11 Alternatives to Old-Fashioned and Ancient Girls’ Names You Can Use in 2014

You may have a family obligation to honor someone with a name that seems either dated or unusable in the year 2014. Or you might like the biblical Esther or the literary character, Lorna Doone, but wonder whether either of those names will be a good fit for the baby daughter you are expecting in 2014.

Those are reasonable concerns, particularly because Pamela Redmond Satron and Aela Mass of Nameberry are trying convince expectant parents that out of date, rarely used names are “stylish.” (I find it comical that a little-used “flapper “name, like Zelda, or the name that launched the”Victorian Era” could possibly be called “stylish” in 2014.) Stylish names are names that are rapidly growing in popularity, because trendy people are flocking to them like mindless herds of sheep.

So I’ve created this list of alternatives to 11 old-fashioned or ancient girl’s names that may come across to you as out of date and unstylish. If you’re wondering, many of the alternative names have the same root (hence the same meaning) as the names in question. And some are simply “name-book neighbors” that are likely to be more pleasant for you and your child to live with–if you are worried about picking a name likely to subject your daughter to embarrassment or teasing (or worse)

Esther Biblical Namesake: Queen Esther was crowned by Ahasuerus, King of the Persian Empire during biblical times, and is said to have helped liberate Persian Jews and gain rights for them–according to Jewish tradition.
Instead of Esther and French form Estelle, consider Estee or Stella.

Lorna Fictional Namesake: Lorna Doone was the protagonist of a romantic historical novel of the same name, written by Richard Blackmore and published in 1869.
Instead of Lorna, consider Laura, Laurel, Lauren or Lori.

Louisa Namesake: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was a popular American novelist whose most famous work was Little Women, published in 1868.
Instead of Louisa, consider: Eloise, Louise, Lois, Lola, Lolo or Luisa.

Lucille Namesake: Lucille Ball (1911-1989) one of the most popular female comics, Ball teamed up with husband Desi Arnaz to star in “I Love Lucy” from 1951-1957.
Instead of Lucille, consider Luci,  Lucie, Lucy or Lucia,

Millicent Namesakes: Millicent Garrett (1847-1929) a British suffragist and early feminist. Millicent Fenwick (1910-1992) a 1974-1992) a Republican congresswoman from New Jersey with moderate views on civil rights.
Instead of Millicent, consider Amelia or Mila.

Sybil Namesame: Sybils were oracles who relayed messages from the gods, according to Greek mythology.
Instead of Sybil, consider Cybele, Cybelle or Cybill

Tanith Namesake: Tanith was the goddess of love according to Phoenician mythology.
Instead of Tanith, consider Tania or Tanya.

Twyla Namesake Twyla Tharp (born 1941) formed her own dance company and toured with them from 1971 to1988. Her choreographed dance pieces are performed by the leading modern dance and ballet companies and in popular movies and Broadway shows. Although Twyla’s career is “now” her name is an old tailoring term. It means “woven of double thread.”
Instead of Twyla, consider Tyler or Tyra.

Willa Namesake: Willa Cather (1873-1947) an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of life on the Great Plains, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1922.
Instead of Willa, consider Willow or Winona

Victoria Namesake: Queen Victoria (1819-1901) ruled for 63 years, longer than any other British monarch during a period known as the Victorian era. It was famous as a period of industrial, scientific and cultural change and the expansion of the British empire.
Instead of Victoria, consider Tori, Tory, Torrey, Vicki or Vicky.

Zelda Namesake: Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948) A southern belle born in Birmingham Alabama became a major celebrity when her husband Scott Fitzgeralds’ book This Side of Paradise became a bestseller in 1920. He called her “the first flapper.” The name Zelda means “grey woman warrior.”
Instead of Zelda, consider Grey




Read this Humorous Article About New Jersey Place Names By Marian Mundy

I’ve never heard of Bernardsville, N.J. or the Bernardsville News, but they have a lifestyle writer named Marian Mundy who understands more about place names and baby naming than Nameberry and WaltzingMoreThanMatilda ever will.

I mention this because Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry recommended Detroit as an “unheard of name for 2014″ (she described it as “cool”). And because WaltzingMoreThanMatilda claimed (in support of Satran) to know a child named Detroit who loved his name. Question: if Detroit is an “unheard of name” how did an expert in Australian baby names know a kid named Detroit who loved the name which Satran had described as an “unheard of name” which implies that no one had ever used it?

Here’s what the commonsensical Marian Mundy wrote about a New Jersey place name, Camden: “The fact that they called the baby ‘Camden’ proves they don’t live in New Jersey. You have to wonder why anyone would name a kid after a rundown city on the Delaware.” In short, naming a child after the once-proud city of Detroit, now that it is contemplating bankruptcy and now that a leading Detroit museum is thinking about selling off its art masterpieces–is crazy.

Please, please, please, click on this link and read the Marian Mundy article. It is so outstanding I’m going to email her editor with this message: Marian Mundy deserves a raise and a bigger by-line. FYI, Mundy’s article is titled: “More Than a Few New Entries in the Baby Name Game.” It starts with a report about a detailed birth announcement that omitted the gender of the child and does a good job of turning that tragic event into one of the most amusing and perceptive articles I’ve read about names since the GQ article about baby naming by Drew Magary.

12 Popular Biblical Names for Boys from Pamela Redmond Satran; Halleluyah!

Wow! I can hardly believe my eyes. An article about the 12 most popular biblical names that provides relevant and interesting background information about 12 great names likely to be a plus for boys. There’s not a weird or off-putting name in the bunch! I strongly recommend this article to you. I found it on Huffington Post, but I’m sure it’s on Nameberry.com, too.

Has Pamela Redmond Satran gotten tired of reading my recent (critical) blog posts? Has she made a late resolution (one month into the new year)? It’s too soon to tell. So, I’ll restrain my celebration until I read her next few articles—to see if she focuses on charming, appealing names or goes back to recommending what she calls “unusual,” “never heard of” or “forgotten” names likely to annoy, embarrass, or subject children to teasing.

(I could never figure out how recommending weird, off-putting names could possibly be a successful strategy for her or Nameberry. Eventually her readers are going to turn elsewhere for better advice; and media like Huffington Post and daily newspapers will turn elsewhere for content that’s beneficial rather than harmful to children.)

Here’s a quick list of the biblical boys’ names she discusses in detail in her article: Jacob, Ethan, Noah, Michael, Daniel, Matthew, Elijah, James, Benjamin, Joshua, Andrew and David.

I hope you”ll click on the link I’ve provided to read her article. I also hope you will strongly consider these time-tested names for your baby. Keep in mind that biblical names provide positive role models for children and create the impression that they have strong values.

If Satran is going to be recommending great names (instead of questionable names), I’ll switch from criticizing her work to praising it. (I hope you realize that my criticism has always been focused on the questionable value of most of her recommendations.) I admire the books Satran and Rosenkrantz have written and assumed I would love their articles. I tend to like most of Rosenkrantz’s articles, but how wrong I was about Satran’s articles.

Satran seemed to be under the impression that she could search for “rarely used” or “abandoned” names and than announce to expecting parents that they were suddenly “cool”  or “worth considering” because she had mentioned them in an article. When you think about it, if she didn’t give the unwanted, abandoned names a “makeover” by changing their spelling, they would still have all the unattractive qualities that had caused 99.9% of American parents to reject them.

Writing about Satran’s attempts at “alchemy” has turned out to be both enlightening and entertaining for my readers–if not for hers. So if Pamela Redmond Satran has really “turned over a new leaf,” I’ll be happy to praise and promote the wonderful new articles she’ll be writing.

7 Literary Names Recommended by Nameberry’s Linda Rosenkrantz

I enjoyed reading Linda Rosenkrantz’s latest article, which she calls, “7 Newly Popular Baby Names That Have Been Hiding In Plain Sight.” I enjoyed it because she recommended the names of characters from several of my favorite books (including: Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird). And because the article was so well-written:

  1. The Concept: In her post Rosenkrantz features seven names with strong literary provenance which have been around a long time and whose popularity has been increasing in popularity in recent years.
  2. The Seven Names: Atticus, Beckett, Dashiel, Holden, Huckleberry, Lincoln and Scarlett.
  3. The Literary/Historical Background: Rosenkrantz explains the importance of the books from which the names come, and she describes the protagonists in a manner that sheds light on kind of role model or inspiration their names might provide for a child.
  4. Why These Names Now: Rosenkrantz references popularity data and media exposure which she uses to “explain” the relevance of the names, now, and provide reasons for expectant parents to consider the names now.

My Take on the Names

Names I Like a Lot: Lincoln and Beckett

Names Worth Considering: Scarlett and Holden

Names with Practical Problems: Atticus, Dashiel and Huckleberry

Atticus: The bad news: This ancient Latin name is stiff, formal and serious; it lacks versatility in that there is no obvious nickname or familiar form  to use when you are tucking your baby into bed or when teammates on the soccer team are chatting after a tough game. It’s likely to be a puzzler for a blind date. The good news: I suppose the name will become more appropriate when your son studies classics or law.                                                                                                                                                                  –Dashiel: The bad news: The spelling and pronunciation of this name are odd and likely to be a source of daily confusion. The good news: The name calls to mind exciting noir mysteries; and, Dash is a definitely dashing nickname. It’s on my list of “Cool Names for Boys.”                                                                                                                                                           –Huckleberry: The bad news: The long form of this food name doesn’t sound much like a name for a boy or a man. It lacks versatility. The long form seems informal and comical. And the nickname, Huck, rhymes with “uck” words that are likely to a source of teasing and derision. The good news: It’s associated with one of the greatest characters in American literature.

Overall: Unlike her Nameberry colleague, Pamela Redmond Satran, Rosenkrantz’s presentation is intelligent, interesting, thought provoking and presents some usable names likely function well for you and your child. But like her Nameberry colleague, Rosenkrantz doesn’t pay much attention to the practical aspects of baby-naming,  which is why three of the seven names are likely to prove awkward for use when you’re calming a crying baby or when your child is chatting with friends on the playground at recess. If a name doesn’t work well for your child, it’s likely to be dropped and replaced by a nickname that works better than Atticus, Huck, or Dashiel. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to the practical issues.

What’s Wrong With Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names?

Take a look at this list of recommended names taken from articles written by Pamela Redmond Satran in recent months. See if you can figure out why each name could be annoying, frustrating or downright harmful to the children of Nameberry readers unlucky enough to be given these names. If you get stuck on any one of them, scroll down. Under the list of names you’ll find a short list of baby-naming don’t’s that quickly explain what parents (and experts) should consider when picking (or recommending) a name.

Some of Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names:

Betsan, Cabe, Kaius, Neri, Macsen, Macson, Camber, Sender, Effa, Gerty, Mertilla, Tulsi, Sula, Hebe, Kitty, Maelys, Blue, Carola

Quick List of Baby-Naming Don’ts

1. Avoid names that make negative impressions. (Detroit is a bankrupt city. that is “uncool,” right now, like Chris Christie and A-Rod. Blue comes across as “depressed.”)

2. Avoid names that come across as weird or confusing. (Kaius, Neri, Betsan, Cabe, Tulsi, Sula, Macsen and Maelys come across as random collection of letters—which don’t seem much like names. I call them “alphabet-soup” names. Mertillla is weird and clunky.)

3. Avoid names that have negative or confusing meanings. (Blue means “depressed.” Sender is “someone who sends something.” Camber is “a slightly arched surface.” None of these three capitalized words seem much like names.).

4. Avoid names likely to encourage teasing or bullying. (Detroit is going through bankruptcy. Effa sounds like a reference to the “f-bomb.” Gerty rhymes with a well-known slang word for feces. Neri will be called “Neri Christmas.” Sula will be called “Sula Does the Hula.” Hebe is a derisive term for Jews. Blue easily lends itself to, “Why so blue, Blue?” Kitty will be called, “Here kitty, kitty!”)

5. Avoid names that are difficult to spell. (Kaius is tricky to spell. So are Macsen and Maelys–along with most of the names I call “alphabet- soup” names because it’s hard to guess what the “correct spelling” of these names might be.)

6. Avoid names that are difficult to pronounce. (Kaius can be tricky to pronounce; is it KAY-us or KIE-us or KAY-oss? Carola is a German name that should be pronounced ca-ROLL-ah and the “r” in the second syllable needs to be “rolled.”)

7. Avoid names that aren’t “versatile” i.e., that don’t provide good options for both formal and informal occasions. (Most of the “alphabet- soup” names like, Neri, Tulsi, Betsan and  Cabe don’t make formal impressions. None of these names are likely to impress when they appear on college or job applications.)

Most parents intuitively know that the name they give their baby is one of the most important decisions they will make before their child is born. Many parents think about this decision carefully (and obsessively) and weigh hundreds of options in the (roughly) seven months after they find out they are expecting. Most parents and experts are familiar with the practical list of baby-naming dont’s I’ve listed above.)

However, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pamela Redmond Satran to give these issues even a minute of thought. Her list of recently-recommended names creates the impression that she doesn’t care about the effects of the names she recommends on the children of the million or more expectant parents who read her articles each month on Nameberry.com and in major-market newspapers and national websites like The Huffington Post which reprint her articles. Conceivably the total number of people reading her articles in all media may add up to several million.

Sooner or later, her readers, her colleagues at Nameberry and the publications and websites that reprint her articles will understand what readers of this post now understand. And when that happens, things will change. I hope you can see I’m not being “snarky.” I’m calling your attention to a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I hope you’ll let Nameberry or the newspaper or website on which you read Satran’s articles know what you think.

Dear Bruce: I wish you wouldn’t focus on “writing snarky posts demeaning the hard work of other people.”

(Comment from Brooke Cussans about my post criticizing Pamela Redmond Satran’s post recommending “14 Names for 2014.”)

Brooke: Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe named her new son Kaius in December. That would make it a very cool name to have indeed in many people’s eyes.

Nameberry seems to appeal to a different type of reader than yourself. Not everyone has the same tastes.

It would be nice to see you creating more of your own original content rather than focusing so much effort writing snarky posts demeaning the hard work of other people.

Bruce: Brooke, Thanks so much for writing to make a case for Nameberry’s recommendation of Kaius and to suggest in a very reasonable way that “Nameberry seems to appeal to a different type of reader than” (I do.) “Not everyone has the same tastes.” Well said!

I also think it’s reasonable to suggest I avoid demeaning the hard work of others with “snarky posts.” It’s obvious I need to do a better job of explaining why I write critical posts about a number of Pamela Redmond Satran’s articles, so you will find them convincing rather than “snarky.”

It’s true that I use humor to demonstrate that many of Pamela Redmond Satran’s articles recommend names that are ridiculous and potentially harmful to children. I’m sorry that strikes you as “snarky.” If I’m right, it’s a very serious problem both for children and for Nameberry. I hope after reading this note you will better understand why I write about Nameberry and why it’s important for even one Nameberry employee to understand what the heck I’m writing about.

As a result of your carefulness, I will try to be equally careful about the way I phrase this response.

I explored a number of differences between Nameberry and me in a December “Dear Bruce” post which discussed why I write so often about Nameberry. Nameberry seems to focus on the fashion and celebrity aspects of names. By contrast, I am primarily interested in the potential effects of names on the children to whom they are given.

I hope you would agree that if a name Pamela Redmond Satran recommends in an article is likely to subject Nameberry-readers’ children to teasing, bullying or abuse, it is reasonable for me to warn Nameberry readers about those potentially harmful names.

I don’t get the impression that Pamela Redmond Satran is particularly concerned about the effect of the names she recommends on real, live children to whom they may be given. (In that respect, I’d compare her to Kanye West, Beyoncé and Gywneth Paltrow, who didn’t seem to care how the names North West, Blue Ivy or Apple might affect their daughters).

Pamela Redmond Satran’s most recent post about names she recommends for use in 2014 includes Detroit (which she claims is a “cool” name) and Tempe (pronounced TEM-pee).

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that both of these names could turn children who are given them into targets for teasing and derision.

Detroit is bankrupt and struggling right now. I doubt many people would call that city, or the use of that city as a name for babies, “cool.” The idea that Detroit might be cool now is laughable, so giving a child that name is a perverse recommendation because it will make children named Detroit laughable. The name Detroit isn’t cool; it’s an embarrassment. And to classmates, the name Detroit is like taping a “kick-me” sign on the child’s back.

Tempe is another recommendation likely to subject children with the name to unwanted derision and abuse. Children find “bathroom words” extremely funny, which is why classmates would find it great fun to tease someone whose name seemed to include a bathroom word in the second syllable (TEM-pee).

I’ve already mentioned three celebrities who have given embarrassing and burdensome names to their daughters. Clearly, use by celebrities does not guarantee a name is safe for use on your children. It’s a lot more realistic for parents to regard celebrity-baby names as “questionable” if they can’t afford to send bodyguards to school with their children to make sure they are not teased and bullied.

There are many government agencies established to insure that products intended for use or consumption by children are safe. But there is no agency monitoring names parents give children. You’d think baby-name pundits would rise as one to protect children. Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority on that issue. Nameberry’s visitor count is approximately 1,000 times greater than mine. I really don’t know how much one tiny advocate of intelligent baby-naming practices can accomplish. But I do the best I can to change attitudes on this issue. I hope my response will change your attitude.

I go out of my way to comment favorably about Nameberry articles I like. I recently praised a Nameberry article about names meaning dawn (like Aurora). And I raved about another recent Nameberry article by Linda Rosenkrantz about the origin of popular nicknames like Peg or Jack.

I purposely praise insightful, entertaining and informative articles published by Nameberry to make it clear I find many of their articles to be of value and want to encourage them to write and publish more helpful articles and not writing and publishing articles that recommend names which are a disservice to their readers.

What concerns me is when Nameberry recommends names that are likely to subject children to teasing, derision, or verbal (and possibly physical) abuse. I hope that would concern you, too, and other people who work for Nameberry. (Most people would not for a company that is unconcerned about the harmful side-effects caused by products they make or, in this case, articles they write and publish.)

I would be happy to talk to Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran about our differences. There’s no rational reason why they couldn’t or wouldn’t take steps to come up with a way to provide baby-name recommendations while avoiding names likely to come across as harmful to children. How can it possibly benefit Nameberry or anyone who writes for Nameberry to become known as a source of recommendations of names that are ridiculous or harmful or burdensome to children?

There must be someone working at Nameberry who shares my concern about names that may subject children given those names to ridicule or abuse. Why not invite that person (or a new hire, if no current Nameberry employee shares that concern) to function as an ombudsman? You’d need someone in that position who cares greatly about children and who has the authority to challenge high-profile writers.

Brooke, I want you to know I write all the posts that are published BabyNamesInTheNews.com myself. And I also have the equivalent of 2 other full-time jobs. About 95% of the posts I write either have nothing to do with Nameberry or are positive about Nameberry.

However, if Nameberry keeps publishing articles that recommend potentially ridiculous and harmful names for babies, someone needs to keep warning parents about them. There would be no reason for anyone to write critical posts about Nameberry if people who work at Nameberry took steps to change the policies which permit (or encourage) irresponsible articles to be written and published.

I can’t imagine that harming children is in Nameberry’s corporate charter. (If it were, nobody would want to work there.) When it is finally understood that the names they recommend are often ridiculous, weird and likely to harm children, I’m sure Nameberry will discover that a responsible approach to providing baby-name advice is in their best long-term interest.

Brooke I hope this response helps you see the benefit to Nameberry of joining forces with me to challenge celebrities and baby-name pundits who act as though they have little or no interest in the effect of names on children. I think most parents join me in describing that attitude as “irresponsible.”

Brooke: Thanks for your response Bruce.

It can sometimes be hard to satisfy the desire to give a child a “special” name, without needlessly causing them a lifetime of problems. We should all want children to have a name they can feel proud of. I hope that when it is my time to name a child I’m able to make a well balanced choice ☺

Nameberry’s Intriguing List of Names for the New Year

I was excited to find a intriguing selection of names to consider “for the new year” from Nameberry. Many of the names meant “dawn,” “hope” or either “new” or “new day,” and were associated with Greek or Roman mythology. The list was featured on Huffington Post together with appealing photos. Nameberry presented background and media/book tie-in information to give you a better “handle” on each name. Happily they didn’t claim the names were “cool.” I’m pleased to suggest you check out the article on Huff Po and to share this brief summary (minus the famous namesake and media info) with you:

Aurora (Latin) “dawn”

Dagny (Scandinavian) “new day”

Eos (Greek) “dawn”

Esperanza (Spanish) “hope”

Nadia (Russian) “dawn”

Neo (Greek) “new”

Nova (Latin) “a star that gets much brighter and then fades out”

Oriana (Latin) “dawn”

Roxana (Persian) “dawn”

Teraji (Swahili) “hope”

Zora (Serbo-Croation) “dawn”