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18 Old-Fashioned Baby Names That Are So Retro, It's Like They're Totally New Again


When today's parents pore over the baby-naming books and websites, odds are they're getting more of their inspiration from their great-grandparents than from popular TV shows, locations, or plant life. Old-fashioned baby names are still all the rage, and there are so many terrific choices out there, you could pick one and feel fairly confident that your child won't be one of a dozen others with the same name in school.

I have friends who named their daughters Adeline, Ava, and Bess back in the decades when hospital nursery wings were filled with Madisons, Ashleys, and Briannas. At the time, my friends probably got more than their share of raised eyebrows for their name choices; now, they'd be more likely to hear, "Oh, I have an Ava, too, and so does my cousin." Interestingly, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), boys' names have been more constant over the years, with traditional names such as Michael, Matthew, and Christopher remaining in the top 10 for decades at a time. Still, in recent years, more antique choices have begun to edge up the list, such as Abraham and Maximus.

Certain older names are so popular now that you've no doubt either got them on your list, or else rejected them as being too much of a been-there-done-that trend (sorry, Emma, Jacob, Olivia, and Noah). Others, though, are either just emerging or ripe for a revival. Here are my picks; do any of them resonate with you?

1. Ida

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A name derived from the English for "prosperous," according to BabyCenter, Ida might appeal to you if you recall that there was a famous journalist and civil rights leader named Ida B. Wells who led a movement against lynching in the late 1800s.

2. Wallace

This sturdy name comes from the French for "Welshman," explained The Bump. The site also reports that the name has been steadily rising in popularity since its slump in the earlier part of this decade.

3. Lula

This playful name is actually a nickname for any name beginning with the "lu" sound, according to Nameberry. It's just barely cracked the site's top 500 baby girl names, but it may be on the rise, especially since Lula was the #43 name in the 1880s, per the SSA.

4. Bernard


If you love your stuffed teddy, you'll positively adore having a baby boy whose name means "strong, brave bear," according to Mother & Baby.

5. Vera

Three reasons to love this name: 1. It was a red-hot favorite at the turn of the century. 2. It's a Slavic name meaning "faith," as reported by Mother & Baby. 3. It's also the name of a fabulous fashion designer, so naturally, you'll want to have some Vera Wang baby outfits in your nursery for your little Vera.

6. Dashiell


This French name meaning "page boy" (per Mother & Baby) sounds infinitely cooler when you realize that it's not only the name of famous detective writer Dashiell Hammett, but also the given name of The Incredibles' super-speedy son, Dash.

7. Tillie

If the ultra-vintage name Matilda seems too stern for you (it means "mighty in battle," per The Bump), try this nickname on for size. It's friendly and fun, and not yet so common that you'd be accused of being unoriginal in your choice of names.

8. Arthur

Devoted royalty-watchers (of whom there are many) will love the romance of a name that not only recalls the glory of Camelot, but that has also been given as a middle name to three generations of current royals: Prince Charles, Prince William, and little Prince Louis (as confirmed by Good Housekeeping).

9. Wanda

Polish parents-to-be might choose this name because it honors a legendary princess of Poland who sacrificed her life for the sake of her country. Comic book and cosplay fans know this name best as the real name of Avengers heroine Scarlet Witch.

10. Josiah

Biblical names have been used by parents over the centuries since... well, since the Bible was written. Though some names have never gone out of style (Michael, James, Noah, and Joshua come to mind), others have faded to near-obscurity (Hepzibah and Jabez, anyone?). This name falls right in the middle. Its meaning is powerful ("fire of the Lord," per BabyCenter), it sounds good, and it's popular without being too overused.

11. Lydia

Derived from the name of a Greek city, Lydia is a respectable #85 on Nameberry's popularity list for its "history and haunting quality." Literature fans will also appreciate it as being the name of one of the Bennett sisters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

12. Ezra

This Hebrew name meaning "helper" is actually far more popular now than at any time in the last 125 years, according to The Bump. Back in 1880, it was a mere #511 on the list; by 2016, it had zoomed to the #152 spot.

13. Martha

From the Aramaic for "lady," per Nameberry, this name remained in the top 50 on the SSA's list right up to the 1960s, when it began falling out of favor. It's starting to see a revival, and parents who appreciate its practical, homey sound are choosing it for their daughters again.

14. Kirk

This German name meaning "church" (as explained by Mother & Baby) has long been associated with the actors Kirk Douglas and Kirk Cameron. Its short-but-strong sound has a timeless appeal.

15. Roxie


Roxie is a common nickname for Roxanne, which comes from the Persian for "dawn," explained BabyCenter. Its sassy retro sound and association with the hit musical Chicago makes it worthy of a revival.

16. Edison

If Edward is too vintage-trendy for your taste, you could go with this variation that means "son of Edward," per The Bump. Science fans will appreciate its "bright" association with a certain inventor.

17. Georgette

Since the name George seems poised to make a comeback, thanks to Prince William and Duchess Kate, it's time the feminine version of the name did the same. Variations include Georgia, Georgene, and Georgie.

18. Mitchell

If you like the name Michael but prefer something less common, try this English-derived version, which, like the original, means "Who is like God," explained Nameberry. It's zigzagged in and out of popularity for the last century or so, and is due for an upswing again.