Old Names Making a Comeback

Naming a baby can be lots of fun for new parents, and sometimes it can be a headache if the parents try to please family members. And it seems names that were popular a couple of generations ago are making a comeback.

“Olivia, Emma, Sonya, Elizabeth, I’ve had some Elizabeth’s. Max is a popular boy’s name now; Max or Maxwell,” Gail Johannes said.

Gail Johannes, who has worked in the nursery at the Ohio State University Medical Center for 15 years, has noticed an influx of what some might consider old-fashioned names. According to the Social Security Administration’s most recent figures, Emma and Olivia were both top five names in 2005. Emma was number one in Ohio and Olivia ranked third.

Amanda Lukacsko, 33, of Columbus, recently returned to work after twelve weeks of maternity leave. Lukacsko and her husband named their daughter Sophia Ann.

“It’s my husband’s grandmother’s name. And we wanted to keep it in the family, keep a name that was somewhere in our family. So we looked at our grandmother’s names, dads and moms,” Lukacsko said.

Sophia, which has an “old” feel to it, was the 11th most popular female name in the US in 2005. Scott said when she and her husband chose the name, she was aware of the return of old-fashioned names.

“You see it in our friends, you know, Grace, and other names like that. And then the more popular culture, names like Hazel, those names are coming back as well,” Lukacsko said.

Mother of two, Julie Scott, 35, from Columbus, is expecting her third daughter Thursday. Scott and her husband are still having a tough time making a final decision on a name.

“What are you going to name your new baby? Abigail. Elizabeth we think is the middle name or Abigail Grace. We’re not sure,” Scott said.

Scott said she has not really noticed the trend of so-called older-sounding names. The couple was just looking for a solid name for their new daughter. And Scott said Abigail fit the bill.

“I don’t think we really thought about it being an old-fashioned name. Although that’s the first thing a lot of people say is, ‘Oh, that’s such a nice name, and I haven’t heard that name for a while.’ Our parents both say they knew people who were named Abigail, but there aren’t a lot of people in our generation that have that name at all. So that’s one reason I think we liked it, is it was more that kind of solid traditional name,” Scott said.

Emma, James, Sarah, David, Samuel and Grace are some of the most popular baby names today. All of these names, according to the Social Security Administration, held the top spots in the 1880s and 1890s.

Stanley Lieberson is a sociologist at Harvard University and author of A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change. Lieberson told the Ottawa Citizen names associated with past generations always become popular again.

Lieberson said, “Some of these names have an appeal for looking back at an earlier time, but we don’t know too many older people with those names so they’re not contaminated.”

In other words, parents are always looking for something new, or in this generation’s case, old, to name their children.