Dated Names Worth A Second Look

Most names that become popular have a decade or two in the spotlight, then fade. They’re labeled “dated” and dumped for more current picks. Some return generations later, others remain obscure. But dated names have a lot to offer. Because they were once popular, they’re generally easy to pronounce and spell. They may not be fashionable, but few would call them “weird.” They can be great picks for parents who want something not too common and not too rare. I think a lot of the dated names below are worth consideration:

Cynthia- With ancient Greek roots and a pretty, feminine sound, it’s not surprising that so many parents were drawn to this name in the 50’s and 60’s. Cindy may be impossibly grandma-ish nowadays, but the nickname Thia could really freshen up this classic.

Nicole- Nic- names in general were huge in the 80s, and Nicole had a great run in the top 20 from 1972-1995. Today’s parents likely grew up with several Nicoles, so the name has understandably fallen out of favor. But I like Nicole. Its sound is very unusual; two-syllable names usually stress the first syllable, and those that don’t usually end in -elle or -ette (a la Danielle and Colette). Nicole’s structure and ending are unique, which I think gives the name a bit more staying power than other 80’s favorites.

Teresa- Tessa, traditionally a nickname for Teresa, is hot, but the original form lags behind. Theresa has dropped out of the top 1000 and the h-less spelling is hanging on at #667. Teresa is a wonderfully cross-cultural name with an abundance of nickname options, including Reese, Rey, Resa, Teri, Tess, Tracy, and Tea.

Shirley- Two syllable names ending in -ley are hot for boys and positively blazing for girls. But unlike Kylie and Harley, Shirley seems vintage. It’s got a whiff of grandma-ness, but Shirley Temple lent her name an eternally cute image. Most of the current -ley names seem like modern inventions, but Shirley feels weightier. In a classroom with Kaylee, Riley, Hadley, Bentley, Brynley, and Ainsley, Shirley would simultaneously fit in and stand out.

Beverly- Like Shirley, Beverly is a vintage name with a current sound. It’s got the trendy -v in the middle (like popular picks Ava and Olivia) and a 3-syllable long e-ending structure (like Natalie and Emily). Beverly is particularly close to trendy names Avery and Everly, and that trendy sound makes it seem ripe for a comeback. Because it was most popular in the 1930’s, it doesn’t quite pass the hundred year rule, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it back in the top 1000 ten years from now.

Brenda- Like Cynthia, Brenda was most popular in the 50’s. It was later eclipsed by the similar sounding Brenna and Brianna, though all three are falling now. That’s too bad, because Brenda has a lot going for it. It’s got a super strong meaning (“sword”) and could be a route to nicknames Bri, Bren, or Brynn.

Timothy- I debated putting Timothy on the list. It’s not terribly dated, it’s a definite classic, and it still ranks in the top 200. But I included it because it’s decidedly out of fashion, having fallen almost every year since 1988. I think a lot of the names here could be freshened up with nicknames, and Timothy is no exception- Timo could be a fun, interesting nickname alternative to the tired Tim and Timmy.

Gregory- Like Timothy, Gregory is a classic. But it’s very much falling out of favor, slowly trending downward since the 70s. It currently sits at #346, the lowest it’s been since the 30s. That’s surprising given that Grayson, Grey, Greer, and other soundalikes are trendy. Gregory could make an excellent, classic route to the thoroughly modern nicknames Grey and Greyer.

Kenneth- Kenneth is as much a Gaelic heritage pick as Aidan or Connor, but it’s a bit less expected. It’s got a great meaning- “born of fire”- and still ranks in the 200s, not rare enough to really qualify as “weird.”

Dennis- Dennis is related to Dionysius, the Greek god of wine, dancing, and revelry (or, more succinctly, partying). Because there are so many famous bearers- Quaid, Rodman, Leary, and the Menace, to name a few- Dennis is familiar. But it’s rather uncommon, only about as popular as Kobe or Darius.

Alan- Like Gregory and Timothy, this name is actually fairly common. It ranks in the top 1000 in three separate spellings: Alan, Allan, and Allen. But because all three spellings ranked much higher in the 40s and 50s and then dropped, Alan seems like a mid-century pick. It has a very popular structure for boy’s names-2 syllables with an -n ending- so I don’t think it seems at all out of place in a  classroom of Aidans and Kellans.

2 thoughts on “Dated Names Worth A Second Look

  1. When I saw the title, Theresa immediately jumped to mind. It’s been a favorite of mine for years but I kept having boys though I do have a God daughter with the name.

    Another possibility for this list is Donna.


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