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

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Popularity of the Baby Name George

Number of Babies Named George

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name George

The Baby Names Shevawn and Siobhan

siobhan mckenna, 1956, life, magazine
Siobhán McKenna on the cover of LIFE
Tara, Maeve, and many of the other
Irish names used in the U.S. today weren’t popularized by Irish immigrants. Instead, they gained traction after being introduced to the public via movies, television, and other types of pop culture.

Siobhan is no different. But it’s also a special case, because Americans heard about the name before they saw it written down. The result? The Irish spelling made a splash on the U.S. baby name charts…but only after a phonetic respelling made a similar splash. In fact, the misspelled version and the correctly spelled version were consecutive top girl name debuts in the mid-1950s.

So who’s the person behind the launch of Siobhan? Irish actress Siobhán McKenna (1923-1986).

In 1955, McKenna was nominated for a Tony for her role as Miss Madrigal in the play The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold (who had written National Velvet two decades earlier). The same year, the name Shevawn debuted in the U.S. data:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The spellings Shevon, Shevonne, Chavonne, and Chevonne also debuted in ’55.

The next year, Siobhán McKenna impressed audiences with her portrayal of Joan of Arc in the George Bernard Shaw play Saint Joan. Her popularity in this role earned her the cover of LIFE magazine in September. Next to her image was her name, Siobhan, spelled correctly (but missing the fada). Right on cue, the name Siobhan debuted in the data:

  • 1960: 90 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1959: 85 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1958: 54 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1957: 67 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1956: 58 baby girls named Siobhan [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Once U.S. parents learned how to spell “Siobhan,” the alternative spellings became less common, though they remained in use.

Siobhan was boosted into the top 1,000 in 1979 and remained popular during the 1980s thanks to the soap opera Ryan’s Hope, which introduced a character named Siobhan in 1978.

It’s rather fitting that Siobhán McKenna was best known for playing Saint Joan, as both “Siobhán” and “Joan” were derived from the name Jeanne, which is French feminine form of John (meaning “Yahweh is gracious”).

How do you feel about the name Siobhan? If you were going to use it, how would you spell it?

Sources: Siobhán McKenna – Wikipedia, SSA


The Curious Name Tanaquil

Last week’s post on Vera Zorina helped me discover another interesting name: Tanaquil (pronounced tan-a-keel). It belonged to French-born American ballerina Tanaquil “Tanny” Le Clercq (1929-2000) who, like Zorina, had been married to famous choreographer George Balanchine.

Thanchvil, Etruscan, female, nameTanaquil Le Clercq was named after the legendary Etruscan prophet Tanaquil, whose omen-reading abilities helped her husband become the fifth king of Rome (616-578 B.C.).

The Etruscan rendering of the name Tanaquil is “Thanchvil.” The Etruscans had a relatively small pool of first names (praenomina) to draw from, so it’s possible that many Etruscan women were named Thanchvil. In fact, the MFA in Boston owns a sarcophagus (dated 350–300 B.C.) for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies.

The Etruscan language has long been extinct, so there’s no telling what Thanchvil means. (In lieu of that, here are some of the other Etruscan female names that we know about: Thana/Thania, Ramtha/Ranthia, Hastia/Fastia, Aula/Aulia, Vela/Velia, Setha, Arnthi, Larthi.)

Getting back to Tanny…tragically, her professional career was cut short when she was stricken with polio in 1956 at age 27. She was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life. The “stranger-than-fiction twist” is that, at age 15, she had actually danced the part of a polio victim at a March of Dimes benefit, and Balanchine had danced the part of polio itself:

In the final movement — a sunny allegro — she reappeared in a wheelchair, children tossed dimes, and she rose and danced again. What at the time was a simple exercise in entertaining a charity audience acquired in retrospect the weight of an omen or a hex. Balanchine, who was deeply mystical, was haunted by the notion that he had somehow brought on her fate.

Makes the fact that she was named after a noted omen-reader seem rather foreboding, doesn’t it?

Sources:

Image from Sarcophagus and lid with husband and wife © 2017 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Baby Name Zorina

vera zorina

Vera Zorina, often credited simply as “Zorina,” was a German-Norwegian ballerina.

She was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin in 1917 and was always called “Brigitta” by friends. But the public knew her by the Russian-sounding stage name “Vera Zorina,” which she adopted while dancing with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in the mid-1930s.

She was introduced to American film audiences in The Goldwyn Follies (1938). The next year, she had a starring role in On Your Toes (1939).

In response, a handful of American parents named their baby girls Zorina around that time, and the name ended up debuting on the U.S. charts:

  • 1941: unlisted
  • 1940: 6 baby girls named Zorina
  • 1939: 6 baby girls named Zorina [debut]
  • 1938: unlisted

Zorina’s film career — as well as her first marriage, to the famous choreographer George Balanchine — lasted until the mid-1940s.

The name, on the other hand, is still around. In 2015 it was given to 5 baby girls.

Source: Vera Zorina, 86, Is Dead; Ballerina for Balanchine

Popular Baby Names in Oxfordshire, 2016

According to data released yesterday by Oxfordshire County Council, the most popular baby names in Oxfordshire, England, in 2016 were Lily and Jack.

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

Girl Names
1. Lily
2. Amelia
3. Olivia
4. Isla
5. Emily
6. Ava
7. Sophia
8. Evie
9. Isabella
10. Sophie

Boy Names
1. Jack
2. Henry
3. Harry
4. George
5. Oliver
6. Joshua
7. Thomas
8. William
9. Samuel
10. James

Notably, Jack wasn’t even in the top 10 in 2015.

Source: Jack and Lily top the list of Oxfordshire most popular baby names in 2016

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)

Name Quotes #45 – Traxton, Sadi, Yeimary

Ready for more name quotes?

From an essay by Hans Fiene about BuzzFeed’s criticism of Chip And Joanna Gaines’ church:

“People who give their kids weird names are unsophisticated morons,” I thought to myself when I was 23 years old and busy substitute-teaching a class full of kids named Brysalynn and Traxton.

[…]

Then, a few years later, one of my closest friends had a kid and named him something dumb. At the moment of said dumb-named kid’s entrance into this world, two options stood before me. Option A: I was wrong about baby names, and it was, in fact, possible to be an interesting, intelligent person while also being sweet on absurd baby monikers. Option B: Despite having a mountain of evidence that my friend was interesting and intelligent, this was all a ruse and he had been a moron the entire time.

From The Toast, an in-depth look at “ship names” — short for relationship names, i.e., name blends that represent fan-created relationships between fictional characters:

Onset conservation is also why we get Drarry (Draco/Harry), Dramione (Draco/Hermione), Klaroline (Klause/Caroline), Sterek (Stiles/Derek), Stydia (Stiles/Lydia), Clex (Clark Kent/Lex Luthor), Chlex (Chloe/Lex), Phrack (Phryne/Jack), Cherik (Charles/Erik), CroWen (Cristina/Owen), Bedward (Bella/Edward), Brucas (Brooke/Lucas), Brangelina (Brad/Angelina), and so on.

(“Olicity Is Real” was trending on Twitter recently…I wonder how long it’ll be before we start seeing ship names on birth certificates.)

From the 2007 New York Times obituary of The Mod Squad actor Tige Andrews (whose name was one of the top debut names of 1969):

Tiger Andrews was born on March 19, 1920, in Brooklyn; he was named after a strong animal to ensure good health, following a Syrian custom.

From a footnote in a 1986 translation of the book Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire (1824) by French scientist Nicolas-Léonard “Sadi” Carnot:

Sadi was named after the thirteenth-century Persian poet and naturalist, Saadi Musharif ed Din, whose poems, most notably the Gulistan (or Rose Garden), were popular in Europe in the late eighteenth century. It seems likely that Lazare [Sadi’s father] chose the name to commemorate his association, in the 1780s, with the Société des Rosati, an informal literary society in Arras in which a recurring theme was the celebration of the beauty of roses in poetry.

From Ed Sikov’s 2007 book Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis (spotted while doing research for the Stanley Ann post):

Manly names for women were all the rage [in Hollywood movies] in 1941: Hedy Lamarr was a Johnny and a Marvin that year, and the eponymous heroines of Frank Borzage’s Seven Sweethearts were called Victor, Albert, Reggie, Peter, Billie, George, and most outrageous of all, Cornelius.

Speaking of Cornelius…some comedy from John Oliver‘s 2008 special Terrifying Times:

[A] friend of mine emailed me and he said that someone had created a Wikipedia entry about me. I didn’t realize this was true, so I looked it up. And like most Wikipedia entries, it came with some flamboyant surprises, not least amongst them my name. Because in it it said my name was John Cornelius Oliver. Now my middle name is not Cornelius because I did not die in 1752. But obviously, I want it to be. Cornelius is an incredible name. And that’s when it hit me — the way the world is now, fiction has become more attractive than fact. That is why Wikipedia is such a vital resource. It’s a way of us completely rewriting our history to give our children and our children’s children a much better history to grow up with.

From Piper Laurie‘s 2011 memoir Learning to Live Out Loud:

It never occurred to me that I didn’t have to change my name. For the last twenty or thirty years, I’ve admired and envied all the performers who have proudly used their real names. The longer and harder to pronounce, the better.

(Was Mädchen Amick one of the performers she had in mind? They worked together on Twin Peaks in the early 1990s…)

From a New York Times interview with Lisa Spira of Ethnic Technologies, a company that uses personal names to predict ethnicity:

Can you give an example of how your company’s software works?

Let’s hypothetically take the name of an American: Yeimary Moran. We see the common name Mary inside her first name, but unlike the name Rosemary, for example, we know that the letter string “eimary” is Hispanic. Her surname could be Irish or Hispanic. So then we look at where our Yeimary Moran lives, which is Miami. From our software, we discover that her neighborhood is more Hispanic than Irish. Customer testing and feedback show that our software is over 90 percent accurate in most ethnicities, so we can safely deduce that this Yeimary Moran is Hispanic.

From Duncan McLaren’s Evelyn Waugh website, an interesting fact about the English writer and his first wife, also named Evelyn:

Although I call the couple he- and she-Evelyn in my book, Alexander [Evelyn Waugh’s grandson] has mentioned that at the time [late 1920s] they were called Hevelyn and Shevelyn.

(Evelyn Waugh’s first name was pronounced EEV-lyn, so I imagine “Hevelyn” was HEEV-lyn and “Shevelyn” SHEEV-lyn.)

Want more name-related quotes? Here is the name quotes category.

The Baby Name Avalon

Avalon, song, Al Jolson

Avalon began as a legendary Arthurian island. It was first mentioned in the early 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who may have derived the name from the Welsh word afal, meaning “apple.”

By the late 1800s, Avalon was seeing regular (if rare) usage as a baby name in the U.S., probably thanks to Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King — a series of Arthurian poems published from 1859 to 1885.

These poems also influenced real estate developer George Shatto to use the name “Avalon” for the Catalina Island resort town he was building in the late 1880s.

California’s Avalon became a popular vacation destination for the Hollywood film community during the early 1900s, and in 1920 the town (and the name) were featured in a song called “Avalon.” Here’s the chorus:

I found my love in Avalon
Beside the bay
I left my love in Avalon
And sailed away
I dream of her and Avalon
From dusk ’til dawn
And so I think I’ll travel on
To Avalon

Al Jolson’s rendition of “Avalon” became one of the top songs of 1921.

Not surprisingly, the baby name Avalon saw a spike in usage the same year:

  • 1923: 22 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1922: 23 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1921: 43 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1920: 11 baby girls named Avalon
  • 1919: unlisted

You can see a similar spike in the SSDI data:

  • 1923: 17 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1922: 17 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1921: 36 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1920: 10 people with the first name Avalon
  • 1919: 3 people with the first name Avalon

After the 1920s, the usage of Avalon as a baby name tapered off. In fact, the name wasn’t in the SSA data at all during the ’60s and ’70s.

But it popped up again in 1982. One influence could have been the 1982 Roxy Music album Avalon, which included a song of the same name. A slightly later influence was no doubt Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1983 fantasy novel The Mists of Avalon. (The name of the lead character, Morgaine, debuted in the data in 1984.)

The usage of Avalon has been steadily rising ever since, though the name has yet to hit the top 1,000.

What do you think of the baby name Avalon?

P.S. One of the pre-1921 Avalons was a baby girl born in late 1903 to Mr. and Mrs. Goslin of Maryland. She was born aboard the Chesapeake Bay paddle steamer Avalon. Sadly, Avalon Goslin died of pneumonia in 1918 — just a few years before the song “Avalon” became famous.

Sources:

[Another top song from around this time was Dardanella.]