How popular is the baby name Cleopatra 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 Cleopatra.
The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…
Laurette Taylor was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1884. Her birth name was Loretta Cooney. Laurette was also a character played by actress Molly Lamont in the film Scared to Death (1947).
Lavolia was a character played by actress Etta McDaniel in the film Magnificent Brute (1936).
Leatrice Joy was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was born in Louisiana in 1893. Leatrice Joy Gilbert (Leatrice Joy’s daughter) was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in California in 1924.
Leontine Dranet was an actress who appeared in 2 films in the 1910s. Leontine was also a character name in multiple films, including The Closing Net (1915) and The Shielding Shadow (serial, 1916).
Lita Grey was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in California in 1908. Her birth name was Lillita MacMurray. Lita was also a character name in multiple films, including Bachelor Apartment (1931) and The Girl from Monterrey (1943).
Lorna Gray was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Michigan in 1917. Her birth name was Virginia Pound. Lorna was also a character name in multiple films, including Traffic in Souls (1913) and The Butterfly Girl (1921).
Luana Walters was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in California in 1912. Luana Patten was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1980s. She was born in California in 1938. Luana was also a character played by actress Dolores del Rio in the film Bird of Paradise (1932).
Lucile Watson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was born in Canada in 1879. Lucile Browne was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1950s. She was born in Tennessee in 1907. Lucile was also a character played by actress Marguerite Snow in the short film Lucile (1912).
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.
Don’t get too excited — these aren’t the top names for 2009. (If only!)
Why am I posting old news? Because I recently found a more complete version of the 2008 list that goes all the way down to baby names used in England and Wales just three times. So, the top-ranked names may be old news, but the rest are new. (New to me, anyway.) Here goes:
And now, just for fun, let’s compare usage in England to usage in America:
# UK* Boys
# UK Girls
# U.S. Boys
# U.S. Girls
Mackenzie Makenzie Mckenzie
361 28 462
53 9 66
?** ? ?
4,425 2,048 2,258
*By UK, I mean England and Wales. Not an accurate substitution, I know. But “England and Wales” is just way too long for that spot.
**The 1,000th name on the U.S. top 1,000 was used for 192 baby boys. So the question marks represent some number between 0 and 192.
***Update: Kelly has astutely pointed out that raw numbers can be misleading. I’m not going to change the chart — I’m just too lazy — but I’ve thrown in some rough totals, for context.