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25 Stately Surnames Sneaking Back into Style

June 21, 2019 laurawattenberg 4 Comments

25 Stately Surnames Sneaking Back into Style

June 21, 2019 LauraWattenberg 4 Comments
19th-century portrait of General Montgomery C. Meigs
General Montgomery C. Meigs

Antique boys’ names can be an elusive target. Past generations of parents just didn’t leave us much to draw on. While girls’ names swung in and out of fashion, the same boys’ classics—John, William, James—dominated decade after decade. If a name never falls out of popularity, it can’t develop vintage style.

But one kind of vintage name is stacked on the boys’ side: surnames. American parents of the 19th and early 20th centuries left behind a wealth of boys’ names adopted from British Isles surnames.

The right surname crossover can take you back in time with a stately formality few modern names can match. Take the presidential name Rutherford B. Hayes, which seems eternally posed for a formal portrait. The difficulty is that the name style of the time was heavy with consonants. That makes many of the old surnames a tough sell in this lighter fashion era. Another presidential name, Millard, is a prime example.

To find throwback surnames with modern style potential, I looked to the edges of current trends. I identified 25 old but uncommon surname crossovers that have recently jumped in popularity, but remain unusual. (None rank among today’s top-1000 names for boys.) I think you’ll sense a potential that Millard can only dream of, a balance of stateliness and freshness. That’s vintage name magic.

25 Stately Surnames for boys, in descending order of current popularity:

Name Boys Born in 2018
Pierson 166
Montgomery 156
Banks 155
Granger 145
Warner 134
Gentry 129
Raleigh 93
Jennings 84
Rhodes 84
Crawford 69
Conway 67
Wayland 47
Tennyson 44
Walton 41
Cortland 40
Manning 39
Pryor 37
Newton 37
Wellington 33
Winslow 31
Hartley 30
Mills 30
Myers 26
Lofton 20
Rexford 19

Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Elizabeth June 26, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Rhodes is a contentious name to include on a list of antique surname names; Cecil Rhodes isn’t a particularly admirable figure, even if his namesake scholarship is shorthand for extraordinary achievement.

  • LauraWattenberg
    LauraWattenberg June 26, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    I’m certainly with you on Cecil Rhodes! But it’s less clear to me that the name is a tribute to him. Rhodes is a common surname, and the historical pattern of use the baby name Rhodes doesn’t seem to relate to Cecil Rhodes’ life or career.

  • 4boyzmdmom
    4boyzmdmom June 26, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    Granger is a popular middle name for boys in my family. One of my nephews, one of my uncles, one of my grandfathers, and at least 2 of my other great-something grandfathers have that middle name. And yes–the original Granger’s mother’s maiden name was Granger.

    My youngest son’s middle name is Bracken, which is his paternal grandmother’s maiden name. I told her that was the only way I could name a child in her honor, since all of my children are boys!

  • mickey mondegreen July 18, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    Rhodes also brings to mind the Rhodes electric piano (for fans of classic rock like the Doors or Steely Dan, at least.)

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