Ada is an old lady name that's simple enough to appeal to the modernist, who may also be inspired by namesake Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron and the first female "computer programmer." Fearing that Ava is being overused? Consider Ada.
There's so much to love about Beatrice. It has an uplifting meaning (either "blessing" or "she who brings happiness"), a simple and adorable nickname in Bea, and a long royal and literary history, from Shakespeare to Dante's Divine Comedy.
Cordelia was the loving if tragic daughter in Shakespeare's King Lear. Meaning "heart" or "daughter of the sea," it can be shortened to Cora or Delia, both lovely. Another—even more old-fashioned sounding is cousin Cornelia—both share the popular "elia" ending.
The floral Flora remains less well used but is no less likable than many of her old lady name sisters. The name of the Roman goddess of flowers makes a fresher choice than Lily, Rose, or other flowery sisters (and the related Florence is preparing for a comeback too).
While Helen is an old lady name that still feels, well, old ladyish, we think it's worth another look by adventurous parents. The number two name a century ago, its antecedents includes the legendary Helen of Troy, who was the Angelina Jolie of her day. Adding a final "a," as in Helena, makes it more feminine.
Americans may shy away from Imogen because they're not quite sure how to pronounce it (think short vowels), but we love this Shakespearean name that means "beloved child." Imogen Cunningham was a pioneering photographer who specialized in botanical and nude subjects.
Josephine peaked in 1918, but has been making a major comeback of late, with some colorful namesakes including Napoleon's Empress, Jo in Little Women, and Josephine Baker, the African-American singer and dancer who was a sensation in 1920s Paris and became an international humanitarian. We're also crazy about short forms Jo and Josie.
Leonora is one of several similar names fashionable in Europe and slowly making its way to stylishness in the US. Lilting and lovely, it's got far more heft than today's groovy L names like Lola and Lila. Original a shortening of Eleonora, it has the distinction of playing leading roles in three operas.
An almost forgotten great-grandma nickname name of the past, Lottie—once short for Charlotte—conjures up gold lockets and lace doilies. It's one of a whole sorority of such names, including Hattie, Nellie, Letty, Tillie, and Milly. We'd vote for Milly over Miley.
Like Helen, Margaret is another old lady name that hasn't quite transcended its old ladyishness. At once rich and strong, it's got a long royal history and almost as long a list of nicknames, from the classic Meg and Margo to the stylish Mamie and Maisie. Margaret Bourke-White was one of the greatest American photographers.
Pearl is the most stylish of the gem names, back after a long sleep, as simple and lustrous as the jewel it's derived from. Vermeer's famous painting Girl with the Pearl Earring, subject of a bestselling novel and movie, may have helped propel the name back into stylishness. Maya Rudolph and Paul Thomas Anderson named their little girl Pearl Bailey.
The sweet but colorful Violet is the Pearl of flower names, gentle and old-fashioned, but it seemed almost impossibly quirky until Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck chose it for their first daughter. No longer a shrinking violet, it is now shooting up the popularity charts. If it's not old lady enough for you, try Viola.
Winifred, which completely dropped off the Top 1000 radar in 1965 and has barely been heard from since, may be the most old ladyish of our favorite old lady names, but who can resist the winning nickname Winnie? Or the more unisex Freddie? Well-known Willies include Mrs. Mandela, Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, Fred from the Buffy spinoff Angel, and, of course, Winnie the Pooh.