Traditional baby names people aren't using anymore

Choosing a baby name can be tricky, with many different factors to weigh during the process. Will they like it when they grow up? What if the name suddenly becomes associated with something unpopular or unappealing? Is it better for a child to have a unique name or a more common one? Is it a name that could get them bullied?

Trends come and go, but a really strong baby name is forever. And while it may not be seen to be the most cutting edge choice, you can't really go wrong with traditional names like Alice, James or Sophie. But what if you want to go traditional, yet still don't want your child to have the same name as everyone else? 

Opting for a unique name steeped in history is a safe way to make sure your child stands out in the crowd without the confusion that comes along with a super-modern or even made-up name. Here's the traditional baby names that people aren't using anymore.

Celia

Celia is not simply a shortened version of the more popular Cecilia as some may think, but rather a pretty name in its own right, which developed independently and has a different meaning. A Shakespearean name, Celia dates back to the 1600s when William Shakespeare invented the name for a character in his play As You Like It. The name has Latin roots and means "heavenly," and is derived from the Roman surname Caelius.

Celia was popular in the Elizabethan era and stayed popular in England and the USA until the early 1900s when it started to decline. So nowadays you may not find that many Celias about — especially in the USA where it is much less popular than it is in Europe. This makes it perfect for a revival sometime soon, especially after the recent success of the Spanish telenovela Celia, a biography of the late salsa legend Celia Cruz.

Barnabas

Barnabas is the Greek form of an Aramaic name which means "son of encouragement" or "son of the prophet." In the New Testament it was the name given to one of the earliest Christian disciples, Joseph, who travelled with Paul the Apostle. Continuing the Christian tradition, the name was put into use by rock band Barnabas in the 1970s, a group considered to be pioneers of the Christian heavy metal movement.

Barnabas wasn't popularized as an English name until the 12th century and, even though it wasn't all that popular at the time, its usage has still dropped off since then in favor of the more popular Barnaby.

So if you're looking for a traditional name with strong religious roots, which is still unusual enough to get noticed, Barnabas is a nice choice, and it can also be shortened to Barney to make it a bit less of a mouthful.

Edith

A hundred years ago, Edith was a massively popular name, but now one which is considered to be a little on the old fashioned side. Edith is a vibrant name meaning "prosperous in war," and is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon names still in use today.

Derived from the Old English name Eadgyð, Edith was popular with Anglo-Saxon royalty in the fifth century, with a revival in the 19th. There are quite a few new Ediths in Sweden, placing the name at number 51 on their Top 100 list, but it's still quite uncommon in the USA.

Nowadays you won't find many American Ediths under the age of 70, but that could be set to change soon with the popularity of the character Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey, and the tenacious Edith Gru from the Despicable Me series. A nice pick for something traditional if you also want to get ahead of the trend.

Chester

Chester is a strong masculine name, which was popular in the 1880s, but has tailed off in recent decades. Chester means "fortress" and is taken from the English city Chester, originally an old Roman settlement which dates back to the first century.

Quirky enough to catch your attention, but mainstream enough to see why it was popular in the first place, Chester can be shortened to Chet for a cute, unusual nickname. We've seen it on TV, with Chester "Ziggy" Sobotka in The Wire, and lead character Chester A. Riley of the classic 1950s show The Life of Riley, but still, Chester refuses to become a mainstream name — which makes it a good pick if you're looking for something strong, yet unique.

Historically the name brings to mind President Chester A. Arthur, who was also a lawyer and teacher. Now the name is most strongly associated in popular culture with the late, critically acclaimed vocalist Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame, who sadly passed away in 2017.

Flora

Flora is a beautiful (yet, uncommon) name for a baby girl. From the Latin "flos," meaning "flower," Flora was the Roman goddess of spring and the flowering of plants, eternally youthful and beautiful, and so the name became popularized in France during the Renaissance era.

Popular again in the late 1880s, Flora gradually began to lose steam until the 1970s, when its popularity dropped sharply. Still popular in some European countries, such as France and Hungary, it's about time this traditional name made a comeback in the USA.

And just because it's a delicate-sounding name doesn't mean it needs to be given to a delicate woman, for example Flora Sandes, who was the only woman to officially serve as a soldier in the First World War, gaining the rank of Captain in the Serbian army. Just goes to show you, a Flora doesn't have to be a shrinking violet.

Homer

The fact that this name is best associated with the American sitcom The Simpsons might have something to do with the fact that it is no longer widely used. But Homer is a deeply traditional name which used to be held in great esteem, rather than being associated with the doltish, overweight figure of Homer Simpson.

The name originated in Ancient Greece and — The Simpsons aside — is best known as the name given to the famous Greek poet Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The name itself means "security" or "pledge," and lends itself to the phrase "homeric," which refers to something that takes place on an enormous scale.

The name came into use as a given name in English speaking countries, America in particular, in the 18th century, and though it was popular until the 1940s, the name isn't widely used anymore today. But, as its varied history shows, it would certainly make for an interesting pick.

Maude

Another name which you may recognise from The Simpsons as the name of Ned Flanders' late wife, Maude is another traditional name you don't see much of these days. The medieval form of Matilda, Maude means "battle mighty" and is associated with strong leaders, despite the soft sounding name.

Maude, and the alternate spelling Maud, were massively popular in the 19th century, likely due to its use in Alfred Lord Tennyson's famous poem Maud, published in 1855. Over the past fifty years its usage has dropped off sharply, and Maudes are rare to find these days.

But it's a strong name with a strong legacy, like the Empress Maud who was the first female ruler of England in the 12th century. The royal connection is there again with Queen Victoria's granddaughter, born Princess Maud Victoria. She went on to become Queen Maud of Norway, and was famed as a charitable ruler who gave generously to charities supporting children, animals, music and the arts.

Lemuel

A name you really don't hear much of these days is the Old Testament title Lemuel, a Hebrew name which means "devoted to God." A slightly less known alternative to the very popular Biblical name Samuel, Lemuel definitely walks the line between traditional and unique and would be a nice choice for a special little boy.

Lemuel is about as old school as it gets. Not only does it come from the King Lemuel who is mentioned in the Proverbs, you may also remember it as the name of the narrator from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (or the film of the same name starring Jack Black).

Popular in the 1800s, the name has all but but vanished from lists across the globe ever since — which makes it a good choice if you're looking for something unique, but historic. It can also be shortened to Lem, or Lemmy if you're a Motörhead fan, for a fun and unusual nickname.  

Dorothea

While the traditional Dorothy still enjoys some popularity these days, its sister name Dorothea is a much more unusual pick. This pretty girl's name is the feminine form of the Greek name Dorotheos, which means "gift of God."

It's a name steeped in history. Dorothea was the name of two fourth century saints, Dorothea of Caesarea and Dorothea of Alexandria, as well as the 14th century Dorothea of Montau, who was the patron saint of Prussia. You may also recognize the name from Dorothea Lynde Dix, the activist who campaigned on behalf of the mentally ill to create the first mental asylums in America, and turned the public's view of the mentally ill to become more sympathetic. So Dorothea, it seems, is a name with an empathic history, and a lovely pick for a little girl.

Popular in the Victorian times and the early 20th century, Dorothea dropped off the charts in 1970 and hasn't made a comeback yet — but it's well overdue one. It's also wonderfully versatile, as it can be shortened to a multitude of nicknames including Dee, Dot, Dodie, Dottie, or Thea.

Clarence

Clarence is a lovely boy's name which has fallen out of favor due to its current status as a bit nerdy, but it's actually a very noble moniker to have. Clarence means "bright," and comes from the Latin title Clarensis, which belonged to members of the British Royal Family. The name was originally derived from the town Clare in Suffolk, England, so Clarence and Clare could pair nicely together for twins or siblings.

Clarence has been in use as a given name since the 19th century, and it enjoyed some popularity until 2010 when it sharply dropped off.

Some notable Clarences include Clarence Birdseye, without whom we wouldn't have the frozen food process (and more importantly, Birdseye Fish Fingers), and the famous Dutch footballer player and former A.C. Milan manager, Clarence Seedorf. Clarence was also the name of the guardian angel in the iconic Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life, so it would be a perfect pick for a baby boy born around Christmas time.

Bessie

A pretty little name that has fallen out of favor in recent times, Bessie comes from the much more popular Elizabeth and means "pledged to God." Bessie was a very popular name in the late 1880s but is rarely seen now, perhaps due to the association with cows — but you can always avoid this by shortening to it the sweet and simple Bess.

The name has been in use since the 17th century, and has a strong literary history with characters such as Jane's nursemaid Bessie in Jane Eyre, and Bessie Burges in The Plough and the Stars

It's also the namesake of many notable women, such as Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, and Bessie Coleman, who was the first African-American female aviator and the first American woman to obtain a pilot's license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. An impressive legacy, and no cattle in sight.

Darcy

A lovely lyrical moniker, Darcy comes from an English surname which was derived from the French d'Arcy, meaning "from Arcy," a commune in France. It had some traction in the USA back in the 1950s, but dropped out of popular use altogether in the 1970s.

You'll probably recognise the name Darcy as Fitzwilliam Darcy — commonly known simply as Mr. Darcy — in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, the brooding romantic figure who eventually wins the love of heroine Elizabeth Bennet. This Mr. Darcy figure was carried over into Helen Fielding's novel Bridget Jones's Diary, which itself was adapted into a massively popular film in 2001.

A versatile, unisex name, Darcy can be used for either a boy or a girl. Currently it is more closely associated with men due to the enduring Mr. Darcy figure, but perhaps it's time to break that mold.

Mildred

A deeply traditional name, Mildred is one which isn't in popular use these days and is sadly considered by some to be an ugly or undesirable name. This wasn't always the case, however, as the name was popular in the eighth century and early 1900s, but took a major hit in the 1950s and has been in decline ever since. A shame, as the name is a very noble one.

Mildred comes from the Old English Mildþryð, which means "gentle strength." It was the name of the seventh century Saint Mildred, a nun who was known for her deep generosity and compassion to the poor and run down. And on the other side of the coin, there's Mildred Burke, a formidable woman who was one of the earliest female professional wrestlers and began her career by taking on — and defeating — male opponents.

So see, Mildred isn't all bad — it's actually incredibly versatile! And it can always be shortened to Millie or Milly for a cute nickname.

Arnold

Arnold is a bold, traditional, Germanic name which is currently suffering from a lapse in popularity, though we suspect that might not last too long. Popular as a English name during the Middle Ages, it all but died out after the 15th century before being revived in the 19th. Though Arnold still has some traction in England, its popularity in the USA took a dive in the 1970s, and the use has declined steadily ever since.

The name itself comes from the Germanic elements "arn", meaning "eagle", and "wald", meaning "power", so the name itself means "ruler" or "strong as an eagle." No surprise then that one of the most famous modern Arnolds is the Austrian-American actor, politician, and former professional bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And like Dorothea, Arnold is a saintly name. Arnold of Soissons is the Roman Catholic patron saint of hop-pickers and brewers, and you may recognize his name from the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Texas' oldest craft brewery. Like Schwarzenegger in Terminator, we suspect that it it won't take long for this name to be back.

Barbara

Barbara was a very popular name in the 1910s all the way through to the 1980s when its usage took a sharp and sudden drop, so there aren't that many baby Barbaras being born these days — unless you're in Portugal where the name is still quite popular.

Barbara comes from the Greek "barbaros," which means "foreign". Another saintly name, the beautiful Saint Barbara was an early Christian Greek saint who was martyred when she was killed by her father after she renounced his religion and refused to marry.

So Barbara has a pretty formidable legacy, especially in popular culture with Barbra Streisand and Barbara Gordon, better known as DC Comics' Batgirl. With a Batgirl movie in the works, perhaps we'll see Barbara restored to its former glory at some point soon. The weighty name can also be shortened to many lovely nicknames, such as Bebe, Bobbie, Babs, and the ever iconic Barbie.

Gilbert

A Germanic name meaning "bright pledge," Gilbert was popular for a long while in the 1900s. It was a very common name during the Middle Ages in England, and it topped popularity lists in the USA until the 1970s. But since then Gilbert has dropped so far down the radar that it's an unusual one to find nowadays.

Like Bessie, Gilbert has a long literary tradition — the name appeared in literature, such as Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. The ever popular Johnny Depp played a Gilbert in the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, and of course there's a Saint Gilbert too, Gilbert of Sempringham who founded the Gilbertine Religious Order.

Like Clarence, Gilbert is one of those names which is considered a bit unfashionable these days, but it could be time for a revival again, especially with the fun shortened version Gil, or even Gib or Gibby for something a bit more unusual.