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S-Names for Girls: Popularity of “S” vs. “Sh” sounds

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By Kelli Brady of NameFreak!

When people ask me what letter I would use if I had to name ten children with the same letter, my answer is S. But I also clarify that it is S and not Sh! To me, since they are different sounds they are different “letters” with which to begin a name. As my mind ran with this thought, I wondered how have the two sounds differed in terms of popularity?

To do this research, I used the S and Sh names with percentage of use above 0.01% since 1938*. This cutoff was chosen because the Top 1000 in 2012 include names with a percentage higher than 0.0131% for girls. Because the S and Sh sounds are not exclusive to the letters S and Sh, I also added the names that begin with the letters C and Ch that have the S and Sh sounds. This can be subjective as some of the names can be pronounced with either the S/Sh sound or the hard C/Ch sound, but I went with what I thought would be the mostly likely sound heard. 

I can’t say this graph is surprising. We do not hear as many Sh-sound names currently save Charlotte.

It’s fascinating that even though there are less Sh/Ch names (120) than S/C names (153) included in these numbers, the Sh/Ch names are pretty equal to the S/C names in the late 1930s and remain relatively high through the 1960s, undoubtedly due to the popularity of Shirley, Sharon, and Cheryl. Other highly popular Sh/Ch names since 1938 are Shannon, Shelby, Sheila, Sherry, and Charlotte, all with percentages of 0.3% and higher at some point. To give perspective on that percentage, the girl names ranked #32 and higher in 2012 had percentages of use higher than 0.3%.

The S/C names reached their peak in the 1950s with the popularity of Susan, Sandra, and Cynthia. Other highly popular S/C names since 1938 are Sarah, Stephanie, Samantha, Sophia, Cindy, Sara, Sydney, Stacy, Sofia, Stacey, Sally, Suzanne, Sylvia, Savannah, Sabrina, and Sierra (again, all with percentages of 0.3% and higher at some point).

If you are curious as to the names included in this study, here is a list. These names could have appeared in just one year or remained fairly popular throughout the years.

S & C

Cecelia Cyndi Sandi Selene Sonya Sunny
Cecile Cynthia Sandra Selina Sophia Sunshine
Cecilia Saanvi Sandy Serena Sophie Suri
Cecily Sabrina Saniya Serenity Soraya Susan
Celena Sade Saniyah Serina Spring Susana
Celeste Sadie Santana Sidney Stacey Susanna
Celestine Sage Sara Siena Staci Susanne
Celia Sahara Sarah Sienna Stacia Susie
Celina Saige Sarahi Sierra Stacie Sutton
Celine Salena Sarai Silvia Stacy Suzan
Ciara Salina Sariah Simone Star Suzanna
Ciarra Sallie Sarina Sky Starla Suzanne
Cicely Sally Sariyah Skye Starr Suzette
Cielo Salma Sasha Skyla Stefani Suzy
Ciera Samantha Saundra Skylar Stefanie Sybil
Cierra Samara Savana Skyler Stella Syble
Ciji Samaria Savanah Sloan Stephaine Sydnee
Cinda Samatha Savanna Sloane Stephani Sydney
Cindi Samaya Savannah Sofia Stephanie Sydni
Cindy Samira Sawyer Sofie Stephany Sydnie
Cinnamon Samiya Saylor Somaya Stephenie Sylvia
Cinthia Samiyah Scarlet Sommer Stevie Symone
Citlali Sammie Scarlett Sondra Stormy Syreeta
Citlalli Samya Scarlette Sonia Sue  
Citlaly Sanaa Selah Sonja Suellen  
Cydney Sanai Selena Sonji Summer  

Sh & Ch

Chanel Cheyenne Shanika Sharla Sheena Sherrie
Chanelle Shae Shaniqua Sharlene Sheila Sherrill
Chantal Shaila Shanita Sharon Shelba Sherry
Chante Shaina Shaniya Sharonda Shelbi Sherryl
Chantel Shakira Shaniyah Sharron Shelbie Sheryl
Chantelle Shalon Shanna Sharyn Shelby Sheyla
Charisse Shalonda Shannan Shasta Shelia Shianne
Charla Shameka Shannen Shauna Shelley Shiela
Charleen Shamika Shannon Shaunna Shelli Shiloh
Charlene Shana Shanon Shavon Shellie Shirl
Charlize Shanae Shanta Shavonne Shelly Shirlee
Charlotte Shanda Shante Shawanda Shelva Shirlene
Charmaine Shane Shantel Shawn Shena Shirley
Cher Shanell Shantell Shawna Sheree Shonda
Cheri Shanelle Shaquana Shawnee Sheri Shonna
Cherie Shanequa Shara Shawnte Sheridan Shreya
Cherrelle Shani Shardae Shayla Sherie Shyann
Cheryl Shania Sharde Shaylee Sherita Shyanne
Cheryle Shanice Sharen Shayna Sherlyn Shyla
Cheyanne Shaniece Shari Shea Sherri Siobhan

Do you prefer S or Sh names for girls? Do you consider them different as I do?

*I calculated the percentage of use for each name using the raw number of births for the year and dividing it by the total number of girl births for the year. The Social Security Administration has only provided the total number of births for each year since 1938.

Originally posted at NameFreak! on March 5, 2014 and revised for Nameberry.

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About the author

NameFreak!

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at https://gumroad.com/l/name-alytics!
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