How popular is the baby name Boris 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 Boris.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Boris


Posts that Mention the Name Boris

The Launch of Lara

Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:

You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:

Here’s the data, side-by-side:

Laura usage (rank)Lara usage (rank)
196818,743 baby girls (11th)1,295 baby girls (227th)
196715,817 baby girls (15th)945 baby girls (277th)
196615,549 baby girls (19th)236 baby girls (618th)
196516,213 baby girls (18th)65 baby girls (1,376th)
196418,974 baby girls (14th)57 baby girls (1,512th)

So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?

Doctor Zhivago movie poster

The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.

Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.

But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:

Lara, my own, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.

Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.

The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder name Zhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”

Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)

Now let’s try a poll: Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura? Give me your reasons in the comments!

Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura?

View Results

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Sources: Doctor Zhivago (film) – Wikipedia, Doctor Zhivago – Orthodox England, Lara’s Theme – Wikipedia, Top 10 Highest-Grossing Films of All Time in the US, Ray Conniff – Billboard, Roger Williams – Billboard, Ray Conniff – Grammy.com, Laura – Behind the Name, Lara – Behind the Name

P.S. A woman named Lara after the Zhivago character was mentioned in Name Quotes 78.

Names in the News: Luca, Indica, X AE A-Xii

Some recent baby names from the news…

Indica: A baby girl born in the U.S. (in Baltimore?) in February of 2020 was named Indica, after the strain of cannabis. Indica has an older sister named SaTiva, after another strain of cannabis. (Metro)

Luca: A baby boy born in Ohio in December of 2019 was named Luca in honor of Dr. Luca Vricella, the pediatric cardiac surgeon who’d operated on Luca’s late older brother, Jack. (IndeOnline)

Ranvijay: A baby boy born in India in March of 2020 was named Mohammad Ranvijay, middle name in honor of police officer Ranvijay Singh, who’d helped the baby’s father attend the birth during lockdown. (NDTV)

Smokey: A baby boy born in New South Wales, Australia, in November of 2019 — while the Gospers Mountain fire was burning — was named Smokey. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas: The baby boy born in England in April of 2020 to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, was named Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas — Wilfred after Boris’s grandfather, Lawrie after Carrie’s grandfather, and Nicholas after Dr. Nicholas Price and Prof. Nicholas Hart, “the two doctors that saved Boris’s life last month.” (The Guardian)

Wyatt: The baby boy born in April of 2020 to news anchor Anderson Cooper was named Wyatt after Anderson’s late father, Wyatt Cooper. (PinkNews)

X AE A-Xii: The baby boy born in California in May of 2020 to entrepreneur Elon Musk and musician Grimes was initially named X Æ A-12. (The “A-12” part refers to the Lockheed A-12 aircraft.) On the birth certificate, though, is an altered version of the name: X AE A-Xii. (BBC, People)

P.S. Speaking of both Smokey and the ligature Æ (pronounced “ash”)…the first baby koala born at the Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales following the New South Wales bushfires was named Ash. (CNN)

Name Quotes 78: Brene, Neal, SanDeE*

The name SanDeE* from LA Story (1991).
SanDeE* from LA Story

From the 1991 movie LA Story, a conversation between Harris (played by Steve Martin) and SanDeE* (played by Sarah Jessica Parker):

H: What was your name again?

S: SanDeE*

H: I’m sorry, Sandy, Sandy… It’s a nice name. Everybody has such weird names now, it’s like Tiffany with a P-H-I, and instead of Nancy it’s Nancine. [He begins to write her name down.]

S: Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E.

H: What?

S: Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. [She grabs his hand and writes directly on it.] Big S, small A, small N, big D, small E, big E. Then there’s a little star at the end.

Anna Wintour recently talking about her new puppy, named Finch [vid]:

She’s called Finch because we call all of our dogs after characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. So we have had a Scout, a Radley, and a Harper. And let me tell you, they are not happy about Finch’s arrival.

From a 1995 interview with R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, whose paternal grandfather was a Methodist minister:

Well, Methodism was started by John Wesley, who was, in his way, a really radical guy who believed in a lot of individual responsibility. It’s not the kind of religion that’s right around your throat. Actually, I was named after him, John Michael Stipe.

From an article about Lara Prescott, author of the new book The Secrets We Kept, a fictional account of the dangers of publishing Doctor Zhivago in the 1950s:

You could say she was born to write this historical novel: Prescott’s mother named her after the doomed heroine from her favorite movie, the 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s epic.

A non-edited tweet from Cardi B, whose sister’s name is Hennessy:

Fun fact :Always wanted a daughter and I always used to say imma name her HennyLynn. It’s a cute mix of my sisters name but then I started calling my sister HennyLynn then it became one of the nicknames I gave my sister so it woulda been weird naming my daughter that .

From an article about a Georgia man whose name, Neal, came from a POW bracelet:

His father, the late John Carpenter, was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy and was deployed overseas at the time. He arrived home in time for his son’s birth. When it became necessary to scramble and find a boy’s name, John Carpenter looked down at the POW/MIA bracelet he was wearing.

The engraved name was Neal Clinton Ward Jr. He had been listed as Missing in Action since June 13, 1969. An airman, his plane had been shot down over Laos in the jungles of Southeast Asia, nine days before his 24th birthday.

The Carpenters named their son Neal Ward Carpenter.

(Neal’s mom had been convinced the baby would be a girl. Neal said: “I was going to be April Michelle, and that’s all there was to it.”)

Research professor and author Brené Brown on her unique name:

Growing up, every time we drove from San Antonio to Houston, going to Stuckey’s — all these places where you buy monogrammed shirts and glasses — I was so put out because there was never a “Brené.” So I think I made up in my head that it was French. And then I hitchhiked across Europe after high school and I got to France and I was like, “Je suis Brené!” And they were like, “What kind of name is that?” They’d never heard of it. My parents just made it up. I had a whole narrative in high school — “When I bust out of this suburban Spring, Texas, high school I’m going to go back to France where my people are!” But, no, it’s not French — it’s south side San Antonio.

Marketing expert Seth Godin’s take on the best middle name ever:

It’s not Warren or Susan or Otis or Samuel or Tricia.

It’s “The.”

As in Attila The Hun or Alexander The Great or Zorba The Greek.

When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.

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

The Introduction of Ilya

movie, 1960, ilya

When Ilya first popped up in the SSA’s baby name data, it appeared as a girl name in 1961:

  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Ilya [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

Why?

Because the Greek romantic comedy Never on Sunday was released in October of 1960. It starred Greek actress Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited prostitute named Ilya.

The movie was a big hit, and Melina Mercouri was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (she lost to Elizabeth Taylor). The film earned four other nominations as well, but only won the Best Song category.

Interestingly, the trailer for the film starts with a string of names: “On Monday, it’s Tonio. On Tuesday, Boris. Wednesday is Spiro the fisherman’s day. And on Thursday, Jorgo’s the lucky fellow. Friday is devoted to Homer…”

Most sources classify the name Ilya and similar names (Iliya, Illya, Ilia, etc.) as male names — specifically, as forms of Elijah/Elias. So my best guess on the character name is that it was a nickname for Iliana, the feminine form of the Greek name Ilias (yet another form of Elijah/Elias).

Do you like the name Ilya? Do you prefer it as a girl name or as a boy name?

Source: Iliana – Behind the Name