We often look at the name stats of the most popular girls’ names for a year, or even a decade, but sometimes it’s enlightening to take a longer view. Our ever resourceful and creative contributor Nephele has taken on the task of tabulating what the highest numbers of names were given to babies for each letter of the alphabet over the 130 year-period from 1880 to 2009. (Whew!– 1,430,841 Lindas! 592,450 Pamelas!)
There are some interesting surprises– even taking into consideration how the percentages for top names has changed over the years—such as the fact that there have been twice as many Annas as Anns (ethnic impact), that Bertha tops Beatrice, that Ida squeaks past Isabella (though probably not for much longer), that half of the top K names relate to Katherine, and that Ashley is the second highest ‘A’ name over the whole period. And of course, with lesser used letters, you’ll find some highly unusual choices on the list: 352 Uyens were enough to push their name into the Top 10.
So here, for your perusal, the Top 10 most popular girls’ names for every letter of the alphabet, followed by the total number given over that entire period. Boys will follow tomorrow.
1. Anna 844,721
2. Ashley 810,539
3. Amanda 775,095
4. Amy 673,333
5. Angela 650,496
6. Alice 536,538
7. Ann 466,050
8. Andrea 407,937
9. Amber 361,061
10. Annie 341,551
Now that the Social Security Administration has released its annual baby names listings beyond the top 1,000 (including all names that had at least five occurrences in any given year), names researchers can better track the influence of popular culture on our names.
For example, a girl’s name appearing in 2009 for the first time on the SSA lists is “Greidys” – with an astonishing count of 186 baby girls having been given that name in 2009. Its variants “Greydis” and “Greidy” also appear for the first time on the 2009 list, again in the astonishing numbers of 100 and 25 occurrences respectively.
Another girl’s name appearing in 2009 for the first time on the SSA lists is “Chastelyn” with 150 occurrences. Its variants “Shastelyn” and “Chastelin” also appear for the first time in 2009, with 34 and 33 occurrences respectively.
While we may expect new names to appear on the SSA lists each year, these new names generally don’t have more than a dozen occurrences, if even that. Why are the names “Greidys” and “Chastelyn” (with their variants) suddenly so prominent in their first appearance on the SSA list?
Our Latin friends can answer that question easily enough. These names shot to popularity with those who watch the Spanish television network Univision’s reality TV show called Nuestra Belleza Latina * (which translates into “Our Latin Beauty”). The winning contestant in the show’s third season (2009) was a Latin beauty from Cuba, named Greidys Gil. Another popular contestant was Chastelyn Rodriguez from Puerto Rico. And thus were two new names embraced by American moms (or dads!) in search of baby names.
Beatrix Potter was an early conservationist, and her stories of Peter Rabbit and friends reflect her great love of the British countryside and nature. Her animal characters (with the exception of the American animals appearing in The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes) were drawn from life, revealing Beatrix Potter‘s eye for realism as well as whimsy.
Apparent in her stories is a Victorian delicacy of understatement and wit in describing unavoidable unpleasantries, such as death: “Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.” In addition, the Victorian expectation of children to master vocabulary can be found in Beatrix Potter‘s use of the occasional “soporific” and “improvident” sprinkled among the more childish bobbitties and scrumplies in her books.
While many of Beatrix Potter‘s anthropomorphic characters bear whimsical names, such as the beloved hedgehog laundress known as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, there nevertheless can also be found a number of baby-worthy names among her characters. These names will mainly appeal to those with classic naming tastes, representing names (and nicknames) that also appealed to the people of the British Isles living in the Victorian and Edwardian eras:
Visitors to the Flower Fairy Names nameberry message boards have recently been treated to personalized anagrams of their names by Nephele, who’s turned ordinary appellations into charming, creative names worthy of flower fairies and elves. Here, she writes about the Flower Fairy legacy and names. To buy the Flower Fairy prints by Cicely Mary Barker, go here.
It’s certainly no news to names enthusiasts that flowers and herbs can be a great source for inspired baby-naming. Familiar flower names such as Jasmine, Lily, and Rose are perennial favorites. Less familiar flower names such as Celandine and Tansy also make lovely choices.
Such names inspired poet and artist, Cicely Mary Barker (1895-1973) for her classic series of little books titled The Flower Fairies. Barker illustrated, with accompanying poems, the beloved flowers of her English countryside and gardens, personifying them as fanciful fairy-children.
Modern Western civilization owes much to the legacy of ancient Rome, not the least of its many influences being found in our names.
In the ancient Roman system of naming, each citizen belonged to an ancestral group called a “gens,” and took his name from his particular gens. The traditional form of the Roman name existed in three parts: Roman males would be given a first name at birth, called a “praenomen,” followed by his gens name, and then a last name called a “cognomen” that identified the branch of the gens to which he belonged.
In the time of Rome’s early to middle era, there wasn’t much variety in women’s names. In fact, they generally were given the gens name of their father (in the feminine form), and daughters within the same family were usually distinguished from their sisters by an additional name indicating their position in the birth order. So the first born would be Prima, the second Secunda, and the third Tertia, etcetera.
Despite the seeming lack of concern of the Romans of this period for bestowing unique names on their girls, we nevertheless have a number of lovely Roman feminine names to consider. Those listed below are all feminine forms of the gens names that were in use by notable Roman families in the time of Rome’s Republic (509 BCE to 31 BCE), many of which are still heard today. Those that are less familiar may make especially interesting choices for modern-day girls’ names.