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S-Names for Girls: Popularity of “S” vs. “Sh” sounds

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By Kelli Brady of NameFreak!

When people ask me what letter I would use if I had to name ten children with the same letter, my answer is S. But I also clarify that it is S and not Sh! To me, since they are different sounds they are different “letters” with which to begin a name. As my mind ran with this thought, I wondered how have the two sounds differed in terms of popularity?

To do this research, I used the S and Sh names with percentage of use above 0.01% since 1938*. This cutoff was chosen because the Top 1000 in 2012 include names with a percentage higher than 0.0131% for girls. Because the S and Sh sounds are not exclusive to the letters S and Sh, I also added the names that begin with the letters C and Ch that have the S and Sh sounds. This can be subjective as some of the names can be pronounced with either the S/Sh sound or the hard C/Ch sound, but I went with what I thought would be the mostly likely sound heard. 

I can’t say this graph is surprising. We do not hear as many Sh-sound names currently save Charlotte.

It’s fascinating that even though there are less Sh/Ch names (120) than S/C names (153) included in these numbers, the Sh/Ch names are pretty equal to the S/C names in the late 1930s and remain relatively high through the 1960s, undoubtedly due to the popularity of Shirley, Sharon, and Cheryl. Other highly popular Sh/Ch names since 1938 are Shannon, Shelby, Sheila, Sherry, and Charlotte, all with percentages of 0.3% and higher at some point. To give perspective on that percentage, the girl names ranked #32 and higher in 2012 had percentages of use higher than 0.3%.

The S/C names reached their peak in the 1950s with the popularity of Susan, Sandra, and Cynthia. Other highly popular S/C names since 1938 are Sarah, Stephanie, Samantha, Sophia, Cindy, Sara, Sydney, Stacy, Sofia, Stacey, Sally, Suzanne, Sylvia, Savannah, Sabrina, and Sierra (again, all with percentages of 0.3% and higher at some point).

If you are curious as to the names included in this study, here is a list. These names could have appeared in just one year or remained fairly popular throughout the years.

S & C

Cecelia Cyndi Sandi Selene Sonya Sunny
Cecile Cynthia Sandra Selina Sophia Sunshine
Cecilia Saanvi Sandy Serena Sophie Suri
Cecily Sabrina Saniya Serenity Soraya Susan
Celena Sade Saniyah Serina Spring Susana
Celeste Sadie Santana Sidney Stacey Susanna
Celestine Sage Sara Siena Staci Susanne
Celia Sahara Sarah Sienna Stacia Susie
Celina Saige Sarahi Sierra Stacie Sutton
Celine Salena Sarai Silvia Stacy Suzan
Ciara Salina Sariah Simone Star Suzanna
Ciarra Sallie Sarina Sky Starla Suzanne
Cicely Sally Sariyah Skye Starr Suzette
Cielo Salma Sasha Skyla Stefani Suzy
Ciera Samantha Saundra Skylar Stefanie Sybil
Cierra Samara Savana Skyler Stella Syble
Ciji Samaria Savanah Sloan Stephaine Sydnee
Cinda Samatha Savanna Sloane Stephani Sydney
Cindi Samaya Savannah Sofia Stephanie Sydni
Cindy Samira Sawyer Sofie Stephany Sydnie
Cinnamon Samiya Saylor Somaya Stephenie Sylvia
Cinthia Samiyah Scarlet Sommer Stevie Symone
Citlali Sammie Scarlett Sondra Stormy Syreeta
Citlalli Samya Scarlette Sonia Sue  
Citlaly Sanaa Selah Sonja Suellen  
Cydney Sanai Selena Sonji Summer  

Sh & Ch

Chanel Cheyenne Shanika Sharla Sheena Sherrie
Chanelle Shae Shaniqua Sharlene Sheila Sherrill
Chantal Shaila Shanita Sharon Shelba Sherry
Chante Shaina Shaniya Sharonda Shelbi Sherryl
Chantel Shakira Shaniyah Sharron Shelbie Sheryl
Chantelle Shalon Shanna Sharyn Shelby Sheyla
Charisse Shalonda Shannan Shasta Shelia Shianne
Charla Shameka Shannen Shauna Shelley Shiela
Charleen Shamika Shannon Shaunna Shelli Shiloh
Charlene Shana Shanon Shavon Shellie Shirl
Charlize Shanae Shanta Shavonne Shelly Shirlee
Charlotte Shanda Shante Shawanda Shelva Shirlene
Charmaine Shane Shantel Shawn Shena Shirley
Cher Shanell Shantell Shawna Sheree Shonda
Cheri Shanelle Shaquana Shawnee Sheri Shonna
Cherie Shanequa Shara Shawnte Sheridan Shreya
Cherrelle Shani Shardae Shayla Sherie Shyann
Cheryl Shania Sharde Shaylee Sherita Shyanne
Cheryle Shanice Sharen Shayna Sherlyn Shyla
Cheyanne Shaniece Shari Shea Sherri Siobhan

Do you prefer S or Sh names for girls? Do you consider them different as I do?

*I calculated the percentage of use for each name using the raw number of births for the year and dividing it by the total number of girl births for the year. The Social Security Administration has only provided the total number of births for each year since 1938.

Originally posted at NameFreak! on March 5, 2014 and revised for Nameberry.

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About the author

NameFreak!

Kelli Brady is a stay at home mom of two who needed an outlet for her name obsession. She found it at NameFreak!, a blog dedicated to a wide variety of name-related whims and fancies. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her eBook, Name-alytics, is a look at the history of the Top 100 names in the United States. Check it out at https://gumroad.com/l/name-alytics!
View all of NameFreak!'s articles View all Berry Juice Bloggers

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8 Responses to “S-Names for Girls: Popularity of “S” vs. “Sh” sounds”

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cbann Says:

March 7th, 2014 at 6:12 am

Simone and Sabine are the only ones on my list

SunKissedChild Says:

March 7th, 2014 at 8:35 am

Charlotte is the only Sh/Ch sounding name on my list, and I have no S names on my list at all actually. Just really not my style 🙂

mel_finch Says:

March 7th, 2014 at 11:56 am

I can’t stand Sh names – something about the sound doesn’t appeal to me at all – so I can see why S names are more popular. Now that I think about it, I’m partial to the the C-pronounced-like-S family of names (Cecil, Cecily/Cecilia, Celeste, etc).
This was very interesting, thanks for posting!

Mischa Says:

March 7th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

While some of the “S and C” names below are not favourites of mine, all of them are legitimate names and spelled correctly in their original cultures and/or languages. That makes all of the difference for me. Why do me need multiple spellings for Cindy for example? My faves are Sabrina, Soraya, Celeste, Simone, Cecily, Sybil, Stella, Sophie, Sylvia, Sonja, Susanna and Selah.

Sunshine/Sunny
Saanvi
Sandra/Sandy
Serena/Serene
Suri
Sabrina
Serenity
Soraya
Sade
Saniya/Saniyah
Spring
Santana
Sidney/Sydney
Celeste/Celestine
Sage
Sahara
Sara/Sarah/Sarai/Sadie
Siena/Sienna
Celina/Celine/Selena/Selina/Selene
Sierra
Sutton
Stacia/Stacy/Stacey
Ciara
Salina
Sariah
Simone
Star
Sarina
Cecily/Cicely/Cecilia/Celia/Cecile
Sally/Sallie
Sariyah
Sky/Skye/Cielo
Suzanne/Suzette/Suzanna/Susanna/Susanne/Susana/Susan/Suzy
Salma
Sasha
Samantha
Sybil/Sibyl
Stella
Samara/Samaria
Sloan/Sloane
Samaya
Savanna/Savannah
Stephanie/Stefanie
Samira
Sawyer
Sofia/Sofie/Sophie/Sophia
Cinnamon
Sylvia/Silvia
Cynthia/Cinthia/Cindy
Samiya/Samiyah
Stevie
Scarlet/Scarlett
Syreeta
Citlali – Aztec or Native American?
Samya
Sonia/Sonja/Sonya
Sanaa
Selah

The trouble with “Sh & Ch” names is that a great number of them are either made-up or misspellings of legitimate names. Although I wouldn’t use all of the names below, I find all of them acceptable on my strict “legitimacy scale”. I can’t help myself. If a name doesn’t have a history or isn’t spelled correctly, I simply don’t find it very appealing. A name has to be more than a collection of sounds smashed together for me to consider it a “real name”. I’m quite the stickler for traditions and spelling.

Chanel – brand name
Cheyenne – I love the sound of this name but I wouldn’t use it. It’s a tribal name.
Sheena – a phonetic version of Sine
Sheila – dated
Sherrill – surname
Chantal – French name
Sharon – dated and a Biblical place name
Shakira – an Arabic name
Charisse – I don’t know why but I love this one. It’s a variant of Charis/Charissa
Shasta – a soda pop brand but also a place name
Shannon – Irish place name
Shiloh – Biblical place name
Shaina/Shana – Hebrew name
Charlotte – a classic
Shane – great for a boy!
Shirley – dated but legitimate
Shawnee – a Native American tribal name. Like Cheyenne, I wouldn’t use it myself.
Sheridan – surname
Shreya – Hindi/Sanskrit name popular in India along with Shriya
Shania – Ojibway name
Shea – mn only
Siobhan – Irish name

saraallison Says:

March 7th, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I too could name all my children with the letter S if I had to. My son’s name is Seth, and our second choice at the time was Spencer (I still like it, but have moved on). I also love the name Sal for a boy. Yep, just Sal. My daughter’s name does not start with S, but I love the names Sophie and Susanna, and could have easily gone with one of those two for her, or for a future daughter! I also happen to love my own name, despite its popularity–Sara. I have thought about using it for a future daughter too, maybe like Sara-Katherine. I’m not big on C, Sh or Ch names though.

Chloe14 Says:

March 9th, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I don’t really understand. I can’t really see much difference myself but if I had to name all ten kids with the letter S they would be called this:

Girls: Boys:
Shannen Stuart
Sidney Sean
Susie Steven
Savannah Shane
Sally Sebastian
Susanne Sylvester
Sophie Sloane
Sylvia Simon
Saoirse Sid
Sienna Seth

If I had to name all ten kids with the letter C they would be called:

Girls: Boys:
Cindy Christian
Celeste Carter
Cynthia Carson
Cassandra Christopher
Clarissa Colin
Carol Corbin
Cate Conrad
Claire Charlie
Charlotte Conner
Clara Cole

So there are mine!

Chloe14 Says:

March 9th, 2014 at 4:25 pm

At the moment I really love the name Shannen. And I also love spelling it that way to I think its such a pretty name and it really suits cute little girls and its also an Irish name and it means old and wise. Because in Ireland there is a river called the river Shannon so I guess that’s where it gets its name from. But I prefer to spell it Shannen! I love this name!

For a boy I really love the name Stuart I think it really suits a little boy. I love this name!

My favourite c name has to be Celeste. I think it really suits a young girl and it also sounds sweet on a teenager. I love this name!

For a boy my favourite c name has to be Carson. I think its really handsome and suits a little boy. I love this name!

Baby Names for Boys: Popularity of “S” and “Sh” sounds – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

March 16th, 2014 at 10:25 pm

[…] previously compared the popularity of girl names that began with the “S” and “Sh” sounds. Here are the […]

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