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, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Deborah.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Deborah


Posts that Mention the Name Deborah

More Top Baby Name Drops

A couple of weeks a go we checked out the list of top raw-number rises in the U.S. baby name data, so today let’s balance things out with the list of top raw-number drops.

Just remember that the SSA data doesn’t become very accurate until the mid-to-late 20th century, so many of the numbers below don’t reflect reality all that well.

Same format as usual: Girl names on the left, boy names on the right. Numbers represent single-year decreases in usage. From 1880 to 1881, for instance, usage of the girl name Mary dropped by 146 babies and usage of the boy name William dropped by 1,008 babies.

  • 1881: Mary, -146; William, -1,008
  • 1882: Lulu, -34; Garfield, -78
  • 1883: Mary, -136; William, -911
  • 1884: Mina, -33; Albert, -61
  • 1885: Sarah, -94; William, -853
  • 1886: Nancy, -35; Grover, -361
  • 1887: Minnie, -157; John, -916
  • 1888: Dorothea, -24; Rudolph, -17
  • 1889: Emma, -203; William, -933
  • 1890: Mollie, -53; William, -278
  • 1891: Mary, -375; John, -821
  • 1892: Jennie, -26; Enoch & Irving, -16 each (tie)
  • 1893: Mary, -390; John, -990
  • 1894: Ruth, -286; Grover, -171
  • 1895: Laura, -87; Charles, -155
  • 1896: Jessie, -197; John, -182
  • 1897: Anna, -431; John, -589
  • 1898: Sophie, -49; Hobart, -63
  • 1899: Mary, -1,234; William, -1,314
  • 1900: Manila, -24; Dewey, -154
  • 1901: Mary, -3,572; John, -2,931
  • 1902: Sophie, -45; Manuel, -32
  • 1903: Mary, -211; William, -305
  • 1904: Lillie, -121; Leo, -83
  • 1905: Florence, -94; Alton, -138
  • 1906: Minnie, -173; Theodore, -146
  • 1907: Bessie & Alice, -85 each (tie); Austin, -27
  • 1908: Evelyn, -178; Theodore, -69
  • 1909: Mae, -154; Ernest, -115
  • 1910: Allie, -35; Delmar & Bruce, -24 each (tie)
  • 1911: Annie, -220; Willie, -405
  • 1912: Dessie, -20; Lawyer & Blas, -12 each (tie)
  • 1913: Carrie, -62; Emerson, -28
  • 1914: Tomasa, -27; Woodrow, -547
  • 1915: Juana, -32; Kermit, -79
  • 1916: Mollie, -88; Willard, -476
  • 1917: Edna, -204; Woodrow, -239
  • 1918: Rose, -215; Frederick, -103
  • 1919: Helen, -2,447; John, -3,029
  • 1920: Sophie, -234; Woodrow, -1,033
  • 1921: Gertrude, -449; Willie, -391
  • 1922: Helen, -2,314; Warren, -3,315
  • 1923: Helen, -1,017; George, -321
  • 1924: Elizabeth, -512; Warren, -1,231
  • 1925: Mary, -2,910; John, -1,878
  • 1926: Mary, -2,773; William, -1,358
  • 1927: Helen, -1,582; William, -479
  • 1928: Mary, -3,756; William, -2,360
  • 1929: Mary, -3,361; John, -1,652
  • 1930: Ruth, -1,079; Herbert, -2,187
  • 1931: Dorothy, -3,884; John, -4,026
  • 1932: Betty, -1,688; Robert, -1,255
  • 1933: Mary, -4,381; Robert, -5,052
  • 1934: Dorothy, -761; Franklin, -1,209
  • 1935: Betty, -2,408; Franklin, -1,543
  • 1936: Shirley, -7,202; Donald, -1,025

(From the SSA: “Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data.”)

  • 1937: Shirley, -8,337; Donald, -771
  • 1938: Shirley, -3,048; Donald, -1,207
  • 1939: Shirley, -3,320; Robert, -2,630
  • 1940: Shirley, -2,573; Donald, -962
  • 1941: Betty, -1,172; Wendell, -533
  • 1942: Deanna, -408; Billy, -352
  • 1943: Carole, -1,900; Douglas, -3,001
  • 1944: Barbara, -4,242; Robert, -4,008
  • 1945: Mary, -3,184; James, -2,497
  • 1946: Victoria, -280; Victor, -492
    • Top 5 boy-name drops of ’46, in order: Victor, Truman, Franklin, Delano, Roosevelt/Homer (tie)
  • 1947: Carole, -793; Richard, -369
  • 1948: Patricia, -5,144; Richard, -7,570
  • 1949: Linda, -5,192; Ronald, -2,026
  • 1950: Linda, -10,549; John, -1,642
  • 1951: Linda, -6,553; Larry, -1,016
  • 1952: Linda, -6,808; Larry, -2,224
  • 1953: Linda, -5,819; Larry, -3,081
  • 1954: Linda, -5,884; Dennis, -2,860
  • 1955: Mary, -4,830; Gary, -3,499
  • 1956: Deborah, -4,476; David, -4,588
  • 1957: Deborah, -7,778; Gary, -2,286
  • 1958: Cynthia, -8,311; James, -5,502
  • 1959: Debra, -4,166; Michael, -5,209
  • 1960: Debra, -4,626; Richard, -3,619
  • 1961: Donna, -5,468; Richard, -2,432
  • 1962: Mary, -4,163; Mark, -4,234
  • 1963: Linda, -3,754; Mark, -4,150
  • 1964: Lori, -5,280; Mark, -4,073
  • 1965: Mary, -6,709; John, -10,972
  • 1966: Karen, -7,431; John, -6,519
  • 1967: Lisa, -4,483; James, -3,495
  • 1968: Mary, -3,592; David, -3,058
  • 1969: Lisa, -4,494; Timothy, -3,153
  • 1970: Lisa, -6,077; David, -1,953
  • 1971: Lisa, -6,053; David, -8,650
  • 1972: Lisa, -5,357; John, -8,340
  • 1973: Lisa, -4,883; David, -5,267
  • 1974: Lisa, -2,889; Robert, -1,681
  • 1975: Jennifer, -4,926; Brian, -3,864
  • 1976: Michelle, -3,116; Scott, -1,571
  • 1977: Amy, -4,613; Scott, -1,541
  • 1978: Amy, -3,509; Jason, -4,027
  • 1979: Kelly, -1,686; Kevin, -1,373
  • 1980: Melissa, -2,420; Jason, -2,203
  • 1981: Melissa, -3,623; Jason, -6,268
  • 1982: Brooke, -2,183; Jeremy, -2,643
  • 1983: Jennifer, -2,767; Jason, -5,512
  • 1984: Jennifer, -3,784; Jason, -5,167
  • 1985: Jennifer, -7,903; Jason, -3,905
  • 1986: Jennifer, -6,474; Joshua, -4,655
  • 1987: Jennifer, -3,483; Jason, -3,054
  • 1988: Ashley, -4,873; Jason, -3,441
  • 1989: Jennifer, -3,888; Jason, -3,292
  • 1990: Tiffany, -2,555; Adam, -2,216
  • 1991: Brittany, -7,446; Christopher, -5,219
  • 1992: Jessica, -5,047; Michael -6,409
  • 1993: Chelsea, -4,885; Michael, -4,821
  • 1994: Ashley, -4,571; Michael, -5,089
  • 1995: Jessica, -4,175; Michael, -3,060
  • 1996: Jessica, -3,752; Michael, -3,043
  • 1997: Jessica, -3,142; Cody, -2,660
  • 1998: Jessica, -2,816; Christopher, -2,104
  • 1999: Brittany, -1,903; Austin, -2,710
  • 2000: Brittany, -2,760; Austin, -4,824
  • 2001: Hannah, -2,366; Brandon, -2,445
  • 2002: Taylor, -2,220; Jacob, -1,968
  • 2003: Ashanti, -1,983; Austin, -2,850
  • 2004: Hannah, -2,034; Zachary, -1,832
  • 2005: Alexis, -1,503; Jacob, -2,059
  • 2006: Emily, -2,540; Ryan, -1,557
  • 2007: Emily, -2,050; Joshua, -1,664
  • 2008: Hannah, -3,738; Christopher, -2070
  • 2009: Emily, -2,084; Anthony, -2,099
  • 2010: Madison, -2,059; Joshua, -2,219
  • 2011: Isabella, -3,032; Jacob, -1,783
  • 2012: Chloe, -1,361; Jacob, -1,370
  • 2013: Isabella, -1,536; Ethan, -1,494
  • 2014: Sophia, -2,657; Jayden, -1,834
  • 2015: Isabella, -1,523; Jase, -1,459
  • 2016: Sophia, -1,311; Logan, -1,697
  • 2017: Sophia, -1,281; Mason, -1,728
  • 2018: Emily, -1,125; Matthew, -1,747

I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and will write about others in the future. In the meanwhile, feel free to beat me to it! Comment below with the backstory on the fall of Shirley in the late ’30s, Linda in the early ’50s, etc.

Mystery Monday: Quovadis

Here’s an eye-catching baby name: Quovadis. It’s appeared in U.S. baby name data a total of three times so far:

  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: 5 baby girls named Quovadis
  • …unlisted…
  • 1975: 6 baby girls named Quovadis (all 6 born in Georgia)
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: 5 baby girls named Quovadis [debut]
  • 1972: unlisted

This one is a semi-mystery. I know the ultimate origin, but not what (if anything) caused the name to surface in the ’70s specifically.

The Polish novel Quo Vadis (1896) by Henryk Sienkiewicz told the story of a romance between a Roman patrician and a Christian woman during ancient times. The title means “where are you going?” in Latin and alludes to the New Testament verse John 13:36.

The English translation of the book became the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1897. Since then, the book has been adapted for the big screen multiple times (1901, 1912, 1924, 1951*, etc.) and also adapted for television.

But nothing new happened in the ’70s to draw attention to the phrase, beyond the 1973 Broadway play Status Quo Vadis and a 1975 M*A*S*H episode called “Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”

Do you have any thoughts on this one?

P.S. Though the name only appears in the SSA data in the ’70s and ’80s, records reveal that dozens of people (male and female) have been named Quovadis since the late 1890s. Here’s one on the 1930 U.S. Census:

Quovadis Dukes, female, born in Ohio in 1929

Source: Publishers Weekly list of bestselling novels in the United States in the 1890s – Wikipedia

*The 1951 movie starred Deborah Kerr and was nominated for eight Oscars.

More Top Baby Name Rises

Having déjà vu?

A couple of months ago, we looked at a long, year-by-year list of the top baby name rises. A month after that, we saw the corresponding list of top drops.

On that second post, Frank B. left a comment in which he asked about absolute rises and drops — because the lists only covered relative movement within the data. So I thought two more posts were in order: top raw-number rises, and top raw-number drops.

We’ll start with the rises again. Just keep in mind that the SSA numbers don’t become very accurate until the mid-to-late 20th century, so many of the numbers below don’t quite reflect reality.

Here’s the format: Girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the numbers represent single-year rises in usage. From 1880 to 1881, for instance, the usage of the girl name Ethel increased by 155 babies and the usage of the boy name Chester increased by 106 babies.

  • 1881: Ethel, +155; Chester, +106
  • 1882: Mary, +1,229; John, +788
  • 1883: Bertha, +173; Grover, +71
  • 1884: Mary, +1,205; Grover, +675
  • 1885: Helen, +148; Willie, +36
  • 1886: Mary, +762; John, +270
  • 1887: Ethel, +208; Harold, +55
  • 1888: Mary, +1,866; William, +1,235
  • 1889: Ruth, +223; Russell, +52
  • 1890: Mary, +430; Charlie, +112
  • 1891: Ruth, +662; Theodore & Herbert, +34 (tie)
  • 1892: Mary, +1,471; John, +1,358
  • 1893: Esther, +558; Claude, +41
  • 1894: Marie, +437; John, +189
  • 1895: Anna, +385; James, +225
  • 1896: Helen, +369; William, +470
  • 1897: Thelma, +159; Dewey, +95
  • 1898: Mary, +994; Dewey, +957
  • 1899: Mildred, +188; Kenneth, +24
  • 1900: Mary, +3536; John, +2,840
  • 1901: Retha, +25; Theodore, +21
  • 1902: Mary, +1,350; John, +1,009
  • 1903: Dorothy, +371; Jack, +88
  • 1904: Mary, +687; John, +499
  • 1905: Mary, +1,105; Charles, +201
  • 1906: Alice, +581; Robert, +225
  • 1907: Mary, +1,211; James, +799
  • 1908: Mary, +1,085; William, +622
  • 1909: Helen, +813; James, +582
  • 1910: Mary, +3,589; John, +1,860
  • 1911: Dorothy, +1,551; John, +1,995
  • 1912: Mary, +7,910; John, +11,140
  • 1913: Mary, +4,342; John, +4,738
  • 1914: Mary, +8,705; John, +8,621
  • 1915: Mary, +12,842; John, +9,634
  • 1916: Mary, +3,246; Robert, +3,004
  • 1917: Mary, +2,847; Robert, +3,474
  • 1918: Dorothy, +3,179; Robert, +5,409
  • 1919: Betty, +1,304; Willie, +409
  • 1920: Mary, +5,141; Robert, +7,656
  • 1921: Betty, +3,618; Robert, +4,096
  • 1922: Betty, +3,259; Richard, +1,165
  • 1923: Betty, +5,097; Robert, +2,300
  • 1924: Betty, +4,605; Robert, +4,685
  • 1925: Gloria, +2,835; Richard, +2,034
  • 1926: Barbara, +1,917; Richard, +1,864
  • 1927: Mary, +2,787; Donald, +2,935
  • 1928: Dolores, +2,843; Herbert, +3,049
  • 1929: Joan, +3,806; Donald, +1,456
  • 1930: Joan, +3,812; Richard, +2,602
  • 1931: Joan, +3,633; Ronald, +1,086
  • 1932: Barbara, +4,514; Ronald, +4,411
  • 1933: Carol, +1,650; Franklin, +2,603
  • 1934: Shirley, +8,523; James, +3,124
  • 1935: Shirley, +19,514; David, +1,664
  • 1936: Carol, +2,785; Robert, +1,968

(From the SSA: “Note that many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data.”)

  • 1937: Barbara, +3,230; David, +3,493
  • 1938: Judith, +4,729; James, +2,526
  • 1939: Judith, +5,748; David, +2,366
  • 1940: Linda, +7,657; John, +3,739
  • 1941: Linda, +5,355; James, +4,262
  • 1942: Linda, +7,882; James, +10,450
  • 1943: Linda, +6,831; James, +3,072
  • 1944: Cheryl, +5,092; Gary, +2,192
  • 1945: Linda, +3,065; Michael, +3,179
  • 1946: Linda, +11,239; Robert, +14,194
  • 1947: Linda, +46,978; David, +11,381
  • 1948: Deborah, +5,409; Mark, +2,503
  • 1949: Deborah, +7,953; Michael, +7,417
  • 1950: Deborah, +9,877; Michael, +5,220
  • 1951: Deborah, +12,954; Michael, +7,531
  • 1952: Debra, +9,782; David, +7,043
  • 1953: Debra, +10,015; Michael, +5,172
  • 1954: Debra, +9,029; Mark, +6,899
  • 1955: Debra, +4,653; David, +6,653
  • 1956: Karen, +6,843; Mark, +6,596
  • 1957: Cindy, +10,268; Mark, +4,020
  • 1958: Tammy, +5,618; Timothy, +4,011
  • 1959: Donna, +9,517; Mark, +4,260
  • 1960: Lisa, +8,013; Jeffrey, +2,564
  • 1961: Lisa, +8,983; Todd, +4,005
  • 1962: Lisa, +3,394; Scott, +6,790
  • 1963: Lisa, +9,951; Paul, +2,884
  • 1964: Dawn, +4,196; John, +3,900
  • 1965: Lisa, +5,990; Rodney, +5,013
  • 1966: Michelle, +10,937; Christopher, +3,228
  • 1967: Melissa, +4,114; Matthew, +2,778
  • 1968: Jennifer, +8,612; Matthew, +2,253
  • 1969: Jennifer, +6,858; Jason, +9,346
  • 1970: Jennifer, +12,455; Jason, +10,788
  • 1971: Jennifer, +10,626; Jason, +6,897
  • 1972: Jennifer, +6,820; Christopher, +3,954
  • 1973: Heather, +3,032; Jason, +9,236
  • 1974: Heather, +3,836; Jason, +8,082
  • 1975: Amanda, +5,177; Joshua, +2,968
  • 1976: Jamie, +8,306; Jeremy, +4,940
  • 1977: Jessica, +6,467; Joshua, +5,205
  • 1978: Crystal, +2,865; Nicholas, +10,274
  • 1979: Amanda, +11,406; Joshua, +5,921
  • 1980: Tiffany, +6,614; Justin, +9,355
  • 1981: Jessica, +8,602; Brandon, +6,048
  • 1982: Ashley, +5,971; Christopher, +8,995
  • 1983: Ashley, +18,435; Kyle, +4,161
  • 1984: Ashley, +5,478; Joshua, +3,551
  • 1985: Ashley, +8,242; Andrew, +4,252
  • 1986: Whitney, +5,699; Andrew, +3,682
  • 1987: Kayla, +5,917; Justin, +4,874
  • 1988: Brittany, +4,594; Justin, +3,545
  • 1989: Brittany, +10,969; Ethan, +3,162
  • 1990: Taylor, +3,188; Jordan, +5,257
  • 1991: Shelby, +6,703; Dylan, +5,349
  • 1992: Taylor, +4,696; Dylan, +5,298
  • 1993: Taylor, +6,318; Austin, +6,125
  • 1994: Alexis, +2,208; Austin, +5,616
  • 1995: Madison, +3,516; Austin, +2,714
  • 1996: Madison, +3,632; Noah, +3,360
  • 1997: Hannah, +1,993; Jacob, +2,237
  • 1998: Emma, +2,700; Noah, +4,137
  • 1999: Grace, +3,460; Seth, +1,718
  • 2000: Trinity, +2,803; Ethan, +3,783
  • 2001: Isabella, +2,587; Logan, +2,973
  • 2002: Isabella, +3,334; Ethan, +4,143
  • 2003: Emma, +6,170; Aidan, +3,108
  • 2004: Ava, +2,364; Aiden, +1,472
  • 2005: Ava, +4,959; Landon, +2,070
  • 2006: Addison, +4,595; Aiden, +2,492
  • 2007: Addison, +4,328; Jayden, +5,596
  • 2008: Peyton, +1,954; Aiden, +2,472
  • 2009: Isabella, +3,667; Liam, +2,582
  • 2010: Sophia, +3,680; Mason, +4,139
  • 2011: Harper, +2,032; Mason, +4,650
  • 2012: Harper, +2,496; Liam, +3,286
  • 2013: Sadie, +2,031; Jase, +3,410
  • 2014: Olivia, +1,308; Oliver, +2,116
  • 2015: Alexa, +1,786; Oliver, +2,181
  • 2016: Adeline, +1,700; Mateo, +1,516
  • 2017: Luna, +1,657; Logan, +2,748
  • 2018: Mila, +2,162; Theodore, +1,070

Some of these names I’ve written about already, and others I plan to write about in the future. If you can give explanations for any of those others right now, though, feel free! Just leave a comment…

What Turned Shalimar into a Baby Name?

shalimar, debra paget, princess of the nileThe name Shalimar first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1954:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 6 baby girls named Shalimar
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: 5 baby girls named Shalimar
  • 1953: unlisted

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).

This was a few years after the Debra Paget movie Broken Arrow boosted Sonseeahray into the data, and a few years before Debra started outranking Deborah on the popularity charts.

But the word Shalimar is not Egyptian. It comes from the famous Shalamar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan. The gardens were created in the mid-1600s by Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal). “Shalamar” was derived from the Arabic phrase shah al-‘imarat, meaning “master of buildings.”

Source: Princess of the Nile (1954) – TCM, The meaning of ‘Shalimar’

The Rise of Deborah

deborah kerr, 1947, magazine
Deborah Kerr, cover of Time, early 1947

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:

Year Debra usage Deborah usage
1961 22,153 [rank: 13th] 24,095 [rank: 10th]
1960 26,737 [rank: 8th] 25,265 [rank: 10th]
1959 31,371 [rank: 7th] 19,553 [rank: 9th]
1958 35,520 [rank: 6th] 32,940 [rank: 7th]
1957 42,734 [rank: 4th] 40,062 [rank: 6th]
1956 48,299 [rank: 2nd] 47,830 [rank: 4th]
1955 50,541 [rank: 4th] 52,314 [rank: 2nd]
1954 45,894 [rank: 6th] 54,685 [rank: 3rd]
1953 36,856 [rank: 7th] 52,188 [rank: 3rd]
1952 26,832 [rank: 9th] 49,808 [rank: 4th]
1951 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?

I prefer...

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Sources: Deborah Kerr – Wikipedia, Debra Paget – Wikipedia, Page – Online Etymology Dictionary

*These Rams were installed in Denver three years after Debra was born.