Celebrity Names Blog

Did Jennifer Connelly Give Her Daughter an Old Lady Name?

Did Jennifer Connelly Give Her Daughter an Old Lady Name?
Diane Cohen/Fame Pictures

Actress Jennifer Connelly welcomed her third child (her second with husband Paul Bettany) on May 31 in New York City. Baby girl Agnes Lark Bettany was born via scheduled home water birth, and joins big brothers Stellan, 7 (named after the couple's friend actor Stellan Skarsgård), and Kai, 13.

Agnes is derived from the Greek hagnos, meaning chaste, pure and sacred. The name hit its U.S. popularity peak in the 1890s at #39, and fell steadily until it was bumped off the charts altogether in the 1970s. To many Americans, Agnes is an "old" sounding name because the only people they know with the name were great-grandmothers. But to some young parents it sounds fresh, because it has been out of style for so long that they have no association at all. The Name Lady responded to a reader who loved the name Agnes but her mother hated it. On the topic of name associations, Name Lady said:

We like the names we like partly because of the associations they bring to mind. In your parents' baby naming days Heather and Melissa sounded like fresh, youthful names for girls. To you and your friends, those names sound more like moms than babies. The same thing happens at the other end of the age spectrum. We hear names from our grandparents' generation as dowdy because the people we know with those names are, well, old.

Agnes might sound a little different to the Connelly-Bettany family since Paul Bettany was born and raised in England. In the U.K. Agnes has already experienced a modest revival. It sounds more "quaint and quirky" than "old and fusty" over there.

Could this American Agnes point the way to a new crop of name revivals? So far, U.S. parents have stuck to the lightest and smoothest old-time names like Amelia and Emma. (And even some names that only sound old-fashioned, what our own Laura Wattenberg recently called the "Antique Name Illusion.") Agnes, though, is hardcore. If it can come back, what names could be next on the style horizon? Mildred? Gertrude? Even...could it be...Edna?

What old-fashioned names would you like to hear more of?



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June 8, 2011 2:44 PM
By Allison (not verified)

I really don't have any association with Agnes aside from the adorable little girl in the animated movie Despicable Me.
I like it - hopefully it was reprise more older names (according to Laura's book, I like the Ladies and Gentlemen names and Porch Sitters as well).

Congrats to the Bettany's!

June 8, 2011 3:02 PM
By Kelly (not verified)

I don't think you can schedule a home birth, but you might plan one.

Agnes is a name that has been on the cusp with my group of friends with the woman loving it and the man vetoing it. A few prominent name placements in pop culture and I think it will topple over into popular territory for those that like antique names.

June 8, 2011 3:15 PM
By Pip (not verified)

I have no associations (other than the very recent Despicable Me), and I love the name! It's on my list for baby #2 due in a couple of weeks, but husband is not as keen. He doesn't hate it, but he doesn't really "get" it. Love the nickname "Nessie."

June 8, 2011 3:16 PM
By Pip (not verified)

Well, or maybe "Nessa," actually. I guess "Nessie" might be too connected to the Loch Ness monster. :)

June 8, 2011 3:25 PM
By Michelle Q (not verified)

Agreed - Dispicable me did a lot for "old lady" names (Agnes, Margot, and Edith). They were cute enough to make the names rather endearing.

June 8, 2011 3:55 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I live in a community that has a high population of Polish immigrants who often name their daughters Agnes. Actually they are usually named Agnieszka but go by Agnes. I like the name Agnes, but think that Agnieszka is much prettier.

June 8, 2011 4:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like Agnes! Aggie is a cute nickname.
As for other old lady names, I know of a toddler named Gertrude, and I grew up with an Ethel (which I also kind of like.) I really like Estelle, and since Stella is getting pretty popular, maybe Estelle will too. I've also noticed Esther, Lillian, and Vera getting more popular. Edith is cute, too. You could use Edie as a nickname.

June 8, 2011 5:17 PM
By Ellie'smom (not verified)

I'd love to see more little cuties named Esther, Elsa, Margaret, Imogen, & Jemima. It's time for those to shed their old/negative associations!

June 8, 2011 7:17 PM
By Another British Laura (not verified)

I think the Connelly/Bettany sibset is cute.

I like the name Agnes and although I might not use it myself (my boyfriend wants us to lean toward less common Biblical names) I'm with the Brits who find it 'quaint and quirky'.

I write and quite a few of my characters (who have dates of birth in the past few years) do have 'old people' names.

June 8, 2011 8:08 PM
By mk (not verified)

I like Agnes and can see becoming popular. I know several females of varying ages named Agnes, though they are all related (family name)

June 9, 2011 10:54 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is one of those names that I know I SHOULD like, but I just can't. Like Esther, Edith, Ida, etc., Agnes just has a moldy sound to me that I can't find attractive. I would give props to a parent who chose it, I guess. Two names that I do like that most people dismiss as "old" are Sybil and Doris, the latter largely due to my love for Ms. Day.

June 10, 2011 8:26 AM
By HiLary (not verified)

I kind of like Agnes. Aggie is a cute nickname, agreed. I have a long list of names that I would LOVE to see come back:


So many to choose from!

June 14, 2011 11:52 AM
By Shammy (not verified)

My mom's best friend is named Agnes. I like it.

June 14, 2011 11:58 AM
By Cynthia (not verified)

I think it's a lovely and dignified name and pretty when accompanied by the middle name "Lark."

I also like the variation "Agneta" though not sure which nationality that one is from.

June 14, 2011 12:03 PM
By silje (not verified)

I like Agatha even better. And Harriet. Twins Aggie and Hattie? Love it!

June 14, 2011 12:20 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Was considering Agnes with the french pronunciation "Ahn-Yes." Pretty, but couldn't expect anyone to get the pronunciation right.

June 14, 2011 12:24 PM
By silje (not verified)

Swedish. Like the blond from Abba.

June 14, 2011 12:51 PM
By joie (not verified)

I like Agnes. It seems dignified and playful at the same time. Another old-fashioned name I love is Margaret/Meg/Maggie. My own daughter is named Eloise for my grandmother.

June 14, 2011 12:59 PM
By joie (not verified)

I love Hattie :)

June 14, 2011 1:13 PM
By LJ (not verified)

I can't say I'd love to see them come back, but my grandmother had five sisters all with very old names: Pauline, Lula, Bessie, Edna, Eunice, and Mary Louise(not sure how she got the only normal one). Of course, they were all relitively popular at the time.
I wish I loved the name Pauline as much as I loved the person, but I just couldn't do it to my little girl when it came time to pick a name.

June 14, 2011 1:30 PM
By Annessa (not verified)

Agnes is my grandmother's name, and for most of my l though pf it as very old lady ish. Recently, its started to grow on me. I think the model Agyness Deyn and the character from Gossip Girl has swayed my view a bit. Coincidentally, when my parents named me they did not know my name is an alternate version of Agness.

June 14, 2011 1:52 PM
By MelissaBKB (not verified)

I think this is a weird sibset. First off, I like all the names on their own, but the only thing they scream together is "trendy patterns right now!" BUT each 'trending' in its own box. EG:
Stellan - Mining foreign lands for baby names (bonus: trendy -en ending)
Kai - ditto, but Asian instead of European/Nordic
Agnes - ok, so with the girl now we go 'grandma'?

I think Agnes is an adorable name, despite or because of its little old lady image - but it does not go with these other names. My babyname radar is suffering some serious whiplash :)

June 14, 2011 3:41 PM
By Julie (not verified)

Interesting comment! This one touches close to my heart, because my 2-year-old son is also named Kai Elliot. We first learned of the name as primarily of Danish/Norwegian influence (i.e. Kai Winding, Danish jazz trombonist), with the help of our favorite baby name book :-)

Over the last few years we've also received feedback that Kai sounds like an Asian (and particularly female Asian name), but we haven't come across any concrete proof one way or the other. There also appear to be instances of Kai as a name in Hawaiian, Scottish, and African cultures.

Anyway, we've sort of just decided to be zen about the whole thing and hope that Kai Ryssdah (NPR marketplace reporter) will pave the way for a pleasant and worldly (and hopefully at least somewhat masculine) connotation in the collective subconscious.

(By the way, our son Kai has an older sister Ivy Catherine, and I'm totally digging the name Agnes if we ever have another girl!)

Thanks for a fun thread!

June 14, 2011 6:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I really don't like Agnes, personally. Right up there with Bertha, Ethel, Hazel, Mavis, Phyllis, and Edna...just too old-lady sounding. But things change over time, and I'm sure all those old-lady names will make a comeback and be considered new again...like Hazel has started to do. My grandmother was Marjorie, and surprisingly there was a young Marjorie on ANTM...so they'll all have their heyday again!

June 15, 2011 1:16 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I still think of Abigail as an old-lady name, even though that became trendy again. But Agnes, Gertrude, Hortense, Mildred, Myrtle...not ready for any of those yet...just too dowdy!

June 15, 2011 11:11 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Agnes = agonies. Can't get past that.

I also love Astrid, but can't get past A$$ - turd.

June 23, 2011 11:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm sure Jennifer Connelley wasn't thinking this, but I have to mention that some of the appeal for this name could come from Catholics looking for "new/old" saints' names for revival. It could certainly tip over to wider appeal, but now I'd put it in the mini-trend category of Catholic names like Blaise, Ambrose, or Cecelia.

June 10, 2016 10:02 PM
By Agnes (not verified)

My name is agnes and i am 16, i know 2 people named agnes and one of them is also 16, the other one is 13. Agnes is quite popular in indonesia

March 20, 2017 6:38 PM
By Anthony Jeremia (not verified)

I'm glad that I drop here. We are willing to help if you are looking for quality Concrete Polishing Equipment, here is it. Just simply visit us @ http://www.concreterentalsnyc.com

December 1, 2017 12:36 PM
By Anna (not verified)

I love the name Agnes! Timeless, classy name. One of my close friends' name is Agnes. Oh and she is only 27.

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