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, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Barbara.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Barbara


Posts that Mention the Name Barbara

Mystery Monday: Tish

baby name Tish popularity graph

Time for another baby name mystery! Today we’ve got Tish, which saw a distinct spike in usage in 1971. Here’s the data:

  • 1973: 25 baby girls named Tish
  • 1972: 27 baby girls named Tish
  • 1971: 63 baby girls named Tish
  • 1970: 25 baby girls named Tish
  • 1969: 33 baby girls named Tish

I do have a decent guess on this one — a bizarre film called The Baby Maker that came out in late 1970 and starred Barbara Hershey (a.k.a. Barbara Seagull) as Tish, “a free spirit who agrees to bear a child for a childless couple.” I can’t find any box office data on the film, though, so I can’t figure out how many people actually saw it.

A better guess would have been African-American model Tish Hammock…but the year she was being featured regularly in Jet magazine was 1969 — a bit too early for a ’71 spike.

Another guess would have been the character Clementine “Tish” Rivers from the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk…except it wasn’t published until 1974.

Have any thoughts on this one? Any other theories?

Source: The Baby Maker (1970) – Rotten Tomatoes

The Inception of Sway

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

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]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

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:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia

“Brighter Day” Baby Names

brighter day, soap opera, 1950s, television
Babby, Grayling, and Patsy in 1954

The Brighter Day was a moderately popular soap opera that ran on radio from 1948 to 1956 and on television from 1954 to 1962.

The show featured the Dennis family, which was headed by widowed father Rev. Richard Dennis. His five children were adult daughters Elizabeth (Liz) and Althea, adult son Grayling, and teenage daughters Patricia (Patsy) and Barbara (Babby).

At least four Brighter Day characters influenced U.S. baby names:

Grayling

In a 1949 article, Grayling Dennis was described as “restless, charming, spoiled. He writes poetry, plays the violin, has a long string of girl friends who adore his flashing eyes and his wonderful tennis, and drinks too much. But none of these activities has helped Gray, at twenty-three, to “find himself.””

The show was radio-only at that time — listeners would hear Grayling’s name, but never see it — so it’s not surprising that a slew of spelling variants ended up in the baby name data. In fact, the first of the group to debut was Graylin in 1949. Grayling, Grayland, and Graylon appeared in 1950, and Graylan, Graylyn, Graylen, and Greyling followed.

YearGraylinGraylingGraylandGraylon
19601436109
19592761 [987th]1115
19582855186
19572858 [997th]1516
195625471912
19551638158
1954824146
1953111167
195288.6
195178.8
19501117 [debut]5 [debut]5 [debut]
19496 [debut]...
1948....

The name Grayling reached the top 1000 twice in the late ’50s, but all variants saw decreased usage after the TV show was canceled in the early ’60s.

Althea

Dramatic daughter Althea dramatically boosted the usage of the name Althea in the late 1940s:

  • 1951: 334 baby girls named Althea (rank: 454th)
  • 1950: 309 baby girls named Althea (rank: 462nd)
  • 1949: 235 baby girls named Althea (rank: 545th)
  • 1948: 126 baby girls named Althea (rank: 761st)
  • 1947: 118 baby girls named Althea (rank: 803rd)

No doubt she was also behind the debut of the spelling Altheia in 1951.

Spring

In early 1951, Althea discovered she was pregnant. Althea was eager to become an movie actress, not a mother, and “regard[ed] the baby as an annoying interruption to her ambitions.” Regardless, she soon gave birth to a baby girl named Spring, and the baby name Spring debuted in the U.S. data the very same year:

  • 1959: 34 baby girls named Spring
  • 1958: 44 baby girls named Spring
  • 1957: 77 baby girls named Spring
  • 1956: 104 baby girls named Spring
  • 1955: 41 baby girls named Spring
  • 1954: 37 baby girls named Spring
  • 1953: 27 baby girls named Spring
  • 1952: 30 baby girls named Spring
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Spring [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

By July of 1952, Althea’s daughter Spring was already 4 years old (a victim of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome). I’m not sure how often Spring appeared in the show overall, but she may have been featured prominently in 1956, judging by the usage of the baby name that year.

Babby

In a 1954 article, Babby Dennis was described as “eager and impulsive.” She was the baby of the family, and her nickname was consistently spelled with a “y” to reflect this fact, but TV audiences clearly preferred the spelling Babbie, which debuted in 1956 — years before Babby and Babbi finally showed up.

YearBabbieBabbyBabbi
1963...
196285.
1961189.
196020156
1959195 [debut]6 [debut]
19588..
19588..
19575..
195610 [debut]..
1955...

By 1959, Babby was a young adult and involved in a romance with a gangster named Peter Nino. (Despite being a gangster, Nino was popular with TV audiences: “Nino was to be killed off in six months, but fan mail gave him a reprieve.”)

Sources:

P.S. Three of the sources above refer to a single magazine that went through a bunch of name changes over the course of its existence (1930s to 1970s). The publisher was Macfadden, founded by Bernarr Macfadden, who knew a bit about name changes himself…

Cuban Baby Named Barbara Benita

Andres holding Barbara Benita
(Bettmann / Getty Images)

A few days ago we talked about Cuban refugee babies whose names were associated with the Mariel boatlift, but here’s an even earlier Cuban refugee baby name I haven’t written about yet: Barbara Benita.

She was born in a small open boat fleeing from Cuba in late April, 1964. Her father, a farmer named Andres Mejias, was quoted as saying: “I never dreamed of delivering a baby, especially at sea running from my country.”

The family was picked up by H.M.S Tartar about 13 miles south of Marathon, Florida.

The baby was named Barbara for the Cuban saint of thunder because it was rainy during the night, and Benita for the British naval officer on the Tartar who first spotted the refugee group. Mr. Mejias said he knew only that the officer’s first name was Ben.

In the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería, Saint Barbara was syncretized with Shango, the Yoruban god of thunder and lightning, fire, and war.

Source: “Cuban Refugee Gives Birth in Small Boat at Sea.” Toledo Blade 30 Apr. 1964: 1.

Rare Girl Names from Early Cinema: C (Part 1)

Here’s the next installment of rare female names collected from old films (1910s through 1940s).

I’ve split the list of C-names in two, and the second half will be posted in a few weeks.

Cabiria
Cabiria was a character played by actress Lidia Quaranta in the film Cabiria (1914).

Caecilia
Caecilia was a character played by actress Zasu Pitts in the film The Honeymoon (1930).

Calalou
Calalou was a character played by actress Hattie Peters in the film White Youth (1920).

Calanthe
Calanthe was a character played by actress Ann Little in the film Damon and Pythias (1914).

Cally
Cally was a character played by actress Margaret Lindsay in the film Slim (1937).

  • Usage of the baby name Cally.

Calpurnia
Calpurnia was a character played by actress Gertrude Michael in the film Cleopatra (1934).

Capria
Capria was a character played by actress Kathlyn Williams in the short film The Survival of the Fittest (1911).

  • Usage of the baby name Capria.

Caprice
Caprice was a character played by actress Carmen Phillips in the short film The Pipes o’ Pan (1914).

Carreen
Carreen O’Hara was a character played by Ann Rutherford in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Caricia
Caricia was a character played by actress Barbara Bedford in the film The Broken Mask (1928).

Carita
Carita was a character played by actress Renée Adorée in the film Tin Gods (1926).

  • Usage of the baby name Carita.

Carlina
Carlina was a character played by actress Charlotte Burton in the film At the Potter’s Wheel (1914).

Carlita
Carlita was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film Flirting with Fate (1938).

Carlotta
Carlotta was a character name in multiple films, including The Laugh that Died (1915) and Dinner at Eight (1933).

Carmel
Carmel Myers was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1970s. She was born in California in 1899.

  • Usage of the baby name Carmel.

Carmelita
Carmelita Geraghty was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1930s. She was born in Indiana in 1901. Carmelita was also a character name in multiple films, including Carmelita’s Revenge (1914) and The Magnificent Fraud (1939).

Carmencita
Carmencita was the dancer who appeared in the short film Carmencita (1894). Carmencita was also a character name in multiple films, including Man from God’s Country (1924) and Adventurous Knights (1935).

Carmina
Carmina was a character name in multiple films, including The Drop of Blood (1913) and In Gay Madrid (1930).

  • Usage of the baby name Carmina (which debuted in the data in 1914).

Carminella
Carminella was a character played by actress Madame Pilar-Morin in the short film Carminella (1910).

Carney
Carney was a character played by actress Evelyn Brent in the film Daughter of the Tong (1939).

  • Usage of the baby name Carney.

Carola
Carola was a character name in multiple films, including College Holiday (1936) and Dangerous Partners (1945).

  • Usage of the baby name Carola.

Carole

  • Carole Lombard was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Indiana in 1908. Her birth name was Carol Jane Peters.
  • Carole Landis was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born in Wisconsin in 1919. Her birth name was Frances Lillian Mary Ridste.

Carole was also a character played by actress Ruth Robinson in the film Ann Carver’s Profession (1933).

  • Usage of the baby name Carole.

Carolyne
Carolyne Wright was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s.

Carroll
Carroll Sherridan was a character played by actress Irene Ware in the film Happiness C.O.D. (1935).

Cary
Cary Whipple was a character played by actress Virginia Brissac in the film Three’s a Crowd (1945).

  • Usage of the baby name Cary.

Caryl
Caryl Lincoln was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in California in 1903. Caryl was also a character name in multiple films, including Caryl of the Mountains (1914) and Fighting Destiny (1919).

  • Usage of the baby name Caryl.

Cassy
Cassy Cara was a character played by actress Pauline Frederick in the film The Paliser Case (1920).

  • Usage of the baby name Cassy.

Castelene
Princess Castelene was a character played by actress Fania Marinoff in the short film The Unsuspected Isles (1915).

Catana
Catana Perez was a character played by actress Jean Peters in the film Captain from Castile (1947).

  • Usage of the baby name Catana (which debuted in the data in 1948).

Catterina
Catterina was a character played by actress Sylvia Sidney in the film Thirty-Day Princess (1934).

Cecile
Cecile was a character name in multiple films, including Camille (1915) and Honeymoon Deferred (1940).

  • Usage of the baby name Cecile.

Cecy
Cecy Acuña was a character played by actress Leslie Brooks in the film You Were Never Lovelier (1942).

  • Usage of the baby name Cecy.

Cédrien
Cédrien was a character played by actress Dale Fuller in the film Volcano! (1926).

Ceinwen
Ceinwen was a character played by actress Ann E. Todd in the film How Green Was My Valley (1941).

Celestine
Celestine was a character name in multiple films, including Dancing Man (1934) and I Want a Divorce (1940).

Celida
Celida was a character played by actress Doris Kenyon in the film The Feast of Life (1916).

  • Usage of the baby name Celida.

Celie
Celie Sterling was a character played by actress Eileen Percy in the film Some Liar (1919).

  • Usage of the baby name Celie.

Celimena
Celimena Moore was a character played by actress Emily Fitzroy in the film Bobbed Hair (1925).

Celinda
Celinda was a character played by actress Virginia Brown Faire in the film The Temptress (1926).

Cella
Cella Stuart was a character played by actress Sunday Wilshin in the film An Obvious Situation (1930).

  • Usage of the baby name Cella.

Cenci
Cenci Prohaska was a character played by actress Patricia Medina in the film Waltz Time (1945).

Cerise
Cerise was a character played by actress Patsy De Forest in the short film A Day on the Force (1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Cerise.

Cesca
Cesca was a character name in multiple films, including Scarface (1932) and Tortilla Flat (1942).

Chaddie
Chaddie Green was a character played by actress Dorothy Devore in the film The Prairie Wife (1925).

Chadyeane
Chadyeane Fairfax was a character played by actress Claire Windsor in the film Born Rich (1924).

Chala
Chala was a character played by actress Amalia Rivera in the film The Tents of Allah (1923).

  • Usage of the baby name Chala.

Chameli
Chameli Brentwood was a character played by actress Aileen Pringle in the film The Tiger’s Claw (1923).

Charisse
Cyd Charisse was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was born in Texas in 1922. Her birth name Tula Ellice Finklea.

Charmaine
Charmaine was a character name in multiple films, including What Price Glory? (1926) and Those Three French Girls (1930).

Charmian
Charmian was a character name in multiple films, including Queenie of the Nile (1915) and Mister Dynamite (1925).

Charmion
Charmion was a character name in multiple films, including The Darling of the Rich (1922) and Cleopatra (1934).

Charmis
Charmis Graham was a character played by actress Florence Turner in the film The Ugly Duckling (1920).

Cheema
Cheema was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film Panama Lady (1939).

Cheeta
Cheeta was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film River’s End (1940).

Cherie
Cherie was a character name in multiple films, including The Destroyer (1915) and Her Man o’ War (1926).

  • Usage of the baby name Cherie.

Cherokee
Cherokee Lansing was a character played by actress Susan Hayward in the film Tulsa (1949).

Cherry
Cherry was a character name in multiple films, including The Silver Horde (1930) and As Good as Married (1937).

  • Usage of the baby name Cherry.

Cheryl
Cheryl Walker was an actress who appeared in films in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born in California in 1918.

  • Usage of the baby name Cheryl.

Chichita
Chichita was a character played by actress Elsie Ferguson in the film The Avalanche (1919).

Chilita
Chilita was a character played by actress Louise Fazenda in the short film Mike and Jake in Mexico (1913).

China
China Valdés was a character played by actress Jennifer Jones in the film We Were Strangers (1949).

  • Usage of the baby name China.

Chinta
Chinta was a character played by actress Cora Drew in the film The Moral Law (1918).

Chiquita
Chiquita Hart was a character played by actress Carmen Miranda in the film Something for the Boys (1944).

Chita
Chita was a character name in multiple films, including Flaming Love (1925) and Girl from Havana (1940).

Chonita
Chonita Alvarado was a character played by actress Edith Storey in the film The Tarantula (1916).

  • Usage of the baby name Chonita (which debuted in the data in 1917).

Chook-Ra
Chook-Ra was a character played by actress Edith Roberts in the film The Son of the Wolf (1922).

Christabel
Christabel was a character name in multiple films, including Robin Hood (1912) and A Man of Honor (1919).

Christiane
Christiane Mandelys was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1900s. She was born in France in 1873.

Chulita
Chulita was a character played by actress Frances Drake in the film The Trumpet Blows (1934).

Chyra
Chyra was a character played by actress Nina Quartero in the film One Stolen Night (1929).

  • Usage of the baby name Chyra.

Which of the above do you like best?