How popular is the baby name Donna in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Donna and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Donna.
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Elliott Arnold’s 1947 novel Blood Brother was a fictionalized account of the adventures of Old West historical figures Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, a U.S. Indian agent.
The book was later adapted into a movie and a TV series, and both of these things ended up influencing U.S. baby names.
Sonseeahray & Debralee
The movie Broken Arrow was released in the summer of 1950. It starred Jeff Chandler as Cochise and James Stewart as Tom Jeffords. But the two baby names that debuted in the data thanks to the movie were associated with a different character: Sonseeahray, played by teenage actress Debra Paget.
Broken Arrow wasn’t Debra Paget’s first movie, but it was her first big hit, and it helped her achieve a new level of fame. And in 1951, her birth name Debralee debuted in the data. In fact, it was that year’s top debut name.
1955: 7 baby girls named Debralee
1954: 6 baby girls named Debralee
1953: 11 baby girls named Debralee
1952: 9 baby girls named Debralee
1951: 19 baby girls named Debralee [debut]
The public had become aware that Debra Paget was born “Debralee Griffin” in mid-1950, thanks to a newspaper article by AP journalist Hubbard Keavy, who called Debra’s birth name “improbable” (a curious comment, coming from guy named Hubbard Keavy). He quoted Debra’s mother, Margaret Griffin, as saying:
I christened her Debra. Her father’s people were Pagets. I used to call her Debra Lee, thinking that would be a good professional name. But Paget is more unusual and there are no Pagets in the movies.
Debra’s sister, Marcia Eloise Griffin, also acted under a stage name: Teala Loring.
The name of the character Sonseeahray also debuted in 1951:
1951: 7 baby girls named Sonseeahray [debut]
Sonseeahray, defined in the novel as “morning star,” seems to be legitimate Apache name; it was included and defined in the book Life Among the Apaches (1868) by John C. Cremony.
The TV series Broken Arrow first aired on ABC from 1956 to 1958. (Reruns aired in 1959 and 1960.) The show starred Michael Ansara as Cochise and John Lupton as Tom Jeffords. While it did not include the character Sonseeahray, an early episode did feature a Sonseeahray-like character named Marsheela.
Marsheela, played by actress Donna Martell, appeared in the episode “Apache Girl” in mid-1957. The same year, the name Marsheela was a one-hit wonder in the baby name data:
1957: 11 baby girls named Marsheela [debut]
I figured out the source of this one only after posting about Marsheila, which was the most-used spelling of Marsheela that year (no doubt because of the familiarity of the Irish name Sheila, which was a top-100 girl name in the U.S. throughout the ’50s and ’60s).
Another one-hit wonder was the surname of Arab-American actor Michael Ansara. Five baby boys were named Ansara in 1960:
1960: 5 baby boys named Ansara [debut]
Though Broken Arrow had made Michael Ansara a household name, this debut lines up more cleanly with a later TV Western that Ansara also starred in: Law of the Plainsman, which lasted from 1959 to 1960.
His surname may be based on the Arabic term al-ansar, meaning “the helpers.”
…[S]he was both surprised and delighted when quickly babies were named after her.
“I said ‘oh wow’ because with some of them I didn’t even know that they had named the baby after me! When you go to the market everybody is called Alice of Alex or Ellis. The last time I counted it was 862 Alices but now it has increased to 1,000 plus!
“To me the name Alice is an action name. Alice people are active people, they are caring people, they are loving people. A, the first letter in the alphabet. A for action.”
After a season of tanbark and tinsel, Harry caught on with a traveling repertoire company, playing juvenile roles, singing songs of his own composing, and abandoning the family name of Gumm for a more glamorous and professional moniker. He took his mother’s maiden name of Tilzer and added “Von” for a touch of class. This switch in nomenclature proved to be the keystone of a songwriting dynasty which was destined to make history in Tin Pan Alley with the turn of the century.
The family’s surname was originally Gumbinsky. The phrase “tanbark and tinsel” refers to the circus; Harry was part of a traveling circus for a time as a teenager.
I figured [Forest Rain’s] parents must have been hippies or Native Americans. In mainstream American culture, it is unusual to name children after elements of nature. How many people do you know named Rainbow, Lightning, Juniper Bush, Boulder, Valley, Oak, Prairie, Wellspring, or Wave?
In Israel, such names are extremely commonplace. If Forest Rain translated her name to Ya’ara Tal, no Israeli would think it exotic in the least. The words mentioned above translate to the everyday Hebrew names Keshet, Barak, Rotem, Sela, Guy, Alon, Bar, Ma’ayan, and Gal.
Another difference is that many modern Israeli names are unisex. You often cannot tell by name alone if someone is male or female. Tal, Gal, Sharon, Noam (pleasant), Shachar (Dawn), Inbar (amber), Inbal (bell), Neta (sapling), Ori (my light), Hadar (splendor), Amit (friend), and myriad other common names are used for either gender.
Eventually Liz asked me to think about why I was pushing for this, and whether a birdy name was in the best interests of our kid. Did he need to carry on my own birding legacy? She was right. My son may very well grow up to love birds—I really hope he does—but he also might not. It should be his choice and not mine. If my dad had named me after some of his hobbies, you’d be calling me Carl Yastrzemski Lund or Rapala Lure Lund, and then I’d have to live with that.
From Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography Long Walk to Freedom:
Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means “pulling the branch of a tree”, but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be “troublemaker.” I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered.
The CSO recently unveiled its Baby Names of Ireland visualisation tool recently published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) tool allowing users to check the popularity of names officially registered in Ireland. However, it does not allow for names with the síneadh fada or other diacritical marks that denote pronunciation or meaning.
“Our language, while having a special status afforded it in the Constitution has been progressively marginalised to the fringes of bureaucracy.
“It behoves the Central Statistics Office above all other institutions to be correct in all matters it reports. This is where historians will first go to research,” [author Rossa Ó Snodaigh] said.
The owner, Abu Musa, named his new convenience store “6-Twelve,” a one-up of the 7-Eleven name, which references the chain’s original operating hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Musa’s store operates from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).