How popular is the baby name Angelina in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Angelina.
The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.
Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:
You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:
Here’s the data, side-by-side:
Laura usage (rank)
Lara usage (rank)
18,743 baby girls (11th)
1,295 baby girls (227th)
15,817 baby girls (15th)
945 baby girls (277th)
15,549 baby girls (19th)
236 baby girls (618th)
16,213 baby girls (18th)
65 baby girls (1,376th)
18,974 baby girls (14th)
57 baby girls (1,512th)
So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?
The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.
Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.
But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:
Lara, my own, think of me now and then Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again
Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.
Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.
The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder nameZhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”
Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)
Now let’s try a poll: Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura? Give me your reasons in the comments!
A few weeks ago, I watched the Khmer-language film First They Killed My Father (2017), which essentially portrays the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge through the eyes of a 5-year-old girl.
The movie was based on a memoir of the same name by Loung Ung. It was directed and co-produced by Angelina Jolie, and one of the executive producers was her son Maddox (who was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002).
Late in the movie, a scene set at a refugee camp showed a woman giving birth, then (a few moments later) holding a newborn. As I watched, I didn’t necessarily think the actress was pregnant in real life…but then I saw this in the credits:
This implies (to me, at least) that Cambodian actress Thanet(h) Thorn was indeed pregnant during filming, and that she named her baby “Jolie.”
I’m a little confused about the baby’s full name, though. “Jolie” is in the spot where the surname should be, but I don’t think it’s the surname in this case. Then again, “Thaneth” is also an odd choice for a surname — not because first names aren’t passed down as surnames in Cambodia (they are), but because typically it’s the father’s first name that gets passed down.
If anyone out there happens to know more about this mysterious Cambodian baby named Jolie, please comment and let us know!
In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of Thanet and Angie from a few years ago (posted to Twitter by another of the film’s co-producers, Rithy Panh).
The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:
2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.
One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.
The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:
The Italian name Gia is a pet form of Gianna, which itself is a contracted form of Giovanna (akin to Joanna). But Gia as a standalone name was very rare in the U.S. until the late 1950s, when usage increased enough for the name to debut in the SSA’s (publicly available) data:
1960: 41 baby girls named Gia
1959: 51 baby girls named Gia
1958: 43 baby girls named Gia
1957: 18 baby girls named Gia [debut]
What gave it a boost? The first famous Gia in America, actress Gia Scala, whose career took off in the late 1950s.
Her “real” name is hard to pin down. She was born in England with the name Josephine Scoglio. But…she spent her childhood in Italy, and when she applied for U.S. citizenship in 1957, she said her legal name was Giovanna Scoglio.
In any case, she started going by Gia not long after she moved to the U.S. (in the early 1950s), and Universal Studios gave her the stage name “Gia Scala” at the start of her film career.
Since then, several other famous Gias have also influenced the charts…
Fashion model Gia Marie Carangi was at the peak of her fame in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It doesn’t look like her modeling career had any impact on the baby name Gia, but when the TV movie Gia starring Angelina Jolie came out in 1998, usage of the name more than tripled, and the compound name Giamarie debuted.
Usage more than doubled from 2009 to 2011 (when Gia peaked in the national rankings at 300th place) thanks to two people: reality TV contestant Gia Allamand, who appeared on both The Bachelor and Bachelor Pad in 2010, and celebrity baby Gia Francesca, born to Mario Lopez and his wife in September of 2010.