What makes a baby name an "old lady" name can differ between parents-to-be, but there's one key similarity: These
"old lady" baby names are all lovely in their own special ways, and you could argue that by eschewing painfully hip monikers like Meadow and Logan, you're choosing something as classic and timeless as a little black dress. Still, there's no denying that these names have a whiff of a secondhand store, and to that end, they're perfect for trying to convince your unsuspecting partner.
If your baby name sounds like it once belonged to a suffragette, it might be a sassy old lady name. Likewise if it sounds like it might have adorned a debutante in the antebellum South. Truthfully, it's hard to say why an 1800s name like Elizabeth is still popular today, while Ida has faded like yellow wallpaper, but such is life.
Any baby can grow into any name, and some of the most vibrant women I know have names that absolutely qualify for old lady-dom. In fact, I chose an old lady name for my own baby because it also happened to be my great-aunt's name. While this list is compiled with love, I totally understand if you use it to troll your partner.
Now, let the names begin.
1 Flora Bertil Persson/Stone/Getty Images
Flora was a well-liked name way back in the 1800s. It was the name of the Roman goddess of eternal youth and means “flower.” What’s not to like about a name that reminds you of a beautiful plant?
Margaret is apparently making a comeback — and we understand why! It’s a beautiful name meaning “pearl” that has been a popular choice for centuries. A fun nickname used to be Peggy, like
The Mod Squad star Peggy Lipton. More modern nicknames are Maggie, Meg, Margo or Rhett. 3 Rosemary
Rosemary is not only an herb native to the Mediterranean, but also a beautiful name that was most popular from the ‘20s to the ‘50s. It means “dew of the sea” and can be easily broken down into nicknames like Rose, Rosie, Mary, or Ro.
Glynnis has Gaelic and Welsh origins, meaning “valley,” “fair,” and “good.” Parents loved this name in the late 1950s, and although it has made small comebacks, it’s definitely unique. Nickname ideas: Glynn, Lynn, or Linny.
Meaning “gift of God,” the name Dorothy was sported by many notable women throughout the 1900s. Dorothy from
The Wizard of Oz is probably the most notable, but there’s also Dorothy Day and Dorothy Dandridge. Dorothea could be a good alternative, especially for Swifties. 6 Kathleen
Kathleen peaked as a popular name from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, and has been on the downward trend ever since. JFK’s sister Kathleen went by Kick — can you name a more unique nickname than that?
7 Martha Martha Reeves, of Martha & the Vandellas, gave some spunk to the name Motown/EMI-Hayes Archives
Martha was the first name of the very first first lady. Obviously, no name that reminds people of the Revolutionary War could possibly be considered hip, but maybe there's some retro appeal? I think it has a very sweet, wholesome feel.
Ida means "prosperous," but the name itself sounds more old-fashioned than monied. Short, quirky names are definitely on the rise, and Ida is the kind of moniker that can work with any kind of surname. I love how spunky it sounds, and that it can carry a baby through toddlerhood to adulthood.
Did you know that Bertha is both a
baby boy and baby girl's name? I know, it sounds super interesting. While 'Bertha' itself might be out, unisex baby names are definitely in, so this is a cool one to keep in your back pocket. It's also pretty unique these days. 10 Dora
Dora the Explorer, this name still sounds like something out of a black-and-white movie to me — as does its cousin, Dorothy. This name means "gift of God," which is pretty perfect. It's another short, sweet name, and is just darling for your own little vintage baby. 11 Ursula
When you hear the name Ursula, do you think of the octopus villain from
The Little Mermaid? It actually means "little bear," so consider it if you love a nature-feel. 12 Alice
In the early 1900s, Alice was one of the most popular baby names and
was consistently in the top 10 list of names for girls in the U.S., according to the Social Security Administration. It's made a huge comeback lately and has been in the top 100 the last six years, but it still has definite "old lady" vibes. 13 Esther
With Biblical roots, Esther is actually a beautiful name. But that doesn't keep it from sounding like it belongs to another age. Esther means "star" in Persian.
The name Minnie is an adorable nickname for Guillermina, Maximina, Dominica, Minerva, Clementine, and Wilhelmina — all of which make great old lady names in and of themselves. This is the chance to give your baby a super formal name, but call her Minnie or Min while she's little.
Popular in the 1900s, Eugenia is now a name fit for a golden girl. That's not a bad thing, of course, but think how it will sound on the playground — and of the face your best friend will make when it tops your list. The name also means "wellborn" — and if there's a more old-fashioned value, I can't think of one.
There's something a little antique about baby girls' names based on male names. (Alberta is the feminine form of Albert.) Turns out, there are tons of such names like Wilhemina for William, Matilda for Matthew, and Marcella for Mark.
Tabitha is a sweet, pretty name that means beauty and grace, and there's no denying the name is graceful. If you really want to find a great nickname for Tabitha, there's also Tabby and Tab — which you could count as extra vintage since it's a retro soda. There's no escaping it — Tabitha is an old lady name.
To me, this name is an old lady name because it contains instructions — Constance is supposed to be constant and loyal, right? These days, constancy isn't so much of a value as creativity and ingenuity, which is why Constance lands firmly in the old lady pile. But there's always Connie if you want something less severe-sounding.
19 Prudence Prudence Farrow Bruns was the inspiration for The Beatles song “Dear Prudence” Parade.com
This one is super old sounding. Like Constance, the name Prudence contains a personality description. A kid named Prudence (Pru or Prue for short?) is supposed to be prudent — or careful and judicious. But in this age of start-ups and gig economy living, a name like Risky might make more sense.
The name Philomena comes from a Greek word meaning "loved." These days, it's a very rare name, and unlike most
popular baby girl names, it's so darn long. Even the nicknames derived from Philomena sound like old lady names: Meena, Mennie, Minnie. I mean, this one holds a lot of vintage charm if you think about it. 21 Edna
The roots of the name Edna are deep, even Biblical. Apparently Edna means "delight," and it's related to the Garden of Eden. Sadly, though, my first thought when I hear this name is of Edna Crabapple, Bart's crabby elementary-school teacher from
The Simpsons. So, old lady name for sure. But you can make Edna cute again. 22 Bernadette
Bernadette means "strong, brave, bear," but to me, it also means disco balls and the polyester 1970s — and that's what makes it an old lady name. I really do kind of love it though, and there are some cute nicknames like Bernie that can make this moniker even sweeter.
Agatha has its roots in a Greek word meaning "good, honorable," but the specter of Agatha Christie — and her famous old lady protagonist, Miss Marple — looms large over the name today. Whether you call her Aggie or Ags, this is a really darling one that I think will stay unique for some time.
Myrtle is actually a
horticultural baby name meaning “tree” or “victory.” Rhyming with 'turtle,' the name Myrtle doesn't exactly conjure the zip and vigor of our fast-paced times, but it is really sweet and lovely. When's the last time you ever actually heard of a Myrtle? 25 Winifred
Winnifred is an anglicized version of the Welsh name Gwenfrewi, making it a very, very old lady name. I actually knew a Winnifred who called herself Freddie for short, proving you can freshen up this name if you want. Winnie is also a super cute option.
Whether you look to your sassy old nan, pop culture icons, or the history books, these old lady names inspired by sassy heroines, you and/or your partner might not initially take these names into serious consideration, but who knows, stranger things have happened.
This article was originally published on
June 1, 2018