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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Bill

Number of Babies Named Bill

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Bill

The Arrival of Lillette

lillette, song, 1940s, baby nameThe rare name Lillette appeared in the U.S. baby name data for four sequential years from the late ’40s to the early ’50s:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1950: 9 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1949: 9 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1948: 8 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1947: unlisted

Where did the name come from?

A song called “Lillette,” written and composed by Jack Gold in 1948. The same year, it was recorded and released by various vocalists: Nat King Cole, Vic Damone, Bill Lawrence, Jean Sablon, Johnny Desmond, and others.

Billboard preferred the King Cole Trio version:

Cole’s tasty rhythm treatment of the appealing rhythm ballad looks like a good bet for the jukes, the jocks, and the over-the-counter sales. Standout among some half-dozen waxings of the tune, the impeccable Cole treatment brings out the best in the lyric and melody. Worthy of attention, too, is Vic Damone’s Mercury platter of the ditty.

Here’s Nat King Cole’s version of “Lillette”:

I’m not sure where Jack Gold found the name Lillette, but one possibility is jazz vocalist/pianist Lillette Thomas, who was putting out singles on Sterling Records in the mid-1940s.

Do you like the name Lillette?

Source: “Record Possibilities.” Billboard 9 Oct. 1948: 39.

Name Quotes #57: Gage, Ciku, Abigail Fortitude

George Clooney explaining why he and his wife Amal named their twins Alexander and Ella (People):

“[We] didn’t want to give them one of those ridiculous Hollywood names that don’t mean anything,” George told Paris Match in an interview published Saturday. “They’ll already have enough difficulty bearing the weight of their celebrity.”

Summary of a recent study on the practice of naming winter storms (WBIR):

The researchers presented their subjects with three mock tweets about an upcoming winter storm — either using names like “Bill,” “Zelus,” or no name at all — then asked them about their perceptions of the storm’s potential severity.

It turned out that the survey participants were equally likely to show concern for the storm regardless of whether common names such as Bill were used, rather than uncommon names, such as Zelus. This was a surprise to Rainear, who thought that more “Americanized” names might make people more wary.

On the origin of the name of the Slinky (New York Times):

[N]ext month the Toy Manufacturers of America will induct Betty James, 82, the retired toy maker who gave the Slinky its name, into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

Mrs. James came up with the name after deciding that Slinky best described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing. Slinky, of course, meaning sort of stealthily quiet. Mrs. James did not have sexy evening wear in mind; it was 1943, after all, and there was a war.

On changing name trends in Kenya (SDE Kenya):

It is so 1980 for modern Kenyan parents to name their children after biblical figures. Ati names like Grace, Hannah, Sarah, Magdalene or Jane for their daughters is now a no-no. For sons, naming them Abednego or Adonijah sounds like a bad Sunday school dream.

[…]

Names like Peter and Paul, Esther and Lois were fashionable in their grandparents’ time and today, girls are named Tasha, Tanya or Tiffany, while boys go by cooler ones like Cy, Kyle, Declan and Sherwin.

…The article also mentioned that many traditional names now have modernized forms:

  • Wangui -> Kui
  • Waithiageni -> Sheni
  • Wanjiku -> Ciku
  • Wanjiru -> Ciru
  • Wambui -> Foi
  • Wacera -> Cera

“Modern parents have no qualms having them appear like that in official documents. Welcome to baby names in 21st century Kenya.”

Onomastician Cleveland Kent Evans vs. the baby name Gage (Washington Post):

But right now, Evans is pondering the sudden, explosive rise of the male first name Gage. From out of nowhere. There’s no record of this name, nothing in the texts, nothing anywhere. And yet just in the last couple of years, it’s been popping up all around the country.

[…]

Finally, he asked his students at Bellevue College near Omaha. One student got the reference immediately: “Emergency!” he said. Meaning the short-lived 1970s TV series, of course. Turns out there was a character named John Gage on that show, and he was generally addressed as Gage.

[…]

Incredibly, “Emergency!,” which aired opposite “60 Minutes” for four years, was exceedingly popular among elementary-school children.

One mom’s positive experience with revealing her son’s name during pregnancy (Popsugar)

One reason why people don’t reveal the baby’s name is to ward off other people’s opinions. I could tell there were a couple of my friends who didn’t like the name, but just like I didn’t get pregnant to please them, I’m wasn’t going to change his name for them either. Most people that I talked to had enough common sense to keep their opinions to themselves. Even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

My son’s name […] is special to me. I didn’t stop feeling that way once I told it to people — if anything, it made the pregnancy a whole lot easier.

From the script for Mother Is a Freshman (1949), about a 35-year-old widow, Abigail, who starts attending the college that her daughter Susan goes to:

Abigail: I mean about the Abigail Fortitude Memorial Scholarship.
Susan: The one they give to any girl whose first two names are Abigail Fortitude?
Abigail: Yes.
Susan: Clara Fettle says no one’s applied for it since 1907, and there’s zillions piling up.
Abigail: And you never told me!
Susan: Of course not.
Abigail: It never occurred to you that my first names are Abigail Fortitude–that I’ve had to put up with them all my life!
Susan: I know, Mom. It must have been awful.
Abigail [struck by thought]: Maybe that’s why my mother gave me those names. Maybe she know about the scholarship.

…Turns out the scholarship had been set up by Abigail’s grandmother, also named Abigail Fortitude.

*

Want to see more quotes about names? Check out the name quotes category.

The Debut of Hoby

trackdown, hoby gilman, 1950s, western, television
Hoby

Westerns were the hottest thing on television in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and we can see it in the baby name data. Here’s yet another Western-inspired debut, Hoby:

  • 1961: 10 baby boys named Hoby
  • 1960: 6 baby boys named Hoby
  • 1959: 14 baby boys named Hoby
  • 1958: 30 baby boys named Hoby [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

Hoby (which rhymes with Toby and Dobie) was the top debut of the year for boys in 1958. In fact, one of the biggest boy name debuts ever.

The inspiration? Hoby Gilman, the main character of the TV western Trackdown (1957-1959).

Hoby, played by actor Robert Culp, was a Texas Ranger who spent his days tracking down bad guys in post-Civil War Texas. “[Culp’s] Hoby Gilman was a cooler character than other deadpan Western cowboys. Culp…imbued Hoby with a hipness that was ahead of the time but which presaged the Sixties yet to come.”

Notably, Trackdown “was given official approval from the (modern day) Rangers and the state of Texas.”

The character originated on an episode of Zane Grey Theatre in May of 1957. A mere five months later, a whole series based on Hoby had emerged. (A whopping five episodes of Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre were developed into subsequent TV shows. Impressive.)

Robert Culp went on to co-star with Bill Cosby in I Spy from 1965 to 1968. His character, named Kelly, gave a temporary boost to the male usage of Kelly, which peaked for boys in 1967/1968.

What are your thoughts on the name Hoby?

Sources:

Cosby Show Baby Names – Vanessa, Keshia, Phylicia…

cosby showRemember The Cosby Show?

The ground-breaking ’80s sitcom focused on the Huxtables, a well-off African-American family living in New York City. It starred Bill Cosby as Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable.

The show ran from mid-1984 to mid-1992 and was the top-rated program in the nation for 5 consecutive seasons.

And it influenced a whole bunch of baby names, such as…

Vanessa & Tempestt

Vanessa, the second-youngest Huxtable child, was played by Tempestt Bledsoe. The baby name Vanessa saw its highest-ever levels of usage during the years the show was on:

  • 1989: 6,955 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 50th)
  • 1988: 7,515 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 41st)
  • 1987: 7,345 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
  • 1986: 7,367 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
  • 1985: 7,562 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 42nd)
  • 1984: 7,153 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 45th)
  • 1983: 6,383 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 49th)

And the baby name Tempestt debuted on the charts the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 70 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1989: 98 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1988: 72 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1987: 87 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1986: 78 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1985: 36 baby girls named Tempestt [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

The name Tempest also got a boost during the last half of the ’80s.

Rudy & Keshia

Rudith “Rudy” Huxtable, the baby of the family, was played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. The baby name Keshia entered the top 1,000 for the very first time the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 385 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 594th)
  • 1989: 496 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 479th)
  • 1988: 398 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 547th)
  • 1987: 483 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 457th)
  • 1986: 511 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 426th)
  • 1985: 321 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 596th)
  • 1984: 96 baby girls named Keshia
  • 1983: 64 baby girls named Keshia

The name Rudy also rose in usage, and the variant spelling Rudi debuted on the charts in 1985.

Phylicia

Huxtable mother Clair was played by actress Phylicia Rashād. The baby name Phylicia entered the top 1,000 for the first time two years after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 257 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 787th)
  • 1989: 265 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 744th)
  • 1988: 286 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 679th)
  • 1987: 290 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 649th)
  • 1986: 213 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 789th)
  • 1985: 122 baby girls named Phylicia
  • 1984: 13 baby girls named Phylicia
  • 1983: 7 baby girls named Phylicia

Theo & Malcolm-Jamal

Theo, the middle Huxtable child (and the only male in the family besides Cliff) was played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner. The baby name Theo almost tripled in usage the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 66 baby boys named Theo
  • 1989: 75 baby boys named Theo
  • 1988: 77 baby boys named Theo
  • 1987: 75 baby boys named Theo
  • 1986: 85 baby boys named Theo
  • 1985: 76 baby boys named Theo
  • 1984: 23 baby boys named Theo
  • 1983: 26 baby boys named Theo

Usage of the baby name Malcolm also began to rise in the mid-’80s, and the baby name Malcolm-Jamal (rendered Malcolmjamal by the SSA, which leaves off hyphens) debuted on the baby name charts two years after the show premiered:

  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal
  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal [debut]
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

(Where did actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner get his name, btw? He was named after civil rights activist Malcolm X and jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.)

So now here’s the question: Does The Cosby Show beat Family Ties in terms of impact on the baby name charts? Cosby clearly affected a greater number of names, but is that enough to offset the massive rises of both Mallory and Alex?

P.S. Did you know that Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy Huxtable were loosely based on Cosby’s real-life kids Erika, Erinn, Ennis, Ensa, Evin?

Bobbyetta, the Lion Lady Baby Name

In 1954, the baby name Bobbyetta appeared on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list for the first and only time with a mere 6 baby girls:

  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 6 baby girls named Bobbyetta [debut]
  • 1953: unlisted

What caused this ever-so-slight increase in the usage of Bobbyetta?

A lady with a pet lion, believe it or not.

Bobbyetta brushes Tex's teeth.
Bobbyetta brushes Tex’s teeth.

Back in the mid-1950s, a farm family in rural Herscher, Illinois, was making headlines because they shared their home with a full-grown pet lion.

The family consisted of Mr. Harlan Porter, Mrs. Pearl Porter, and their adult children Bill and Bobbyetta. And their pet lion Tex, of course.

Bobbyetta was the primary owner/caretaker of the lion. She had owned dozens of cats growing up, and in her mid-20s she decided she wanted a big cat. So she started actively looking for one. Here’s an ad she placed in Billboard magazine in January of 1950:

bobbyetta porter big cat want ad
“Wanted–Cheetah, tiger, puma, lion or leopard cub; young as possible. Bobbyetta Porter, Herscher, Ill.”

Later that year, she spotted an ad for 3-month-old lion cubs. The cubs had been born in Africa in April, then brought to Texas to be sold by a wild animal dealer.

Bobbyetta bought one of the cubs “sight unseen” and changed his name from Quien Sabe (which means “who knows” in Spanish) to Tex, short for Texas.

Because winters in Illinois are quite a bit colder than winters in Africa, the Porters decided Tex should live indoors with them. So they split their living room in half with steel bars.

Bobbyetta “soon had him eating out of her hand and wrestling with her in his cage.”

As an adult he weighed over 300 pounds and was fed seven pounds of meat and two quarts of milk per day. He also had a weakness for ice cream.

Bobbyetta feeds Tex meatballs.
Bobbyetta feeds Tex meatballs.

Bobbyetta brushed his teeth after meals, slept near his cage (“as Tex was prone to roar when he felt he was being left alone”), and “relaxed him by running a vacuum cleaner over his coat.”

The family took Tex along when they traveled (“the rear of the station wagon was fitted with a cage”) and included him in the family photos they sent out with their Christmas cards.

Word about Tex spread, and by early 1954 he was being featured in newspapers and magazines across the U.S. and beyond. Headlines included “Lion in a Pine-Paneled Den” (LIFE), “We Live with a Lion” (Chicago Tribune) and “Girl Brushes Lion’s Teeth” (Sun-Herald, Sydney, Australia).

This is precisely when we see one-hit wonder Bobbyetta debut on the national baby name list.

Sadly, Tex wasn’t the healthiest of lions…

Tex is given pills. Bobbyetta in background.

Male African lions can survive 10-15 years in the wild, and ought to be able to many years longer in captivity, but Tex died of a chest tumor in late 1955 at the age 5.

The Porters built Tex a coffin and held both a wake a funeral for him. He was buried on the Porter property “in pink-tufted satin with his head on a royal purple pillow.”

Sources:

Images: © 1950 Billboard, © 1954 LIFE, © 1954 British Pathé