Category: ethnic names for boys
The New York City Health Department released its list of most popular names of 2008 today–at last–with some pretty interesting results. (It reminded me of the old Jennifer & Jason days–before the Social Security Administration was compiling a national list, when Pam and I used to have to contact –and sometimes plead with–the Health Departments of all fifty states for their figures and laboriously construct our own master list–and I recall that New York State and City were always the last to straggle in.)
For a long time–and especially considering the City’s hip reputation–New York‘s list was surprisingly conservative, with Michael, Ashley and Emily lounging in the top spots year after year. That changed somewhat in 2007, when Isabella and Sophia tied for Number One. This year, the more modern Jayden joined Sophia at the head of the list, bringing New York finally and fully into the 21st century.
Here are the Top Ten names for both genders:
But what is most intriguing about NYC is that it’s one of the few localities to break down its findings into separate ethnic lists for Hispanics, Blacks, Whites, and Asian & Pacific Islanders, revealing their extremely wide disparities. For example, the only group to have the overall No. 1 girls’ name, Sophia, at the top is the Asian; the other three each had different girls’ names–Ashley, Hispanic; Madison, Black; and Olivia, White. A few somewhat unusal choices included Melanie and Genesis on the Hispanic list; Nevaeh, Destiny and Imani on the Black; Esther (#2!), Chaya and Miriam on the White; and Tiffany, Fiona, Angela, and Vivian on the Asian.
The Top 5 for each group are:
When it comes to the boys, a more conservative picture emerges. Four of the top names were repeats of last years. Jayden was #1 for Hispanic and Black boys, Daniel for Caucasian and Ryan the top choice for Asian parents, who have long had a penchant for Irish names. There weren’t very many unexpected selections here, except possibly for Angel (Hispanic), Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah (Black), and Eric, Ivan and Vincent (Asian).
The top choices for each boy group were:
Perhaps because there are so few Portuguese-Americans–just about a million and a half —the name stock of Portugal has been somewhat neglected by outsiders, especially since it shares so many similarities with the Spanish.
But many Portuguese names have a distinctive flavor of their own, as well as unusual pronunciation conventions, some of which are explained below. And, as noted by Filipa on one of the nameberry forums, there are specific naming rules, limiting parents to traditional Portuguese names. No Apples or Armanis in Amadora! One consequence of these strictures, though, is an extremely rich variety of diminutives and pet names.
For the royals of the past, there could be an interminable string of names, as for example the 19th century Queen known as Maria da Gloria Joana Carlota Leopoldina da Cruz Francisca Xavier de Paula Isidora Micaela Gabriela Rafaela Gonzaga da Austria e Braganca.
Being a 97% Roman Catholic country, many Portuguese names come from popular saints or from the Bible–Maria is the perpetual #1 girls’ name., as it is today. And what are the other popular names in Portugal right now? Here, according to one newspaper, are the top six of last year:
And for boys:
A few years ago I met a couple named Anoush and Harout, (who, predictably, had a last name ending in ian, the Armenian patronymic meaning ‘son of”) and was immediately intrigued by the rich sounds of their names. That, plus the lingering memory of the characters in William Saroyan‘s My Name is Aram–Arak, Dikran, Jorgi, Garro–piqued my interest in Armenian names. It’s an ethnicity that has made few inroads into mainstream American nomenclature, but, while most of these names are destined to remain confined to the Armenian community, there are definitely some candidates eligible for wider circulation.
Many of these names date back to antiquity, some coming from the Bible (eg. Sahak for Isaac) or relating to nature (Shoushan, meaning lily), and there are a number that are close cousins to more familiar appellations, such as Hanna, Rouben, Ester, Yulia–variations with their own distinctive charm. (And note that since Armenia does not use the Latin alphabet but has a 36-letter alphabet of its own, transliterations bring about wide variations in spellings.)
Here, some of the most appealing Armenian choices:
ANOUSH (means sweet)
ARAX, ARAXI, ARAXIA, ARAXIE
Parents in search of names emblematic of a new masculine image for their sons are also looking toward ethnic choices unknown in the U.S. just a few years ago.
And then there’s simply our widening global sensibility, taking in more and more images and cultural cues from around the world. When it comes to boys’ names, these names may symbolize a more enlightened masculine image, or at least a fresh one. Whether the name is Irish or Latino, African or French, we may see that exotic guy as being more stylish and more sophisticated and definitely more worldly than our regular old Bills and Jims.
Here, a selection of new ethnic choices for boys on the U.S. popularity list. And don’t forget to take our poll on the new masculine names at the end of the column!