How popular is the baby name Cheryl in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Cheryl and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Cheryl.
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Today’s mystery name is Chyleen, a uniquely spelled one-hit wonder from 1945:
1945: 9 baby girls named Chyleen [debut]
The names Charlene and Cheryl were on the rise in the ’40s, so the look/sound of Chyleen certainly fits with the trends of the time. But I can’t figure out what put the specific spelling “Chyleen” on the map.
Looking through records, I found a couple of people with other spellings, but “Chyleen” was the dominant favorite. This makes me think the influence was something written (e.g., news story, movie credits, book).
Any ideas about what influenced Chyleen?
P.S. The Chyleen-like name Chyla saw a spike in usage in 1983, with a third of that usage coming from in Illinois. The influence was likely Chicago Bears quarterback Vince Evans, who married a woman named Chyla Dibble in mid-1982. (The couple was featured in a July 1982 issue of Jet magazine.)
Q: I’ve got to say, “Blake Lively” sounds almost too cool to not be a stage name…
A: People are always like, “Blake Lively! Okay, what’s your real name?” It’s kind of embarrassing to tell people, because it sounds like a really cheesy stage name.
Q: Is there a story behind the first part?
A: Actually, my grandma’s brother’s name was Blake, and my sister wrote it down when she was reading a family tree. And they said, “If it’s a boy, we’ll name him Blake, and if it’s a girl, we’ll name her Blakely.” And everybody thought I was going to be a boy, and then I came out and I was a girl. And they had already been calling me Blake for months because they were positive I was going to be a boy. And they had been calling me Blake for so long, they just [kept it].
[The surname “Lively” came from Blake’s mother’s first husband. Blake’s mother kept it after the divorce, and Blake’s father — her mother’s second husband — liked it enough to take as his own when they married.]
“What dad wants to name his son after a son who kills his dad?” said baby-name expert Laura Wattenberg, who analyzed the latest data on Babynamewizard.com. “It doesn’t seem like the most auspicious choice.”
The One Direction singer-turned-solo artist explained the origin of son Bear Payne’s name during a Total Access radio interview, which he said was decided upon by mom Cheryl Cole.
“It was an internal battle,” Liam reflected. “I wanted a more traditional name and she wanted a name that was more unusual. “The reason she chose Bear was because Bear is a name that when you leave a room, you won’t forget.”
“And I like that,” the U.K. native decided eventually.
If the purpose of a name is to signify an object, a very common first name seems like a pretty ineffective signifier. When people on the street say my name, I often don’t bother to turn around, knowing that there are probably other Sarah’s in close proximity. And so I think of “Sarah” less as a name that’s specific to me and more as a general descriptor—another word for “woman” or “girl,” or something else that applies both to me and to a lot of other people, too.
Two University of Colorado economists found compelling evidence that the first letter of your last name does matter quite a bit—especially when you’re young.
Professor Jeffrey Zax and graduate student Alexander Cauley analyzed data on the lives of more than 3,000 men who graduated from Wisconsin high schools 2 in 1957. They found that those with surnames further back in the alphabet did worse in high school, in college, and in the job market early in their careers. […] While correlation isn’t necessarily causation, the researchers firmly believe there’s a connection.
The baby name Cherrelle became trendy in the ’80s thanks to R&B vocalist Cherrelle, born Cheryl Anne Norton.
She had a string of successful songs during the mid-to-late ’80s following the release of her debut album in 1984. This explains why the name re-appeared on the SSA’s list in 1984 (after popping up once in ’70s) and usage spiked in 1986 and 1989:
1990: 70 baby girls named Cherrelle
1989: 138 baby girls named Cherrelle
1988: 91 baby girls named Cherrelle
1987: 81 baby girls named Cherrelle
1986: 188 baby girls named Cherrelle
1985: 45 baby girls named Cherrelle
1984: 37 baby girls named Cherrelle
Nothing too earth-shattering about this one, really, but Cherrill and Cheryl have their own posts, so I thought Cherrelle ought to get a post as well.
Charmaine reminds me of Cheryl — both are relatively recent inventions with hazy origins, both saw increased usage thanks to popular culture, and both sound a bit dated these days.
Charmaine never became as popular as Cheryl did, but, interestingly, the two main pop culture boosts that it got — in 1928 and in 1952 — were caused by the very same thing.
What Price Glory? (1926) was a silent, black-and-white movie set in France during World War I. It followed two U.S. Marine sergeants as they fought for the affections of Charmaine, an innkeeper’s daughter.
The movie’s theme song, “Charmaine,” was used as a leitmotif throughout the film. It went on to become a huge hit in the late 1920s. The best-selling recording, by Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1927.
In response to the popular song, hundreds of American baby girls were named Charmaine:
1930: 124 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 622nd]
1929: 114 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 653rd]
1928: 264 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 419th]
1927: 74 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 856th]
1926: 8 baby girls named Charmaine
A generation later, the film was remade — this time with sound and color.
The song “Charmaine” was used again for this 1952 version of the film, and again it became a hit. Multiple versions landed on the U.S. Billboard charts, including an instrumental version by the Mantovani Orchestra that peaked at #10 in 1951 and a version by the Billy May Orchestra that reached #17 in 1952.
This time around, usage of the baby name Charmaine more than tripled:
1954: 351 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 475th]
1953: 428 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 417th]
1952: 620 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 331st]
1951: 192 baby girls named Charmaine [rank: 621st]
Usage has been decreasing ever since, though. In 2014, just 18 baby girls were named Charmaine.
So where does the name Charmaine come from?
Sources suggest that it’s based on either the English word “charm” or the name Charmian. Charmian is a variant of Charmion, based on the ancient Greek word kharma, meaning “delight.” (One of Cleopatra’s servants was named Charmion.) The second syllable may have been influenced by the name Lorraine, which was fashionable in the early 1900s.
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of the name Cheryl (Cherie + Beryl? Cherry + Beryl?) but it’s clear that the name saw a drastic rise in popularity during the first half of 20th century. Cheryl went from a rarity in the early 1900s to one of the most popular girl names in the U.S. by the mid-1950s.
I doubt Cheryl could have achieved this kind of popularity without a series of pop culture boosts — two caused by the same person, interestingly.
The first (and smallest) boost happened in 1938:
1940: 285 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 408th] – 42 in CA
1939: 289 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 390th] – 49 in CA
1938: 397 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 312th] – 76 in CA
1937: 145 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 563rd] – 16 in CA
1936: 94 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 688th] – 10 in CA
Many of these babies were born in California specifically.
A 19-year-old from Pasadena named Cheryl Walker. In late 1937, she was selected as the 1938 Queen of the Tournament of Roses. Local newspapers (including the Los Angeles Times) talked about Cheryl quite a bit during the last month of 1937 and the first few months of 1938.
She signed a film contract with Paramount around that time, but didn’t have much success in the entertainment industry until five years later.
That’s when she played the romantic lead in the wartime hit Stage Door Canteen, released in the middle of 1943. Dozens of major celebrities — including Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, George Jessel, Gertrude Lawrence, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ethel Merman, Paul Muni, Merle Oberon, Mary Pickford, and Johnny Weissmuller — had cameos in the film, which was one of the highest-grossing of the year.
(Notably, several months before Stage Door Canteen came out, LIFE magazine published a series of photos of the actress along with a short article subtitled “Cheryl Walker rises from stand-in for Veronica Lake to stardom.”)
In both 1943 and 1944, the number of babies named Cheryl increased significantly:
1945: 8,150 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 32nd]
1944: 7,970 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 36th]
1943: 2,878 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 102nd]
1942: 590 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 280th]
1941: 439 baby girls named Cheryl [rank: 311th]
The name of Cheryl’s character, Eileen, also saw increased usage, as did many variants of Cheryl (asterisks denote debuts):
[EDIT, 6/10 – Diana reminded me about Mouseketeer Cheryl, who was on The Mickey Mouse Club from 1956 to 1958. No doubt she contributed to the name’s popularity as well in the mid-to-late ’50s!]
Cheryl became one of the top 20 baby names in the country in 1955, and it remained in the top 20 until 1961, peaking at 13th in 1958.
After that, usage began to decline. Cheryl fell out of the top 50 in 1972, then out of the top 100 in 1980. (This despite a late-1970s uptick inspired by actress Cheryl Ladd, singer Cheryl Lynn, and/or model Cheryl Tiegs.)
[EDIT, 7/7 – Cheryl M. reminded me to include Cheryl Ladd.]
And in 1998, exactly 40 years after nearly reaching the top 10, Cheryl fell out of the top 1,000 entirely.