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Now or Then? A Baby Name Quiz

April 2, 2024 namerology 1 Comment

Now or Then? A Baby Name Quiz

April 2, 2024 Namerology 1 Comment
Namerology Challenges

Kehlani is contemporary. Agnes is antique. So far, so good. But our sense of old vs. new in baby names doesn’t always match reality.

“Old-fashioned” is a style, one based in our modern mindset. Sometimes our personal experience with a name makes it hard to judge how old or new it really is. Sometimes we romanticize the past, as when we picture a world of elegant gentlemen named Sebastian and rugged cowboys named Rowdy. And sometimes the past can simply surprise us.

Here’s a chance to put your name instincts to the test. In each pair of names below, one was much more popular in the US in the year 1900 than it is today (a “Then” name). The other has gone up in popularity since 1900 (a “Now”). Can you tell which name was Then and which is Now? Answers below.

Now or Then?

  1. Celia (F) vs. Victoria (F)
  2. Nelson (M) vs. Preston (M)
  3. Maisie (F) vs. Jessie (F)
  4. Iris (F) vs. Hazel (F)
  5. Duke (M) vs. Dave (M)
  6. Arlo (M) vs. Ira (M)
  7. Lola (F) vs. Ava (F)
  8. Hope (F) vs. Jewel (F)
  9. Dennis (M) vs. Lucas (M)
  10. Josephine (F) vs. Alexandra (F)
  11. Hank (M) vs. Gus (M)
  12. Gunner (M) vs. General (M)
  13. Belle (F) vs. Bella (F)
  14. Ross (M) vs. Joey (M)


To see the trends for yourself, try the Compare mode in our Baby Name Grapher!

  1. NOW: Victoria. THEN: Celia.
    The name Victoria is far more popular today than it was during Queen Victoria’s reign. Celia, despite its fashion-friendly sound, is an antique that has yet to be rediscovered.
  2. NOW: Preston. THEN: Nelson.
    In this battle of surnames, Nelson has been in slow decline since the days of Admiral Horatio Nelson while Preston is a 21st-century hit.
  3. NOW: Maisie. THEN: Jessie.
    Jessie was a big hit in the 19th Century, when it was a Scottish pet form of Jean, not Jessica. The Scottish nickname Maisie, from Mairead/Margaret, has only recently caught on in the US.
  4. NOW: Iris. THEN: Hazel.
    Both botanical names are currently “old-fashioned” favorites, but only Hazel is a real throwback to turn-of-the-century style
  5. NOW: Duke. THEN: Dave.
    The familiar one-syllable guys’ nicknames like Dave are endangered species today. Duke used to be a nickname too, as in Edward “Duke” Ellington, but it’s increasingly common as a given name.
  6. NOW: Arlo. THEN: Ira.
    These names may sound equally old-fashioned, but their histories are wildly different. Ira was 24 times as popular as Arlo in 1900.
  7. NOW: Ava. THEN: Lola.
    Both names have vintage glamor, conjuring actress Ava Gardner and singer Lola Falana. Lola, though, is the real vintage name.
  8. NOW: Hope. THEN: Jewel.
    Jewel sounds more unconventional today than it did back in the heyday of Opal and Pearl. And Hope, despite its familiarity, was never a common name.
  9. NOW: Lucas. THEN: Dennis.
    Dennis soared in the middle of the 20th Century, but the name was always around. It ranked #158 among all boys’ names in 1900. As for the classic-sounding Lucas, incredibly, the name was literally nonexistent in the 1900 stats.
  10. NOW: Alexandra. THEN: Josephine.
    Both of these regal names have been fashionable in the past generation. In 1900, though, Josephine was a hit while Alexandra, like Lucas, was totally nonexistent.
  11. NOW: Hank. THEN: Gus.
    Hank used to be a nickname first and foremost (usually for Henry), but it’s enjoying a burst of popularity as a given name. Gus is a genuine throwback, and even the recent rise of formal versions like August hasn’t brought it back into common use.

  12. NOW: Gunner. THEN: General.
    Aggressive names like Gunner and exalted titles like Prince are big with modern parents. Yet the late-19th-century fad for military commander ranks like General, Admiral and Commodore has not made a comeback.

  13. NOW: Bella. THEN: Belle.
    What a difference a letter makes. As name endings, Belle and Bella are both contemporary mainstays. But as full names, Bella is modern and Belle antique, like Old West outlaw Myra Maybelle “Belle” Starr.

  14. NOW: Joey. THEN: Ross.
    Joe was a popular given name in 1900; Joseph even more so. But the diminutive Joey wasn’t used as a full name at all. Ross, meanwhile, was timelessly steady until the turn of the millennium and has been plummeting ever since. The sitcom Friends apparently hurt rather than helped.

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1 Comment

  • Penguinmom April 3, 2024 at 5:20 am

    Tricky! I missed 1, 4, 8, 11, and 14.

    I knew #2 because of the name of a YouTube streamer my kids have watched. A handful of others, I knew from reading this site for the past few years. 🙂

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