Should we choose names for our children that will sound cute right now, or names that will sound cute 20 years from now?
I was named Emily in 1981; my parents caught it on the upswing. Nationally, it was ranked #29 the year I was born. However, it didn’t become common in my state until a few years later — the only other Emily I knew was a friend’s younger sister.
Of course, now it has climbed to #1, a spot it has held for the last 12 years. Looking at it one way, it’s nice to have a name that people still like 27 years later. Despite its commonness, I still get compliments on it, and lots of people say it is one of their favorite names. Another advantage to its current popularity is that my name will be more dated to my children’s generation than to mine. I like to think that will always make me seem a bit younger.
It can be hard to predict future name popularity accurately. We don’t know, of course, what movie character will give us the next Madison or what starbaby will become the next Ava. But there are some things we can predict. Since names tend to become popular in approximately 100-year-cycles, the names of our great-grandparents’ generation often appeal for our children.
If you want to be a trendsetter, instead of turning to the names of 100 years ago, consider looking only 60-70 years back and choosing one of these ahead-of-the-curve names. They’re not quite fashionable yet, but in 20 years, there’s a good chance they’ll sound cute and current. Of course, since your child will also have to wear the name now, I’ve carefully selected the names on this list to be ones that could still appeal now, though they might be surprising choices for a baby.
Try to get past the motherly/grandmotherly feel of these names. Picture them on a cute little girl with pigtails. See, they work, don’t they?
- Diana, Cynthia — Classic moon goddess choices that won’t stay out for long; they’re insanely pretty
- Sylvia — An appealing, silvery, woodland fairy sort of name
- Gloria, Joyce — Positively exuberant
Theresa — The least popular it has ever been, but too classic not to resurface
Anita — This Spanish and Finnish Anna-diminutive may succeed Anna and Annika
- Ruth, Esther, Susanna — When parents tire of Abigail and Hannah, they may return to these biblical classics
- Dorothy — A successor to Emily, perhaps?
Lois, Phyllis, Doris — Fashionable Iris and Carys could bring back the S-enders
- Shirley — Miss Temple makes it feel young; Charlotte Bronte’s novel gives it literary clout
- Marjorie/Margery — A sweet nursery rhyme name with the rhythm of Emily
- Carol — Sounds musical and festive
- Nancy — As sweet as Emmy, Lily, and Lucy
- Judith — A biblical name with movie star appeal, thanks to Ms. Garland
And for boys, try to picture these on a romping, stomping toddler:
- Philip — Sleeping Beauty’s handsome prince
- Gary — Kind, happy, and welcoming
- Dennis — Perfect for a saint or mischievous imp
- Franklin, Arthur — The storybook turtle and aardvark lend these names childhood charm
- Edward, Theodore — Still in use, but the least popular they’ve ever been; sure to rise sooner rather than later
- Frederick — Will probably follow Eddie and Teddy back up the charts
- Martin — Has two great namesakes in Mr. Luther and Mr. King
- Laurence/Lawrence — Reminiscent of dashing Old Hollywood star, Laurence Olivier; if nickname Larry doesn’t appeal just yet, try Lore
- Clarence — Strong and judicial; consider using Clay as a nickname
- Warren, Walter — Good Norman names, the first presidential (Warren G. Harding) and the second literary (Sir Walter Scott)
- Gilbert — If the fishy Finn is in, then why not Gil? The best candidate for leading the other “-bert” names up the charts
- Donald, Ronald, Douglas — Handsome Scottish choices; just don’t use the first two together!
- Raymond, Edmond, Leonard, Gerard — As we tire of N-enders, D-enders may come back; Ray, Eddie, Leo, and Jerry make these feel kid-friendly
- Lewis/Louis — Has literary appeal due to C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll
- Ernest — In a few years, we’ll be over the Ernest movies, but Hemingway will still be around
Yes, your neighbors will be surprised to meet your little Sylvia or Walter. But give them a few years, and chances are good that they’ll be following suit!