How popular is the baby name Barbara in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Barbara and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Barbara.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Barbara

Number of Babies Named Barbara

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Barbara

Arrr! Baby Names for Talk Like a Pirate Day

pirate baby

Avast! Did you know that today is Talk Like a Pirate Day?

“Arrr” itself doesn’t make a great name — even for pirates — but here’s the next best thing: over 120 names that feature the “ar”-sound.

Margot, Margaux
Bernard (…Bernarr?)
Marc, Mark
Marcus, Markus
Stewart, Stuart

Which of the “ar”-names above do you like best? Did I miss any good ones?

(Image from Pixabay)

Additions, 9/20:

Poll: Pick a Pair of Toni Twin Names

joan and jean mcmillan, twins, 1949While looking at multiples from 1944 last month, I found sources claiming that both Mary & Marjorie Vaughan and Lois & Lucille Barnes were the “original” twins in the ads for Toni Home Permanents (tagline: “Which twin has the Toni?”).

Many sets of twins were involved in the Toni ad campaigns of the ’40s, though, so I’m not sure if any single set of twins can be called the “original” twins. For example, a November 1949 issue of LIFE included a full-page Toni ad with six sets of twins:

  • Eleanor and Jeanne Fulstone of Nevada
  • Betty and Barbara Land of Virginia
  • Barbara and Beverly Lounsbury of New Jersey
  • Joan and Jean McMillan of Texas (pictured)
  • Marjorie and Mary Vaughan of Indiana
  • Charlotte and Antoinette Winkelmann of New York

Let’s pretend you’re about to have twin girls, and you have to give them one of the name-pairs above. Which pair do you choose?

Pick a pair...

View Results

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3 More Airplane Babies: Lufthansa, S.K.Y., Jet Star

planeIt’s been a while since I posted about babies born on airplanes (and named after that fact!). So here are two three at once:

  • Barbara Lufthansa – In July of 1965, a baby girl born on a Lufthansa flight from Germany to New York was named Barbara Lufthansa, middle name in honor of the airline.
  • Shona Kirsty Yves (S.K.Y.) – In 1991, a baby girl born on a British Airways flight from Ghana to London was named Shona Kirsty Yves, the initials of her three given names spelling out the word “sky.”
  • Saw Jet Star – In April of 2016, a baby boy born on a Jetstar Asia flight from Singapore to Myanmar was named Saw Jet Star, “Jet Star” in honor of the airline.

And here are some of the earlier airplane babies:

Do you know of any that I missed?


Names from WHER, the First All-Female Radio Station

Dot Fisher of WHER radio station in the 1950s
Dot Fisher of WHER c. 1957 © Broadcast News
Memphis-based radio station WHER (1430 AM), which was run almost entirely by women, went on the air in October of 1955. It was billed as America’s “First All-Female Radio Station.”

The station was created and funded by legendary record producer Sam Phillips — the guy who discovered Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, among others.

WHER’s original staff included Sam’s wife Rebecca (Becky) along with seven other women: Barbara Gurley, Donna Rae Johnson, Dorothy “Dot” Fisher, Dotty Abbott, Fay Bussell, Phyllis Stimbert, and Roberta Stout.

Six of these eight ladies were on-air personalities with their own programs, each of which emphasized “some particular subject of interest to housewives” according to a 1957 source.

Which of the original WHER names do you like best?

Which WHER name do you like best?

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(Dotty is usually a nickname for Dorothy, so I combined them in the poll.)

Vida Jane Butler, who joined WHER later in the ’50s, was known on-air as “Janie Joplin.” She’d been told that Vida “was considered too old-fashioned and too Southern for WHER,” and the data backs it up: the name Vida was indeed out of fashion and associated with the south at that time. These days, though, Vida is picking up steam — particularly in California. Janie, on the other hand, saw peak usage in the mid-20th century and has been in decline ever since.


100+ Baby Names for 100 Years of the NPS

national park service 100th birthday (zion poster, 1938)The U.S. National Park Service has a birthday coming up!

When the NPS was created on August 25, 1916, there were only 35 national parks and monuments. (The world’s first, Yellowstone, had been established in 1872.)

Nowadays the agency oversees 411 units. These units are located in the 50 states and beyond, and include national monuments (82), national historic sites (78), national parks (59), national historical parks (50), national memorials (30), national battlefields (11), national seashores (10), national lakeshores (4), national scenic trails (3), and more.

Let’s celebrate the upcoming centenary with over 100 baby names that pay tribute to the national parks specifically:

  • Acadia for Acadia National Park.
  • Angel or Angela for Grand Canyon National Park’s Angel’s Window.
  • Arrow for the NPS emblem, the arrowhead.
  • Archer for Arches National Park.
  • Barbara for Channel Islands National Park’s Santa Barbara Island.
  • Bathsheba for Hot Springs National Park’s Bathhouse Row.
  • Bay for any of the parks featuring a bay, such as Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Biscayne National Park, etc.
  • Benda or Bendrick for Big Bend National Park.
  • Bona for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Bona.
  • Bristol for Great Basin National Park’s bristlecone pines.
  • Bryce or Brycen for Bryce Canyon National Park.
  • Cadden or Caddie for Acadia National Park’s Cadillac Mountain.
  • Cade for Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Cades Cove.
  • Canyon for any of the parks featuring a canyon, such as Grand Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, etc.
  • Capitola for Capitol Reef National Park or for Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan.
  • Carl or Carla for Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
  • Caven for Mammoth Cave National Park.
  • Cedar for Congaree National Park’s Cedar Creek.
  • Cinder for Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Cinder Cone.
  • Clark for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve.
  • Clifford or Clifton for Mesa Verde National Park’s Cliff Palace.
  • Cruz for Channel Islands National Park’s Santa Cruz Island.
  • Delica for Arches National Park’s Delicate Arch.
  • Denali for Denali National Park & Preserve.
  • Denison for Katmai National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Denison.
  • Domenica or Domenico for Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome.
  • Douglas for Katmai National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Douglas.
  • Elias for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve.
  • Elliott for Biscayne National Park’s Elliott Key.
  • Ever or Everly for Everglades National Park.
  • Faith for Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful geyser.
  • Forest for Petrified Forest National Park.
  • Garland for Garland County, Arkansas, where Hot Springs National Park is located.
  • Gates for Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve.
  • Guadalupe for Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
  • Gunnison for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
    • The park was established in 1999, and Gunnison debuted on the baby name charts the very same year. Did one event cause the other?
  • Harding for Kenai Fjords National Park’s Harding Icefield.
  • Hassel for Virgin Islands National Park’s Hassel Island.
  • Jackson for Jackson Hole, where much of Grand Teton National Park is located.
  • Jarvis for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Jarvis.
  • Jefferson for Dry Tortugas National Park’s Fort Jefferson.
  • John for Virgin Islands National Park’s St. John Island.
  • Joshua for Joshua Tree National Park.
  • Kenai for Kenai Fjords National Park.
    • The derivation of Kenai is unknown, but it could come from either Dena’ina Athabascan (“big flat” or “two big flats and river cut-back” or “trees and brush in a swampy marsh”), Russian (“flat barren land”), or Iniut (“black bear”).
  • Kingston or Kingsley for Kings Canyon National Park.
  • Lake for any of the parks featuring lakes, such as Crater Lake National Park, Voyageurs National Park, Lake Clark National Park & Preserve, etc.
  • Lamar for Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch.
  • Lata for the National Park of American Samoa’s Lata Mountain.
  • Lehman for Great Basin National Park’s Lehman Caves.
  • Lewis for Glacier National Park’s Lewis Range.
  • Livingston for Glacier National Park’s Livingston Range.
  • Manning for Saguaro National Park’s Manning Cabin.
  • Mara for Joshua Tree National Park’s Oasis of Mara.
    • In the Serrano language, Mara means “the place of little springs and much grass.”
  • Martin for Katmai National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Martin.
  • Maui, where Haleakalā National Park is located.
  • Mauna for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s Mauna Loa.
  • Miguel for Channel Islands National Park’s San Miguel Island.
  • Norris for Yellowstone National Park’s Norris Geyser Basin.
  • North for North Cascades National Park.
  • Olympia for Olympic National Park.
  • Parker, Parkyr, Parks, Park, or Parke as a tribute to all national parks.
  • Pele as a symbol of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
  • Prairie for any of the parks featuring a prairie, such as Badlands National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, etc.
  • Pratt for Guadalupe Mountains National Park’s Pratt Cabin.
  • Rainier for Mount Rainier National Park.
  • Ranger as a tribute to all national parks and park rangers.
  • Reef for Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Rhodes for Biscayne National Park’s Old Rhodes Key.
  • Rocky for Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Roosevelt for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
  • Rosa for Channel Islands National Park’s Santa Rosa Island.
  • Royale or Royal for Isle Royale National Park.
  • Sandy for Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.
  • Sanford for Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve’s Mt. Sanford.
  • Sequoia for Sequoia National Park.
  • Shenandoah for Shenandoah National Park.
  • Sherman for Sequoia National Park’s General Sherman Tree.
  • Sky or Skye for any of the parks featuring a night sky program, such as Big Bend National Park, Great Basin National Park, etc.
  • Talus for Pinnacles National Park’s talus caves.
  • Theodore for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
  • Valley for any of the parks featuring a valley, such as Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Kobuk Valley, etc.
  • Verda or Verdell for Mesa Verde National Park.
  • Virginia for Virgin Islands National Park.
  • Windy for Wind Cave National Park.
  • Wolfe for Arches National Park’s Wolfe Ranch.
  • Woodrow or Wilson for Woodrow Wilson, who signed the act that created the NPS.
  • Woodson or Woody for Redwood National and State Parks.
  • Yosemite for Yosemite National Park.
  • Zion for Zion National Park.

For all you national park lovers out there: What other park-inspired names can you come up with?

Sources: List of national parks of the United States – Wikipedia, History (U.S. National Park Service), NPS Site Designations (pdf), Kenai Fjords National Park Profile 2015 (pdf)

Image: Adapted from Zion National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service – LOC

Baby with “Unusual Fortitude” Gets Name Changed

Barbara McClintock in 1947Maize cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock was born on June 16, 1902, in Hartford, Connecticut.

She discovered transposons or “jumping genes” in the 1940s. For this discovery of mobile genetic elements, she won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1983, becoming the very first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.

She wasn’t born a “Barbara,” though. Her birth name was Eleanor.

Her parents changed her name because they thought “Eleanor” wasn’t a good fit to her personality:

By McClintock’s own account, her “capacity to be alone” began in the cradle: “My mother used to put a pillow on the floor and give me one toy and just leave me there. She said I didn’t cry, didn’t call for anything.” Her temperament, she says, led her parents to change her name when she was only four months old. Instead of Eleanor, a name they had originally chosen as especially feminine and delicate, they soon decided that “Barbara” would be more appropriate for a girl with such unusual fortitude. It sounded to them more masculine.

Barbara, the third of four children, had siblings named Marjorie, Mignon, and Malcolm.


Image: Smithsonian Institution Archives

Popular Girl Names: Biblical vs. Non-Biblical

The ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names in the girl’s top 20 is about the same today as it was 100 years ago, though the ratio did change a bit mid-century.

(In contrast, there’s been a steady increase in the number of Biblical-origin names among the top boy names.)

Here’s the color-coded table — Biblical names are in the yellow cells, non-Biblical names are in the green cells, and several borderline names (which I counted as non-Biblical) are in the orange cells:

Popular girl names: Biblical vs. non-Biblical, from Nancy's Baby Names.
Popular girl names over time: Biblical (yellow) vs. non-Biblical. Click to enlarge.
  • Biblical names: Abigail, Anna, Betty (via Elizabeth), Chloe, Danielle, Deborah, Debra, Elizabeth, Hannah, Isabella (via Elizabeth), Janet, Jean, Joan, Judith, Judy, Julie, Lillian (via Elizabeth), Lisa (via Elizabeth), Lois, Marie, Marilyn, Mary, Mia (via Maria), Michelle, Nancy (via Anne), Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Sandra (via Alexander), Sarah, Sharon, Stephanie, Susan, Tammy (via Tamar/Tamara)
  • Non-Biblical names: Alexis, Alice, Alyssa, Amanda, Amber, Amelia, Amy, Angela, Ashley, Aubrey, Avery, Barbara, Brenda, Brianna, Brittany, Carol, Carolyn, Catherine, Charlotte, Christina, Christine, Crystal, Cynthia, Diane, Donna, Doris, Dorothy, Edna, Ella, Emily, Emma, Evelyn, Florence, Frances, Gladys, Grace, Harper, Heather, Helen, Irene, Jennifer, Joyce, Karen, Kathleen, Kayla, Kelly, Kimberly, Laura, Lauren, Linda, Lori, Louise, Madison, Margaret, Marjorie, Megan, Melissa, Mildred, Natalie, Nicole, Olivia, Pamela, Patricia, Rose, Shannon, Shirley, Sofia, Sophia, Taylor, Tiffany, Victoria, Virginia
  • Borderline names:
    • Ava (could be based on the Germanic root avi or the Biblical name Eve)
    • Jessica (literary invention, but Shakespeare may have based it on the Biblical name Iscah)
    • Samantha (possibly inspired by the Biblical name Samuel)

Again, feels pretty weird to put overtly Christian names like Christina and Christine in the non-Biblical category, but oh well.

Here are the year-by-year tallies:

Year Top 20 names
given to…
# Biblical # Non-Biblical
1914 31% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1924 31% of baby girls 7 (35%) 13 (65%)
1934 32% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1944 35% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1954 34% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1964 24% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1974 24% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1984 26% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1994 19% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2004 14% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2014 12% of baby girls 5 (25%) 15 (75%)

Just like with the boy names, though, there’s a big difference between the 1914 and 2014 sample sizes — 31% and 12%. So let’s also look at the 2014 top 100, which covers 31% of female births.

By my count, last year’s top 100 girl names were about a quarter Biblical, three-quarters non-Biblical:

Biblical names (27) Non-Biblical/Borderline names (73)
Isabella (via Elizabeth), Mia (via Maria), Abigail, Elizabeth, Chloe, Addison (via Adam), Lillian (via Elizabeth), Hannah, Anna, Leah, Gabriella, Sadie (via Sarah), Sarah, Annabelle, Madelyn (via Magdalene), Lucy (via Lucius), Alexa (via Alexander), Genesis, Naomi, Eva, Lydia, Julia, Khloe, Madeline (via Magdalene), Alexandra, Gianna (via Joanna), Isabelle (via Elizabeth) Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Emily, Madison, Charlotte, Harper, Sofia, Avery, Amelia, Evelyn, Ella, Victoria, Aubrey, Grace, Zoey, Natalie, Brooklyn, Lily, Layla, Scarlett, Aria, Zoe, Samantha, Audrey, Ariana, Allison, Savannah, Arianna, Camila, Penelope, Claire, Aaliyah, Riley, Skylar, Nora, Hailey, Kaylee, Paisley, Kennedy, Ellie, Peyton, Caroline, Serenity, Aubree, Alexis, Nevaeh, Stella, Violet, Mackenzie, Bella, Autumn, Mila, Kylie, Maya, Piper, Alyssa, Taylor, Eleanor, Melanie, Faith, Katherine, Brianna, Ashley, Ruby, Sophie, London, Lauren, Alice, Vivian, Hadley, Jasmine

Faith, Grace, Angela, Nevaeh, Natalie…all technically non-Biblical.

27%-73% is remarkably similar to both 25%-75% (smaller 2014 sample) and 30%-70% (1914 sample).

So here’s the question of the day: If you had to choose all of your children’s names from either one group or the other — Biblical names or non-Biblical names — which group would you stick to, and why?