How popular is the baby name Deborah in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Deborah and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Deborah.
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.
The name Shalimar first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1954:
1957: 6 baby girls named Shalimar
1954: 5 baby girls named Shalimar
The inspiration here was not the famous perfume created by Guerlain in the 1920s, but a movie called Princess of the Nile released in mid-1954. It starred Debra Paget as an Egyptian Princess named Shalimar (who sometimes went incognito as a dancing girl known as Taura).
But the word Shalamar is not Egyptian. It comes from the famous Shalimar Gardens located in Pakistan. The gardens were created in the mid-1600s by Shah Jahan (who built the Taj Mahal around the same time). “Shalamar” was derived from the Persian-Arabic phrase shah al-‘imarat, meaning “king of buildings.”
Right on the heels of Cheryl, the baby name Deborah skyrocketed in usage during the late ’40s and early ’50s:
1952: 49,808 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
1951: 42,060 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
1950: 29,067 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 7th]
1949: 19,208 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 15th]
1948: 11,245 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 30th]
1947: 5,838 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 62nd]
1946: 2,470 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 119th]
1945: 1,464 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 161st]
1944: 1,293 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 168th]
It peaked at 2nd place (behind Mary) in 1955.
Deborah, based on the ancient Hebrew word for “bee,” had already been on a slow and steady rise. So what fueled the explosion?
I’d say the one-two punch of actresses Deborah Kerr and Debra Paget.
Scottish-born Deborah Kerr, who had been in films since the early 1940s, didn’t became one of the biggest names in Hollywood until later in the decade. (Her surname rhymes with car; MGM cleverly came up with the line, “Kerr rhymes with star.”)
Kerr ended up in some of the most financially successful movies of the era, such as King Solomon’s Mines (1950), Quo Vadis (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), and The King and I (1956) with Yul Brynner.
Denver-born* Debra Paget, a starlet of the 1950s, also appeared in some big films such as the top-grossing movie of the decade, The Ten Commandments (1956). The same year she appeared opposite Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956).
Though many variants of Deborah were being used around that time, Debra saw particular success, thanks to Paget. In fact, Debra surpassed Deborah in usage for five years in a row:
22,153 [rank: 13th]
24,095 [rank: 10th]
26,737 [rank: 8th]
25,265 [rank: 10th]
31,371 [rank: 7th]
19,553 [rank: 9th]
35,520 [rank: 6th]
32,940 [rank: 7th]
42,734 [rank: 4th]
40,062 [rank: 6th]
48,299 [rank: 2nd]
47,830 [rank: 4th]
50,541 [rank: 4th]
52,314 [rank: 2nd]
45,894 [rank: 6th]
54,685 [rank: 3rd]
36,856 [rank: 7th]
52,188 [rank: 3rd]
26,832 [rank: 9th]
49,808 [rank: 4th]
17,074 [rank: 18th]
42,060 [rank: 4th]
(Interesting fact: One of the babies named for Debra Paget was future actress Debra Winger, born in 1955.)
The occupational surname Paget, a diminutive form of the word page (a “youth employed as a personal attendant to a person of rank”), was also appearing in the SSA’s data as a girl around this time. It debuted in 1948, the year Debra Paget appeared in her first film, Cry of the City.
Which spelling do you prefer, the traditional Deborah or the streamlined Debra?
Both her parents were curlers, members of a tight-knit sport where an intense reverence for the game tends to bleed over into the players’ personal lives. And so it was only natural that Joe and Kristin Polo decided to name their future daughter Ailsa, after the Scottish island where the granite that makes curling rocks is mined.
After Randall’s birth on Dec. 31, 1982, Ronn wanted to name her Kikki, after Kiki Cutter, the first American skier, male or female, to win a rase in a World Cup event, a slalom in 1968. Deborah preferred Meghan. They compromised on Kikkan.
When I was eight, I changed my name. Until then, I was called Johanna Louise, because my youthful parents, huge Bob Dylan fans, had named me after his mystical 1966 ballad, Visions of Johanna. In mid-70s south Manchester, sadly, the mysticism was somewhat lost. I hated explaining my name […] and thought it sounded clunky and earthy, when I longed to be ethereal and balletic.
From an essay about ethnic names by Australian-born Turkish author Dilvin Yasa
“Have you ever considered changing your name to something more ‘white’?” asked a literary agent the other day. “It’s been my experience that authors with strong, Anglo names tend to do better at the cash registers than those who have ethnic or even Aboriginal names.”
“Leave your name as it is!” [Jane Palfreyman] wrote. “I can tell you that their names have affected the popularity of Anh Do*, Christos Tsiolkas, Kevin Kwan or Munjed Al Muderis – and indeed may well have contributed to their success.”
*Misspelled “Ahn Do” in the original text.
From an article called “Restore Yamhill!” in the March 30, 1917, issue of The New York Sun:
The City Commission of Portland, Ore., has succumbed to an attack of mock elegance and under its influence has erased from the map the excellent, juicy and meaningful name of Yamhill street, substituting for it the commonplace and sordid Market street.
Yamhill is ancient, respectable, typical, historic. Alexander Henry, a fur trader of the Northwest Company, traversing the then unknown Willamette country, met at Willamette Falls, January 10, 1814, seven “ugly, ill formed Indians” leading a horse. They were of the Yamhela tribe, as Henry spelled it in his diary, the name being derived from the Yamhela, or yellow river.
From an article about Rose Collom in True West Magazine:
Rose was the perfect name for the Grand Canyon’s first official botanist, because self-taught Rose Collom blossomed when exposed to the state’s flora.
Rose discovered several varieties of plants previously unknown, and each was named after her.
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
Years ago I posted about Livonia, a baby both born on and named after a Pullman car. Recently I wondered: What other Pullman car names would have made good baby names?
So I downloaded a big spreadsheet of over 12,000 Pullman car names from The Pullman Project and was slightly surprised to see that thousands of them could have been baby names, if we allow for the splitting of compound car names (like Fort Miley, Glen Norman, Meredith College, and West Willow).
Here are a handful of examples. On the left are relatively common/familiar names, and on the right are some unexpected choices.