How popular is the baby name Catherine 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 Catherine.
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The name Fiona — coined during the 18th century by Scottish poet James Macpherson, who based it on the Irish word fionn (“white, fair”) — is relatively common in the U.S. these days. Rank-wise, it’s been hovering around 200th place for the last few years.
But — like Siobhan, Maeve, Bronwen, and many other Celtic names — it didn’t arrive with the immigrants. Instead, it was introduced to America later on, via pop culture.
Fiona first popped up in the data in 1942, and it stuck around for several years:
1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
What boosted it onto the charts that initial time?
The movie The Gay Sisters, which came out in August of 1942. The main characters were the three Gaylord sisters/heiresses: Fiona, Evelyn, and Susanna. Fiona, the eldest sister, was played by popular actress Barbara Stanwyck (birth name Ruby Catherine Stevens). The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly had an impact on expectant parents.
The movie was based on the book of the same name by Stephen Longstreet. Longstreet was also the writer behind Stallion Road, which was similarly made into a movie and introduced audiences to a woman named Rory (traditionally a male name) later in the ’40s.
“I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”
From a 1936 newspaper article about movie actress Veda Ann Borg:
Miss Borg was given a new tag almost the minute she stepped into the studio. It was “Ann Noble.” […] Miss Borg contended that her own name is more descriptive of her personality than Ann Noble. The former model’s argument was convincing. She will be billed as Veda Ann Borg.
(Keavy, Hubbard. “Screen Life In Hollywood.” Wilkes-Barre Record 23 Apr. 1936: 19.)
How in the world did we get from “Jeremy” to “Jezza”?
There is a rule for how this works. Names which have the letter R in them–Jeremy, Catherine, Sharon, Barry, Murray–are trouble for speakers of non-rhotic variations of English to abbreviate. Rhoticity is a linguistic term for describing when the letter is pronounced; in non-rhotic dialects of English, the sound will be discarded unless followed immediately by a vowel. The dialects of England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and, well, New England are all non-rhotic, which is why the word “car” sounds like “cah.”
This isn’t a problem in any of those names if they’re pronounced fully; there’s always a vowel after the R. But to truncate them would be difficult. Typically hypocoristic nicknames are formed by cutting everything but the first syllable and then either leaving that as-is or adding a vowel. That’s how “Daniel” becomes “Danno”: clip to the first syllable (“Dan”) and add a vowel. (The -o ending is most common for male names; -ie is more common for female names.)
The team, led by North Carolina State University’s Terry Gates, named the shark Galagadon nordquistae, a nod to its teeth, which have a stepped triangle shape like the spaceships in the 1980s video game Galaga, and to Karen Nordquist, the Field Museum volunteer who discovered the fossils.
Lorin now often finds himself babysitting while Cali campaigns against atomic power. Symbolically, not long ago she shed the name she’d “hated for 30 years” for one that sounded right. Margo became Cali. “I look at myself differently now,” she says firmly, “except people all across the country think Lorin has remarried.”
The Wayback Machine was named to reference Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine from the popular cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle. In the show, the machine was pronounced as “way back,” which is where the index got its name.
However, Howard did go out of his way to confirm one long-held belief about Willow: that two of the villains were named after famous film critics. The evil General Kael was named after the notoriously ruthless Pauline Kael and the two-headed monster Eborsisk was named after the iconic At the Movies duo of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.
And, finally, a pair of snippets from a Colorado Public Radio article about Denver street names. First:
William McGaa [one of Denver’s founding officials] had a debaucherous reputation of his own, drinking and adulterating his way out of favor with the city’s elite. McGaa even named Wazee and Wewatta streets after two of his many wives, both Native American woman from local tribes.
(The settlement of Denver was named in late 1858. McGaa’s son, William Denver McGaa, was born in the settlement in March of 1859 and named after it. His mother was neither Wazee nor Wewatta, but a half-Native American woman named Jennie.)
Second, regarding Denver’s “double alphabetical” streets, which were renamed in 1904:
The pattern is a proper noun name, ideally British, followed by the name of a tree or plant. Albion and Ash, Bellaire and Birch, Clermont and Cherry.
The switch wasn’t without resistance from those wealthy neighborhoods. When Eudora Avenue became Fir Street, residents decried the name as “too plebeian.”
Looking for an uncommon K-name for your baby girl? Here’s the next installment of rare female names collected from very old films (released from the 1910s to the 1940s). For those names that saw enough usage to register in the national data set, I’ve included links to the popularity graphs.
Kabirah was a character played by actress Emily Seville in the film Kismet (1920).
Kalaniweo was a character played by actress Enid Markey in the film Aloha Oe (1915).
Kalora was a character played by actress Ruth Stonehouse in the film The Slim Princess (1915) and by actress Mabel Normand in the remake The Slim Princess (1920).
Kaluna was a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Isle of Abandoned Hope (1914).
Kamamamalua was a character played by actress Hilo Hattie in the film Miss Tatlock’s Millions (1948).
Kameela was a character played by actress Ann Rork in the film The Notorious Lady (1927)
Karamaneh was a character played by either of two actresses, Joan Clarkson and Dorinea Shirley, in various short films, including The Shrine of the Seven Lamps and The Cafe L’Egypte, during the 1920s.
Karanina “Nina” Novak was a character played by actress Anne Shirley in the film Four Jacks and a Jill (1942).
Karin Touzac was a character played by actress Merle Oberon in the film This Love of Ours (1945).
Kathe was a character played by actress Dorothy Tree in the film Sky Murder (1940).
Usage of the baby name Kathe (which debuted in the data the year Sky Murder came out).
Kathlyn Williams was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1930s. She was born in Montana in 1879. Her birth name was Kathleen Mabel Williams. Kathlyn was also a character played by actress Bessie Eyton in the film The City of Purple Dreams (1918).
Katina Paxinou was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1970s. She was born in Greece in 1900. Her birth name was Ekaterini Konstantopoulou. Katina was also a character played by actress Sonja Henie in the film Iceland (1942).
Katuma was a character played by actress Tsuru Aoki in the short film A Relic of Old Japan (1914).
Katyusha Maslova was a character played by various actresses (such as Florence Lawrence, Pauline Frederick, Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez) in various movies called Resurrection, all based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.
Kawista was a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film Return of Ta-Wa-Wa (1910).
Kay Laurel was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1890. Her birth name was Ruth Leslie. Kay Aldridge was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. Aldridge was born in Florida in 1917. Kay was also a character name in multiple films, including The Scarlet Honeymoon (1925) and Mrs. Miniver (1942).
Kittens Reichert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1910. Her birth name was Catherine Alma Reichert. Kittens was also a character played by actress Dorothy Abril in the film Rouge and Riches (1920).
Kittie Swasher was a character played by actress Madge Kennedy in the film The Girl with the Jazz Heart (1921).
Kitty Gordon was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in England in 1878. Her birth name was Constance Blades. Kitty was also a character name in multiple films, including Five Star Final (1931) and The Challenge (1948).
When my mother was pregnant with me, she and my father read La montaña es algo más que una inmensa estepa verde, Omar Cabezas’ personal account of his time living with Sandinista guerrilla revolutionaries in the Cordillera Isabelia, a mountain range in Nicaragua. Today I choose to do justice to the radical provenance of my name, after years of subjecting myself to mispronunciations, ultracorrections, and the bulldozing erasure that accompanies nicknames. […] Because I’m not Izzy or Isa, I’m Isabelia.
From an article about the Fultz sisters, Americas first identical African-American quadruplets (b. 1946):
“The doctor took it upon himself to name the girls — all of them Mary, followed by the names of the women in the Klenner family. There was Ann, for the doctor’s wife; Louise, his daughter; Alice, his aunt; and Catherine, his great-aunt.
To the delivery nurse, who is black, it didn’t seem strange.
“At that time, you know, it was before integration,” Margaret Ware, 79, recalled recently. “They did us how they wanted. And these were very poor people. He was a sharecropper, Pete [Mr. Fultz] was, and she [Mrs. Fultz] couldn’t read or write.
Charlie was our choice. Not the most “out there” name in the world, but also not too overused or common. I honestly did not see why it was so very controversial. But they hated it. With a passion.
And they weren’t afraid to tell us. At the dinner table. At the restaurant. And even the day before Charlie was born.
Maybe they didn’t realize how hurtful it might be? Maybe they thought the name was so atrocious that they had to say something or else our kid would live a life of ridicule and pain? I just don’t freaking know.
While in recent years Utah has garnered attention for spelling names in more unique (or tortuous) ways, Utah has actually been the trendsetter within the United States in naming kids for a century
For many names, popularity hits Utah typically five or so years before elsewhere in the country. In some cases, like Evan, names are popular only in Utah for decades before they gain national traction.
For a tropical cyclone with wind speeds that could reach up to 150 kmph and has forced the evacuation of three lakh people in the Odisha coastline, Titli — meaning butterfly — is a surprisingly delicate name.
“Especially in the Midwest, when they heard my name was Jihad the first thing that appeared to their minds was the image of suicide bombers, and the jihadists that attack the army in Afghanistan or Iraq.”
[Jihad Abdo, one of Syria’s best-known actors], whose most popular TV show had an audience of 50 million, simply couldn’t catch a break in Los Angeles. He suffered through 100 failed auditions and scraped by delivering pizza for Domino’s.
He realised that to keep his career, he would have to lose his name.
He considered Jude, but settled on the name Jay – simple, innocuous – American.
Things changed overnight, “because Jay for them is a lovely guy – it brings to them Jay Leno or… lovely people – people they are comfortable with. It doesn’t create any ‘sensitivity’, let’s say.”
Yes, this Asian outpost of Maine food and culture is named after that Cabot Cove. The one where the fictitious mystery writer Jessica Fletcher (played by Angela Lansbury from 1984 to 1996 on CBS) solved so many crimes that in 2012 researchers declared if the town were real, it would have the world’s highest murder rate.
It turns out that re-runs of “Murder, She Wrote” – or “Jessica Obasan no Jikenbo,” which translates to “Auntie Jessica’s Case Files” – were also must-see TV in Japan. Kiyoto and Keiko Deguchi, the owners of Cabot Cove restaurant, are big fans.
In last week’s “lowest ever” boy names post, I mentioned that reader Caitlin had shared her research on downward-trending baby names with me recently. While many girl names hit relative lows in 2017, for instance…
Sarah, now ranked 62nd — lowest ranking since 1970.
Rachel, now ranked 195th — lowest ranking since 1960.
Melissa, now ranked 273rd — lowest ranking since 1949.
…a couple of the names on her list, Rebecca and Catherine, hit their “lowest ever” rankings last year. (Plus there was Katherine, a borderline case of a lowest-ever tie.)
So I set out to find other “lowest ever” girl names.
Many of the names I checked (like Clare, Lea, and Bridget) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Pauline, Sara, and Mary) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017. Still others (like Yvonne) had to be disqualified because, even though they hit their lowest ranking on record in 2017, they didn’t appear in the data for all 138 years (1880-2017)…an issue I didn’t encounter with any of the boy names.
In the end, I was able to add a dozen thirteen names to the list:
Ann. Ranked 1,023rd in 2017; peak was 28th in the 1930s.
Barbara. Ranked 908th in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1930s/1940s.
Carol. Ranked 1,814th in 2017; peak was 4th in the 1940s.
Catherine. Ranked 198th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1910s.
Celia. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 141st in the 1880s.
Cynthia. Ranked 637th in 2017; peak was 7th in the 1950s.
Elisabeth. Ranked 775th in 2017; peak was 286th in the 2000s.
Katherine. Ranked 105th in 2017 + 1938; peak 25th in the 1990s.
Kathleen. Ranked 871st in 2017; peak was 9th in the 1940s. (Late addition–thanks Kelly!)
Linda. Ranked 708th in 2017; peak was 1st in 1940s/1950s.
Priscilla. Ranked 527th in 2017; peak was 127th in the 1940s.
Rebecca. Ranked 216th in 2017; peak was 10th in the 1970s.
Rosa. Ranked 672nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1880s.
Susan. Ranked 963rd in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1950s/1960s.
Teresa. Ranked 720th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1960s.
Tressa. Ranked 9242nd in 2017; peak was 761st in the 1960s.
That makes 15 (or 16, if you count Katherine). I certainly could have missed a few, though, so if you can think of a good candidate, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.