How Unique is Your Name?

I once wrote a magazine story where I went looking for all the women named Pamela Redmond in America.  It was a strange experience, meeting this wide range of women — a welfare mom in California; a factory worker in Iowa; an architect in New York City — with whom I expected to feel a kinship based on our mutual name.  But didn’t, necessarily.

According to a new tool called How Many of Me?, there are 51 people named Pamela Redmond out there, but only one named Pamela Satran, one of the best arguments I’ve heard for using my husband’s name.  My kids Rory and Owen are similarly one-of-a-kind, though my husband (Richard) and older son (Joseph) share their names with a couple of other people on the planet, undoubtedly long-lost relatives.

If you’re looking for a truly unique name for your baby, or just want to see how common your own name is, check out this tool.  Of course, a lot depends on your last name.  A Smith or a Jackson may have to come up with something really unusual to qualify as unique.  I tested it out and came up with 3,198 Emily Smiths and 3,122 Matthew Jacksons, but only a couple of statistically likely Andromeda Smiths or Jericho Jacksons.

Of course, if your last name is (I picked these out of the phone book) Nienaber or Emenogu, you’ll have a much easier time being distinctive.  You can choose a popular name such as Isabella or Ethan and still be fairly sure your child’s full name will be one-of-a-kind.

You may even feel, if you have a unfamiliar or complicated last name, that it may be preferable to choose a common first name for your baby, that Emily Emenogu will have an easier time overall than Aanisah Emenogu. And you may be right.

Some people try to make a name “more unique” by varying the spelling or pronunciation, turning Ashley into Ashleigh or Ashlea or pronouncing is ash-LAY-uh.  Take this route only if you don’t mind spelling and respelling and explaining a name for the next hundred or so years.  And definitely DON‘T try this if your last name is Smythe.

You may want your baby’s name to be unique.  But there may also be such a thing as too unique.

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15 Responses to “How Unique is Your Name?”

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Heather Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 11:30 am

Sisters duaghter’s name is Rya. Pronounced Rye-ah
I couldn’t find it on your search.

Lyndsay Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 11:41 am

There are 14 people with my maiden name, and only 1 with my married name! I had no idea that my maiden name is the 10th most popular last name, and my married name is 379th!

pam Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 11:47 am

cool, right? Definitely made me more appreciative of Satran

April Says:

November 14th, 2008 at 6:19 pm

My sisters given name is “love” but everyone calls her “lovey” No not nammed after Mrs. Howell got that her whole life. While others would sing the song “april Love to us!

Lola Says:

November 16th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

There are 38 people with my first/last name combo. There are only 13 people with my daughter’s name! More with my partner’s, less with my boys! Interesting. (Just remember, the data used for “How Many of Me?” is from the 1990 Census. A bit old these days. Still cool though!

Ashlea Says:

October 3rd, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I am 24 years old and people have always and still do mispronounce my name. I pronouce just like the original dericative. I have people ask me if it pronouced like you have in the article. When I was younger I even had someone mispronounce it as Alicia, which has no resemblence at all.

anonymousthinker Says:

August 4th, 2010 at 5:47 am

Oh, look at that. There’s only one or fewer (i.e zero) people with the same name.

Klopfer Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 1:25 am

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Velasco Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 3:04 pm

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Mcginness Says:

March 13th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Hmm, really useful article for me

Toedoe Says:

August 10th, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Well my name is rayvin. Its not really common. But id say its unique because of its spelling. Its actually a combination of my parents names, because its im there first born while being married. So i feel a little special inside. 🙂

ferntailwp Says:

December 16th, 2011 at 7:16 pm

My name is Eros and I’ve only met one other with the same first name, and he was a guy! The site spams the crap out of me when I try to go on it so I’m not going to bother. My pen name isn’t too popular either- Charcoal Athene.

1auren1 Says:

January 16th, 2013 at 5:18 pm

My name is very hard to explain through writing but i will try my name is spelt as Lauren but not pronounced as Lauren it is pronounced as Lauren as in Sophia Loren the actress’s and the clothing brand Ralph Lauren i have never met anybody with the same name as myself I put a dash above the E in Lauren that apparently is the way the French spell it and makes it pronounced as Lauren

tfzolghadr Says:

June 3rd, 2013 at 2:37 am

My first name is quite common for my generation. However, my maiden name, a Disney movie title, is quite uncommon. I once Googled myself to find only one other “me”: an African-American drag queen in Florida who had chosen my name. Needless to say, I looked forward to changing my name to my husband’s surname, Zolgh@dr. The name of an ancient Persian tribe, it is quite uncommon in the U.S. However, since we plan to give them names common in both American and Persian culture, I could see them having other “mes” in Iran. My sister married a Johnson, and decided to give her children extremely common names… I was rooting for ultra-unique names, along the lines of @pollo, just so the kids wouldn’t be running into other “mes” constantly…

cadeence Says:

September 1st, 2013 at 11:12 am

My name is Valeria Khudyakova. I searched my name and last names combo on a very popular social network, and there were 75 people! My last name is very common in my city and in other parts of my country. However, first “mes” were from other cities, and I had a tough time finding the one from my city. When I was around 11, I went to one camp, where I met a girl with same name and last name! I also know 4 student Khudyakovs in my school, and one teacher. We have new girl and boy in my class, so I pray they are not Khudyakovs. Artemiy Khudyakov doesn’t sound well, but Darya Khudyakova does. There is also Khudyakov street in my city which was named after a guy with the same last name. People with same last name aren’t always relatives.

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