To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the naming of babies is a difficult matter; it isn't just one of your holiday games. It's such an important decision that even school-aged kids think about what to call their future children (I know I did). So many factors enter into the choice: Traditional or trendy? Gender-specific or gender-neutral? How does it sound with your last name? Will you be using a nickname? Is it a vintage name, and if so, is it one of the ones that's back in vogue? Or is it a forgotten but beautiful baby name that will make your friends squeal, "How cool is that?!"
If you're thinking of going old-school for your new baby — as in really, reeeeeally old-school — you can have a great time looking through the Bible, checking out volumes of mythology, Shakespeare, and Chaucer from the library, or exploring the Social Security Administration's baby name archive, where you can find the most popular names of each decade from the 1800s on up.
Choosing a long-lost name may not be for everyone, especially if you already have children with more common names (Mason, Mia, and Persephone would be a bit of an odd mix). But if you're expecting your first child, or if your older children's names have an old-fashioned flair, then you might consider some of these lovely but little-used options:
Do you visit renaissance fairs every year and know the score of Camelot by heart? Then put this name on your list. A Welsh name meaning "May hawk," according to Nameberry, it's also the name of King Arthur's nephew, who became one of the knights of the Round Table.
Thaddeus, or Jude, was one of the biblical 12 Apostles. Not much is known about him, according to Bibleinfo, but he was a devoted missionary whose symbol is a ship. The name itself means "heart" in Aramaic, and it sounds just old enough to be new again. Nicknames Thad and Tad are cute, too.
Harry Potter fans will recognize this as the first name of Professor McGonagall, the brave Transfiguration teacher and head of Gryffindor House. But the name is generations older than Hogwarts; per BabyCenter, Minerva was the Greek goddess of wisdom.
Another awesome ancient Greek name, Zenobia means "force of Zeus," per Nameberry, and was the name of a 3rd-century queen who ruled the Roman Empire. For such a powerful name, it's not used much — it was far down the popularity charts even as far back as 1909. So it's time we saw some more Zenobias in the nursery.
Popular five centuries ago, Prudence is slowly crawling back from obscurity, according to The Bump. It's perfect for a Beatles fan ("Dear Prudence"), and the fact that it means "caution" might appeal to you if you're worried about those adventurous terrible twos.
From the German for "powerful advice," Reynard is also associated with old fairy tales about a clever fox, according to Nameberry. It's a strong, fresh-sounding name that deserves a comeback.
The name of an Italian city, according to TheBump, Ravenna sounds ultra-romantic and a little less blunt than Raven. It would also be a terrific pairing with Reynard if you're expecting boy-girl twins.
Ever since The Little Mermaid came out, Ursula has been tainted with a bad-girl rep, which is a pity. It's a sweet name (from the Latin for "female bear," according to BabyCenter), and Shakespeare used it long before Disney did, in Much Ado About Nothing.
If you like the sound of Aiden, but not its popularity (it was #17 on the SSA list last year), this would be an ideal compromise. It comes from the Old English for "oak tree," so it connotes strength, and if you have older children with botanical names like Willow or Sage, so much the better.
While other "occupational" surnames like Taylor, Cooper, Mason, and Sawyer have enjoyed a good run as millennial first names, Fletcher only holds the #1264 spot on The Bump. It's hard to understand why, since it has a cool meaning (it's from the Middle English for "arrow-maker") and a brisk, timeless sound.
A perfect choice if you find Rose or Rosie a little too overused. Surprisingly, this name has nothing to do with flowers; according to The Bump, it's from the German for "horse protector."
You can't get much more classic — or more noble — than a name that belonged both to the founder of Judaism and to the president known as The Great Emancipator. Meaning "father of a multitude," according to BabyCenter, Abraham can be shortened to Abe, Abie, or Bram, or left on its own for a name that's still unique enough to stand out on the playground.
If you love Biblical girls' names but don't want to go with an obvious one like Sarah or Rachel, try this one out for size. From the Hebrew for "inheritance," according to Nameberry, Jerusha has a soft, pretty sound and goes nicely with a short middle name like Ann or Lee.
This Spanish name is positively musical on the lips, and its meaning (per BabyCenter, it means "eager" or "noble") is equally appealing. It ranked #110 back in 1880, according to the SSA, and it's about time it came back into vogue.
Almost unheard-of today, Elfreda is one of those take-you-by-surprise names that's worth a place on your list. If you're a fantasy fan, you'll love the fact that Elfreda means "elf," according to The Bump. It can be shortened to Ellie, Freddie or Elfie — but the full version is so pretty that you'll probably want to keep it intact.
As Nameberry noted, this is a beautiful option for parents who like girls' flower names, but who want something less common than Lily, Violet, or Rose. You'll also love the name's meaning; it's from the Greek for "to sparkle."