Celebrity Names Blog

Oldest Old Lady Names: Next Year's Vintage Favorites?

Oldest Old Lady Names: Next Year's Vintage Favorites?

Old lady names like Leila, Violet and Ella are back among celebrities as well as the rest of us. On the other hand, Delma and Bernice are likely to remain unusual. Between the two extremes lie a bunch of once-popular names that haven't been on the charts in decades, but could be again soon. In this final installment of our oldest old lady names series, we offer five picks for vintage names worth reviving. These names, from living US supercentenarians and the recently deceased, haven't yet broken back into the top 1,000 in the US, but have been tapped by celebrities and the namiscenti. Are they vintage favorites of the future?

Neva

Among name enthusiasts, Nevaeh gets a bad rap. This name -- Heaven backwards -- first appeared on the charts in 2001, and has since risen to #34, which horrifies traditionalists who prefer names with long roots. But is there perhaps a more traditional name at the heart of the Nevaeh phenomenon?

Neva, a name that peaked in 1893 at 246 and enjoyed a long popularity, is the name of Neva Morris, born in 1895 (pictured here in her 1914 wedding portrait). Until she died at age 114 in April of this year, she was the oldest living person in the United States.

No Neva in our database, but singer Nelly Furtado named her daughter Nevis. There's a great Namipedia entry on Neva. It's a thinky name with a sound that the culture clearly likes, and a "real" name for Nevaeh. 

Florence

Florence peaked in the 1890s at #7. Like Neva, it's got the first half of the classic half pipe formation of names like Ella and Leila that peaked in the 1890s, fell away, then re-entered the charts and rose fast. Florence is already popular internationally (#2 in Canada, Quebec and rising  in Scotland), and nicknames include Flora, Florrie, and Flossie. Toni Collete chose Florence as the middle name for her daughter Sage Florence.

Louisa

Louisa peaked in the 1880s at #151, and may bring to mind Louisa May Alcott, whose Little Women is still much read and loved. (Not to mention the big-name movie from 1994) Meryl Streep -- and more on her vintage name mojo in a minute -- named her daughter Louisa. Recently Leelee Sobieski chose Louisanna, while Heidi Klum and Seal went with Lou. Sandra Bullock chose the male form, Louis. Where celebs go, will the rest of us follow?

Agnes

A name that peaked in the 1890s at #39, Agnes has terrific international variations (Inez), and has been seen lately on supermodel Agyness Deyn.  Commenters on the Name Lady's column on Agnes (called "My Mom Hates My Baby Name!") were divided between passionate love and passionate hate for the name, but we think it belongs in the so-clunky-it-works category. Actress Elisabeth Shue -- she of The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting -- named her daughter Agnes.

Mamie

The terrific Meryl Streep has a daughter named Mamie Willa, to go with sister Louisa Jacobson. Their older brother and sister are Grace and Henry -- vintage names that have increased dramatically in popularity since Meryl Streep first used them. Dozens of celebrities children are now named Henry and Grace.  If Streep thinks Mamie's worth reviving, we believe her.  Just like Ella, Leila, Neva, Florence, Agnes and Louisa, Mamie peaked in the 1890s (at #57). Mamie Eisenhower was born in 1896, by the way.

Rate our choices: which of these vintage names do you think we'll see the most of on birth certificates in the future? Why?

--L.R.

Comments

June 28, 2010 12:06 PM
By Kristina (not verified)

I've actually been trying to "sell" Louisa to my husband for a couple of months now. I think it's classic, but doesn't scream "little old lady." It's very feminine, with the "a" ending.

June 28, 2010 1:37 PM
By Jennie

Flora was my first-choice name for my daughter 12 years ago. My husband disagreed (reminded him of Flora Margarine - go figure). I still love the name. Love Florence and I agree that Louisa sounds fresh again and with its literary pedigree has a good chance for a comeback.

June 28, 2010 2:21 PM
By Laura_mac (not verified)

I love Louisa, and I think Florence definitely has a chance too. I have a great aunt named Geneva who goes by Neva, so I think of Neva as more of a nickname. I don't see it coming back--I doubt many people choose Neveah because they like the sound of the name.

June 28, 2010 8:42 PM
By Dee (not verified)

Interesting! I grew up with both a Neva and a Mamie. Neva in this case was short for Geneva, which I think is pretty too. I've never been fond of Mamie though - the kids teased her that it sounded like "maim me."

I do like the trend of sweet old fashioned names for girls!

June 29, 2010 1:08 PM
By Annee (not verified)

I went to school with a girl named Neysa who tells me her mother picked it because it means "little Agnes" in Italian. Behindthename.com lists NE┼ŻA as the Slovene form of Agnes, so I guess this makes sense. Anyway, I have always loved the name Neysa (pr. KNEE-suh). It was unusual for my friend (her siblings' names were much more common), and I've never seen another one -- but I think it's a lovely name.

June 29, 2010 1:16 PM
By crescentstreet (not verified)

BOTH my grandmothers AND my mother were named Florence. So overused in my family it doesn't have much appeal for me.

June 29, 2010 1:43 PM
By bajik (not verified)

I love Geneva, but "Neva" looks/sounds too close to "never" (nevah!!) to me.

June 29, 2010 2:17 PM
By Katsy (not verified)

I love, love, love Louisa! I think it's adorable! It sounds fresh and "vintage", without being tired and old lady sounding. I also like Neva. I know a little girl named Isabelle Neva, after her great-grandma. Florence, Agnes, and Mamie are not really my style, but I can see their appeal.

June 29, 2010 3:48 PM
By Fiona (not verified)

Jennie: Flora was also my Mum's first choice for me but, like your husband, my Dad disagreed and said that it reminded him of Flora margarine so they decided on Fiona instead.

Vintage names that I like are Lydia, Annabelle and Amelia. Especially the last two, nicknames could be Anna/Bella and Amy/Mia.

June 29, 2010 3:49 PM
By daisy_kay (not verified)

Funny - my favorite name for the longest time was Louisa, and I had decided that if the baby I'm now pregnant with was a girl, I'd name her Louisa Bess. Then we had the ultrasound...Yes, we are expecting a girl, but as soon as I received the exciting news, the name Mabel came to mind. I kept holding on to Louisa b/c I love the warm, intelligent feel of it and it was my favorite name, but Mabel just seemed like this baby's name. Now, almost 2 months later, I couldn't imagine naming my daughter anything else, and I can't wait to meet our little Mabel Susannah in October!

June 29, 2010 3:52 PM
By daisy_kay (not verified)

Oh, and I forgot to say that I also really love the name Agnes. Surprisingly, my husband does, too.

June 29, 2010 4:44 PM
By Sebalek (not verified)

I have a friend named Neva (pron. neh-vuh). She's Bulgarian but was named for a river in Russia. "Neva" means snow, so a perfect name for a little one born in the winter.

June 29, 2010 5:13 PM
By Lara Jane (not verified)

Agnes is actually on my list!

(Maybe I should throw the list away since Henry just turned 10 a few days ago (oh.my.gah. How???) and I still haven't been able to get pregnant, but I keep hanging on! LOL)

June 29, 2010 5:32 PM
By Crystal (not verified)

I'm hoping to snatch up Eleanor before it comes back. Not sure whether to use it as first or middle, since I like the name Eve equally... Eve Eleanor sounds quite nice.

June 29, 2010 6:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I just named by beautiful daughter Luella (and we call her Lulu for short). An old name but has a sound to it that is very current.

June 29, 2010 10:13 PM
By jereza (not verified)

My mother, born in 1924, is named Neva. (long e sound)I like the name

June 30, 2010 2:58 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Florence was my great-grandmother's name, and she went by Flossie. I have always thought it was cute, but probably not enough to actually use it.

On the opposite side of the family, my grandmother's name is Elsa and I think that is a beautiful one in need of revival. =)

July 1, 2010 6:47 PM
By Kristin W. (not verified)

I'm a huge fan of Louisa. I just love the sound of it, and I also associate it with The Sound of Music, which I adore.

July 6, 2010 10:30 AM
By elleireland (not verified)

All of the names are more old-fashioned than pretty. But Louisa is my favorite, since Lulu is such a sweet nickname.
@Daisy_Kay.......I had a great-grandmother named Sarah Mabel, and when we show people her picture (she was lovely), everybody asks, why did she go by Mabel instead of Sarah? So Mabel is still pretty brave. I think it's because the last syllable will always come out sounding like "bull." Some parents decide to go with the Pirates of Penzance pronunciation - "Maybelle."
Florence just needs to go away. The Europeans can have it as far as I'm concerned. The nickname for menstuation is usually "Flo," and that's a good enough reason as any to avoid the name.

July 19, 2010 5:10 PM
By tiffanylynn (not verified)

For both our children (2002 and 2006), we had Louisa on the list. We went into the hospital with Louisa or Gemma for a girl (Leo for a boy) in 2006, but ultimately went with Gemma. Louisa would have been fitting as our daughter and her father, Lewis, share a birthday, but Gemma was the right choice. Still, I love Louisa.

May 30, 2013 1:18 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Very classic names, I find these names timeless. I mean, it doesn't get old. It's evident throughout any generation. - James Stuckey

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