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