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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Gary

Number of Babies Named Gary

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Gary

Does the Name Gary Need Saving?

Back in September, Garry Snow of Canada was in the news. Why? Because he opened the twitter account @SaveNameGary. (Yes, really.)

He launched it “because he says his name is on the verge of extinction.”

Then, in mid-October, a couple in the UK were in the news. Why? Because they decided to name their baby Gary. (Again: Yes, really.)

The father said that one “reason we picked the name is because it’s going extinct.” Something tells me this isn’t the main reason, though, as the baby’s late maternal grandfather was also named Gary.

All of this extinction-talk is ridiculous, of course. There’s no such thing as “extinction” when it comes to baby names. Names that have died out can be resurrected at any time. This isn’t the case for living species. (Not yet, anyway.)

That said…what do you think of the name Gary? Would you like to see it make a comeback? In the U.S., it’s currently ranked 560th (between Vihaan and Bowen).

Sources: Save the name Gary campaign started by Calgary man, Does this look like a Gary to you?

Popular Boy Names: Biblical vs. Non-Biblical

How has the ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names changed over time (if at all) among the most popular baby names in the U.S.?

This question popped into my head recently, so I thought I’d take a look at the data. We’ll do boy names today and girl names tomorrow.

First, let’s set some parameters. For these posts, “Biblical” names are personal names (belonging to either humans or archangels) mentioned in the Bible, plus all derivatives of these names, plus any other name with a specifically Biblical origin (e.g., Jordan, Sharon, Genesis). The “most popular” names are the top 20, and “over time” is the span of a century.

For boy names, the ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names has basically flipped over the last 100 years. Here’s a visual — Biblical names are in the yellow cells, non-Biblical names are in the green cells, and a borderline name (which I counted as non-Biblical) is in the orange cell:

Popular boy names: Biblical vs. non-Biblical, from Nancy's Baby Names.
Popular boy names over time: Biblical (yellow) vs. non-Biblical. Click to enlarge.
  • Biblical names: Adam, Alexander, Andrew, Austin (via Augustus), Benjamin, Daniel, David, Elijah, Ethan, Jack (via John), Jackson (via John), Jacob, James, Jason, John, Jonathan, Joseph, Joshua, Justin (via Justus), Lucas, Mark, Matthew, Michael, Nathan, Nicholas, Noah, Paul, Stephen, Steven, Thomas, Timothy, Zachary
  • Non-Biblical names: Aiden, Albert, Anthony, Arthur, Billy, Brandon, Brian, Charles, Christopher, Dennis, Donald, Dylan, Edward, Eric, Frank, Gary, George, Harold, Harry, Henry, Jayden, Jeffrey, Kenneth, Kevin, Larry, Liam, Logan, Louis, Mason, Raymond, Richard, Robert, Ronald, Ryan, Scott, Tyler, Walter, William
  • Borderline name: Jerry (can be based on the Biblical name Jeremy/Jeremiah or on the non-Biblical names Jerome, Gerald, Gerard)
    • It felt strange putting an overtly Christian name like Christopher in the non-Biblical category, but it doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible, so…that’s where it goes.

      Here are the year-by-year tallies:

      Year Top 20 names
      given to…
      # Biblical # Non-Biblical
      1914 40% of baby boys 5 (25%) 15 (75%)
      1924 43% of baby boys 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
      1934 43% of baby boys 7 (35%) 13 (65%)
      1944 47% of baby boys 7 (35%) 13 (65%)
      1954 46% of baby boys 11 (55%) 9 (45%)
      1964 42% of baby boys 11 (55%) 9 (45%)
      1974 38% of baby boys 11 (55%) 9 (45%)
      1984 36% of baby boys 14 (70%) 6 (30%)
      1994 27% of baby boys 14 (70%) 6 (30%)
      2004 19% of baby boys 14 (70%) 6 (30%)
      2014 14% of baby boys 14 (70%) 6 (30%)

      But there’s a huge difference between sample sizes of 40% and 14%, so let’s also take a look at the 2014 top 100, which covers 42% of male births.

      By my count, last year’s top 100 boy names were half Biblical, half non-Biblical:

      Biblical names (49) Non-Biblical names (51)
      Noah, Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, James, Daniel, Elijah, Benjamin, Matthew, Jackson (via John), David, Lucas, Joseph, Andrew, Samuel, Gabriel, Joshua, John, Luke, Isaac, Caleb, Nathan, Jack (via John), Jonathan, Levi, Jaxon (via John), Julian (via Julius), Isaiah, Eli, Aaron, Thomas, Jordan, Jeremiah, Nicholas, Evan, Josiah, Austin (via Augustus), Jace (via Jason), Jason, Jose, Ian, Adam, Zachary, Jaxson (via John), Asher, Nathaniel, Justin (via Justus), Juan Liam, Mason, William, Logan, Aiden, Jayden, Anthony, Carter, Dylan, Christopher, Oliver, Henry, Sebastian, Owen, Ryan, Wyatt, Hunter, Christian, Landon, Charles, Connor, Cameron, Adrian, Gavin, Robert, Brayden, Grayson, Colton, Angel, Dominic, Kevin, Brandon, Tyler, Parker, Ayden, Chase, Hudson, Nolan, Easton, Blake, Cooper, Lincoln, Xavier, Bentley, Kayden, Carson, Brody, Ryder, Leo, Luis, Camden

      (Christian, Angel, Xavier, Dominic…all technically non-Biblical, despite having strong ties to Christianity.)

      50%-50% isn’t quite as extreme as 70%-30%, but it’s still noticeably more Biblical than 1914’s 25%-75%.

      Do any of these results surprise you?

Name Quotes for the Weekend #19

viggo mortensen quote

Viggo Mortensen, as quoted in TIME Magazine in 2005:

I met someone last night who showed me a picture of a baby, and they had named the kid Viggo. You know, Viggo is a pretty dorky name in Denmark. It’s like Oswald or something. It’s a very old Scandinavian name, at least 1,000 years old.

From an NPR review of Blue Nights, an explanation of Joan Didion’s daughter’s name:

Just after they adopted Quintana Roo (they’d seen the name on a map of Mexico, liked it, and chosen it) the writer says she acted as if she’d gotten a doll to dress up, not a real baby.

From A Critical and Analytical Dissertation on the Names of Persons (1822) by John Henry Brady:

The principal cause, however, to which the absurd appropriation of Christian names is to be imputed, is the desire so prevalent in all ranks of life, of not only aping the dress and manners, but encroaching as far as possible, in every way, on the rights and customs of their superiors. On no occasions can this be done with greater facility that [sic] in the naming of children. How else can one account for a chimney-sweeper’s wife conferring the name of Frederica upon her delicate daughter, or for the numberless Amelias and Carolines daily engaged in that elegant recreation of washing dishes?

Other very sensible, well-meaning parents, anxious to avoid one extreme, run as inconsiderately into the other, and while the ladies mentioned above are doomed to stick to their dish-washing occupation, many a Joan, Bridget, and Grizzel, may be seen lounging at ease in their coaches, figuring at a quadrille, or ogling beaux at the Opera House.

From an obituary of actress Lina Basquette (formerly Lena Baskette) in The Independent:

In 1923, she and her mother went to New York, where Lena danced for John Murray Anderson – it was he who altered her name to Basquette, and the producer Charles Dillingham who changed Lena to Lina (‘Lena is a cook’, he explained, ‘Lina is an artiste’).

From a Chicago Tribune article about Bode Miller:

The Millers had four children and let Bode and older sister Kyla help name their younger siblings. (Bode’s legal handle, to his chagrin, is Samuel Bode Miller.) This resulted in some whimsy. His younger sister is named Genesis Wren Bungo Windrushing Turtleheart Miller, and his brother, an up-and-coming snowboarder, goes by Chilly, short for Nathaniel Kinsman Ever Chelone Skan Miller.

(Thank you, Erin, for letting me know about the names in the Miller family.)

From a PBS NewsHour interview with a man named Normandy Villa, Jr.:

To understand what’s going on here, you should know two things: first, even though the family comes from Colombia, Normandy is named after one of the more important moments in American history:

NORMANDY VILLA: “The Battle of Normandy in France, in 1941 was the beginning of the liberation of Europe, and my grandfather saw that as such a powerful moment in history, that he wanted to have his family carry a name that referred to a new dawn. And so, the first born in the family received the name Normandy.”

From Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart (born Igor Steinhorn):

I have clearly spent thirty-nine years unaware that my real destiny was to go through life as a Bavarian porn star, but some further questions present themselves: If neither Gary nor Shteyngart is truly my name, then what the hell am I doing calling myself Gary Shteyngart? Is every single cell in my body a historical lie?

From a season 12 episode of The Simpsons, in which Lisa meets a boy named Thelonious:

Thelonious: My name’s Thelonious.
Lisa Simpson: As in Monk?
Thelonious: Yes. The esoteric appeal is worth the beatings.

(Found this one thanks to Abby.)

For previous quote posts, see the name quotes category.

The Woman Who Buys This Shirt – How Old Is She?

A few days before last week’s road trip, I went shopping. I didn’t find much, but I did spot this shirt while wandering aimlessly around Forever 21:

shirt from forever 21

The shirt says:

I (heart)

What caught my eye specifically, beyond the fact that it’s a product with names on it, was the inclusion of the name Dave.

Names used in marketing (or on products themselves, as in this case) can give you a lot of information about the type of customer a company is targeting. A commercial featuring people named Madison and Tyler, for instance, is aimed at a different demographic than one featuring Debra and Gary, or Camila and Diego.

To me, Dave seems a bit old for the teens and 20-somethings shopping at Forever 21.

Here’s why:


The graph above indicates how many babies were named Bradley, David, Samuel, and Ryan from 1950 to 2000.

David was a top-10 boy name from the mid-1930s until the early 1990s, but it was really big pre-1970. It was the #1 boy name in the country in 1960, in fact.

Today’s oldest 20-somethings were born circa 1985. David was still more popular than Bradley, Samuel and Ryan in 1985, but it wasn’t as massively popular the 1980s as it had been in previous decades.

This might not seem like a big deal, but I find it really curious. Someone chose the name Dave for this shirt instead of Josh, or Matt, or Justin. Why?

There may not be an answer, but after doing some research, I’m wondering whether the choice of Dave wasn’t intentional. Here’s what I found in a Business Insider article about Forever 21 published a year ago:

Forever 21 is expanding its customer base — Forever 21 is becoming a fashion department store that caters to all members of the family — not just teens.

That means a broader set of customers are being gobbled up by the retailer as it releases new lines targeting men and older demographics. Yet, at its core, Forever 21 still has a similar target as the big teen retailers — 18- to 24-year-olds.

Maybe Dave was included to catch the attention of me and all the other 30-somethings and 40-somethings wandering aimlessly through the store? Hm…

And now the question of the day!

Let’s say you’re in Forever 21 and you see this shirt. And then you see someone — a female — walk up, take it off the rack, and buy it. In your visualization, what age is this person? And why do you think your brain automatically chose that age?

Were Babies Named After Sputnik?

SputnikA tweet from Mashable just reminded me that the Space Race began 55 years ago today with the launch of Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik.

Did you know that, not long after the launch, Sputnik became a baby name here in the U.S.?

So far I’ve found four people named Sputnik (which means “fellow traveler” in Russian):

  • Sputnik Eisenhower Watkins, born on October 31, 1957, in Ramsey, Minnesota.
  • Gary Sputnik Clack, born on January 17, 1958, in Orange, Texas.
  • Polly Sputnik Johnson, born in 1959 in Wilson, North Carolina.
  • Isaac Sputnik Ornelas, born in 1991 in Riverside, California.

“Sputnik Eisenhower” is definitely the most memorable of the bunch. According to an article in Jet, Sputnik Eisenhower Watkins had three older siblings with the non-satellite names Pauline, Merium and Sam.


Wisconsin Family with 22 Children

Fred and Edith Schoville of Wisconsin had their first child in 1926, their last in 1952, and 20 in between. That’s a total of 22 children. All were single births.

Here are the names of the kids, plus as many of the birth years as I could verify.

1. Marjorie, b. 1926
2. Freddie (“Junior”) b. 1926
3. Lola, b. 1928
4. Betty, b. 1928
5. Marlin, b. 1932
6. Phyllis, b. 1933
7. Donna Mae, b. 1934
8. Annabelle, b. 1934
9. Patsy (girl)
10. Larry Lee, b. 1938
11. Janice
12. Sharon
13. Frederick (“Freddie”) b. 1941
14. Susan
15. Ronald (“Ronnie”)
16. Robert, b. 1945
17. Karen
18. Linda Lou, b. 1947
19. Gary
20. Charles, b. 1949
21. Steven, b. 1951
22. Randy, b. 1952

Which girl name is your favorite? How about boy name?


  • “Family Reunion.” Spokane Daily Chronicle 18 Apr. 1950: 7.
  • “Wisconsin Mother of 21 Children Isn’t Frightened by Cost of Living.” Telegraph-Herald 18 Mar. 1951: 1.

What Does Your Baby’s Name Rhyme With?

I was reading a few of Kristin Rushowy’s “What’s Your Name?” essays recently and noticed that two of them mentioned name rhymes.

One of them was about a baby named Eshana Audria:

And, he adds, [the middle name] goes well with Eshana (which rhymes with nirvana).

The other was about a baby named Jace Cristiano:

When she told Gary, his response was: “Is there anything that rhymes with it that people could make fun of?” (Tania explains, “He didn’t want anything that anyone could torture him with.”) “Face” was the worst they could think of.

I like how these two quotes allude to the best and worst possible scenarios.

Some rhymes are great. They give names pleasant associations, and they can be used as tools to help new acquaintances both pronounce and remember names (as with Eshana and nirvana).

But some rhymes are unfortunate and can do a lot of damage, especially if the rhyme is either true (i.e. if “fat Matt” happens to be chunky) or ironic (i.e. if “slick Rick” isn’t so slick).

Of course, there’s a lot of middle ground. I got “fancy Nancy” a lot as a kid–didn’t love it, but it wasn’t too bothersome.

Does your name rhyme with anything interesting? (Check RhymeZone if nothing comes to mind.) What do your children’s names rhyme with? Did rhyme influence any of your baby-naming decisions?