What Makes a "Classic Name"?

[name_m]Hi[/name_m] Berries,
We would love your input on what makes a name “classic”!

In today’s blog post we discuss some different ways a name could be classified as a “classic name.” This begs the question — what makes a name “classic”?

Is a classic name one that has history stretching back centuries or even millennia, like [name_f]Susannah[/name_f] or [name_m]Augustus[/name_m]? [name_u]Or[/name_u] names that have had a steady history of use over the last bunch of generations, like [name_u]Benjamin[/name_u] and [name_f]Mary[/name_f]? [name_f]Do[/name_f] you base it on which names have a classic vibe? [name_u]Or[/name_u] do you have a different formula altogether? We would love to hear it all!

At Nameberry we created a formula to classify two categories of classic names — the Deep Classics, and the Modern Classics — featured in today’s blog. Did any names that did or didn’t make the cut surprise you?

And to top it off, what are your favorite classic names?


Ooh, such an interesting topic!!

To me, a classic is a name that has lots of historical use, and (in some cases) longevity!!

I’d categorize the “deep classics” as more of what I view to be classic: names like [name_f]Louisa[/name_f] or [name_u]Arthur[/name_u] which have tons of historical use, and names like [name_m]Thomas[/name_m] and [name_f]Claire[/name_f] which have been used consistently and aren’t “assigned” to a decade!

I was surprised to see names like [name_f]Olivia[/name_f] and [name_f]Sophia[/name_f] on the list, as although they have a lot of use right now, I feel that they will be very tied to this decade (much like names like [name_f]Brittany[/name_f] or [name_f]Amanda[/name_f] have been tied to past decades!)

Of course, most names tend to circle around on the hundred year cycle, but I still don’t believe a name is truly classic until it transcends generations!!


A classic name is one that surpasses time. In other words, it is dateless and you would not be able to pinpoint exactly when a person was born by their name alone. [name_f]Elizabeth[/name_f] is a perfect example of this. I would say [name_f]Ruth[/name_f], [name_f]Sarah[/name_f], [name_f]Charlotte[/name_f] and [name_f]Victoria[/name_f] are others. For boys it is the same. [name_u]James[/name_u], [name_m]Matthew[/name_m], [name_u]David[/name_u], [name_m]Adam[/name_m], [name_u]Benjamin[/name_u] are classic names. They are not always the most popular names. [name_f]Olivia[/name_f] and [name_f]Isabella[/name_f], although lovely are not classic names in my opinion as they relate to a certain decade where they are just too popular. Of course, some names that have been popular can also be seen as classics. [name_u]John[/name_u], [name_f]Jane[/name_f], [name_f]Mary[/name_f] and [name_u]Anne[/name_u] spring to mind here.


I agree with @DCAT. Classic is by definition timeless, so classic names would include Elizabeth, Anna, Hannah, Daniel, Catherine/Katherine/other variations, Rachel, James, John, Thomas, Julia, Andrew, William, Joseph, etc. I’d say Mary has fallen from its classic status. My rule of thumb is to ask: was this name regularly heard in my grandparents’ generation, my parents’ generation, my generation, and the next?

Then there are modern classics like Emily, Austin, Dylan, Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, etc. I’ve seen those names in my generation and the current generation, so I’m guessing they’ll persist in popularity.

Trendy names like Charlotte, Eleanor, Violet, Arthur, Theodore, Agnes, etc. are vintage, dated, and decidedly not classic in my opinion. I love a lot of vintage names, but they aren’t classic. Maybe if they’re used consistently for long enough, they’ll become modern classics.

That said, it’s dishonest to analyze “classic” without also questioning how often name charts don’t include data about minorities and what is classic within their communities.

ETA: Unfortunately, this historic lack of data on minority communities’ naming practices obviously hinders one’s ability to find their classic names. Still, the time is now to start gathering data.


Names that have been used for centuries and have withstood the test of time. So, [name_f]Julia[/name_f] is a classic because it’s been used since [name_m]Roman[/name_m] times and remains popular. [name_f]Tiffany[/name_f] isn’t a classic despite being a medieval name, because it faded into obscurity only to be revived in the 60s and then promptly plummeted in the 90s.

I like [name_m]Alexander[/name_m] a lot, and [name_f]Anna[/name_f]. Two undeniable classics, I think!


I feel like “true” classic would be Timeless Classics, names that have substantial usage throughout an extensive period of time (William, Elizabeth). Variations could be Modern Classics, names with a classic feel that have existed for awhile but only got popular more recently but also seem to have sticking power that will likely make them into timeless classics in the future (Liam, Sophia) and maybe Resurfacing Classics which would be names with a long history of usage that fell out of fashion and have come back so they feel classic but aren’t really timeless (Theodore, Eleanor). And of course this will all vary from place to place.

Some favorites of mine are [name_u]Henry[/name_u], [name_m]Peter[/name_m], [name_u]William[/name_u], [name_m]Nicholas[/name_m], [name_f]Sarah[/name_f], [name_f]Emily[/name_f], [name_f]Josephine[/name_f], [name_f]Caroline[/name_f].


1.) As already said, historical clout (even if its popularity has been questionable IMO)
2.) Usable in multiple languages (more likely to get used globally)


I agree with most of the old classics but these modern classics? Madelyn???

[name_f]Madeleine[/name_f] maybe but definitely not [name_f]Madelyn[/name_f]. I think nameberry is mixing up popular with classic.


I’d say names that feel memorable and have a history, even if they aren’t necessarily ancient, where either you wouldn’t strongly associate them with any particular age group or if they were associated a little bit more with older people, it still wouldn’t feel weird to see them on a child or any age in between (so I’d consider [name_u]Marion[/name_u] and [name_u]Arthur[/name_u] classics but not [name_f]Myrtle[/name_f] or Edgar).

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I consider a name classic when it has a long & storied history. Names like [name_m]Thomas[/name_m], most of the Mary’s, most of the Anne’s, & [name_u]Benjamin[/name_u]. You can have a Grandpa [name_m]Tom[/name_m], Uncle [name_u]Tommy[/name_u], Cousin [name_m]Thomas[/name_m], or [name_u]Baby[/name_u] Brother [name_u]Tommy[/name_u]. I guess I like what NB classifies as “deep classics”.

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I consider a deep classic name to have been in consistent widespread use for centuries and not feel tied to any time period, even if they weren’t always popular. These include the obvious names like Ann(a/e), C/Katherine, [name_f]Elizabeth[/name_f], [name_f]Margaret[/name_f], [name_u]Maria[/name_u], [name_f]Mary[/name_f], Sara(h); [name_m]Andrew[/name_m], [name_m]Anthony[/name_m], [name_u]Charles[/name_u], [name_u]Daniel[/name_u], [name_u]David[/name_u], [name_u]George[/name_u], [name_u]James[/name_u], [name_u]John[/name_u], [name_u]Michael[/name_u], [name_u]Robert[/name_u], [name_m]Samuel[/name_m], [name_m]Thomas[/name_m], William; and the non-obvious ones such as [name_f]Alice[/name_f], [name_f]Ellen[/name_f], [name_f]Lucy[/name_f], [name_f]Martha[/name_f], Ros(a/e), etc.; [name_u]Arthur[/name_u], [name_m]Benedict[/name_m], [name_u]Henry[/name_u], [name_m]Louis[/name_m], [name_u]Walter[/name_u], etc. [name_u]Famous[/name_u] namesakes arise from nearly any time period and a lot of these have been worn by royals, saints, and other significant leaders.

Modern classic names have only been in widespread use for a few generations, but they have been used consistently enough that they will not feel dated anytime soon. Examples include [name_f]Autumn[/name_f], [name_f]Chloe[/name_f], [name_u]Eden[/name_u], [name_u]Jade[/name_u], [name_f]Maya[/name_f], [name_f]Noelle[/name_f], [name_f]Summer[/name_f], etc.; [name_m]Colin[/name_m], [name_u]Evan[/name_u], [name_u]Hunter[/name_u], [name_m]Ian[/name_m], [name_u]Ryan[/name_u], [name_u]Tristan[/name_u], etc. Many of these names have been worn by a lot of celebrities or famous people.


Lots of use over lots of time!

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