Baby names with PH: Phoenix, Ophelia, Joseph

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Looking for baby names that feature the appealing letter-pair PH?

I’ve collected a hundreds of options for you in this post!

Before we get to the names, though, let’s get one big question out of the way…

Why does PH sound like “F”?

In English, PH is a digraph, which means that it’s a pair of letters that make a single sound. (It’s interesting that the word “digraph” contains a digraph, isn’t it?)

Most of the English words that have PH were derived from Greek — specifically, from Greek words that included the Greek letter phi:

Greek letter phi (uppercase)
Phi (uppercase)

In ancient times, the Greek letter phi made an aspirated p-sound. (The unaspirated p-sound, on the other hand, was made by the Greek letter pi.)

When Greek was transliterated into Latin, the letter phi was written as “ph” to denote this aspiration — that is, to signal that the letter “p” was accompanied by a brief puff of air.

So, what happened?

In the first several centuries A.D., the pronunciation of the Greek letter phi changed. It slowly evolved from an aspirated p-sound into an f-sound.

As a result, the letter-pair “ph” underwent a corresponding (though somewhat illogical) pronunciation change. It, too, came to represent an f-sound — and still does to this day.

Now, back to the names!

Top baby names with PH

Let’s begin with the most popular names with PH (including a few names that start with PH):

Top girl names with PHTop boy names with PH
Sophia
Josephine
Sophie
Phoebe
Daphne
Phoenix
Ophelia
Stephanie
Murphy
Persephone
Joseph
Christopher
Phoenix
Memphis
Philip
Phillip
Raphael
Kristopher
Ephraim
Murphy

Now here are the same names again, but this time around I’ve added some details (including definitions, rankings, and popularity graphs).

Christopher + Kristopher

The name Christopher was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: christos, meaning “Christ” or “anointed one,” and phoros, meaning “bearing” — hence, “Christ-bearing.”

Graph of the usage of the baby name Christopher in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Christopher

Kristopher is a slightly simplified form of Christopher (perhaps influenced by the Scandinavian spelling, Kristoffer).

Graph of the usage of the baby name Kristopher in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Kristopher

Christopher is currently the 52nd most popular boy name in the nation, and Kristopher ranks 936th.

Other forms of the name include Christoph (German) and Christophe (French).

Daphne

The name Daphne was derived from the ancient Greek word daphne, meaning “laurel.”

In Greek myth, Daphne was a naiad who was saved from the advances of the god Apollo by being transformed into a laurel tree.

Daphne is currently the 288th most popular girl name in the U.S.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Daphne in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Daphne

One variant form of the name is Daphna. The name is also sometimes spelled Daphnie, Daphney, or Daphni.

Ephraim

The name Ephraim is the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “fruitful.” It’s pronounced a variety of ways: EHF-rum, EEF-rum, EHF-fray-um, etc.

Ephraim is currently the 978th most popular boy name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Ephraim in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Ephraim

The name is also sometimes spelled Ephram or Ephrem.

Joseph + Josephine

The name Joseph is based on Ioseph, the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “he adds.”

Graph of the usage of the baby name Joseph in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Joseph

Josephine comes from Joséphine, the French feminine form of Joseph.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Josephine in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Josephine

Joseph is currently the 28th most popular boy name in the U.S., whereas Josephine ranks 72nd for girls.

The Dutch form of Joseph is Josephus. Other feminine forms include Josepha (German) and Josephina.

Memphis

Memphis was the Greek form of the ancient Egyptian city-name Men-nefer, which meant “his beauty.” (The nefer element is also evident in the Egyptian name Nefertiti.)

The Egyptian city is long gone, but a city in Tennessee was named Memphis in the 1820s.

Memphis is currently the 404th most popular boy name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Memphis in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Memphis

Murphy

The Irish surname Murphy was derived from a medieval Irish given name comprised of the elements muir, meaning “sea,” and cath, meaning “battle.”

Murphy is currently the 716th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It’s also sitting just outside the top 1,000 for boys.)

Graph of the usage of the baby name Murphy in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Murphy

The name is also sometimes spelled Murphie, Murphee, or Murphey.

Ophelia

The name Ophelia was derived from the ancient Greek word opheleia, meaning “aid, help, succor.”

It’s not a name found in Greek myth, but William Shakespeare used it for a character in his play Hamlet around the year 1600. And, much more recently, the Lumineers featured the name in their 2016 song “Ophelia” [vid].

Ophelia is currently the 321st most popular girl name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Ophelia in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Ophelia

The French form of the name is Ophélie.

Persephone

The etymology of the Greek name Persephone (pronounced per-SEH-fuh-nee) isn’t known for certain, but one modern theory suggests that it means “she who threshes ears of corn.”

In Greek myth, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (the goddess of agriculture) and Zeus.

Persephone is currently the 778th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It entered the top 1,000 for the first time in 2019.)

Graph of the usage of the baby name Persephone in the U.S. since 1880.
Usage of the baby name Persephone

The name is also sometimes spelled Persephonie or Persephony.

Philip + Phillip

The name Philip was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: philos, meaning “beloved, loving,” and hippos, meaning “horse” — hence, “lover of horses.”

Graph of the usage of the baby name Philip in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Philip (one L)

Phillip-with-two-L’s is a common variant of Philip.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Phillip in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Phillip (two L’s)

Philip is currently the 451th most popular boy name in the nation, and Phillip (two L’s) ranks 523rd.

Both spellings are typed entirely with the right hand on a standard QWERTY keyboard, which is interesting.

Other forms of the name include Philipp (German) and Philippe (French). Feminine forms include Philippa and Phillipa.

Phoebe

The name Phoebe was derived from the ancient Greek word phoibos, meaning “pure, bright, radiant.”

Many characters in Greek myth had this name, including a Titaness who was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. This particular Phoebe was the grandmother of the sun god Apollo and the moon goddess Artemis.

Phoebe is currently the 247th most popular girl name in the U.S.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Phoebe in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Phoebe

The spelling Phebe (used in certain translations of the Bible) was more prevalent in previous generations. Among the babies born in the city of Providence in 1868, for instance, we find four girls named Phebe, but none named Phoebe.

Phoenix

The name Phoenix was derived from the ancient Greek word phoinix, meaning “crimson” or “purple.

In Greek myth, the phoenix was a bird that periodically self-immolated and then rose again from its own ashes.

In fact, the capital of Arizona was named “Phoenix” because early settlers, in the 1860s, noticed archaeological evidence of the previous Native American inhabitants and recognized that “the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.”

Phoenix, a relatively gender-neutral name, currently ranks 248th for boys and 308th for girls.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Phoenix in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Phoenix

Raphael

Raphael — the name of a Biblical archangel, Renaissance painter, and a Ninja Turtle — is based on a Hebrew name meaning “God heals.”

Graph of the usage of the baby name Raphael in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Raphael

Raphael is currently the 538th most popular boy name in the nation.

Feminine forms of the name include Raphaela (German) and Raphaëlle (French).

Sophia + Sophie

The name Sophia was derived from the ancient Greek word sophos, meaning “wisdom,” “sound judgment,” “skilled.”

Graph of the usage of the baby name Sophia in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Sophia

Sophie is the French form of Sophia.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Sophie in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Sophie

Sophia is currently the 6th most popular girl name in the U.S., and Sophie ranks 76th.

Stephanie

The name Stephanie was derived from the ancient Greek word stephanos, meaning “crown” (or, more precisely, “that which surrounds”).

Stephanie is currently the 455th most popular girl name in the nation.

Graph of the usage of the baby name Stephanie in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Stephanie

One variant form of the name is Stephania. The name is also sometimes spelled Stephany or Stephani.

More names with PH

So, what other names have PH in them?

Here are some less-common choices (that are still seeing usage in the U.S. these days):

  • Aleph
  • Alpha
  • Alphonse, Alphonso
  • Aphrodite
  • Apphia
  • Asaph
  • Cephas
  • Cypher
  • Delphi
  • Delphina, Delphine
  • Gryphon
  • Hephzibah
  • Humphrey
  • Japheth, Japhet, Yaphet
  • Morpheus
  • Mustapha, Moustapha
  • Naphtali
  • Nephi
  • Ophira
  • Phaedra
  • Pharaoh
  • Pharrell
  • Phelan
  • Philemon
  • Philo
  • Philomena
  • Philopateer, Philopater
  • Phineas, Phinehas
  • Prophet
  • Phyllis
  • Ralph, Ralphie
  • Randolph
  • Rapha
  • Rudolph
  • Saphina
  • Saphira, Sapphira, Saphyra
  • Sapphire
  • Sephira
  • Sephiroth
  • Sephora
  • Seraph
  • Seraphim
  • Seraphina, Saraphina, Seraphine
  • Shiphrah
  • Sophina
  • Sophonie
  • Sophronia
  • Sylphrena
  • Sypha
  • Symphony
  • Theophilus
  • Triumph
  • Zephaniah, Zephan
  • Zephyr, Zephyra, Zephyrus

Finally, here are some very rare names with PH — some of which haven’t seen any usage in the U.S. in recent years, others of which never appeared in the U.S. data at all.

Girl names:

Alpharetta, Amphirho, Amphithea, Aphaea, Alphonsa/Alphonsine, Aphra (e.g., Aphra Behn), Cleopha/Cléophée, Christophine, Delpha/Delphia, Dymphna, Elpha, Elaphia, Eugraphia, Euphrasia/Euphrasie, Glaphyra, Iphigenia, Nephele, Nephthys, Ophrah, Orpha/Orphia, Phaenna, Pharaildis, Philia, Philena/Philene, Philina/Philine, Phillis, Philomela/Philomel, Philotera, Phoenicia, Photina/Photine, Phronsie, Phryne, Phyllida, Ralphine, Seraphia, Sophilia, Sophonisba, Theophila/Theophilia, Theophania, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Zelpha, Zephyria/Zéphyrine, Zilpha/Zilphia

Boy names:

Alphaeus, Alphonsus, Amphion, Caliph, Cephus, Cleophas/Cleophus, Delphinus, Demophon, Dolph/Dolphus, Eliphalet/Eliphelet, Eliphas/Eliphaz, Ephesius, Epiphanius, Eugraphius, Euphemius, Euphranor, Euphrasius, Hephaestus, Jehoshaphat/Josaphat, Jephthah/Jephtha, Naphtali/Nephtali, Nicéphore, Onuphrius, Ophir, Orpheus, Pamphilus, Phaedrus, Phanuel, Pharamond, Pharez, Phelan, Phelim, Philbert/Philibert, Phileas, Philemon, Philetus, Philon, Photius, Rodolph, Rolph, Seraphin, Sophron/Sophronius, Télesphore, Theophanes, Theophilus, Tryphon, Xenophon

Options that work for both genders include Alphie, Iphis, and Seraph.


Which of the PH names above to do you like most? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the more common names in this post, just check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will take a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current and historical U.S. usage.

Sources:

Image by Jan Temmel from Pixabay

Where did the baby name Alprentice come from in 1970?

American activists John Huggins (1945-1969) and Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter (1942-1969).
John Huggins and Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter

On January 17, 1969, on the campus of UCLA, a dispute broke out during a meeting of the African Student Union. The dispute turned violent and, ultimately, two members of the Black Panther Party — Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, 26, and John Huggins, 23 — were shot and killed by a member of a rival group, the black nationalist US Organization.

The next year, the rare name Alprentice appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data. It stayed there for a total of three years:

  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: 5 baby boys named Alprentice
  • 1971: 5 baby boys named Alprentice
  • 1970: 7 baby boys named Alprentice [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted

Both Carter and Huggins “had been accepted for UCLA’s “high potential” program for minority students who do not otherwise qualify academically for admission.”

In 2010, a plaque in memory of the men (“slain in the ongoing struggle for student empowerment and social justice”) was hung outside the classroom in which they were killed.

I’m not sure where Alprentice’s first name came from, but his nickname, “Bunchy,” was bestowed by one of his grandmother’s friends when he was a baby. Here’s how his mother, Nola Mae Carter, told the story:

“He was real plump when he was a baby, and she came and she started […] calling him Bunchy. And that’s how he got Bunchy” — like a bunch of greens.

Sources:

Image from the Sun-Telegram [San Bernardino, CA], 19 Jan. 1969, page 1.

Popular baby names in Northern Ireland, 2021

Northern Ireland

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), the most popular baby names in Northern Ireland last year were Grace and Jack.

Here are the Northern Ireland’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2021:

Girl Names

  1. Grace, 182 baby girls
  2. Emily, 150
  3. Fiadh, 149
  4. Olivia, 148
  5. Isla, 138
  6. Sophie, 128
  7. Aoife, 122
  8. Ella, 111
  9. Anna, 106
  10. Sophia, 102

Boy Names

  1. Jack, 193 baby boys
  2. Noah, 191
  3. James, 173
  4. Charlie, 155
  5. Oliver, 131
  6. Theo, 119
  7. Leo, 117
  8. Cillian, 116
  9. Finn, 115
  10. Harry, 114

In the girls’ top 10, Aoife and Anna replaced Amelia, Lucy and Freya. (Two replaced three because there was a tie for tenth last year.)

In the boys’ top 10, Leo replaced Thomas.

And on the other side of the spectrum…

Northern Ireland’s downloadable data only goes down to names given to 3 babies, technically, but this batch of data — like the 2020 batch — included two extra alphabetized sets of names at the end. I believe these sets of names were the ones given to 2 babies and 1 baby, respectively. With that theory in mind, here’s a sampling of names from the second set:

Unique Girl NamesUnique Boy Names
Aodhla, Bediha, Caodhla, Darbie, Edera, Farbhlaidh, Gullandama, Harryanna, Izzy, Jersey, Khalessee, Lasairfhiona, Moya-Grace, Nollaig, Otter, Pupa, Qismina, Rozerin, Samhradh, Toireasa, Ugne, Venba, Wanda, Xanthe, Yarra, ZarkaAstraeus, Brogain, Chulainn, Dubhlainn, Edico, Finnian, Gerard-Og, Holiness, Iollan, Jefaldo, Kestrel, Laochrainn, Murdo, Nivonio, Orin, Padraic, Quevin, Riocht, Struan, Tuathal, Uisce, Vinny, Wai, Xayah, Yeats, Zeyue

Explanations/associations for some of the above…

  • Farbhlaidh – Irish for “overlord, ruler.”
  • Lasairfhiona – Irish for “flame of wine” — lasair meaning “flame,” fhíona meaning “of wine.” (The Irish word for “wine” is fíon.)
  • Nollaig – Irish for “Christmas.”
  • Samhradh – Irish for “summer.”
  • Chulainn – a reference to Cú Chulainn of Irish mythology.
  • Riocht – Irish for “kingdom.”
  • Tuathal – both a legendary conqueror of Ireland (Túathal Techtmar) and the Irish word for “counterclockwise.”
  • Uisce – Irish for “water.” (Also the word upon which “whiskey” was based!)
  • Yeats – a reference to W. B. Yeats, the Irish poet.

Finally, here are the 2020 rankings for Northern Ireland, if you’d like to compare.

Sources: Baby Names – NISRA, Irish Names and Surnames, Wiktionary

How did the Hanafi Siege influence baby names in 1977?

Newspaper clipping about the Hanafi Siege (NY Daily News, Mar. 10, 1977)
News of the Hanafi Siege

On March 9, 1977, a dozen Hanafi Muslim gunmen led by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis invaded the B’nai B’rith building in Washington, D.C., and took hostages.

They ended up storming three buildings in the city that day, taking 149 hostages in total.

About 40 hours later, negotiators (with the help of Muslim ambassadors from Iran, Egypt and Pakistan) were able to convince the gunmen to surrender. Just one person was killed during the siege.

News of the Hanafi Siege gripped the nation for several days, and we can see the effect of this in the U.S. baby name data. In 1977, both Khaalis and Bnai appeared in the data for the first time:

Boys named KhaalisGirls named KhaalisGirls named Bnai
19795.
1978..
197725*5*6*
1976..
1975..
*Debut

Khaalis was a rare dual-gender debut, while Bnai ended up being a one-hit wonder that never returned to the charts.

Hamaas Abdul Khaalis was the founder of the Hanafi Movement, a breakaway group of the Nation of Islam. His birth name was Ernest Timothy McGee.

The Jewish organization B’nai B’rith, meaning “sons of the covenant,” was founded by German-Jewish immigrants in New York City in the 1840s. The word B’nai is based on the Hebrew word b’né, the plural form of ben, meaning “son.” (The element ben can be seen in Biblical names like Benjamin and Reuben.)

Sources: 40 Years Later: Remembering the Hanafi Siege That Paralyzed DC, The day terrorists took D.C. hostage, About Us – B’nai B’rith International, Hanafi Siege: Gunmen raid D.C. buildings in 1977, killing one and wounding at least 12
Image: © 1977 New York Daily News

Toledo brothers named One & Two

Headstone of Two Stickney (1810-1862)
Two Stickney’s headstone

In the mid-1830s, the state of Ohio and the territory of Michigan fought over a 468-square-mile strip of land containing Toledo. Their border dispute became known as the Toledo War.

During that period, tensions between the two regions ran high. At one point, for instance, the sheriff of Michigan’s Monroe County took to arresting “anyone in the Ohio strip who was promoting Toledo going to Ohio.”

Map of the disputed strip of land between Michigan and Ohio.
The disputed strip of land between Michigan and Ohio

His arrests included “one of Toledo’s founding fathers,” Benjamin Franklin Stickney. Originally from New England — and named after his mother’s uncle, the actual Benjamin Franklin — Stickney had moved his family westward in 1812 after being appointed as an Indian Agent at Fort Wayne.

By the time he arrived in Fort Wayne, Mr. Stickney already had fostered a reputation as an odd personality and independent thinker. The eccentric rap came largely from Mr. Stickney’s decision to name his sons One and Two.

His apparent reasoning, according to legend, was that the boys could name themselves when they grew older, but they never did. Mr. Stickney had wanted to name his three daughters after states, but his wife forbid it for the first two. He won out after the birth of his last child, born at Fort Wayne in 1817. He called her Indiana.

(One Stickney was born in 1803. Two Stickney was born in 1810. Between them were two daughters named Louisa and Mary. The fifth baby was indeed named after the state of Indiana, but her name was spelled “Indianna.”)

Stickney’s arrest angered his son Two, who ended up stabbing the Monroe County sheriff in the side with a pen knife in July of 1835. This non-fatal injury was the only casualty in the nearly-bloodless Toledo War.

The conflict finally ended in mid-1836, when the U.S. Congress proposed a compromise. Ohio would be given the disputed strip of land (and the city of Toledo), while Michigan would be given statehood and the remainder of the Upper Peninsula.

Sources:

Image (2nd one): Adapted from Disputed Toledo Strip by Drdpw under CC BY-SA 3.0.

P.S. Other families with number-names include the Rosado family of Brazil and Ten & Decillian Million of Washington state.