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Category: black baby names

black baby names

By Elisabeth Waugaman

African American naming traditions were dramatically influenced by slavery.

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries between nine and twelve million Africans were shipped to the New World as slaves. Existing slave ship manifests for the Atlantic slave trade record numbers, gender, approximate age of slaves, and occasionally “nation” (tribal identity). Given names are only registered on slave ships after the beginning of the international abolitionist movement circa 1820.

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In honor of the release of the 2009 list of most popular New York City baby names, Nameberry’s newest intern, Deanna Cullen, presents to you some surprising top contenders that owe their ascension in the ranks to some serious star power.

New York City baby names are not so different from those in the rest of the United States, but more celebrity names reach the top spots, according to the newly-released 2009 popularity list.

The most popular New York City baby names for girls for 2009 were:

  1. Isabella
  2. Sophia
  3. Mia
  4. Emily
  5. Olivia
  6. Madison
  7. Sarah
  8. Ashley
  9. Leah
  10. Emma

Those that did not break the national top ten – Sarah (#21), Ashley (#20), and Leah (#28) – still came awfully close.

Same went for the boys.

The most popular New York City baby names for boys in 2009 were:

  1. Jayden
  2. Daniel
  3. Ethan
  4. Michael
  5. David
  6. Justin
  7. Matthew
  8. Joshua
  9. Alexander
  10. Christopher

Those that did not break the national top ten, such as David (#14) and Matthew (#13), again came close, with only the third, Justin (#46), coming from behind.

Jayden, a name that was virtually unknown as of the 1990 Census and #194 in 2000, now ranks #1 in New York City and #8 in the nation. Although there is a Biblical Jadon, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith brought the name to national attention when they named their son Jaden.
Another famous Jayden is Britney Spears’ son, born in 2006. What more coverage can a kid – and a name – get than having Britney Spears as your mother?

Celebrities’ impact on naming trends is clear on the 2009 New York City baby names popularity list, which includes such names as:

New York City is one of the few locales that tallies baby name statistics by ethnicity, yielding some interesting results.

The Top Ten names for blacks is totally different, for girls, than it is for the overall Top Ten, reflecting the popularity of several African-American celebrities. That list:

  1. Madison
  2. Kayla
  3. Nevaeh
  4. Jada (Pinkett Smith)
  5. Malia (Obama)
  6. Makayla
  7. Aaliyah (the singer)
  8. London
  9. Arianna/Brianna
  10. Destiny

The African-American boys’ list more closely resembled the overall list, with Jayden remaining in number one place. The names that are different on the list for black boys: Elijah, Jeremiah, Christian, Josiah.

Other names in the top ten that broke rank by ethnicity include, for Hispanics, Melanie and Genesis for girls and Angel for boys; for Asian-Americans, Tiffany, Fiona, and Vivian for girls and Ryan, Eric, and Kevin for boys; and for whites, Rachel, Leah, Esther, and Chaya for girls, Benjamin and Samuel for boys.

Deanna Cullen is a recent graduate of Fairfield University with a degree in English/Creative Writing. She currently works as copy editor for The Hudson Reporter, and is a freelance contributing writer for The Hoboken Reporter, International Watch Magazine, and njnewsroom.com, along with interning for nameberry.

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African Names: A report from Kenya

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Kayla Lyn Bronder, as a volunteer Public Health Officer at the St. Camillus Hospital in Karango, Kenya, had the opportunity to closely observe the baby naming practices of the Luo culture, and we appreciate her sharing them with us. During her eight month stint, Kayla developed the Nyatike Jigger Eradication Campaign to assist those in the community affected by the parasitic flea known as a Jigger.  For more information on the project, visit her blog: kaylainkenya.blogspot.comKayla will be returning to Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans in July.

In Luo culture, the naming of a child is an important and yet strangely flexible process. Unlike American parents, Luo parents often wait days or even weeks before naming their baby. And while the first name is a traditionally Christian or “Western” name, the second name usually indicates the time, weather, or conditions of the child’s birth. Finally, the father’s name (in our context, the last name) is often overlooked and only used for official documents.

For example, a little boy born at noon time could be named something like Michael (Christian name) Ochieng (O for a boy, -chieng for “noon time”).

A baby girl born while it is raining could be named Vivianne (Western name) Akoth (A for a girl, -koth for rain)

My Luo name is Adhiambo. A for a girl, -dhiambo because I was born in the late afternoon.

The majority of children are named along those lines: Don, Tony, Stephan, Joseph, Mercy, Faith, Camilla, Fenny, followed by Oluoch, Oriri, Odhiambo, Akinyi, Apiyo, Adongo, and so on and so forth.

Occasionally parents feel inspired by athletes, musicians, or world leaders and name their children Clinton, Reagan, and countless Barack Obamas, and right alongside our great American presidents are their beautiful wives Hillary and Michelle. I haven’t met too many Georges or Lauras, but I try not to read too much into that.

Unfortunately, some parents make drastically horrible decisions when it comes to naming their children. My (least) favorites have included Violence, Morphine, and Dotcom. Thankfully for Luo children, they mostly go by their Luo names, so they need not dwell on the cruel miscalculations of their families.

The final interesting realization I’ve come to concerning the Luo child naming process is the powerful flexibility of the whole ordeal. With hundreds of babies born at home each day in impoverished conditions, the practices of birth certificates, embroidered baby blankets, birth announcements, etc. remain foreign oddities. So a baby’s name often evolves and changes until something sticks.

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gwendolyn-brooks

This year in celebration of Black History Month we turn for naming inspiration to the cultural heroines of the Harlem Renaissance.  These women—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors and musicians– all played significant roles in the movement that flourished from the end of World War I through the mid-1930s, during which a group of writers and other artists fostered an intellectual blossoming that was instrumental in forging a new black cultural identity.

The talented women listed below, some better known than others, would all provide great namesakes and role models for any child.

A’LELIA Walker—an African-American businesswoman who was an important patron of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.

ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, activist and prominent Harlem Renaissance figure.

ANGELINA Weld Grimké—Harlem Renaissance writer, one of the first black women to have a play performed in public.

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Martin Luther King Day Names

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To commemorate Martin Luther King Day, we honor some of his fellow heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement.  It would be impossible to list all of them, so here are some of the most worthy namesakes.

AMELIA Boynton Robinson – brought Dr. King to Selma in 1953

ANGELA Davis  –radical Black activist, advocate of racial justice

CARLOTTA Walls – youngest member of the Little Rock Nine students who desegregated Central High School in 1957

CHARLAYNE Hunter-Gault –one of the first two African-American students to enter the University of Georgia in 1961

CLARA Luper – activist known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’

CLAUDETTE Colvin – refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did

CORETTA Scott King – Dr. King’s full partner in the civil rights movement

DAISY Bates —  a key figure in the integration of Central High School in Little Rock

DOROTHY Cotton – the highest ranking female in Dr King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT —   a civil rights activist during her husband’s tenure as President.

ELLA  Baker – influential activist, key figure in the NAACP, SCLC and in the creation of the Student Noviolent Coordinating Committee

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