How popular is the baby name Cyd 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 Cyd.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Cyd


Posts that Mention the Name Cyd

The Rise of Kelly as a Girl Name

kelly and me. movie, 1957, dog

During the first half of the 20th century, the name Kelly was more of a boy name than a girl name. That is, it was given far more often to baby boys than to baby girls.

But things changed in the 1950s, when the overall usage of Kelly began to rise quickly — and rise faster for girls than for boys. The first year that more girls than boys were named Kelly was 1957:

Year # Girls Named Kelly # Boys Named Kelly
1959 6,379 (rank: 74th) 2,436 (rank: 142nd)
1958 4,471 (rank: 108th) 2,299 (rank: 148th)
1957 1,907 (rank: 187th) 1,868 (rank: 167th)
1956 831 (rank: 310th) 1,472 (rank: 189th)
1955 540 (rank: 380th) 1,251 (rank: 204th)
1954 455 (rank: 406th) 960 (rank: 225th)
1953 226 (rank: 590th) 845 (rank: 232nd)

Even though the gender switch happened in 1957, usage for boys continued to rise for several more years. Only in 1962 then did the two trajectories finally start to diverge.

So what’s behind both the popularization and feminization of the name Kelly in the 1950s? There seem to be at least three different influences (and possibly others that I haven’t discovered yet). Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Grace Kelly: actress, most popular around 1955/1956
  • Kelly and Me: movie, released in 1957
  • Bachelor Father: television show, aired from 1957 to 1962

I have a big post about Grace Kelly-inspired baby names scheduled for tomorrow, so for now I’ll just say that, if she was an influence here, she wouldn’t be the first famous actress to inspire parents to start using her surname as a girl name. Before her was Janet Gaynor, June Allyson, Cyd Charisse, Debra Paget, Denise Darcel, Pier Angeli, etc.

The movie Kelly and Me, which co-starred Piper Laurie, is weirdly reminiscent of the 2008 movie Marley and Me. Both films feature a male dog as a main character, and both titular names saw increased usage as baby names — particularly girl names — the years the movies were released. Apparently neither the species nor the gender of the character mattered much to parents. (Here’s the popularity graph for Marley.)

The TV show Bachelor Father focused on a wealthy Beverly Hills attorney named Bentley Gregg who is raising his orphaned teenage niece, a female Kelly. The show clearly gave the name Bentley a boost in the late ’50s and early ’60s, nudging it into the top 1,000 for the first time in 1961, so no doubt it also helped American audiences see Kelly as a nice name for a daughter.

Do you like the name Kelly? Do you like it more as a girl name or as a boy name? (Or does it not matter to you?)

Double Whammy Baby Names: Pier & Angeli

pier angeli, life magazine, 1956
Pier Angeli on the cover of LIFE in 1956

While Cyd Charisse gave both her first and last name a boost on the baby name charts, those debuts didn’t happen in the same year.

In the case of Italian-born television and film actress Pier Angeli, though, both Pier and Angeli popped up in the data in 1953:

Year # Piers # Angelis
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
18 baby girls
25 baby girls
8 baby girls (& 5 baby boys)
11 baby girls [debut]
x
12 baby girls
x
x
14 baby girls [debut]
x

In fact, the name Angeli was the 3rd-highest debut name of the year (after Trenace and Caster).

Pier Angeli was born Anna Maria Pierangeli in Sardinia, Italy, in 1932. Before she launched her U.S. film career, her name was changed:

The movie moguls decided that her name Anna Maria Pierangeli was too long for the lights over a marquee, so it was abridged to Pier Angeli simply by dividing her surname. She didn’t like it, complaining that it was “a boy’s name” which of course it was in Italy, and never used it in private life. Her friends always called her Anna.

Pier Angeli’s first American film Teresa (1951). Her performance impressed critics; she won a Golden Globe Award in 1952 for “Most Promising Newcomer.” And the year after that, her names double-debuted in the U.S. baby name data.

Nowadays, dozens of baby girls are named Angeli every year. Pier is still used as well, but mostly as a boy name. Which name do you prefer?

Which name do you prefer for a baby girl, Pier or Angeli?

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Source: Allen, Jane. Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2002.

P.S. Speaking of dividing a surname to create a stage name…two people who divided a first name to come up with a professional name were actor Kal Penn (born Kalpen Modi) and lyricist Kal Mann (born Kalman Cohen).

Double Whammy Baby Names: Cyd & Charisse

cyd charisse, movie, dancer, 1940s, baby name, cyd, charisse

As far as I can tell, the very first person to boost both a first name and a last name into the baby name data was dancer and movie star Cyd Charisse. Charisse debuted in 1946, and Cyd followed a year later:

Year # Cyds # Charisses
1950
1949
1948
1947
1946
1945
14 baby girls
20 baby girls
6 baby girls
8 baby girls [debut]
x
x
17 baby girls
14 baby girls
19 baby girls
10 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
x

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) was what propelled Charisse to stardom, but in the late ’40s she had minor dancing parts in various musicals, and these appearances must have given her name enough exposure to influence expectant parents.

But she wasn’t born with the name Cyd Charisse. Her birth name was Tula Ellice (ee-leese) Finklea. Here’s how one name morphed into the other:

My real name was Tula Ellice, it was not Cyd. But my brother was only a year older than myself and he couldn’t pronounce Tula Ellice, so he started calling me Sid as a nickname, for sister. And it stuck with me and all my life I’ve been called Sid. But when I went to MGM, Arthur Freed did not like the spelling of S-i-d, which is a boys’ name. And he changed the spelling to C-y-d — a little more glamorous.

And of course Charisse was my first husband’s name, Nico Charisse. So actually Cyd Charisse you could say is my real name.

But there’s actually more to the story, as she went through several stage names before settling on “Cyd Charisse”:

Before I went to MGM, I had danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. And, of course, joining a Russian ballet company in those days, you were supposed to have a Russian name. So Colonel de Basil, who was the regisseur of the ballet at that time, he first named me Felia Siderova. And after a couple of months he decided he would change it to Maria Istomina. Two names.

Then when I wound up back in California, before I went to MGM, I met another Russian director. And he decided that my name should be Lily Norwood.

So finally, when I got to MGM, and Arthur Freed said “We have to change your name,” I said “No please, I’ve had my name changed so many times. Let me just be Sid Charisse.” And that’s when he changed the spelling to C-y-d. And finally I had my own name.

These days, American parents still bestow the name Charisse occasionally, but they rarely go for Cyd. Which name do you prefer?

Which name do you prefer for a baby girl, Cyd or Charisse?

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Sources: SSA, Cyd Charisse Interview [vid]
Image from Singin’ in the Rain (1952).