Category: baby name history
Determining what makes a name contemporary vs. what makes a name established can be tough.
For example, if a name was first used by one notable person (real or fictional) in the 17th century, but hadn’t become widespread or familiar until within the past decade, does that qualify the name as established or modern?
There may be some debate, but to me, any name that hadn’t been widely familiar or used until within the past 20-30 years is a modern name. That isn’t to say that sometimes modern names can’t have historic origins. Modern names with historic origins are new names that sound… well… old.
Here are some examples:
Most of us know that the top names on the Social Security list aren’t given to as many babies as they once were. Here, data whiz Kelli shows how the Number 1 names have become less and less popular through the years, tracing the percentages of babies given the top name from 1880 to now.
By K. M Sheard of Nook of Names
I have been musing about names which, on the surface, appear to be straightforward adoptions of English words, but are, in fact — in origin at least — entirely unrelated. The most popular name of this kind currently in use is Lily.
Lily — now almost exclusively associated with the flower (so much so that the Wikipedia entry entirely fails to mention its original roots) — actually arose in the Middle Ages as a short-form of Elizabeth — Lylie. This quickly developed its own pet-form — Lillian/Lilian, which has been treated as a name in its own right since at least the 16th Century. It didn’t see much use, though, until the latter 19th Century, when it rapidly became one of the most popular girls’ names across the English-speaking world. And, inevitably, it was usually shortened to Lily. Lily was also very popular in its own right in the early 1900s in the UK; in the US, however — where short and pet-forms often seem to be shunned in favour of the full form — Lily remained relatively rare.
Trendy baby names have been around a lot longer Miley Cyrus or any of the famous Kardashians. From the dawn of recorded U.S. baby name history — aka 1880, when the federal government began keeping records — we’ve adopted names inspired by current events and popular people and culture, only to leave them behind for a new inspiration the next year.
The inspiration for name trends a century ago may have been politicians and war heroes rather than reality stars, but the definition of trendy baby names was the same: Names that spiked in popularity thanks to an outside influence, then sank from view along with its original bearer.
An organization called Flowing Data has calculated the trendiest names in US history, a fascinating look at which names burned the brightest only to fade the fastest.
Yesterday, we looked at the girls’ names, and today, as promised, it’s the boys’ turn. Again, we present the Top 10 baby names for every letter of the alphabet—from Anthony to Zecheriah—compiled by nameberry’s own Nephele. (The U.S. Social Security Administration’s complete names lists spanning a 130-year period were used in the tabulation of these special statistics.)
And again, there are some listings you might find surprising: even more nickname names, with Billy and Bobby both among the ten most popular ‘B’ names, Willie the Number 3 ‘W’ name, and twice as many Larrys as Lawrences. Almost a dozen Latino names appear, but no José (blame the profusion of other popular J-boys for crowding it out); and four different spellings of Zachary make the list. As compared with the girls’ statistics, there are more top names racking up much greater numbers, with several of the male classics being given to two, three, four and even five million boys over time.
Here, the full roster of Top 10 names for each starting initial:
1. Anthony 1,335,664
2. Andrew 1,192,233
3. Alexander 542,038
4. Arthur 518,307
5. Aaron 515,997
6. Adam 507,633
7. Albert 481,705
8. Austin 357,449
9. Alan 326,687
10. Allen 259,359
1. Brian 1,142,501
2. Brandon 705,063
3. Benjamin 626,514
4. Billy 379,598
5. Bruce 376,645
6. Bryan 356,776
7. Bobby 310,269
8. Bradley 286,800
9. Bernard 197,528
10. Barry 179,089