The Baby Name Aubrey

aubrey, song, bread,

We’ve already discussed whether we think Aubrey is a girl name or a boy name. But in that post, I forgot to mention why the name Aubrey underwent a gender switch a few decades ago.

According to SSA data, the scale tips from “mostly boys” to “mostly girls” in 1974:

Baby Name Aubrey - Gender Change (Boy Name to Girl Name) on Popularity Graph
The Baby Name Aubrey

Why?

The ’70s musical group Bread released a single called “Aubrey” in February, 1973. The song eventually peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Here are the first few lines:

And Aubrey was her name,
a not so very ordinary girl or name.
But who’s to blame?

The name Aubrey has seen even more usage within the last decade:

  • 2011: 7,135 baby girls and 142 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2010: 5,351 baby girls and 143 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2009: 5,399 baby girls and 144 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2008: 5,556 baby girls and 135 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2007: 4,503 baby girls and 138 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2006: 3,650 baby girls and 142 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2005: 2,263 baby girls and 148 baby boys named Aubrey
  • 2004: 1,811 baby girls and 145 baby boys named Aubrey

We can attribute the sudden popularity increase to Aubrey O’Day — first of the reality TV show Making the Band, then of the musical group Danity Kane.

So, what does the name Aubrey mean?

The name can be traced back (via Old French) to two possible Germanic sources. The first is the name Alberic, made up of the elements alb, “elf,” and ric, “powerful.” The second is the female name Albrada/Alberada, made up of the elements alb, “elf,” and rad, “counsel.”

(Most baby name books/websites try to create a phrase out of the unrelated elements in compound Germanic names. They’ll say Aubrey means “ruler of elves,” for instance. But, as I mentioned in the Wilbrod post, it’s more accurate to leave the elements unconnected.)

Source: Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.


3 thoughts on “The Baby Name Aubrey

  1. One thing I have noticed is that even though its usage for girls increased so much between 2004 and 2011, its usage for boys is pretty stable

  2. Good point — it’s still hanging on for boys, which doesn’t always happen.

    Forgot to mention that actress Aubrey Plaza (b. 1984) was named specifically for the Bread song:

    “Oh my God!” she says, “I totally forgot to put the song I was named after on this list! It’s called ‘Aubrey’ and it’s by Bread, this weird ’70s band. It’s actually really depressing when you listen to it. Can we add an eleventh song to this thing?”

    (In the article, Tracklist: Aubrey Plaza Rocks the Boat, she lists ten songs she likes.)

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