How popular is the baby name Elizabeth in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Elizabeth and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Elizabeth.
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On August 21, the United States will see its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918. If you’re planning to have — or conceive! — a baby around the time of the eclipse, you might be interested in a name that marks the event (but that isn’t as audacious as Eclipse itself). So what are your options?
Names with “celestial” associations
A solar eclipse involves the alignment of three celestial bodies — the sun (a star), the moon, and the Earth — in the sky. You could use a name that is associated in some way with one of these elements, such as…
The main event, from an Earthling’s perspective, is the darkening of the sun thanks to the moon getting in the way and casting its shadow over us. You could use a name associated in some way with darkness, such as…
The name Ketti appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 1959:
1959: 8 baby girls named Ketti [debut]
This was the year after writer Ketti Frings won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Look Homeward, Angel, which ran on Broadway from 1957 to 1959.
The play, set in North Carolina in the mid-1910s, is an adaptation of the 1929 Thomas Wolfe novel of the same name:
Concentrating on the last third of Wolfe’s story, the play vividly portrays Eugene Gant, his mother, who is obsessed by her material holdings and who maintains barriers against the love of her family, his father, a stonecutter imprisoned by his failures, and the brother who never breaks away.
The author was born Katherine Hartley in Ohio in 1909. In 1938 she married German lightweight boxer Kurt Frings, who who gave her the nickname “Ketti.” (Kurt went on to become a Hollywood agent representing stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz.)
The name Tirrell has been used regularly for baby boys since the ’70s — no doubt thanks to the popularity of the similar name Terrell — but it first appeared in the baby name data as a girl name in the 1950s:
1956: 13 baby girls named Tirrell [debut]
While it only ever charted once for girls, the spike in usage that year was high enough to make Tirrell the top one-hit wonder girl name of 1956.
So where did the name come from?
Looks like the inspiration was child actress Tirrell Barbery. She’s best remembered for playing the role of Carol on the TV soap opera Love of Life for four years in the mid-1950s. Various adults on the show vied for custody of Carol, who was actually went mute for a time after witnessing a murder. (She began speaking again after the murderer confessed.)
I can’t pinpoint the reason why usage of the name Tirrell suddenly spiked in 1956, though. Perhaps the character had more airtime in 1955 or 1956?
Regardless, I can tell you that Tirrell, who went by the nickname Terry, was born in the mid-1940s to Aldo and Elizabeth Barbieri. She and her older brother Christopher, also a child actor, grew up in New Jersey. Both kids appeared on TV throughout the 1950s, and both used the Anglicized surname Barbery.
While I couldn’t find a good photo of young Tirrell, I did find a shot of her brother Chris trying out for the role of Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island in 1952. (He didn’t get the part.)
[Update: Managed to find a photo! Came from the October 1956 issue of Radio-TV Mirror.]
Tirrell’s first name appears to be based on the English/Irish surname Tirrell, a variant of Tyrrell, which may have been derived from a Norman nickname for a stubborn person. Another theory is that it was derived from the personal name Thurold (Thor + “rule” in Old Norse).
Tirrell Barbieri went on to graduate from Vassar College, get married, and move to California. While she never returned to acting, evidence of her brief acting career will always be preserved on the baby name charts…
Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
“Shore Area Engagements Told.” Asbury Park Press 19 Jul. 1967: 26.
Valeska Suratt was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Indiana in 1882. Valeska was also a character name in multiple films, including For a Woman’s Honor (1919) and Broadway Scandals (1929).
Valli Valli was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Germany in 1882. Her birth name was Valli Knust. Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy (now Croatia) in 1921. Valli was also a character played by actress Margaret Livingston in the film What a Widow! (1930).
Vedah Bertram was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1910s. She was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Her birth name was Adele Buck.
Vedah, who died of appendicitis at the age of 20 in 1912, “became the first noted film player to be mourned by the movie-going public.” According to the San Francisco Call, her East Coast family had not been aware of her film career. “Hoping to keep her actions from her friends and relatives, she assumed the name under which she has been acting.”
Vee Newell was a character played by actress Olive Borden in the film Hello Sister (1930).
Velma Whitman was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Ohio in 1885. Velma was also a character name in multiple films, including The Greatest Menace (1923) and The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1929).
Vermuda was a character played by actress Martha Sleeper in the short film Sure-Mike! (1925).
Verna Mersereau was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1894. Verna was also a character name in multiple films, including His Temporary Wife (1920) and Here Comes Carter (1936).
Vesta Tilley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in England in 1864. Her birth name was Matilda Alice Powles. Vesta was also a character name in multiple films, including The House in Suburbia (short, 1913) and The Duke of Chimney Butte (1921).
Vilma Banky was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary) in 1898. Vilma was also a character name in multiple films, including Federal Agent (1936) and Meet the Boy Friend (1937).
According to data released in late May by the Wyoming Department of Health, the most popular baby names in 2016 were Emma and Wyatt.
Here are the state’s top 5 girl names and top 5 boy names of 2016:
5. Daniel/Jackson/James (3-way tie)
In the girls’ top 5, Ava and Elizabeth replace Amelia and Evelyn (which were the two newbies in 2015).
In the boys’ top 5, William, Lincoln, and Daniel/Jackson/James replace Mason (the former #1 name), Logan, and Benjamin. The press released noted that “Jackson remains a popular name but has several spelling variants so doesn’t always end up in the top five.”
Most importantly, though, Wyatt is back on top. I love it when Wyatt does particularly well in Wyoming, because it makes me think of the name-letter effect in reverse — that is, Wyoming residents being slightly more likely to opt for a baby name that resembles the name of their state. (Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. But I like to think it is…)