How popular is the baby name Billy 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 Billy.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Billy


Posts that Mention the Name Billy

Name Quotes 84: Al, Gene, Sonatine

Welcome to the monthly quote post! There are a lot of celebrities in this one, so let’s start with…

Actor Emilio Estevez — who pronounces his surname ESS-teh-vez, instead of the Spanish way, ess-TEH-vezdiscussing his name [vid] on Talk Soup with Nessa in 2019:

So I was born on 203rd Street in South Bronx. And, at the time, my father had this very Hispanic-sounding last name. […] A lot people, a lot of these agents, and folks said, if you wanna work in this business, you gotta have a more Anglo-sounding name. Of course times have changed, but there was that moment where he was finally on Broadway — 1965, ’66 — and his father came from Dayton (he was from Spain, of course) and looked up on the marquee, and saw the three names that were starring in the play, and one of them was “Martin Sheen” and not his real name, Ramón Estévez. And my grandfather just looked up, and he just shook his head, and he was so disappointed. And my father saw that. And so when I began to get into this business, we had that conversation. And he said, don’t make the same mistake I did.

…A few sentences later, Estevez added:

I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me on the street and said, you know, just seeing your name on a poster, just seeing your name on screen, meant so much to me, you have no idea.

(Martin Sheen’s stage name was created from the names of CBS casting director Robert Dale Martin and televangelist archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.)

Singer Billy Idol, born William Broad, discussing his stage name [vid] with Karyn Hay on the New Zealand TV show Radio with Pictures in 1984:

Q: Why did you choose the name Billy Idol, especially in a time when [there’s] Johnny Rotten, Ret Scabies, you know?

A: Exactly, I mean that’s the point. That’s exactly the point. […] I thought, first of all, of course, of I-D-L-E, you know, idle. Cause this chemistry teacher when I was at school — I got 8 out of 100 for chemistry, I hated chemistry — so he wrote, “William is idle,” right? And I thought that was great to get 8 out of 10 [sic] for chemistry, cause I hated the hell out of it. So I thought that was respectable, so I thought it was worthwhile being called I-D-O-L, idol. Also, it’s good fun making fun of show business. I’m not into show business, I’m into rock ‘n’ roll.

Composer Bear McCreary’s baby name announcement from mid-2014:

Raya and I are proud to announce our greatest collaboration is finally here. 

Sonatine Yarbrough McCreary was born 6/2/14 and is filling our lives with joy, music… and poop.

(The musical term sonatina means “small sonata” in Italian. A sonata refers to a piece that is played — as opposed to a cantata, a piece that is sung.)

From an article about Amy Schumer legally changing her son’s name:

The I Feel Pretty star revealed her decision to change her 11-month-old son’s name on the newest episode of her podcast 3 Girls, 1 Keith on Tuesday. Schumer and her husband Chris Fischer named their first child Gene Attell Fischer, born May 5, with his middle name serving as a tribute to their good friend comic Dave Attell.

“Do you guys know that Gene, our baby’s name, is officially changed? It’s now Gene David Fischer. It was Gene Attell Fischer, but we realized that we, by accident, named our son ‘genital,'” Schumer told cohosts Rachel Feinstein, Bridget Everett, and Keith Robinson.

…More to the point, from Amy’s Instagram:

Oh, like you never named your kid Genital fissure!!!!!!!

Three quotes from a fantastic article in the NYT about Weird Al Yankovic (discovered via Nancy Friedman).

…On his Alfred-ness:

Although Alfred’s grades were perfect, and he could solve any math problem you threw at him, his social life was agonizing. Imagine every nerd cliche: He was scrawny, pale, unathletic, nearsighted, awkward with girls — and his name was Alfred. And that’s all before you even factor in the accordion.

…On how his surname turned him into an accordion player:

[The accordion] came from a door-to-door salesman. The man was offering the gift of music, and he gave the Yankovics a simple choice: accordion or guitar. This was 1966, the golden age of rock, the year of the Beatles’ “Revolver” and the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde.” A guitar was like a magic amulet spraying sexual psychedelic magic all over the world. So Yankovic’s mother chose the accordion. This was at least partly because of coincidence: Frankie Yankovic, a world-famous polka player, happened to share the family’s last name. No relation. Just a wonderful coincidence that would help to define Alfred’s entire life.

…On his Alfred-ness again:

The nickname “Weird Al” started as an insult. It happened during his first year of college. This was a fresh start for Alfred — a chance to reinvent himself for a whole new set of people. He had no reputation to live down, no epic humiliations. And so he decided to implement a rebrand: He introduced himself to everyone not as Alfred but as “Al.” Alfred sounded like the kind of kid who might invent his own math problems for fun. Al sounded like the opposite of that: a guy who would hang out with the dudes, eating pizza, casually noodling on an electric guitar, tossing off jokes so unexpectedly hilarious they would send streams of light beer rocketing out of everyone’s noses.

The problem was that, even at college, even under the alias of Al, Yankovic was still himself. He was still, fundamentally, an Alfred.

Comedian Kevin Hart on choosing baby names:

I wish I could say that I am the main guru, [but] I am awful when it comes to the names. That is not my expertise. […] I say the same thing every time. It’s either Kevin or Kevina. I got two names. That’s it. So if you never go with either one of those then I’m no good to you.

For more name-related quotes, check out the name quotes category.

The Debut of Desnee

Desnee and Billy

The rare name Desnee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1950s:

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Desnee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

What was the influence?

A 15-month-old London girl named Desnee Sampson, who was featured in a pair of photos that ran in various U.S. newspapers in late 1950 and early 1951.

In the first photo, she was sitting on the floor, watching her cat Billy drink milk from a saucer. In the second, she was bent over the saucer herself and trying to lap up milk in the same way (with Billy looking on).

I don’t know the origin of the name. In fact, my initial guess was that “Desnee” was a typo for Desiree. (I could imagine the middle letters being transposed and then mistaken for an “n.”)

As it turns out, Desnee Sampson’s birth (1949) and marriage (1970) records both confirm that her real name was indeed “Desnee.” Besides, the name Desiree didn’t become trendy until a few years later, thanks to the 1954 Marlon Brando movie Désirée (which I mentioned in the Deserie post).

What do you think of the name Desnee? Would you pronounce the second syllable like that of Desiree (ay-sound) or Deedee (ee-sound)?

More Top Baby Name Drops

A couple of weeks a go we checked out the list of top raw-number rises in the U.S. baby name data, so today let’s balance things out with the list of top raw-number drops.

Just remember that the SSA data doesn’t become very accurate until the mid-to-late 20th century, so many of the numbers below don’t reflect reality all that well.

Same format as usual: Girl names on the left, boy names on the right. Numbers represent single-year decreases in usage. From 1880 to 1881, for instance, usage of the girl name Mary dropped by 146 babies and usage of the boy name William dropped by 1,008 babies.

  • 1881: Mary, -146; William, -1,008
  • 1882: Lulu, -34; Garfield, -78
  • 1883: Mary, -136; William, -911
  • 1884: Mina, -33; Albert, -61
  • 1885: Sarah, -94; William, -853
  • 1886: Nancy, -35; Grover, -361
  • 1887: Minnie, -157; John, -916
  • 1888: Dorothea, -24; Rudolph, -17
  • 1889: Emma, -203; William, -933
  • 1890: Mollie, -53; William, -278
  • 1891: Mary, -375; John, -821
  • 1892: Jennie, -26; Enoch & Irving, -16 each (tie)
  • 1893: Mary, -390; John, -990
  • 1894: Ruth, -286; Grover, -171
  • 1895: Laura, -87; Charles, -155
  • 1896: Jessie, -197; John, -182
  • 1897: Anna, -431; John, -589
  • 1898: Sophie, -49; Hobart, -63
  • 1899: Mary, -1,234; William, -1,314
  • 1900: Manila, -24; Dewey, -154
  • 1901: Mary, -3,572; John, -2,931
  • 1902: Sophie, -45; Manuel, -32
  • 1903: Mary, -211; William, -305
  • 1904: Lillie, -121; Leo, -83
  • 1905: Florence, -94; Alton, -138
  • 1906: Minnie, -173; Theodore, -146
  • 1907: Bessie & Alice, -85 each (tie); Austin, -27
  • 1908: Evelyn, -178; Theodore, -69
  • 1909: Mae, -154; Ernest, -115
  • 1910: Allie, -35; Delmar & Bruce, -24 each (tie)
  • 1911: Annie, -220; Willie, -405
  • 1912: Dessie, -20; Lawyer & Blas, -12 each (tie)
  • 1913: Carrie, -62; Emerson, -28
  • 1914: Tomasa, -27; Woodrow, -547
  • 1915: Juana, -32; Kermit, -79
  • 1916: Mollie, -88; Willard, -476
  • 1917: Edna, -204; Woodrow, -239
  • 1918: Rose, -215; Frederick, -103
  • 1919: Helen, -2,447; John, -3,029
  • 1920: Sophie, -234; Woodrow, -1,033
  • 1921: Gertrude, -449; Willie, -391
  • 1922: Helen, -2,314; Warren, -3,315
  • 1923: Helen, -1,017; George, -321
  • 1924: Elizabeth, -512; Warren, -1,231
  • 1925: Mary, -2,910; John, -1,878
  • 1926: Mary, -2,773; William, -1,358
  • 1927: Helen, -1,582; William, -479
  • 1928: Mary, -3,756; William, -2,360
  • 1929: Mary, -3,361; John, -1,652
  • 1930: Ruth, -1,079; Herbert, -2,187
  • 1931: Dorothy, -3,884; John, -4,026
  • 1932: Betty, -1,688; Robert, -1,255
  • 1933: Mary, -4,381; Robert, -5,052
  • 1934: Dorothy, -761; Franklin, -1,209
  • 1935: Betty, -2,408; Franklin, -1,543
  • 1936: Shirley, -7,202; Donald, -1,025

(From the SSA: “Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data.”)

  • 1937: Shirley, -8,337; Donald, -771
  • 1938: Shirley, -3,048; Donald, -1,207
  • 1939: Shirley, -3,320; Robert, -2,630
  • 1940: Shirley, -2,573; Donald, -962
  • 1941: Betty, -1,172; Wendell, -533
  • 1942: Deanna, -408; Billy, -352
  • 1943: Carole, -1,900; Douglas, -3,001
  • 1944: Barbara, -4,242; Robert, -4,008
  • 1945: Mary, -3,184; James, -2,497
  • 1946: Victoria, -280; Victor, -492
    • Top 5 boy-name drops of ’46, in order: Victor, Truman, Franklin, Delano, Roosevelt/Homer (tie)
  • 1947: Carole, -793; Richard, -369
  • 1948: Patricia, -5,144; Richard, -7,570
  • 1949: Linda, -5,192; Ronald, -2,026
  • 1950: Linda, -10,549; John, -1,642
  • 1951: Linda, -6,553; Larry, -1,016
  • 1952: Linda, -6,808; Larry, -2,224
  • 1953: Linda, -5,819; Larry, -3,081
  • 1954: Linda, -5,884; Dennis, -2,860
  • 1955: Mary, -4,830; Gary, -3,499
  • 1956: Deborah, -4,476; David, -4,588
  • 1957: Deborah, -7,778; Gary, -2,286
  • 1958: Cynthia, -8,311; James, -5,502
  • 1959: Debra, -4,166; Michael, -5,209
  • 1960: Debra, -4,626; Richard, -3,619
  • 1961: Donna, -5,468; Richard, -2,432
  • 1962: Mary, -4,163; Mark, -4,234
  • 1963: Linda, -3,754; Mark, -4,150
  • 1964: Lori, -5,280; Mark, -4,073
  • 1965: Mary, -6,709; John, -10,972
  • 1966: Karen, -7,431; John, -6,519
  • 1967: Lisa, -4,483; James, -3,495
  • 1968: Mary, -3,592; David, -3,058
  • 1969: Lisa, -4,494; Timothy, -3,153
  • 1970: Lisa, -6,077; David, -1,953
  • 1971: Lisa, -6,053; David, -8,650
  • 1972: Lisa, -5,357; John, -8,340
  • 1973: Lisa, -4,883; David, -5,267
  • 1974: Lisa, -2,889; Robert, -1,681
  • 1975: Jennifer, -4,926; Brian, -3,864
  • 1976: Michelle, -3,116; Scott, -1,571
  • 1977: Amy, -4,613; Scott, -1,541
  • 1978: Amy, -3,509; Jason, -4,027
  • 1979: Kelly, -1,686; Kevin, -1,373
  • 1980: Melissa, -2,420; Jason, -2,203
  • 1981: Melissa, -3,623; Jason, -6,268
  • 1982: Brooke, -2,183; Jeremy, -2,643
  • 1983: Jennifer, -2,767; Jason, -5,512
  • 1984: Jennifer, -3,784; Jason, -5,167
  • 1985: Jennifer, -7,903; Jason, -3,905
  • 1986: Jennifer, -6,474; Joshua, -4,655
  • 1987: Jennifer, -3,483; Jason, -3,054
  • 1988: Ashley, -4,873; Jason, -3,441
  • 1989: Jennifer, -3,888; Jason, -3,292
  • 1990: Tiffany, -2,555; Adam, -2,216
  • 1991: Brittany, -7,446; Christopher, -5,219
  • 1992: Jessica, -5,047; Michael -6,409
  • 1993: Chelsea, -4,885; Michael, -4,821
  • 1994: Ashley, -4,571; Michael, -5,089
  • 1995: Jessica, -4,175; Michael, -3,060
  • 1996: Jessica, -3,752; Michael, -3,043
  • 1997: Jessica, -3,142; Cody, -2,660
  • 1998: Jessica, -2,816; Christopher, -2,104
  • 1999: Brittany, -1,903; Austin, -2,710
  • 2000: Brittany, -2,760; Austin, -4,824
  • 2001: Hannah, -2,366; Brandon, -2,445
  • 2002: Taylor, -2,220; Jacob, -1,968
  • 2003: Ashanti, -1,983; Austin, -2,850
  • 2004: Hannah, -2,034; Zachary, -1,832
  • 2005: Alexis, -1,503; Jacob, -2,059
  • 2006: Emily, -2,540; Ryan, -1,557
  • 2007: Emily, -2,050; Joshua, -1,664
  • 2008: Hannah, -3,738; Christopher, -2070
  • 2009: Emily, -2,084; Anthony, -2,099
  • 2010: Madison, -2,059; Joshua, -2,219
  • 2011: Isabella, -3,032; Jacob, -1,783
  • 2012: Chloe, -1,361; Jacob, -1,370
  • 2013: Isabella, -1,536; Ethan, -1,494
  • 2014: Sophia, -2,657; Jayden, -1,834
  • 2015: Isabella, -1,523; Jase, -1,459
  • 2016: Sophia, -1,311; Logan, -1,697
  • 2017: Sophia, -1,281; Mason, -1,728
  • 2018: Emily, -1,125; Matthew, -1,747

I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and will write about others in the future. In the meanwhile, feel free to beat me to it! Comment below with the backstory on the fall of Shirley in the late ’30s, Linda in the early ’50s, etc.

Unusual Baby Names in Harris County, TX

snobia, real name, baby name, texas, 1930s
Snobia, born in Texas in 1931

We recently looked at the top baby names in Houston, so today let’s check out some of the unusual baby names that were bestowed in Harris County (where Houston is located) from 1926 to 1934.

Why 1926 to 1934? Because the USGenWeb Archives website for Texas happens to host complete, digitized sets of Harris County birth records for those particular years. :)

For onomastic context: The top five girl names in Texas in 1930 were Mary, Betty, Dorothy, Maria, and Billie; the top five boy names were James, Billy, Robert, John, and Charles.

And now, here are some of the unusual-but-real baby names that were being used in Harris County in the late ’20s and early ’30s…

1926:

  • Girl names: Autra, Clemmine, Faylese, Inry, Jimize, Martimana, Ruberly, Symova, Ventruda, Zenola
  • Boy names: Clavy, Fayne, Galvino, Jallus, Komello, Ludwell, Nonis, Stayden, Thadid, Wiltz

1927:

  • Girl names: Crespina, Davalene, Glissie, Haldora, Isiola, Maxteen, Orea, Ruvellee, Versa, Willia & Nillia (twins)
  • Boy names: Alzie, Donley, Gasdan, Iron, Kinnie, Mynatt, Narmon, Osby, Risco, Tollie

1928:

  • Girl names: Ayda, Clydine, Flavilla, Inola, Juvene, Mattilene, Sinella, Thaylia, Willoise, Zolita
  • Boy names: Asriah, Calby, Delery, Elivorio, Galo, Hartsell, Kissel, Lassiter, Monteith, Plymton

1929:

  • Girl names: Dinazar, Evima, Ferenita, Glennella, Jaquamina, Lunetta, Mildra, Seropia, Treassa, Ysrosa
  • Boy names: Boysen, Exalton, Hulan, Jolari, Kezakiah, Monsie, Renick, Schley, Tawsen, Vesome

1930:

  • Girl names: Azo, Binji, Chavara, Faydell, Junetenth*, Nezzell, Olgria, Pura, Trellis, Wiltessa
  • Boy names: Boza, Charna, Donniehue, Kirkland, Landrum, Marvis, Neilo, Oliner, Sunary, Trossie

*In other records, she’s listed as “Juneteena.” Which makes me happy, because Junetenth wasn’t born on June 10th, but on June 26th!

1931:

  • Girl names: Auba, Docsha, Gladia, Jettie, Lorinza, Orfa, Phadalia, Ria, Snobia*, Tala
  • Boy names: Duffie, Elry, Galen, Jerah, Khleber, Orlo, Roswald, Sebie, Thano, Velton

*Snobby-looking Snobia is probably just an altered form of Zenobia.

1932:

  • Girl names: Elydia, Hannora, Josener, Liligene, Minta, Ninfa, Ouida, Rosarine, Velosa, Zol
  • Boy names: Brozy, Cullis, Esker, Ferris, Latham, Odis, Ramia, Shedrick, Wayaland, Zeff

1933:

  • Girl names: Annarene, Clista, Exenia, Genoria, Jemanne, Leska, Mercidee, Rocksie, Trudell, Velta
  • Boy names: Artis, Cromwell, Deckman, Envon, Linlou, Millus, Ninary, Pelton, Rianaldo, Thurlo

1934:

  • Girl names: Athydell, Cova, Dazerine, Enla, Lemabel, Marzie, Roxelyn, Sedonia, Thala, Zeolia
  • Boy names: Boyce, Foy, Jock, Kernin, Lorvell, Numa, Rhomey, Treldon, Ulmer, Venard

If you want to see more, check out my post on unusual Harris baby names over on Patreon.