Having gone with time-honored names for my own children, I'm always interested to see how many other parents look to the past when choosing their baby names. When you look at the most popular baby names of the 1800s, it's surprising to see how many of the old standards have endured over the decades: Emily, George, Henry, Rose. What's interesting is that, according to the Social Security Administration, it was also the fashion 120 years ago to give children names that were either easily shortened to cute nicknames, or else nicknames used as given names. In 1880 alone, the SSA list for girls included Bessie, Elsie, Lillie, Mattie, Jessie, Mamie, and Fannie; hot boys' names included Dan (but not Daniel), Ollie (in addition to Oliver), Willie (separate from William), and Fred (but not Frederick).
With that in mind, when you're looking for vintage names for your new little one, you can pick either a classic name that basically has a cute nickname built-in, or skip the formality and go right to the abbreviated version. Either way, you're guaranteed to come up with a winner that will still be considered so-old-it's-new a century from now, when 22nd-century moms will be researching those quaint names their great-great-great-grandparents used back in the ancient 2010s.
Biblical or historical names are among the most likely to span the generations, and Andrew is no exception. The 34th most popular boy's name of the 1890s comes from the Greek for "man" or "warrior," explained The Bump, and was the name of one of Jesus's Apostles. Shorten it to Andy, and it becomes friendly and sweet, with Toy Story associations.
Royal names are also commonly carried on through generations. Edward, meaning "wealthy or fortunate guardian," according to Baby Name Wizard, has been used by eight British kings. Nicknames like Ned, Ted, or Eddie are just royally cute.
All the rage as a given name in the late 1800s, this nickname for Eleanor or Helen means "horn" or "sun ray," said The Bump. Nell is another irresistible choice if you're thinking along these lines.
In the 1890s, Ben as a stand-alone name was just a few steps down on the SSA list from the longer Benjamin. Another Biblical favorite, it's Hebrew for "son of the right hand," per Nameberry.
Elizabeth (Beth, Eliza)
Holding the top or near-top spot of boys' names throughout the 1800s is the ever-enduring name meaning "God is gracious." Today, according to Nameberry, Jack is just a few slots below John as a given name. And if you didn't realize that Jack is a nickname for John as Namberry explained, well, now you do.
This Latin name meaning "noble" (per The Bump) enjoyed popularity in the 1840s, according to the Galbi census site. Pat is also a good choice for parents with Irish roots who don't want to go with the super-trendy Liam or Connor.
This sweet variation on Molly made the popularity chart in the 1880s, and it still feels fresh today. Both names are nicknames for Mary, said Nameberry, and the name itself is Hebrew for "bitter."
As a name all its own, Harry was #11 in the 1890s, while its long version, the Old English Henry (meaning "head of the household"), was only a notch ahead at #10. Thanks to a certain ginger British prince, this friendly name should be seeing a revival soon.
A favorite name in the 1880s, the Hebrew name Hiram (for "son of the exalted one") has virtually fallen off the planet, but would make a "distinctive" choice now, said Nameberry. And calling a little boy Hi? Swoon.
A common choice for late 1800s girls, this Latin name meaning "maiden" is starting to come into favor again, according to The Bump. And Harry Potter fans will appreciate giving a nod to young Harry's future wife.
This Hebrew name meaning "God has given" is actually more popular now than it was back then, noted The Bump. In the late 1880s, Nathan took the 136th spot, and since 1975, it's consistently made the top 50 or higher. As a stand-alone name, Nate is another great choice.
Slightly less popular than it was a century or so ago, Rebecca, from the Hebrew for "servant of God," doesn't feel utterly outdated. And if you shorten it to Becca or Beck, or even Reb, it's even better.