The Deirdre Spike – Caused by a Movie?

old acquaintance - had character named deirdreThe name Deatra appeared on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list for the first time in 1944:

  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1946: 12 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1945: 19 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1944: 29 baby girls named Deatra [debut]
  • 1943: unlisted

It was a top debut name that year, in fact.

“Deatra” confused me at first. I could’t figure out where it came from. Then I discovered a whole bunch of similar names that also debuted in 1944…

Name 1943 1944 1945 1946
Deatra 29 19 12
Dietra 25 16 17
Deitra 23 16 16
Detra 20 6 11
Diedra 19 27 16
Dedra 18 16 19
Deadra 15 12 12
Deedra 11 14 9
Deirdra 11 7 8
Diedre 11 14 22
Deardra 10 6 6
Dierdra 5 5 5
Dieatra 5
Deetra 5

…and these pointed me to Deirdre as the likely source.

So what happened to the Irish name Deirdre that year?

  • 1947: 149 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 689th)
  • 1946: 121 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 742nd)
  • 1945: 78 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 852nd)
  • 1944: 67 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 948th)
  • 1943: 29 baby girls named Deirdre

From 1943 to 1944, usage more than doubled, pushing Deirdre into the top 1,000 for the very first time.

Other variants (e.g. Dierdre, Deidra) also saw increased usage in 1944. One of them, Deidre, even achieved top-1,000 status in 1945.

So what caused the great Deirdre-spike of 1944?

Perhaps the Bette Davis film Old Acquaintance, which was released in November of 1943. It featured a character named Deirdre Drake (played by actress Dolores Moran).

I’m not 100% sure the movie was the cause, but the name of Bette Davis’s character, Kit, also seemed to get a boost in 1944…

  • 1946: 24 baby girls named Kit
  • 1945: 27 baby girls named Kit
  • 1944: 25 baby girls named Kit
  • 1943: 14 baby girls named Kit
  • 1942: 12 baby girls named Kit

…so I think it’s a decent guess.

Do you have any other ideas?


3 thoughts on “The Deirdre Spike – Caused by a Movie?

  1. I have a friend named Deitra and I was always at a loss of where it came from. Deirdre makes sense as a root, but it doesn’t really explain where her parents got it, as she was born in the 1980s. I may have to ask her sometime…

  2. Deirdre peaked in the 1940s in Australia too – although it only rose 3 places higher than its ranking in the 1930s, which is when it debuted. Actor Erroll Flynn had a daughter named Deirdre born in 1945, so perhaps he was influenced by the same film as everyone else!

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