Classic Baby Names
Here are 14 gorgeous under-the-radar choices for girls:
- Antonia: The lovely Antonia has plummeted straight off the
popularity charts over the past 15 years, which is good news if you're
looking for a strong classic that you won't hear every day. A royal name
that originated as a feminization of Anthony, Antonia was immortalized
in literature as the title character of Willa Cather's novel "My
Antonia." Antonia is a classy choice, but short forms Tonia and Toni
take the name downmarket. Stick with the full form.
- Aurelia: The golden Aurelia was a Roman name borne most famously by
Julius Caesar's mother. In more modern times, it was the name of poet
Sylvia Plath's mother. We see Aurelia rising again after a half-century
slumber along with other names from ancient Rome. Sister name Aurora is
already in the Top 200.
- Clementine: It's hard to believe that indie darling Clementine is
not in the U.S. Top 1000, but she's been off the list since the early
1950s, a statistic we see changing one year soon thanks to her choice by
several high-profile celebrity parents including Ethan Hawke and Rachel
Griffiths. Popular in France and Britain, Clementine is the feminine
form of the Latin Clement which means mild or merciful and was the name
of 14 popes.
- Cordelia: Cordelia is one of the most lovely of Shakespearean
names, the name of King Lear's sympathetic daughter based on a legendary
Queen of the Britons whose name was also spelled Cordellia. A name
whose roots are given as both Latin and Celtic that may mean heart or
daughter of the sea, Cordelia has been sliding down the U.S. charts
since 1880, when it was close to Number 200, vanishing from the Top 1000
six decades ago. Cordelia is a proper-sounding long form with a range
of friendly nicknames, from Cora to Delia to Lia to the tomboyish Cory.
- Harriet: To some, Harriet may be the quintessential old lady name,
but we see it as cute and lively, with adorable nicknames such as Hattie
and Etta. Harriet is also attached to a range of worthy heroines, from
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" author Harriet Beecher Stowe to abolitionist Harriet
Tubman, from the vanished heroine of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" to
"Harriet the Spy."
- India: India barely misses the Top 1000 - it stands at No. 1001 -
so it may not lie outside the magic circle for long, though this lovely
place-name has been heading straight downhill for the past decade. Movie
mogul Harvey Weinstein and designer wife Georgina Chapman have a
newborn daughter India, as does "Avenger" star Chris Hemsworth, so that
celebrity attention may nudge it upward again. The India of "Gone with
the Wind" was Ashley Wilkes' sister and Scarlett O'Hara's frenemy.
- Louisa: Louisa may be the perfect choice for a bookish child who
admires Louisa May Alcott, the author of "Little Women," and is also
pleased by the connection to namesake characters in both Charles Dickens
and Jane Austen. Louisa and sister name Louise have for centuries
traded places as style favorites, with Louise claiming far more recent
popularity: It was in the Top 100 for the entire first half of the 20th
century. But both are out of the Top 1000 now and it's Louisa that has
more fans: 194 girls received the name in 2011, versus 123 for Louise.
Lou and Lulu are its stylish nicknames.
- Lucinda: Lucinda, which feels almost like a midcentury smoosh
between Lucy and Linda, has more historic heft as a name than you might
guess: It was invented as an elaboration of Lucia in 1605 by Cervantes
for the great classic novel "Don Quixote." How cool and impressive a
pedigree is that? Popular in the 19th century and again in the middle of
the last century, Lucinda has dropped from sight except among
cognoscenti who know it's a well-seasoned long form with a healthy
roster of fashionable short forms, from Lu to Lucy to Lucia to Cinda to
- Mabel: Mabel still sounds like the name of a saucy silent screen
star, a la Mabel Normand, but she's definitely ready for her comeback
along with style cousins Matilda and Sadie. Mabel is originally a short
form of Amabel, an older name than Annabel. Mab was a fairy queen in a
- Marcella: A more outre choice than some of the other classic girls'
names here, Marcella is rooted in the ancient Roman family name
Marcellus or Marcus, which relates to Mars, the god of war. "Don
Quixote's" Marcela was the most beautiful woman in the world. And the
classic Marcella is shaking out her marcel waves and is ready for a new
- Margo: Margo and Margot, sound-alike short forms of Margaret which
means "pearl," both lie outside the Top 1000 but are being revived by
hip parents who love the "o" ending and the name's traditional-modern
crossover feel. Two classic movie characters bore the name: Bette Davis'
iconic Margo Channing in "All About Eve" and Grace Kelly's Margot in
"Dial M for Murder."
- Marian: This medieval variation of Mary, made famous by "Robin
Hood's" Maid Marian and "The Music Man's" Marian the Librarian, has
received a huge modern dose of sex appeal by French actress Marion
Cotillard. Both the Marion and Marian spellings lie outside the Top
1000. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick named one of their
small twin daughters Marion.
- Mercy: Mercy is a Puritan virtue name that fell out of the U.S. Top
1000 way back in 1889 and has only reemerged recently thanks to its
choice by Madonna for her young adopted daughter. While Mercy feels more
religious than secular sisters Hope and Charity, a Dickens character
named Mercy was nicknamed Merry, which definitely gives it a different
- Susannah: This Biblical girls' name is another classic with two
perfectly proper spellings - Susanna and Susannah - both outside the Top
1000. Susannah was the Old Testament heroine of the story of Daniel and
the Elders, and Susanna is mentioned in a group of myrrh-bearing women
in the New Testament. It derives from the Hebrew Shoshana, which means
lily and which is receiving some new attention of its own thanks to the
Zosia Mamet character on Girls. The most stylish name today in the Susan
family, a fashionable short form would be Sanna, not Susie or Sue.
Nameberry is a baby-naming site produced by Pamela Redmond Satran and
Linda Rosenkrantz, co-authors of 10 bestselling baby name guides,
including the newest, "Beyond Ave and Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to
Naming Your Baby." See more at http://nameberry.com
Image: Getty Images
Classic Baby Names