How popular is the baby name Esther in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Esther and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Esther.
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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…
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).
In April of 1937, the film A Star Is Born was released. It starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March as a married couple at opposite ends of their Hollywood careers: hers beginning, his ending.
The husband was named Norman Maine. The wife, on the other hand, had several identities. At first she was North Dakota farm girl Esther Victoria Blodgett. Then she morphed into movie star Vicki Lester for most of the film. Finally, in that memorable last line, she said: “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”
So how did she go from Esther Blodgett to “Vicki Lester”? Here’s the scene:
Press Agent: Do you know what her name is? Esther Victoria Blodgett.
Producer: Gee, we’ll have to do something about that right away.
Press Agent: …Esther Victoria Blodgett…
Producer: Well that Blodgett’s definitely out. See, uh…Esther Victoria, Victoria, Vicki…how about Vicki?
Producer’s Secretary: Oh I think that’s terribly cute.
Producer: Let’s see, Vicki…Vicki what?
Press Agent: Vicki Vicki, pronounced Vicki Vicki. [sarcasm]
Producer: Siesta, Besta, Sesta, Desta, Fester…
Press Agent: Oh that’s very pretty.
Producer: …Jester, Hester, Jester, Lester…Vicki Lester!
Secretary: Oh I like that!
Everyone in the office started chanting the newly minted name Vicki Lester…and with that the star was born.
On the name charts, the entire name-group — Vicki, Vickie, Vicky, Vickey, and so forth — rode a wave of trendiness that started in the ’30s, peaked around 1957, and was over by the ’80s. It’s hard to say how much of this trendiness (if any of it) was fueled by the movie, but one thing definitely attributable to the movie is the higher-than-expected usage of “Vicki” in the late ’30s:
1941: 542 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 274th]
1940: 405 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 316th]
1939: 334 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 355th]
1938: 367 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 332nd]
1937: 148 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 555th]
1936: 82 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 738th]
1935: 70 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 822nd]
Notice how the number adjusted downward in 1939 before the name was picked back up by the wave.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that several baby girls born in the late ’30s were named “Vicki Lester.” In 1940, for instance, the Seil family of Washington included parents Orval (26 years old) and Beryl (25) and daughters Arlene (4) and Vicki Lester (1).
History repeated itself in 1954 upon the release of the first A Star is Born remake, which starred Judy Garland as Esther/Vicki. The name Vicki was again nudged upward a few years ahead of schedule:
1958: 7,434 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1957: 8,101 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 51st]
1956: 7,762 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 57th]
1955: 7,978 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 52nd]
1954: 8,220 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 50th]
1953: 6,822 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
1952: 6,774 baby girls named Vicki [ranked 61st]
And, again, records from the mid-1950s reveal a handful of baby girls named “Vicki Lester.”
The second remake — the 1976 Barbra Streisand version — didn’t include the name change. Even if it had, though, the popularity of Vicki was plummeting by the ’70s and I doubt the film could have done much to boost its image/usage.
Currently the name Vicki is only given to about a dozen baby girls in the U.S. per year. But another version of A Star is Born is in the works — a Lady Gaga version slated for 2018. If this third remake materializes, and if it features the name Vicki, do you think it will influence the baby name charts?
(While we wait for 2018, check out the original version of A Star is Born (1937), which is in the public domain.)
New York City’s less-popular names (used 10 times each) included…
Damaris, Eunice, and Shirin (girl names)
Dimitri, Immanuel, and Ousmane (boy names)
The news release also mentioned that NYC’s baby name data goes back as far back as 1898. That year, the top girl names were Mary, Catherine, and Margaret, and the top boy names were John, William, and Charles.