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The Comeback Kids: 16 Vintage Baby Names We Want to See in 2012

In baby names, like fashion, everything old is new again. Just as the acid-wash jeans and babydoll dresses of the ’90s are “vintage” enough to be trendy again, the names of our grandparents and great-grandparents are becoming cool, too (it takes a little longer for generations, rather than jeans, to cycle through the trend machine). Names that once sounded old-fashioned, like Ella, Hazel, Henry and more, now add a nice, hip patina to a fresh baby face.

Not all of the names of the 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s are quite in vogue yet, but here are 16 we’d like to see climb the charts this year and beyond. They’re great picks for trendsetters and parents who want an old-school sound without being too mainstream with their monikers. See our picks after the jump! — Jillian Capewell

nggallery id=’114141′

  • Opal 1 of 16
    Opal
    Origin: Sanskrit; Meaning: gem
    A great pick for your precious jewel, the name Opal came into vogue during the late Victorian era, along with other gemstone monikers such as Pearl. From 1900 to 1920, this name remained among the top 100 and stuck it out in the top 500 names until 1950. This is a rock-solid pick for parents who dig the sound of today's popular name Olivia but want something more original.
    Photo source: Flickr user j3net
  • Eleanor 2 of 16
    Eleanor
    Origin: French; Meaning: foreign
    Eleanor is a name with a rich pedigree — its first recorded use is for the powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine, who lived from 1124—1204 — and later became the names of Queens in England, Austria, Sweden, and more countries. In the US, Eleanor peaked in the '30s and saw a sharp decrease in popularity until 1990, where it's been on a steady incline ever since. With cute nicknames like Ellie, Nell, or Elle, we see Eleanor going from edging out the top 200 to making the top 50 — at least!
    Photo source: Flickr user playingwithpsp
  • Beverly 3 of 16
    Beverly
    Origin: English; Meaning: dweller near the beaver stream
    If you live near a notorious Southern California zip code, the name Beverly may not conjure up images later than 1990 — yet it was a strong contender for little girls when it hit the top 20 in 1935. Beverly remained just below or well above the top 200 until the 1970s. If it still sounds a little too bingo-club for you, Everly is another option.
    Photo source: Flickr user playingwithpsp
  • Frances 4 of 16
    Frances
    Origin: English; Meaning: from France
    At the beginning of the century, Frances (or its alternative spelling for boys, Francis) was a popular choice among parents — for girls, it ranked at number 9 from 1910-1920. It dipped below the top 500 in 1992 and hasn't made a recovery since, but we're thinking with the resurgence of names like Florence, it will be a strong contender in years to come.
    Photo source: Flickr user playingwithpsp
  • Hattie 5 of 16
    Hattie
    Origin: Germanic; Meaning: home ruler
    Blame Tori Spelling for this one — she picked the name for her youngest daughter this past October, and we have a feeling we'll see a lot more Hatties crawling around in the next couple of years. It's a fun diminutive of Harriet and hasn't cracked the top 1000 since the ‘70s, making it trendy and still relatively unknown.
    Photo source: Flickr user playingwithpsp
  • Ruth 6 of 16
    Ruth
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: friend
    We're talking about a babe here — just not that Babe. Perhaps the Sultan of Swat helped out Ruth's popularity as a name from 1910—1940, where it landed in the top 20, or it could just be this short and sweet name's staying power. It's hovered in the mid-300s for the last 10 years, but we're hoping this name that once topped the charts will go through a comeback.
    Photo source: Flickr user born1945
  • Ethel 7 of 16
    Ethel
    Origin: English; Meaning: noble maiden
    You couldn't shake a stick 100 years ago without hitting an Ethel, a name that held a spot in the top 20 from 1880 to 1920. That's not the case today — perhaps because it still sounds a little musty compared to other en vogue vintage names such as Ava or Grace. This is a pick for parents who appreciate a bit of character for their little lady — singer Lily Allen just picked it for her daughter.
    Photo source: Flickr user hadesigns
  • Beatrix 8 of 16
    Beatrix
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: voyager through life
    Before you ixnay this option for your babe, consider this: there's nothing cooler than a name with an x, and your little one can have the sweet nickname Bea if you're worried it's too much of a mouthful. It's a cool alternative to too-popular names like Zoe, and a nice homage to children's book author Beatrix Potter — and not a far cry from Harry Potter's reviled Bellatrix Lestrange, if you're into that. This name cracked the top 1000 in 1883 and hasn't been seen on top lists since, so you can bet on having the only Beatrix on the block.
    Photo source: Flickr user playingwithpsp
  • Leland 9 of 16
    Leland
    Origin: English; Meaning: meadow land
    Leland is a solid alternative to trendier names like Declan or Jayden without being too overused. This name was a common pick from the late 1800s through the 1950s, then mostly dropped off. Brendan Fraser picked this name for his youngest son in 2006, perhaps helping it jump from number #608 in 2005 to #325 in 2010.
    Photo source: Flickr user walkadog
  • Ellis 10 of 16
    Ellis
    Origin: Welsh; Meaning: benevolent
    If you like the sound of Elijah, Elias, or Ethan but are searching for a less common moniker, Ellis might be it. This name nearly dropped off the top 1000 list in 2001 and has been on a slight incline since — we think its old-school appeal and relative scarcity will make this a good bet in the years to come.
    Photo source: Flickr user dlisbona
  • Ira 11 of 16
    Ira
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: watchful one
    It's been a while since this unisex name was in vogue, but we think it's due for a second go — it could be the perfect complement to longer middle or last names, and a nice alternative to the more popular Noah.
    Photo source: Flickr user reggiebibbs
  • Otto 12 of 16
    Otto
    Origin: German; Meaning: wealthy
    Oh, Otto! For parents who like the name and distinctive O initial of Oscar or Oliver, this name might be a contender. Otto was an attractive pick in the late 1800s, but fell off the top 1000 during the 1970s. We think this palindrome will start going on potential-name lists in the coming year — it's perfect for parents who dig a relatively unknown, vintage name.
    Photo source: Flickr user yaronimus
  • Amos 13 of 16
    Amos
    Origin: Hebrew; Meaning: carried out by God
    Whether this baby's namesake is singer Amos Lee or Famous Amos' chocolate chip cookies, this is a short, sweet name similar to Arlo or Aiden. It ranked at #120 in the late 1800s and hasn't since hit popularity of that magnitude since, hovering around #1000 in recent years.
    Photo source: Flickr user partain_jimmy
  • Claude 14 of 16
    Claude
    Origin: French; Meaning: lame
    Ignore the slightly downer meaning of this name and focus on the most famous Claude there is: Mr. Monet. There's no doubt this old-school name will make an impression with parents in the coming years — but if you aren't sold, try Cedric or Carter.
    Photo source: Flickr user jinterwas
  • Felix 15 of 16
    Felix
    Origin: Latin; Meaning: happy, lucky
    Who's luckier (and, ahem, more exhausted) than parents with a new baby to name? This name has held steady around the 400s for the last 30 years, but we think the cool X in the name (similar to Dexter or Xander) might push it up the ranks during the next decade.
    Photo source: Flickr user jinterwas
  • Earl 16 of 16
    Earl
    Origin: English; Meaning: aristocratic title
    Perhaps this name's aristocratic flair made it a hit during the late 1800s, where it consistently ranked among the top 30 names in the country. Over the years, Earl saw a decline and eventually fell off the top 1000 list in 2007, but we're hoping it gets the stately comeback it deserves.
    Photo source: Flickr user califrayray

Jump to a name:

OpalEleanorBeverlyFrancesHattieRuthEthelBeatrix

LelandEllisIraOttoAmosClaudeFelixEarl

 

Looking for our 2013 update? Click here for 10 more vintage baby names with retro flair!

 

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