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Traditional Names

What's in a Name

The most common given name in the Western world is John, which derives from the Hebrew Yohanan and means “gracious gift of God.” It is found in every Western language in various forms, including Johann, Ivan, Jan, Hans, Jean, Sean, Juan, Evan, and Ian.

Name Dropping

Looking for an alternative to a trendy girl's name like Kaitlyn or Brianna? Many traditional monikers are great choices, especially if they haven't been heavily used in awhile. If you really want something different, check out a classic movie from the 1930s or '40s, and pay attention to the names given to the characters, as well as the actresses who played them.

A large number of the names in use today date back to the years following the Norman invasion of England and to the Middle Ages. These are the bread-and-butter names that have dominated both boys' and girls' name charts for many centuries and continue to be popular today. Some of the most familiar traditional names have fallen out of favor in recent decades; more obscure ones occasionally make brief comebacks.

Traditional names are generally very familiar to the ear and are widely used throughout the world in many different forms. They tend to sound dignified or well-established, and they often give the impression of conservatism, elegance, and a high social standing. Because they're so well known, they're hardly ever mispronounced or misspelled.

Boys are given traditional names much more frequently than girls are. For girls, traditional names were very popular through 1960, but decreased significantly in use after that as parents began searching for more unusual names.

Traditional boys' names include the following:

Allen Joseph Roger
Arthur Kenneth Ronald
Brian Lawrence Ross
Bruce Louis Samuel
Charles Mark Simon
Dennis Patrick Steven
Edward Paul Stuart
Frank Peter Theodore
George Philip Thomas
Henry Raymond Timothy
Hugh Richard Walter
Jeffrey Robert William
John Rodney

Following are traditional girls' names as well:

Alice Evelyn Margaret
Alison Hannah Martha
Amanda Helen Mary (Marie, Maria)
Andrea Irene Olivia
Ann (Anne, Anna) Jane Pamela
Beatrice Janet Patricia
Carol Joan Priscilla
Caroline Josephine Rebecca
Catherine Judith Ruth
Claudia Julia Sarah (Sara)
Deborah Katherine Susan
Diana Laura Teresa (Theresa, Therese)
Elizabeth Linda Victoria
Emily Mabel Virginia

More on: Choosing a Name


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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