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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Belle

Number of Babies Named Belle

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Belle

The “Elda Rema” Baby Name Formula

In his book The American Language, H. L. Mencken mentioned a “woman professor in the Middle West [with] the given name of Eldarema, coined from those of her grandparents, Elkanah, Daniel, Rebecca and Mary.”

The woman he’s talking about did exist, but Mencken didn’t get her name quite right.

Elda Rema Walker was botany professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. And so was her sister — here they are, listed one after the other, in the University of Nebraska General Catalog for 1916-1917:

elda rema walker, leva belle walker

(Leva Belle’s names were also inspired by family — parents Levi and Isabel.)

So here’s the Elda Rema baby name formula:

  • First name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandfather’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandfather’s name
  • Middle name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandmother’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandmother’s name

Using the names of your parents and your partner’s parents, can you come up with any usable first + middle combos?

The best I can do is “Aujo Elhe.” Hopefully you can do better…

Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

Poll: Favorite “Feminine Blend”?

Nope, this isn’t a post about a pink smoothies. “Feminine blend” was a phrase Henry Louis (H. L.) Mencken used in his 1921 book The American Language to describe a female name created by blending two other names together. Here are the feminine blends he lists:

(Addie + Lloyd)

(Addison + Nellie)

(Adrienne + Belle)

(Ardelia + Wilhelmina)

(Elizabeth + Christine)

(Birdie + Pauline)

(Charles + Pauline)

(Leila + Elizabeth)

(Luna + Nettie)

(Marjorie + Henrietta)

(May + Elizabeth)

(Ola + Isabel)

(Olive + Louise)

(Romeo + Juliette)

(Rose + Bella)

If you had to use one of the above in real life, which one would you choose?

Favorite "feminine blend"?

View Results

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Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

How Will the Remake of “Roots” Influence Baby Names?

"I am Kunta" ad, Roots, History Channel

The phenomenally popular mini-series Roots (1977) didn’t just set TV viewership records and win a slew of awards. It also had a big impact on U.S. baby names — the biggest impact of any pop culture event of the 20th century, in fact.

But I’ve already posted about the influence of Roots on baby names. So why am I bringing it up again?

Because it’s back! The History Channel will be airing a 4-part remake of Roots in a couple of weeks, starting on May 30.

Many of the ads I’ve seen so far happen to be name-focused, ironically. Several of the teaser clips on YouTube feature a voice saying, “Your name is your spirit. Your name is your shield. Your name is Kunta Kinte.”

I don’t expect the new version of Roots to have the same impact that the original did. But I’m sure it will raise the profile (and thereby increase the usage) of at least a few baby names — likely a mix of names we’re already familiar with (e.g., Kizzy, Kunta) and names that are new this time around, such as:

  • Malachi – the name of the actor who plays Kunta Kinte
  • Regé-Jean – the name of the actor who plays Chicken George
  • Emayatzy – the name of the actress who plays Belle
  • E’myri – the name of the actress who plays young Kizzy
  • Cyrus – the name of a (new?) character, played by hip-hop artist T.I.*

Which baby name do you think will get the biggest boost from the remake of Roots?

*The baby names Major, Messiah and King made big gains in 2012 thanks to T.I.’s reality show T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle.

Leneve – Baby Name Inspired by a Fugitive

Ethel Le Never
Ethel Le Neve on a Wanted Poster
© The National Archives (UK)
The curious name Leneve debuted on the SSA’s baby name list 105 years ago…then disappeared.

  • 1912: unlisted
  • 1911: unlisted
  • 1910: 7 baby girls named Leneve
  • 1909: unlisted
  • 1908: unlisted

A similar spike can be seen in the SSDI data:

  • 1912: none
  • 1911: 6 people named Leneve
  • 1910: 16 people named Leneve
  • 1909: none
  • 1908: none

Where did the name Leneve come from all of a sudden in 1910?

We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s start with the murder.

On July 13, 1910, the remains of a body thought to belong to music hall singer Belle Elmore (legal name Cora Crippen) were found in the basement of her home in London. Belle had been missing since February.

The main suspect was her husband, Hawley Crippen, a homeopathic doctor who had fled to Belgium several days earlier with his young lover, Ethel Le Neve.

A warrant for the arrest of Crippen and Le Neve was issued on July 16.

The pair — disguised as father and son, and using the surname Robinson — boarded a Canada-bound steamship in Antwerp on July 20.

The captain of the ship was suspicious of the pair, so he telegraphed the boat’s owners, who in turn telegraphed Scotland Yard.

A London police officer boarded an even faster steamship headed for Canada on July 23.

Fascinatingly, Crippen and Le Neve were not only unaware that they were being trailed by the London police on another boat, but they also didn’t know that newspapers around the world had picked up their story and that millions of people were reading about the dramatic transatlantic race, day by day, as it occurred.

The faster ship reached Quebec first, and the officer was able to intercept and arrest the fugitives on July 31. (This makes Crippen and Le Neve the first criminals to be apprehended with the assistance of wireless communication.)

The next month, the pair sailed back to England. They were tried separately.

Crippen was found guilty. He was executed by hanging on November 23.

Ethel Le Neve was acquitted. She promptly left for New York.

To this day, no one knows exactly whose remains were in that basement in London, how they got there, and who was to blame for it all.

But we do know that Ethel Le Neve (often written “Leneve” in U.S. newspapers) was a fixture in the news in mid-1910. This is no doubt what boosted the rare name Leneve onto the baby name charts for the first and only time. Leneve was the top one-hit wonder name of 1910, in fact.

Ethel was back in London by 1915. She eventually got married and had two children. She died in 1967, never having revealed to her children that she “had once been the world’s most famous runaway.” (They found this out in the 1980s, after being contacted by a crime historian.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Leneve?

Sources: Local history: Transatlantic murder mystery plays out in 1910 Scranton, London, Marconi Catches a Murderer (Futility Closet podcast), The Execution of Dr Crippen, Inside story: last refuge for a killer’s mistress

Name Quotes for the Weekend #29

Here are some interesting snippets about names/naming to end the week…

From “Sandra Bernhard, rebellious as ever” (The Villager, 2006) by Jerry Tallmer:

Though Bernhard, rebellious as ever, says: “I can’t stand sitting in theater, it drives me insane,” and has time for movies “only on television…or in airplanes,” she did appropriate from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” the name Cicely that graces Bernhard’s daughter born July 4, 1998, nine or so months after the flamethrowing actress/singer/faghag/friend of the famous said to herself one fine day: “Enough! Get real.”

From a “Names of boundless mirth” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2003) by Ambeth Ocampo (who is quoting a reader who e-mailed him this story):

“I was once a MedTech intern assigned in a rural Cebu town. Back then it was common to encounter names of kids such as ‘Tom Cruise Duhaylungsod,’ ‘Jacky Chan Labadan,’ ‘Fernando Poe Capunay,’ etc. Certainly a vast improvement over those Spanish-era saintly names of old (mine included). You would think parents of those kids were diehard movie fanatics who wanted to append their idol’s screen names to their kids’. But once, while taking a blood sample from a baby girls with [a] profusely runny nose and ‘Phoebe Cates’ as a given name, I kidded the mother that she must be a Phoebe Cates fan. To which she replied that living in a rural barrio she seldom watched movies actually, not to mention that she could hardly afford it; she didn’t know it was a movie star’s name until much later. It was the midwife who attended to her when she gave birth to her baby who pinned a paper with that name on the baby’s lampin. Needless to say, she and her husband found it unique. So the name stuck. Go figure how many more babies that midwife christened with her own idols’ fancy names. The baby’s parents nevertheless were proud of it, mind you.”

From the BBC article “‘Unique’ Roman tombstone found in Cirencester“:

The tombstone was found near skeletal remains thought to belong to the person named on its inscription, making the discovery unique.

Archaeologists behind the dig in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said they believed it marked the grave of a 27-year-old woman called Bodica.


Mr Holbrook has suggested the name Bodica was of Celtic origin.

“Perhaps Bodica is a local Gloucestershire girl who’s married an incoming Roman or Gaul from France and has adopted this very Roman way of death,” he said.

And that BBC article reminded me of this BBC article, “Queen Khentakawess III’s tomb found in Egypt“:

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen, Egyptian officials say.

The tomb was found in Abu-Sir, south-west of Cairo, and is thought to belong to the wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago.

Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said that her name, Khentakawess, had been found inscribed on a wall in the necropolis.

Mr Damaty added that this would make her Khentakawess III.

From “Why I Changed My Name and What It Taught Me About Who I Am” by Belle Beth Cooper:

My dad did feel a bit taken aback by it. Although he knew I was using my new name already, talking to him about the process of changing it legally was pretty tough. That conversation was a huge lesson for me in empathy and communication. My dad suggested I was changing my name out of anger towards my parents, almost in revenge or as a way to hurt them. That’s a pretty hard thing to hear from someone you love and respect, and it wasn’t easy to explain why I was changing my name and to convince him it was no reflection on my relationship with him or my mum at all.

From “Social change and the Fatima Index” by Justin Thomas in The National (and found via Clare’s Name News):

In spite of the great developments and massive social changes that have taken place across the UAE over the past few decades, the names Emirati families give to their babies has remained incredibly stable.

For more quote posts, check out the NBN name quotes category.

Unique Name Helps Adoptee Find Birth Family

Tiona KingIn 1886, a baby girl was born in Le Roy, Illinois. Her father was unknown and her mother Tiona died shortly after giving birth, “leaving the child the name of Tiona as her only inheritance.”

Orphaned Tiona ended up in the Girls’ Industrial home in Bloomington, IL. This is where Mr. and Mrs. Joseph King of Bloomington found her a few years later. They adopted her.

In 1903, when Tiona King was 16, the society column of a local paper mentioned that she had been hosting some friends from Chicago.

Belle Craig, a Le Roy resident who happened to read the item, noted that the unique name Tiona was the same as that of a childhood friend. Curious about the coincidence, Belle decided to investigate.

She eventually discovered that Tiona King of Bloomington was indeed the daughter of her old friend, solving the mystery of Tiona’s parentage.

The icing on the cake was a 27-acre tract of land near Kinmundy (about 100 miles to the south) that had been left behind by Tiona’s deceased maternal grandparents. The property could now by claimed by Tiona.

Cool story, eh?

Back in 1903 when this story was circulating, newspaper writers tended to disparage unique names. Those writing about Tiona, though, mostly praised the name. One writer even described it as “euphonious.” No doubt the feel-good nature of the tale helped people see the name in a positive light.

What do you think of the name Tiona?


  • “Fortune In Name.” Barrington Review 4 Sept. 1903: 3.
  • “Girl’s Odd Name “Tiona” Cleared Mystery of Birth.” St. Louis Republic 14 Aug. 1903: 4.
  • “Value of a Name.” Saint Paul Globe 29 Aug. 1903: 1.

Popular Baby Names in England and Wales, 2013

The top baby names in England and Wales were announced last week.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the most popular baby names last year were Amelia and Oliver.

Here are England and Wales’ top 20 girl names and top 20 boy names of 2013:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Amelia, 5570 baby girls
2. Olivia, 4598
3. Emily, 4049
4. Ava, 3575
5. Isla, 3526
6. Jessica, 3507
7. Poppy, 3422
8. Isabella, 3246
9. Sophie, 3013
10. Mia, 2993
11. Ruby, 2948
12. Lily, 2883
13. Grace, 2799
14. Evie, 2767
15. Sophia, 2764
16. Ella, 2722
17. Scarlett, 2643
18. Chloe, 2401
19. Isabelle, 2287
20. Freya, 2266
1. Oliver, 6,949 baby boys
2. Jack, 6,212
3. Harry, 5,888
4. Jacob, 5,126
5. Charlie 5,039
6. Thomas, 4,591
7. Oscar, 4,511
8. William, 4,268
9. James, 4,236
10. George, 4,202
11. Alfie, 4,138
12. Joshua, 3,973
13. Noah, 3,830
14. Ethan, 3,572
15. Muhammad, 3,499
16. Archie, 3,265
17. Leo, 3,264
18. Henry, 3,248
19. Joseph, 3,225
20. Samuel, 3,188

There were some big moves on the boys’s side: Oscar rose from 17th to 7th, while Riley plummeted from 8th to 21st. (Here are the biggest moves overall for boy names and girl names.)

New to the top 20 are Scarlett, Archie, Henry and Joseph. They replace Charlotte, Riley, Daniel and Max.

One thing I found interesting? Freya wasn’t on the England top 20. It also wasn’t on the Wales top 20. And yet still it managed to rank 20th on the combined top 20. Very sneaky, Freya.

Here are some of last year’s rare baby names, each given to between 3 and 10 babies (inclusive):

Rare Girl Names Rare Boy Names
Akvile, Alaska, Alphonsa, Andromeda, Arena, Arizona, Atlantis, Belinay, Bellatrix, Blousey, Boadicea, Boglarka, Bonnie-Blue, Boo, Boux, Charm, Cressida, Crystal-Rose, Daenerys, Delphie, Disney, Duru, Edwina, Ellery, Eloghosa, Enfys, Enlli*, Eos, Ernestine, Esila, Evan, Frayer, Freshta, Fausta, Garance, Gelila, Gemini, Gerda, Glorious, Halo, Honour, Io, Iole, Ionie, Iseult, Isla-Belle, Izna, Lava, Lleucu, Llinos, Llio, Loveday, Loxy, Mafalda, Man, Maple, Miami, Migle, Milda, Misk, Mirabella, Mirren, Myfi, Myrtle, Nandi, Nephele, Nma, Ottoline, Pebbles, Popi, Purity, Quorra, Quratulain, Rory, Ruby-Tuesday, Salsabeel, Sehrish, Sequoia, Sibel, Sobia, Solveig, Sundus, Tiggi, Tiggy, Tirion, Tulsi, Vespa, Vogue, Yiyi Alaric, Bramwell, Cavalli, Ceirion, Denley, Diesel, Diggory, Drin, Eesaa, Eyoel, Fiachra, Finlo, Fyfe, Ghyll, Greatness, Gruff, Hanzala, Haoyu, Heathcliff, Henley-John, Ho, Hocine, Innis, Iori, J, Jai-Jai, Jay-J, Jaygo, Johnboy, Jonjoe, Kebba, Kelly, Khizr, King-David, Klevis, Lebron, Liutaruas, Llyr, Lochie, Messi, Mortimer, Nebi, Nimrod, Noman, Olti, Omarion, Orpheus, Osgar, Oska, Perseus, Ptolemy, Qi, Rhythm, Rozh, Rhon, Sandor, Shady, Shaquille, Sheriff, Shko, Soul, Swayley, T, Tiger, Tirath, Tobenna, Toprak, Tuguldur, Tylah, Tyrion, Ugnius, Viggo, Wentworth, Winter, Wolf, Wolfgang, Wren, Yanky, Yug, Zeus, Zsombor

*Enlli, which debuted last year, comes from the name of the Welsh island Ynys Enlli (called Bardsey Island in English). The island name is usually translated as “island of the current,” with ynys meaning “island,” and enlli meaning “current.” You can hear the proper pronunciation of Ynys Enlli at Forvo.

Finally, all of my previous posts on the popular (and unique) baby names in England and Wales: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.

Source: Baby Names, England and Wales, 2013 – ONS