name is a variation of perennial list-topper, Emily, but it’s far more distinctive. Sophisticated, and with that alluring “a”-letter ending, it’s a stylish choice that will take an adventurous little girl easily into adulthood. Speaking of adventurous, don’t forget the famous namesake here: American heroine and aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart. Looking for a nickname with attitude? Try Mimi.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #207
2010: #41


Origin/meaning: English, “Wild boar”

Old-style contemporaries Ernest and Elmer may not be climbing the boy’s charts anytime soon, but this name is on the rise again. It’s got a crisp, upbeat vibe and a winning British association in dashing actor Rupert Everett.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #585
2010: #287


Origin/meaning: English, Greek, “Light”

This retro rebound name gets a modern boost from singer Norah Jones. (Close cousin Cora is also on the rise; it was ranked 481 in 2000 and 276 in 2010.) Another girls’ name that ends in “a,” it’s got more gravitas than Ava, Emma or Sophia, and it’s got weighty literary associations in Ibsen’s play  A Doll’s House and Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man, both of which boast famous Noras as a central character.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #501
2010: #159


Origin/meaning: Latin, English, “From the forest”

Serious and sophisticated, this name is a sleeker vintage alternative to choices such as Samuel and Sidney. It carries an enduring literary association in Silas Marner, the novel by George Eliot.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #602
2010: #222


Origin/meaning: English, form of “Adelaide”

This charmer makes a winning, vintage alternative to Madeline, and modern parents are loving it. Less dowdy-sounding than other old-fashioned picks, Adeline is sweet and sprightly, and comes equipped with the cute nickname options Addy or Addie.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #805
2010: #322


Origin/meaning: Latin, short for “Maximillian, Maxwell”

This nickname, popular at a time when Sam and Mack were also common choices for boys, can stand on its own, no question. Affable yet confident, it’s a stylish choice for parents fond of short, one-syllable names.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #164
2010: #98


Origin/meaning: English, “Hazel nut tree”

An old-style take on evocative color names—think Indigo, Sienna and Violet—this traditional choice is uniquely sophisticated and very much on the rise. It’s a serious little moniker that doesn’t lend itself to nicknames. And it boasts major super-star cred: Julia Roberts chose it as the name for her daughter

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #893
2010: #262


Origin/meaning: Irish, “Young warrior”

More popular than fellow antique O-name Oscar, this sweet choice is climbing the charts with modern parents. It has literary cache in John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany and a pop culture namesake in cute actor Owen Wilson.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #145
2010: #47


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Star”

This name (like close cousin uber-popular Ella, ranked 265 in 2000 and 13 in 2010) has seen a huge surge in popularity in the last decade. Stella manages to balance refinement and sass, and has a talented namesake in British designer Stella McCartney. The Streetcar Named Desire reference feels old and stale; this name is back in a fun, contemporary way with parents who want to give a stylish nod to their own little “star.” Actor Matt Damon chose it for his daughter.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #656
2010: #85


Origin/meaning: Latin, “Olive tree”

Ollie had an old-guy “gramps” ring to it for decades, but in its full form, it’s back in a big way with parents who want a sweet retro name choice for their son. Dickens’ Oliver Twist gives it major literary clout; it’s classic, with a sensitive, bookish vibe.

Popularity in the last decade:

2000: #305
2010: #88