The Tennille Trend

music, 1970s, baby name, tennille
Captain and Tennille

The baby name Tennille debuted impressively in the U.S. baby name data in 1975. In fact, it was one of the top debut names of the entire decade. It also inspired dozens of variant spellings (even more than Deneen had!):

Name1974197519761977
Tanielle5*.77
Tennille.103*769425
Tenille.18*124107
Taneal.11*9.
Tanelle.5*10.
Tyneal.5**..
Tennile..32*26
Tennelle..20*19
Taneil..14*5
Tenelle..13*8
Tennielle..13**.
Teneil..12*7
Teneal..11*.
Tenile..11*.
Tanille..10*.
Teneille..10*5
Tannille..8**.
Tenneal..8**.
Tennell..8*5
Tenneil..7*.
Tennillie..7**.
Taniel..6*.
Tenniel..6*.
Tinelle..6**.
Taneille..5**.
Teneile..5**.
Tenneill..5**.
Tenneille...5**
Tennill...5**
Tinnelle...5**
TOTALS51421,136629

*Debut; **One-hit wonder

Tennille’s trendiness only lasted a few years, but the name was popular enough to reach the top 1,000 for three years straight in the late 1970s:

  • 1981: 87 baby girls named Tennille
  • 1980: 140 baby girls named Tennille
  • 1979: 113 baby girls named Tennille
  • 1978: 141 baby girls named Tennille [rank: 984th]
  • 1977: 425 baby girls named Tennille [rank: 462nd]
  • 1976: 769 baby girls named Tennille [rank: 300th]
  • 1975: 103 baby girls named Tennille (debut)
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: unlisted

So, where did the name come from?

The musical duo Captain & Tennille, made up of married couple “Captain” Daryl Dragon and Cathryn Antoinette “Toni” Tennille. Their first hit song was the very ’70s-sounding “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which was released in April of 1975 and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in June.

The band got even bigger in 1976: “Love Will Keep Us Together” won the Grammy for Record of the Year, “Muskrat Love” became their second hit, and they began hosting the weekly Captain and Tennille variety show on television. (It lasted 20 episodes.)

The surname Tennille is probably of French origin. My guess is that it’s a variant of Tenniel, which is thought to derive from the French place name Thénioux.

Do you like Tennille as a baby name? Would you use it? (How would you spell it?)

Sources:

P.S. Did you know that there are two Canadian country singers named Tenille?

4 thoughts on “The Tennille Trend

  1. In addition to the two country singers named Tennille there is also a wrestler named Tennille. I am not a wrestling fan, so I have no idea where she ranks in popularity among wrestling fans or anything else, but it does seem odd that there are three Tennille’s finding success and fame in their respective professions.

  2. You’re right! Tenille Dashwood, though apparently she wrestled under the name “Emma” for a long time.

    I agree, it’s pretty odd. It’s also very interesting that none of the three are from the U.S.

    (Dashwood was born in Victoria, Australia, in the late ’80s. I wish I could check the historical usage of Tennille/Tenille in Victoria, but the online Victoria data only goes back to 2008, unfortunately.)

  3. With regards to Australia, the only state that has full baby name data going back far enough to find out the impact is South Australia (link: https://data.sa.gov.au/data/dataset/popular-baby-names). Below are the number of baby girls with the name Tennille or any variant from 1975-84:
    1975: 6 (0.060%)
    1976: 12 (0.126%)
    1977: 15 (0.157%)
    1978: 9 (0.098%)
    1979: 6 (0.067%)
    1980: 7 (0.076%)
    1981: 9 (0.094%)
    1982: 11 (0.117%)
    1983: 8 (0.082%)
    1984: 6 (0.060%)
    Speaking of non-US usage, I checked out its usage as far as England & Wales (via the Birth Index) and Scotland (via the National Records of Scotland) are concerned to compared to the US and, indeed, Australia, it seems that the usage of Tennille + variants in Britain is far less widespread (for E&W, the peak number when accounting variants is about 6 and that was in 1997).

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