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Modern spins on old-fashioned names

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Looking for ways to refresh some family heirloom names that don't quite fit in 21st century classrooms? Updating them to please modern ears can be challenging. Check out these techniques for transforming old-fashioned baby names into contemporary beauties.

Choose an international variation of an old-fashioned baby name


As the perfect compromise for parents who come from different backgrounds, grab a favorite old-fashioned baby name and find its equivalent in another language. We picked out a few international variations of the baby names you're mostly like to blow past when digging through your family tree.


Choose a more modern nickname


Some names are classics — they never go out of style. This doesn't hold true for their nicknames, however. Instead of calling your Elizabeth "Liz," try something more this decade with Ellie or Eliza — or even Eli. Spunky boy nicknames hide in so many classic baby girl names. We love borrowing Finn for Fiona or Vic for Victoria.

For boy names, parents used to stick to the front of the name — Alex, Chris, Nick — but these days you're much more likely to meet a Xander, Topher, or Cole. Avoid the nicknames you remember from your own playground days. Bill and Will went out with the change of millennium, but Liam sits on its own — alongside parent name William — in the top 10 most popular names for baby boys. (In 1900, Willie did the same!)

Don't forget, diminutives can make fantastic standalone monikers. Skip the formality of a full first name, and go straight to Nan to honor your aunt Nancy or Hal for your great-grandfather Henry.

Or just use the name!


If you have a favorite old-fashioned baby name on your list — use it! Particularly in the United Kingdom, grandma and grandpa names have jumped back on the charts. Names that sounded frumpy to us as children suddenly feel brand-new. Sometimes the best way to update a 19th century baby name is to give it to a newborn.

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Photo credit: sean dreilinger/Flickr

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