A couple weeks ago, I published a darling list of underused vintage baby names for girls. All of the names were popular around the turn of the century (or even earlier!) and are now considered rare by U.S. baby name standards. They range from adorable and cute to elegant and distinguished, and all of them are ripe for a comeback. But what about the boys’ names? Well, here they are! Considering current baby name trends strongly favor old-fashioned names, these underused vintage baby names for boys are fresh and ready to turn the tide. Many of these options were considered fusty and unusable just twenty years ago, but today they’re getting ready for revival.
- Algernon: This uppercrust gentleman began as a nickname among the Percy family, long the Earls of Northumberland. It delightfully means “mustache,” giving it a firmly masculine vibe. Most people will associate Algernon with Flowers for Algernon, though its appearance in the prep school video game Bully and horror writer Algernon Blackwood give it serious Dark Academia vibes. Shorten to “Algie” for a grandpa name with nature associations (“algae.”). Amazingly, Algernon only appeared in the U.S. top 1000 once (!) in the 1880s, though it saw minor usage throughout the 20th century, peaking in the early 1970s.
- Archibald: Archie is popular again thanks to Prince Archie, so it’s only a matter of time before Archibald sees a resurgence! And believe it or not, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett have a child named Archibald. If you love literary associations, Archibald Craven is Colin’s father and Mary’s uncle in The Secret Garden. 100 boys were named Archibald in 2021, the highest number the Social Security Administration has ever recorded in birth data since 1880. If you’re not huge on Archie, consider shortening to Archer!
- Arnold: Considering how popular Arnold Schwarzenegger is, I’m shocked Arnold isn’t a more popular baby name. Only 112 boys were given the name in 2021, which isn’t terribly low but still makes it rare and unusual for a modern baby. And isn’t Arnie such a cute nickname?
- Bartholomew: This might be the most controversial choice here, but if we forget the nickname “Bart” and Simpsons references we can update to “Ollie,” “Artie,” and even “Arlo” – all of which are more than usable nickname options in 2023. Many parents will love that Bartholomew has Biblical origins and is the name of a famous saint. 37 boys were named Bartholomew in 2021.
- Basil: With how popular nature and gender-neutral names are, it’s amazing more parents aren’t opting for Basil! Besides the delicious herb, Basil is an independent name of Greek origin meaning “king” and also an Arabic name that means “brave.” 73 boys and 28 girls were named Basil in 2021.
- Clifford: Remember Clifford the Big Red Dog? Remember how he was the runt of the litter, but grew to the size of a house thanks to so much love? Wouldn’t that be a fantastic, sweet association for a baby? For what it’s worth, Kindercore is a new naming trend that throwbacks to beloved childhood memories. 150 boys were named Clifford in 2021, a more-or-less stable number (it fell out of the top 1000 in the early 2000s). Let’s bring it back!
- Ebenezer: OK, despite Ebenezer Scrooge, this name has a wonderfully positive meaning: “stone of help.” Even so, didn’t Scrooge reform at the end? Nobody remembers his redemption…anyway. Eben, Ben, and Ezra are lovely nicknames for a little Ebenezer! 46 boys were named Ebenezer in 2021.
- Edmund: Looking for an alternative to Edward? How about Edmund? Like Edward, Edmund derives from Old English / Anglo-Saxon, but it wasn’t nearly as popular after the Norman Conquest. Shortening to Eddie and all the other classic “Ed” nicknames, Edmund is also a fantastic choice for fans of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. 172 boys were named Edmund in 2021. It means “wealthy protector.”
- Gerard: I’ve never understood how Gerald remained popular for so many years after Gerard fell out of general usage. Maybe people emphasized the first syllable instead of the second…that would do it! Gerard has such a handsome, romantic sound. My primary association is Gerard Butler and his many action movies (and also, Phantom of the Opera), but other people likely associate with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. 119 boys were named Gerard in 2021.
- Gustav: August is a popular unisex choice in 2023, and regal Augustus has made a great comeback for boys starting in the early 90s. Gus is a classic nickname for both…and yet, there’s another way to get to Gus! Gustav is an unrelated German and Scandinavian name that was mildly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries until the early 1930s. That “V” ending is especially distinctive, and art fans may love the association with Gustav Klimt! If you miss the Romanesque prestige and length of Augustus, Gustavus is also an option. Just 34 boys were named Gustav in 2023, though over 400 boys were given the Spanish form Gustavo.
- Herbert: Even though this is something of a family name, Herbert wasn’t even on my radar until recently, when I spotted it on an influencer’s baby! I was delighted by such a unique and refreshing choice in 2022 and 2023. Herbie and Herb are cute nicknames, and I think the nature vibes of Herb bolster Herbert’s chances for baby name success. Herbert itself means “bright army.” 53 boys were named Herbert in 2021.
- Horatio: I’m going to be completely honest – this is probably my all-time favorite boys’ name. There are way too many reasons why to fit into this post, but Horatio (pronounced huh-RAY-she-o) boasts major literary and historical references spanning from Shakespeare (Hamlet) to the Napoleonic Wars (Horatio Nelson, Horatio Hornblower) and beyond. Horatio is the English form of Horatius, an old Roman name borne by a city-saving hero (Horatius Cocles) who’s somewhat akin to a smaller-scale Leonidas of Sparta. Distinguished and thoroughly unique, Horatio evokes adventure, courage, and intelligence. Somehow, just 12 boys were named Horatio in 2021. Admittedly it’s not the most nickname-friendly option, but I love the idea of shortening it to Ray, Ray Ray, or even Ori!
- Isidore / Isadore: If Theodore is getting too popular for you (it’s currently ranked #10 in the U.S.!), try Isidore. Isidore is the English version of a Greek name meaning “Gift of Isis,” a meaning and origin that makes it one of only a few known men’s names derived from a woman’s name (others traditionally include Madison and Emmett). In 2021, 30 boys were named Isidore and another 19 boys and 5 girls received the Isadore spelling. Isidore / Isadore is a great way to honor an Isadora, Theodore, or Isabella in your life.
- Orson has a lot to recommend it in 2023: for one thing, it means “bear,” which lends itself to fans of nature and animal names. Secondly, it’s short. It doesn’t have or need any nicknames! Thirdly, it has vintage Hollywood charm; I can’t be the only person thinking about Orson Welles! 97 boys were named Orson in 2021.
- Percival / Percy: Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t even mention Percival without starting a fight. Now, it’s ostensibly fashionable! My generation first became familiar with Percy via Harry Potter, but the Percy Jackson series arguably has a much greater impact on that name. In this latter Percy’s case, it’s short for Perseus – another name that’s rising so quickly it may very well reach the top 1000 in a few years. Percival is great for fans of Percy who want a more formal option that isn’t Perseus, and it has Arthurian props. With the growing popularity of names like Arthur and Guinevere, that latter point likely means something to modern-day parents. In 2021, 46 boys were named Percival and 85 were named Percy; Percival’s actually in the middle of a spike, so it’s one to watch.
- Phineas: Considering how easily Phineas shortens to “Finn,” I’m surprised more parents haven’t jumped at the opportunity to name their sons this! One of the most recent associations is the amusing Disney cartoon series “Phineas and Ferb.” 129 boys were named Phineas in 2021; an additional 35 children received the Phinehas spelling.
- Rupert: Is Robert too popular for you? While Robert only ranks #79, that’s still a top 100 name. What *is* rare, though is Rupert. Rupert is an old-fashioned German version of Robert that’s currently far more popular in Britain than it is in the U.S. In fact, it actually broke the English and Welsh top 100 in 2021! While it ranks #93 there, it was only given to 26 boys in the U.S. during that same year. Contemporary namesakes include actors Rupert Grint, Rupert Graves, Rupert Everett, and Rupert Friend. Also…the guy who wrote the Pina Colada song? He’s a Rupert. Rupert was mildly popular in America until the early 1950s.
- Ulysses: What I love about Ulysses – an unusual first initial and associations to Greek mythology and U.S. history. Ulysses is the Latin form of Odysseus, the titular character of Homer’s Odyssey. An old-school name that packs a punch, it was famously the first name of President Ulysses S. Grant, who was arguably one of the country’s greatest generals ever. Additionally, fans of classic rock may appreciate the connection to the Cream song Tales of Brave Ulysses. Like Horatio, it doesn’t shorten to many nicknames but I did come up with “Yul.” 180 boys were named Ulysses in 2021.
Ah, I love vintage names! There were so many I could have included here, but I limited things for the sake of space and time. Honorable mentions go to Clarence, Lemuel, Mortimer, Ignatius, Aloysius, Eleazar, and many more. Are there any you would add? I’d love to know which underused vintage boys’ names are your favorites!