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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Dondi

Number of Babies Named Dondi

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Dondi

Normandie, Take Two

Normandie from Terry and the Pirates (comic strip)
The elusive Normandie Drake!
Last year I guessed that the 1935 debut of Normandie on the SSA’s list was inspired by the maiden voyage of the SS Normandie.

Just a few weeks ago, though, I stumbled upon a theory that makes a lot more sense.

I was in the middle of researching the name Terrylea (a one-hit wonder from 1948 — any guesses?) when I found myself on the IMDB page for Terry and the Pirates (1940).

IMDB pages are full of names, so whenever I land on one I feel compelled to skim. And on this particular page I happened to spot the character name “Normandie Drake.”

It made me think of the baby name Normandie, of course, but the release year didn’t match up to any of the SSA data, so…dead end, right?

Well, turns out the movie was based on a popular comic strip of the same name by cartoonist Milton Caniff. The strip was first published in late 1934.

And which character was introduced in January of 1935? Normandie Drake.

Very intriguing — especially when you consider that a number of baby name debuts from that era were inspired by comic strip characters (e.g., Clovia, Dondi).

Another interesting point: Normandie Drake wasn’t featured in every storyline, and her comings and goings in the comic seem to correspond with the fluctuating usage of the name.

In 1942, for instance, she reappeared after an absence. That same year, the usage of Normandie increased:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1942: 14 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: unlisted
  • 1939: unlisted
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 11 baby girls named Normandie
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: 7 baby girls named Normandie [debut]
  • 1934: unlisted

Not only that, but she brought along her young daughter Merrily* and the baby name Merrily** promptly skyrocketed into the top 1,000:

  • 1944: 71 baby girls named Merrily
  • 1943: 120 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 914th]
  • 1942: 201 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 698th]
  • 1941: 13 baby girls named Merrily [ranked 513th]
  • 1940: unlisted

A magazine interview with Milton Caniff from a few years later (1945) included a photo of two little girls named Merrily after the character. The caption also mentioned young girls named Normandie after Normandie Drake and April after another Terry character, April Kane.

So, in light of all this new information, I have to admit that my first theory was incorrect. The debut was much more likely caused by Normandie Drake than by the SS Normandie. (Although I do think the ocean liner could have been a secondary influence here.)

Sorry I didn’t have the full story on this one before posting about it initially. Better late than never, though. :)

*Milton Caniff named and modeled Merrily after Mary Lee Engli, the daughter of fellow cartoonist Frank Engli.
**The baby names Merrilee and Merrilie were also affected.


The Baby Name Roni

The movie-inspired baby name Rawnie from a few weeks ago reminded me of the baby names Roni and Roni Sue, neither of which I’ve posted about yet. So today let’s check out Roni, which saw a spike in usage in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: 89 baby girls named Roni
  • 1957: 94 baby girls named Roni
  • 1956: 134 baby girls named Roni (ranked 864th)
  • 1955: 295 baby girls named Roni (ranked 536th)
  • 1954: 70 baby girls named Roni
  • 1953: 49 baby girls named Roni

roni 1955
What was the cause?

A feel-good news story about a 17-month-old Greek orphan named Roni Marie. She was being adopted by childless Texas couple Norman and Helen Donahoe in very early 1955. (This is how the story managed to slightly increase the usage of Roni among 1954 babies.)

Norman, a Navy lieutenant, “took his Christmas leave to hitchhike to Athens for the brown eyed foundling.” He spent 3 weeks in Greece finalizing the adoption.

Once Roni was his, the pair set off on the return trip, which lasted from January 8 to January 13.

“Roni Marie’s trip to the U.S. became somewhat of a diaper derby for Lieutenant Donahoe…he was rapidly running out of disposable diapers and he worried about the dwindling supply. But he was able to add to his diaper stock during a stopover in Morocco.”

LIFE Magazine, a little late to the party, printed a short blurb about the Donahoes on January 24.

So how do you feel about the name Roni? Do you like it any more or less than Rawnie?

P.S. A follow-up article published in 1961 revealed that Norman and Helen had gone on to adopt one more Greek orphan, Steven, and then have two biological children, Eloni [sic?] and Donald. (I’m assuming Eloni’s name was really Eleni, which is a Greek form of Helen.)

P.P.S. This story reminds me of both Stephen Dondi Thomas and Tyechia Reid.


  • “Cry from an Immigrant.” LIFE 24 Jan. 1955: 48.
  • “Donahoe Family Grows.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal 16 Jun. 1961: 1.
  • “Greek-Born Lass Meets Foster Mom.” Toledo Blade 14 Jan. 1955: 3.
  • “Hitching Yank and His Baby Halted in Italy.” Chicago Sunday Tribune 9 Jan. 1955: 38.

Clovia – Comic Strip Baby Name

Clovia comic strip character
Clovia the character
The baby name Clovia debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1949:

  • 1952: 5 baby girls named Clovia
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Clovia
  • 1950: 13 baby girls named Clovia
  • 1949: 22 baby girls named Clovia [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted

It was the 4th-highest girl name debut that year after Rainelle, Rainell and Randye.

Where did it come from?

A comic strip. Gasoline Alley characters Skeezix and Nina welcomed a baby girl in May of 1949 and named her Clovia.

Why “Clovia”?

Nina got stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital and was forced to give birth in a taxi. On the infant’s wrist was a birthmark in the shape of a four-leaf clover.

Clovia doll
Clovia the doll
And Clovia wasn’t just a comic strip character. For a time, she was also a doll.

In mid-1949, a few weeks after Clovia’s introduction, Clovia dolls became available in retail stores. (Dolls based on comic strip babies had become trendy in the 1940s.)

The baby name Clovia remained on the national baby name list through the 1950s, but usage petered out in the 1960s.

(Dondi, another comic strip-inspired name, had more staying power. Sparkle, on the other hand, lasted only a year.)


  • “Comic Strip Dolls.” Life 19 Oct. 1953.
  • Cushman, Philip. Constructing the Self, Constructing America. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 1995.

Images © Life.

My Top 40 Baby Name Stories

Open BookOf the hundreds of baby name stories I’ve posted so far, these are my 40 favorites (listed alphabetically).

  1. Actsapostles
  2. Airlene
  3. Aku
  4. Carpathia
  5. Cleveland
  6. Dee Day
  7. Dondi
  8. Emancipation Proclamation
  9. Frances Cleveland
  10. Georgia
  11. Grant
  12. Guynemer
  13. Ida Lewis
  14. Independence & Liberty
  15. Inte & Gration
  16. Invicta
  17. Iuma
  18. Jesse Roper
  19. Job-Rakt-Out-of-the-Asshes
  20. Karina
  21. Legal Tender
  22. Livonia
  23. Louisiana Purchase
  24. Maitland Albert
  25. Maria Corazon
  26. Mary Ann
  27. Medina
  28. Pannonica
  29. Pearl
  30. Poncella
  31. Return
  32. Robert
  33. Saarfried
  34. Salida
  35. Seawillow
  36. Speaker
  37. Speedy
  38. States Rights
  39. Thursday October
  40. Zeppelina

My favorite baby name stories tend to be those that I find most memorable. Several of them (e.g., Aku, Karina, Maitland) even taught me something new. In a few cases, it’s not the original story I like so much as something that happened later on in the tale (as with Georgia, Salida, Speaker).

The Baby Name Dondi

dondiThe comic strip Dondi was first published in 1955.

The strip featured a little Italian boy who was orphaned during WWII. When he was discovered by American soldiers, he was looking for his parents, saying “donde?” over and over again.* So the soldiers dubbed him Dondi.

One of the soldiers adopted him and brought to the U.S. Logically, “the early focus of the strip was Dondi’s discovery of America.”

In 1956, the name Dondi appeared for the first time on the Social Security Administration’s baby name list:

  • 1962: 48 baby boys and 24 baby girls named Dondi
  • 1961: 50 baby boys and 19 baby girls named Dondi
  • 1960: 17 baby boys and 10 baby girls named Dondi
  • 1959: 14 baby boys named Dondi
  • 1958: 23 baby boys and 5 baby girls named Dondi
  • 1957: 31 baby boys named Dondi
  • 1956: 19 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Dondi [debut]
  • 1955: (unlisted)

One of Dondi’s first namesakes was Stephen Dondi Thomas, born in late 1955 to Mr. and Mrs. Leslie F. Thomas of Dayton, Ohio. “The Thomases named him as they did because the illegal entry problems of the comic strip Dondi closely paralleled the experience of their daughter, Janie, 4.” Born in Italy to an Italian mother and an American father, Janie was facing deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Both the strip and the name peaked in popularity in the early ’60s. The strip ran until 1986; the name last appeared on the SSA’s list in 2002.

*I know donde means “where” in Spanish, but I don’t know if it’s used in Italian. Anyone know? (Should the strip’s writers have used dove instead?)


  • “Comic Strip Orphan Gets a Namesake.” Chicago Tribune 26 Dec. 1955: C5.
  • Dondi @ Toonpedia
  • Johnson., Steven K. “Goodbye.” Chicago Tribune 9 Jun. 1986.