The Ivy League, like every subculture, has its own unique naming trends: boys with British last-as-first names and girls sporting the classics are big winners among a certain breed of American academies.
Barely in the top 1,000 in the early 1990s, Avery shot up to #13 in 2012. Originally a last-turned-first name for boys, Avery now offers a unisex option that steers away from the strict classics with a fresh sound, yet still comes off as urbane.
In the top 100 since 1989, Blake has climbed in recent years to #71. English poet William Blake lends literary namesake cred to Blake, yet the name still sounds fresh and fun, which perhaps explains its popularity. These days, it's even being used as a girl's name—worth considering for those looking for something classic but decidedly "cooler" than Elizabeth or Mary.
Another popular boy's name with an "on/en" ending, Colton's a solid top-100 pick, at #65. The moniker boasts an old-English sound but also comes off as playful and masculine; it's preppy without being pretentious.
At #215 and climbing in the States, Graham, has been popular in England and Scotland for over half a century. Backed by literary namesake Graham Greene, and a musical one in Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash), this moniker feels polished but accessible. Graham is cute on a little boy, and grows up just as well.
Classic, royal, literary and ever-popular, East Coast campuses are crawling with Katherines and Kates. Still, the name retains its long-lasting charm. Hollywood actress Katherine Hepburn makes for the perfect Ivy League-esque namesake; raised by wealthy parents in Connecticut, she attended Bryn Mawr and went on to play sophisticated-yet-relatable leading-lady roles.
A classic English name since the 11th century, many queens have borne the name Margaret, as have countless Ivy League grads — it's often handed down as a family name in the US. Margaret is decidedly East Coast Classic, but not overly Old Lady, and, despite its longevity, comes off today as somewhat unexpected (though indisputably solid) on a little girl. Nickname options abound—choose from Maggie, Molly, and more.
Another British last-turned-first name, Preston has risen in popularity— appearing on characters in shows like The Wire and Grey's Anatomy — since Britney Spears chose it for her son in 2005. And although Britney's image is, well, several steps away from East Coast prep, the name's 'ton' ending and British surname past give it a decidedly upscale, old-school sound.
Another common English surname, Porter's been on a steady climb since the late 90s, landing at #430 in 2012. Particularly popular among the yuppie set, Porter also has a down-to-Earth occupational meaning, denoting a "gatekeeper" or "someone who carries things."
Sarah, is so widely used (and has been for so long — it's an Old Testament name) that it can suit just about any personality, from a Palin to a Silverman, and everyone in between. A classic name, Sarahs rival Kates for ubiquity on Ivy League campuses, and has yet to feel overused. Sarah, which sounds pretty without being precious, is sure to stick around.
Originally Scandinavian, Thurston's also a longstanding British and Irish last name. As a first name, it has a distinguished feel along the lines of Clayton or Preston. The name has enough pop culture clout, however, to keep it from veering toward "too upper crust;" Thurston Howell III was a (millionaire) Gilligan's Island character, and Thurston Moore hails from the emblematic indy rock band Sonic Youth. We think Thurston's soft, masculine sound gives it versatility and staying power; from the playroom to the boardroom and beyond, Thurston fits the bill.
Victoria, at #28, is as well-loved, long-lived and well-bred as the British Queen who made the name famous. Meaning "victory," it's a strong, refined girl's name that's grown-up enough for a woman. More casual-sounding nickname choices include Tori and Vicky.