How popular is the baby name Deirdre in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Deirdre and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Deirdre.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Deirdre

Number of Babies Named Deirdre

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Deirdre

Mystery Baby Names – Open Cases

I’m a baby name blogger, but sometimes I feel more like a baby name detective. Because so much of my blogging time is spent doing detective work: trying to figure out where a particular baby name comes from, or why a name saw a sudden jump (or drop) in usage during a particular year.

If a name itself doesn’t make the answer obvious (e.g., Lindbergh) and a simple Google search hasn’t helped, my first bit of detective work involves scanning the baby name charts. I’ve learned that many search-resistant baby names (like Deatra) are merely alternative spellings of more common names (Deirdre).

If that doesn’t do it, I go back to Google for some advanced-level ninja searching, to help me zero in on specific types of historical or pop culture events. This is how I traced Irmalee back to a character in a short story in a very old issue of the once-popular McCall’s Magazine.

But if I haven’t gotten anywhere after a few rounds of ninja searching, I officially give up and turn the mystery baby name over to you guys. Together we’ve cracked a couple of cases (yay!) but, unfortunately, most of the mystery baby names I’ve blogged about are still big fat mysteries.

Here’s the current list of open cases:

  • Wanza, girl name, debuted in 1915.
  • Nerine, girl name, debuted in 1917.
  • Laquita, girl name, debuted in 1930.
  • Norita, girl name, spiked (for the 2nd time) in 1937.
  • Delphine, girl name, spiked in 1958.
  • Leshia, girl name, debuted in 1960.
  • Lavoris, girl name, debuted in 1961.
  • Djuna, girl name, debuted in 1964.
  • Latrenda, girl name, debuted in 1965.
  • Ondina, girl name, debuted in 1968.
  • Khari, boy name, debuted in 1971.
  • Jelani, boy name, debuted in 1973.
  • Toshiba, girl name, debuted in 1974.
  • Brieanna, girl name, debuted in 1979.
  • Sumiko, girl name, spiked in 1980.
  • Tou, boy name, debuted in 1980.
  • Marquita, girl name, spiked in 1983.
  • Caelan, boy name, debuted in 1992.
  • Deyonta, boy name, debuted in 1993.
  • Trayvond, boy name, debuted in 1994.
  • Zeandre, boy name, debuted in 1997.
  • Yatzari, girl name, debuted in 2000.
  • Itzae, boy name, debuted in 2011.

If you enjoy sleuthing, please give some of the above a shot! I’d love to knock one or two off the list before I start adding more mystery names in the coming weeks…

Update, 1/23/15: Forgot to add Avenir from the distinctive baby names, state by state list (see Oregon & Washington). It debuted as a boy name in 2002.

Update, 7/13/16: More still-open cases from the Mystery Monday series last summer: Theta, Memory, Treasure, Clione, Trenace, Bisceglia, Genghis and Temujin.


Mystery Baby Name – Sumiko

(Welcome to mystery week! This is the first of 5 posts featuring baby names that saw sudden popularity increases that I can’t quite figure out. Maybe you guys can help?)

In 1980, over 100 baby girls were suddenly given the name Sumiko (or some variant thereof):

Name 1979 1980 1981 1982
Sumiko 5 31 7 5
Semiko** 23 8
Samika 7 22 20 14
Sameka 12 21 12 9
Sumeka** 14
Sumika** 11
Semeka 8 7 6
Sameko** 7
Samica 7
Semico** 7
Simeko** 7
Sumeko** 7
Semeko** 6
Semika 6 7 7
Sameika** 5

**Debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1980.

What prompted the Sumiko spike? I’m not sure.

The various spellings suggest that people were hearing the name, but not seeing it written down (as with Kasara and Deirdre). So the source is likely to be a song, a movie, or a TV show.

The only possibility I’ve come up with so far is a minor character from The Young and The Restless named Sumiko. According to various soap opera websites, Sumiko was a cult leader (!) who began appearing on the show in early 1980.

Do you have any other ideas?

The Revival of Irish Names in Ireland

ireland satelite imageI discovered the RTÉ Radio 1 documentary One Hundred Years of Names (2009) a long time ago. Finally I’ve had a chance to listen to the entire 40-minute program.

It’s pretty good — I like how it tells the story of how Irish names have been revived in Ireland.

Because, back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Irish names were not being used in Ireland, at least not officially. I think this fact would surprise a lot of people. The vast majority of children were given non-Irish names (e.g., Katherine, Rose, John) though some did use the Irish versions of their names in everyday life.

Around the 1930s, a handful Irish names (e.g., Seán, Séamus) began gaining traction. This was thanks to the efforts of those trying to revive Irish such as Éamon de Valera, who later became president of Ireland. (Éamon’s wife, born in 1878, went by Sinéad but was officially a Jane.)

The use of Irish names increased, little by little, over the next few decades.

With the 1970s came a lot more name variety, thanks to Gerard Slevin’s 1974 revision of Rev. Patrick Woulfe’s 1923 book Irish Names for Children. An Irish genealogist interviewed in the documentary said this revision was “quite influential, it was probably the only book on bookshelves at that time on Irish names.”

Since the 1990s, both the popularity and the variety of Irish names in Ireland have continued to increased. The narrator of the documentary summed it up well when she said that, nowadays, “names like Deirdre, Róisín, Gráinne are so familiar, we’d nearly forget they’re revived names.”

Interesting stuff, no?

The documentary is worth a listen if you’re a fan of Irish names. Or if you simply want to hear some Irish name pronunciations, as a bunch of Irish names — Cian (kee-an), Aoife (ee-fa), Ciara (kee-ra), Caoimhe (kwee-va), Niamh (nee-av), Saoirse (sir-sha), Sadhbh (sive), Róisín (ro-sheen), Aoibhinn/Aoibheann (ee-veen), etc. — are mentioned about 10 minutes in.

If you listen, let me know how you like it!

The Double-Spike Baby Name Norita

baby name norita - graph
Usage of the baby name Norita spiked in ’35 and ’37.
Something unusual happened to the baby name Norita in the 1930s:

  • 1939: 34 baby girls named Norita
  • 1938: 47 baby girls named Norita
  • 1937: 155 baby girls named Norita
  • 1936: 19 baby girls named Norita
  • 1935: 89 baby girls named Norita
  • 1934: 7 baby girls named Norita
  • 1933: 6 baby girls named Norita

See how it spiked twice? Interesting, no?

A double-spike requires a double-explanation, and one of those explanations I’ve figured out. The other I’m still working on.

Norita’s 1935 Spike

Norita’s first spike can be traced back to a contest, believe it or not. Contests were all the rage in the mid-1930s according to Newsweek:

Almost every week, radio stations and newspapers announce new contests. Prizes of money, automobiles, and round-the-world trips incite listeners and readers to send in slogans and 50-word essays written on soap wrappers and cigar bands.

This particular contest, sponsored by Gold Medal Flour, was woven into the storyline of an old time radio show called “Betty and Bob.” After characters Betty and Bob Drake found a orphaned baby girl at their doorstep on Christmas Eve of 1934, they asked their audience to help choose a name for her.

Gold Medal Flour magazine advertisements from early 1935 gave detailed descriptions of the baby — “golden hair,” “blue eyes,” “happy disposition” — and hints on picking a name, which they stressed should be “original” and “unique.”

Thousands of cash prizes were offered, including a $10,000 grand prize. Here’s the full list (and what the prizes would be worth in today’s dollars):

  • 1st – $10,000 (equivalent to $170,713.14 in 2013)
  • 2nd – $1,500 ($25,606.97)
  • 3rd – $1,000 ($17,071.31)
  • 4th – $500 ($8,535.66)
  • 5th – $250 ($4,267.83)
  • 6th – $200 ($3,414.26)
  • 7th – $150 ($2,560.70)
  • 8th – $100 ($1,707.13)
  • 9th – $75 ($1,280.35)
  • 10th – $25 ($426.78)
  • 11th – $15 ($256.07)
  • 12th – $10 ($170.71)
  • 13th – $7 ($119.50)
  • 14th – $5 ($85.36)
  • 1,000+ other entrants – $1 each ($17.07)

That’s a lot of money, especially when you consider that the nation was still trying to pull itself out of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.*

Hundreds of thousands of people entered the contest, which ran until mid-February. Some people really went out of their way to catch the attention of the judges:

One woman painstakingly embroidered a pillow with a name on it and could not understand why she got no prize. She even claimed the work had damaged her eyesight. A man sent an 8-foot, electrically-wired lighthouse with the entry-name over its door. A third contestant contributed a huge doll in an expensive bassinet; a nameplate hung on the doll’s neck.

More than 50,000 people suggested the name Goldie (a nod to Gold Medal Flour). Another 57,000 suggested Betty-Jane.

But only Mrs. E. M. Nelson of Minnesota suggested the grand prize-winning name Norita, a name she’d created from an Old English word for “foster child,” norie (also spelled nory, nurry, etc.). The word ultimately comes from Old French nourrir, meaning “nourish.”

The only other prize-winner I know of was a woman named Martha Hunt of Washington state who submitted the name “Adolla” and received $250 (5th place).

According to a newspaper article from 1942, the Gold Medal Flour “Radio’s Nameless Mystery Baby” contest was General Mills’ second-most successful contest ever. Seven years later, the company was still receiving entries.

Norita’s 1937 Spike

The second spike was higher than the first — 155 babies this time, versus 89 in 1935 — but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause.

One thing I can tell you about the 1937 spike is that, in contrast to the 1935 spike, it inspired a lot of variant forms:

Name 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938
Norita 7 89 19 155 47
Noretta 8 15 6 65 32
Noreta 7** 5 52 14
Noreda 17**
Norrita 16**
Noreeta 8**
Noreita 8**
Noritta 8**
Norietta 6**
Norreta 6**
Norretta 5**

**First appearance on the SSA’s list.

A sudden increase in variant forms always points me to an audio source — something that has a lot of people hearing a name, but not seeing it written down. This forces people to come up with their own spellings. The Deirdre and Casara spikes were caused by audio sources, for instance.

So the second Norita spike was likely caused either by radio or by a movie. (Television wasn’t widely adopted until well into the 1950s.)

One other thing I can tell you is that the 1937 spike was localized, just like the 1935 spike. In 1935, most of the babies named Norita were born in the Midwest:

  • 12 Noritas in Minnesota (1935)
  • 9 Noritas in Wisconsin (1935)
  • 7 Noritas in Indiana (1935)
  • 6 Noritas in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio (1935)
  • 5 Noritas in Texas (1935)

The story of a Minnesota woman winning $10,000 by inventing the name “Norita” was probably a lot bigger in this region than elsewhere.

Skipping ahead two years, we see something similar:

  • 17 Noritas in Ohio (1937)
  • 16 Noritas in Pennsylvania (1937)
  • 14 Noritas in California (1937)
  • 11 Noritas in Illinois (1937)
  • 10 Noritas in Texas (1937)
  • 9 Noritas in Indiana and Minnesota (1937)
  • 5 Noritas in Michigan, Oregon, and West Virginia (1937)

The localization isn’t quite as strong, but over 20% of the 1937 Noritas were born in Ohio and Pennsylvania, which is notable.

Thoughts?

My best guess is that the second spike is related to the “Betty and Bob” radio show somehow. Perhaps baby Norita became an on-air character in 1937?

But I have no clue why the name was disproportionately popular in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Do you have any ideas?

Also: Do you like the name Norita? Would you ever consider using it for a baby?

Sources/Tools:

  • BLS Inflation Calculator
  • “Contest: 57,000 American Listeners Have The Same Idea” Newsweek 11 May 1935: 38.
  • Hughes, Lawrence M. “Advertising news.” New York Sun 13 Feb. 1941: 23.
  • Whitney, William Dwight Whitney and Benjamin Eli Smith. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. New York: The Century Co., 1914.
  • “Wins Cash Award for Baby’s Name.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 18 Apr. 1935: 6.

*Did you know some kids were actually named Depression during the Great Depression?

The Deirdre Spike – Caused by a Movie?

old acquaintance - had character named deirdreThe name Deatra appeared on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list for the first time in 1944:

  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1946: 12 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1945: 19 baby girls named Deatra
  • 1944: 29 baby girls named Deatra [debut]
  • 1943: unlisted

It was a top debut name that year, in fact.

“Deatra” confused me at first. I could’t figure out where it came from. Then I discovered a whole bunch of similar names that also debuted in 1944…

Name 1943 1944 1945 1946
Deatra 29 19 12
Dietra 25 16 17
Deitra 23 16 16
Detra 20 6 11
Diedra 19 27 16
Dedra 18 16 19
Deadra 15 12 12
Deedra 11 14 9
Deirdra 11 7 8
Diedre 11 14 22
Deardra 10 6 6
Dierdra 5 5 5
Dieatra 5
Deetra 5

…and these pointed me to Deirdre as the likely source.

So what happened to the Irish name Deirdre that year?

  • 1947: 149 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 689th)
  • 1946: 121 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 742nd)
  • 1945: 78 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 852nd)
  • 1944: 67 baby girls named Deirdre (rank: 948th)
  • 1943: 29 baby girls named Deirdre

From 1943 to 1944, usage more than doubled, pushing Deirdre into the top 1,000 for the very first time.

Other variants (e.g. Dierdre, Deidra) also saw increased usage in 1944. One of them, Deidre, even achieved top-1,000 status in 1945.

So what caused the great Deirdre-spike of 1944?

Perhaps the Bette Davis film Old Acquaintance, which was released in November of 1943. It featured a character named Deirdre Drake (played by actress Dolores Moran).

I’m not 100% sure the movie was the cause, but the name of Bette Davis’s character, Kit, also seemed to get a boost in 1944…

  • 1946: 24 baby girls named Kit
  • 1945: 27 baby girls named Kit
  • 1944: 25 baby girls named Kit
  • 1943: 14 baby girls named Kit
  • 1942: 12 baby girls named Kit

…so I think it’s a decent guess.

Do you have any other ideas?

Baby Name Needed – Girl Name for Maeve’s Sister

A reader named Kelly is expecting her second daughter in May, and she’d appreciate a few name suggestions. She writes:

Our first daughter, Maeve, was named really easily, and we grow to love the name more and more. However, we are having an exceptionally difficult time finding a second girl’s name that we like as much. I especially like Gaelic/Celtic names, but am willing to consider other options as well.

Here are some names that I think could work with Maeve:

Beatrix
Bevin
Blythe
Bree/Brígh
Bridget
Brynn
Caitlin
Carys
Chloe
Clio
Darcy
Deirdre
Eileen
Fiona
Freya
Gemma
Greta
Gwen
Hazel
Iona
Isla*
Ivy
Lorna
Lucy
Lyra
Miriam
Moira
Nora
Oona
Opal
Orla/Orlagh
Phoebe
Piper
Quinn
Rhona
Riona
Stella
Sylvie
Tamar
Tatum
Tegan
Tess
Tirzah
Zelda

*Pronounced EYE-la, but happens to looks just like the Spanish word for island, isla, pronounced EES-la.

Which of the above do you like best for Maeve’s little sister? What other names would you suggest to Kelly?

Baby Name Needed – Girl Name like Tatum

A reader named Kate writes:

I am currently pregnant with my first baby. We do not know whether a boy or girl yet, but we are brainstorming names. I love the girl’s name Tatum, but my best friend’s daughter has that name. Can you think of any similar girl’s names I might like?

I get this question every once in a while — probably because Tatum is such an idiosyncratic name.

Sloane has always been my default answer. But it only works for non-UK babies, thanks to the Sloane Rangers.

Other names that come to mind are:

Ainsley
Astrid
Beatrix
Blair
Blythe
Bryony
Cleo
Darcy
Deirdre
Hazel
Imogen
Kendall
Maeve
Meredith
Miriam
Morgan
Piper
Quinn
Reese
Rory
Rowena
Sybil
Tamar
Tanith

What other Tatum-like names can you come up with for Kate?