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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Popularity of the Baby Name Elizabeth

Number of Babies Named Elizabeth

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Elizabeth

Early Recognition of the “Great-Grandparent Rule”

grandmotherA baby name becomes trendy for one generation. For the next two generations — while those initial babies are parent-aged and grandparent-aged — you can expect the name to go out of style. But during the third generation — once the cohort reaches great-grandparent age — the name is free to come back into fashion.

Evelyn is a name with a usage pattern that fits this description well.

I’ve seen it described elsewhere as the “100-Year Rule,” but I prefer to call it the “Great-Grandparent Rule,” as it makes more sense to me to frame it in terms of generations.

Essentially, the pattern has to do with a name’s main generational association shifting from “a name that belongs to real-life old people” to “a name that sounds pleasantly old-fashioned.”

I used to think the pattern was one we’d only recently discovered — something we needed the data to see — but it turns out that at least one observant person noticed this trend and wrote about it in The San Francisco Call more than 100 years ago (boldface mine):

Time was — and that not very long ago — when old fashioned names, as old fashioned furniture, crockery and hand embroideries, were declared out of date. The progress of the ages that replaced the slower work of hand by the speed of machines cast a blight on everything that betokened age.

Spinning wheels were stowed away in attics, grandmothers’ gowns were tucked into cedar chests, old porcelain of plain design was replaced by more gaudy utensils and machine made and embroidered dresses and lingerie lined the closets where formerly only handwork was hung.

So with given names. Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, Hannah and Anne, one and all, were declared old fashioned and were relegated to past ages to be succeeded by Gladys, Helen, Delphine, Gwendolyn, Geraldine and Lillian and a host of other more showy appellations.

Two generations of these, and woman exercised her time honored privilege and changed her mind.

She woke suddenly to the value of history, hustled from their hiding places the ancient robes and furnishings that were her insignia of culture, discarded the work of the modern machine for the finer output of her own fair hands, and, as a finishing touch, christened her children after their great-grandparents.

Old fashioned names revived with fervor and those once despised are now termed quaint and pretty and “quite the style, my dear.”

Pretty cool that this every-third-generation pattern was already an observable phenomenon three generations ago.

The article went on to list society babies with names like Barbara, Betsy, Bridget, Dorcas (“decidedly Puritan”), Dorothea, Frances, Henrietta, Jane, Josephine, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Olivia, and Sarah (“much in vogue a century ago”).

Have you see the “100-Year Rule”/”Great-Grandparent Rule” at play in your own family tree? If so, what was the name and what were the birth years?

Source: “Society” [Editorial]. San Francisco Call 17 Aug. 1913: 19.
Image: Frances Marie via Morguefile


News-Inspired Baby Names: Elian & Marisleysis

elian, 2000, miami, INS
Elián González (Alan Diaz/Pool/Reuters)
In November of 1999, a 5-year-old Cuban boy named Elián González and his mother Elizabeth (along with others) attempted to escape Cuba and reach the U.S. The boat capsized and most of the group drowned, including Elizabeth. But Elián survived — he was found adrift several miles off the coast of Florida by a pair fishermen.

A battle for custody ensued between Elián’s maternal relatives in the U.S. and his father in Cuba. Elián essentially “became a metaphor for the passionate 40-year struggle over Cuba.”

In April of 2000, INS agents raided the house in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood where Elián, now 6, was staying. (The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo above was taken during the raid.) Elián was successfully retrieved and returned to Cuba.

The baby name Elian had been rare in the U.S. up to this point, but watch what happened in 1999 and 2000:

  • 2002: 206 baby boys named Elian [rank: 816th]
  • 2001: 271 baby boys named Elian [rank: 670th]
  • 2000: 578 baby boys named Elian [rank: 426th]
  • 1999: 23 baby boys named Elian
  • 1998: unlisted (fewer than 5)
  • 1997: unlisted (fewer than 5)

Very few of these Elians were born in Florida, which I found surprising, given the number of Cubans in Florida. Of the Elians born in 2000, 27% were born in Texas and 20% were born in California, but just 3% were born in Florida.

And let’s not forget about 21-year-old Marisleysis González, the family member who acted as Elián’s caretaker while he was in the U.S. Her name became a two-hit wonder on the charts around the same time:

  • 2002: unlisted
  • 2001: 10 baby girls named Marisleysis
  • 2000: 34 baby girls named Marisleysis [debut]
  • 1999: unlisted

Recent interviews with Elián indicate that he and Marisleysis are no longer on speaking terms, unfortunately. But the same interviews also reveal that Elián now has a fiance with a similarly intriguing name: Ilianet.

Have you ever met an Elian who was born circa 1999/2000? If so, was he aware of the story of Elián González?

Sources: Saving Elian – Frontline – PBS, Elian Gonzalez’s Uncle, Fisherman Who Rescued Him, Reflect on Tense 2000 Standoff

Popular Baby Names in Oregon, 2015

According to the Oregon Public Health Division, the most popular baby names in the state in 2015 were Emma and Liam.

Here are Oregon’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2015:

Girl Names
1. Emma, 233 baby girls
2. Olivia, 219
3. Sophia, 181
4. Abigail, 170
5. Charlotte, 165
6. Evelyn, 158
7. Ava, 146 (tie)
7. Mia, 146 (tie)
9. Amelia, 143
10. Isabella, 135

Boy Names
1. Liam, 225 baby boys
2. Henry, 209
3. Oliver, 190
4. James, 182
5. Noah, 180
6. Wyatt, 175
7. Mason, 174
8. Elijah, 168
9. William, 160
10. Alexander, 158

The #1 names were the same in 2014.

In the girls’ top 10, Charlotte and Mia replaced Emily and Elizabeth.

In the boys’ top 10, James and Elijah replaced Benjamin and Logan.

Source: Vital Statistics Annual Report – Oregon Public Health

Name Quotes #48 – Tasha, Tiberius, Mi Mi

Time for more name-related quotes!

From a recent E! Online interview with Jordan Peele [vid], who spoke about choosing a baby name:

We definitely want pick a name that has a certain positivity that will counter this barbaric, negative time that we’re in right now.

From the 2008 New York Times obituary of illustrator/author Tasha Tudor:

Starling Burgess, who later legally changed both her names to Tasha Tudor, was born in Boston to well-connected but not wealthy parents. Her mother, Rosamond Tudor, was a portrait painter, and her father, William Starling Burgess, was a yacht and airplane designer who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller. […] She was originally nicknamed Natasha by her father, after Tolstoy’s heroine in “War and Peace.” This was shortened to Tasha. After her parents divorced when she was 9, Ms. Tudor adopted her mother’s last name.

(Her four kids were named Seth, Bethany, Thomas, and Efner (female). One of Tudor’s books was called Edgar Allan Crow (1953).)

On the new scientific name of Australia’s “Blue Bastard” fish:

Queensland Museum scientist Jeff Johnson, who identified the species from photos taken last year by a Weipa fisherman, has formally christened it Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus – a direct Latin translation of the colloquial name anglers bestowed on a fish famously difficult to land.

Caeruleo is blue and nothus is bastard. That was the origin of the name applied by fishermen for many years and I thought, why should I argue with that? It seemed like a perfect name [to] me,” Johnson told Guardian Australia.

“I wondered what the reviewers of the paper would say about it but they both agreed it was quintessentially Australian and we should go ahead.”

From the book My Life as a List: 207 Things about My (Bronx) Childhood (1999) by Linda Rosenkrantz (of Nameberry!):

Before I was born, my mother had decided to name me either Laurel or Lydia, names that appealed to her artistic temperament. But then somehow, while under the scrim of anesthesia, she was convinced by my father’s sisters to make me a lackluster Ruth, in honor of their recently deceased mother, Rose. And so my birth certificate read Ruth Leila, a name I was never, ever called by my mother, either of my father’s sisters or anyone else.

(Here’s more in Linda’s post The Story of How I Got Hooked on Names.)

On the names of the Mordvins, an indigenous group in Russia:

While walking along some river bank, not far from the Volga line, we might encounter some pleasant people called Kvedor, Markva, Valdonya and Nekhot and not realise that in Russian they would be Fyodor, Marfa, Svetlana and Mefody aka Theodore, Martha, Svetlana and Methodius.

This sort of phenomenon happens because of the Finno-Ugric special phonetic and secret lore. Any sound which is not familiar to their native tongue will be changed and adapted to suit the native tastes.

From an article in the Tampa Bay Times about transgender name changes:

[E]arlier this year in Augusta, Ga., Superior Court Judge J. David Roper declined to change the name of a college student from Rebeccah Elizabeth to Rowan Elijah Feldhaus.

“I don’t know anybody named Elijah who’s female,” the judge said, according to a court transcript. “I’m not going to do that. I’ve never heard of that. And I know who Elijah was, one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

Months later, he ruled similarly in the case of a transgender man who wanted to legally become Andrew Baumert, the name by which he said everyone already knew him. The judge refused. “My policy has been that I will not change a name from an obviously female to an obviously male name, and vice versa,” he said.

NPR writer Lateefah Torrence on choosing a baby name:

Having grown up in a working-class world, Frank is sensitive to names that he finds “pretentious” while as the outsider black kid, I worry about names that sound “too white.” I must admit that I have mostly rolled my eyes at his unease with my never-ending list of suggestions from world mythology and literature. He suggests Molly; I counter with Aziza. He brings William to the table; I suggest Tiberius.

(Lateefah was also featured in last month’s quote post.)

From a 1958 article in The Atlantic on Burmese Names by Mi Mi Khaing:

One or more of a Burmese child’s names is almost certain to show the day on which he was born–a survival from our belief that human destiny is linked with the stars. Certain letters of the alphabet are ascribed to each day, so that a “Thursday’s child” would have one name beginning with our P, B, or M.

Burmese is a monosyllabic language, and each part of our names is an actual word that means something, or even several things, depending on how it is pronounced. Thus I am “Little Mother” (Mi Mi) “Branch of the Tree” (Khaing) (though “khaing” can also mean “firm”) […] [a] merchant I know was aptly named “Surmounting a Hundred Thousand,” while the Rector of Rangoon University, Dr. Htin Aung, is “Distinguished and Successful.”

Being so handsomely named is not embarrassing, however, because we become so used to our names, and those of our friends, that we only think of the person and remember their names by their sound.

Baby Names Have Become More Female-Sounding

In 1995, researchers Herbert Barry and Aylene S. Harper invented a way to score personal names to determine how “male” or “female” they sounded. Names with positive scores on the scale were more female-sounding, and names with negative scores were more male-sounding.

“Female” attributes:

  • +2 points if the accent is on the 2nd or later syllable (Elizabeth)
  • +2 points if the last phoneme is unstressed and schwa-like (Sarah)
  • +1 points if the last phoneme is some other vowel sound, not a schwa sound (Melanie)
  • +1 points if the accent is on the 1st of 3 or more syllables (Emily)

“Male” attributes:

  • -1 points if the name has 1 syllable (Mitch)
  • -1 points if the last phoneme is S, Z, F, V, TH, CH, ZH, or DZH (James)
  • -2 points if the last phoneme is P, B, T, D, K, or G (Jacob)
  • -2 points if the accent is on the 1st of 2 syllables and the name has 6+ phonemes (Robert)

The authors looked at Pennsylvania baby names from 1960 to 1990 and discovered that the average phonetic gender score for girl names and boy names had become more “female” over time.

Several years ago, linguist Anika Okrent used the same scale to analyze national baby name data from 1880 to 2013. She noticed the same trend — stretching back to 1950 and continuing until today.

Her theory is that the shift was essentially fueled by shifting trends in boy names. As names like Donald gave way to names like Elijah, the result was an overall rise in the average phonetic gender score for boy names. This in turn triggered a corresponding rise in the average phonetic gender score for girl names “in order to maintain the gender distinction” (i.e., Janet giving way to Olivia).

Do you agree with this theory?

Sources:

Popular Baby Names in Tennessee, 2016

According to provisional data released on January 10th by Tennessee’s Office of Vital Records, the most popular baby names in the state in 2016 were Emma and William.

Here are Tennessee’s projected top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2016:

Girl Names
1. Emma
2. Olivia
3. Ava
4. Harper
5. Isabella
6. Amelia
7. Elizabeth
8. Ella
9. Charlotte
10. Abigail

Boy Names
1. William
2. Elijah and James (tie)
3. Mason
4. Noah
5. Jackson and Liam (tie)
6. John and Michael (tie)
7. Benjamin
8. Aiden
9. Jacob
10. Carter

The #1 names were the same in 2015.

In the girls’ top 10, Amelia, Ella, and Charlotte replace Sophia, Madison, and Emily.

Newcomers to the boys’ top 10 are Michael, Benjamin, and Aiden. (No drop-offs this year due to the ties.)

Source: Emma, William Maintain Titles as Tennessee’s Top Baby Names

Top Baby Names in Nova Scotia, 1914

Speaking of popular baby names Nova Scotia…did you know that the province’s Open Data site includes birth registration records from the mid-1800s and from the early 1900s? I isolated the records from 1914 — the most recent year in the data — and came up with baby name rankings for about a century ago:

Top Girl Names, 1914
1. Mary (close to 700 girls)
2. Margaret
3. Annie
4. Marie
5. Helen
6. Dorothy
7. Florence
8. Elizabeth
9. Catherine (over 100 girls)
10. Alice

Top Boy Names, 1914
1. John (close to 600 boys)
2. Joseph
3. James
4. William
5. George
6. Charles
7. Robert
8. Arthur
9. Donald
10. Edward (over 100 boys)

The rankings represent about about 6,700 baby girls and about 6,800 baby boys born in Nova Scotia in 1914. I’m not sure how many babies were born that year overall, but it looks like the province’s total population in 1914 was roughly 500,000 people.

Hundreds of the names were used just once. Here are some examples:

Unique Girl names Unique Boy names
Adalta, Adayala, Ailsa, Amilene, Anarina, Aniela, Attavilla, Birdina, Buema, Burance, Caletta, Cattine, Celesta, Claviettee, Deltina, Elta, Erdina, Ethelda, Eudavilla, Evhausine, Fauleen, Genneffa, Gennesta, Heuldia, Hughenia, Iselda, Ivenho, Lanza, Lebina, Lelerta, Loa, Lougreta, Manattie, Meloa, Milnina, Minira, Namoia, Naza, Neitha, Neruda, Olava, Oressa, Prenetta, Ramza, Ruzena, Sophique, Stanislawa, Taudulta, Udorah, Velena, Vola, Vonia, Waldtraut, Willina, Yuddis Albenie, Alpine, Alywin, Alyre, Armenious, Bayzil, Bernthorne, Briercliffe, Carefield, Cicero, Colomba, Craigen, Desire, DeWilton, Docithee, Edly, Enzile, Ethelberth, Ewart, Exivir, Fernwood, Firth, Florincon, Glidden, Gureen, Haliberton, Haslam, Hibberts, Irad, Kertland, Kinsman, Kitchener, Langille, Lemerchan, Lockie, Lubins, Meurland, Murl, Neddy, Nevaus, Niron, Odillon, Olding, Phine, Rexfrid, Roseville, Saber, Sifroi, Sprat, Stannage, Venanties, Waitstill, Wardlo, Wentworth, Wibbert

I also spotted one boy with the first and middle names “Earl Gray” (delicious!) and another with the first and middle names “Kermit Roosevelt” (the name of one of Theodore Roosevelt’s six children).

Sources: Open Data Nova Scotia (specifically, Birth Registrations 1864-1877, 1908-1914), Nova Scotia – Population urban and rural, by province and territory (via Wayback)