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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Harry


Posts that Mention the Name Harry

Popular Baby Names in England and Wales, 2019

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the most popular baby names in England and Wales last year were, yet again, Olivia and Oliver.

Here are the top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2019:

Girl Names

  1. Olivia, 4,082 baby girls
  2. Amelia, 3,712
  3. Isla, 2,981
  4. Ava, 2,946
  5. Mia, 2,500
  6. Isabella, 2,398
  7. Sophia, 2,332
  8. Grace, 2,330
  9. Lily, 2,285
  10. Freya, 2,264

Boy Names

  1. Oliver, 4,932 baby boys
  2. George, 4,575
  3. Noah, 4,265
  4. Arthur, 4,211
  5. Harry, 3,823
  6. Leo, 3,637
  7. Muhammad, 3,604
  8. Jack, 3,381
  9. Charlie, 3,355
  10. Oscar, 3,334

In the girls’ top 10, Lily and Freya replace Emily and Ella. The boys’ top ten includes the same ten names as in 2018.

In the girls’ top 100, Lara and Mabel replace Aisha and Francesca. In the boys’ top 100, Alfred, Chester, Hudson, Ibrahim and Oakley replace Alex, Dexter, Dominic, Kai, Sonny and Tobias.

The fastest risers within the top 100 were Hallie (on the girls’ list) and Tommy (on the boys’).

Several names that saw increased usage due to pop culture were…

  • The girl name Dua, now at an all-time high thanks to English pop singer Dua Lipa, whose parents were Kosovar refugees.*
  • The boy name Kylo, thanks to the Star Wars sequel trilogy. (Kylo debuted in 2015, the year the first film was released.)
  • The boy name Taron, likely due to actor Taron Egerton, featured in the 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman.

Here are the top ten lists for England and Wales separately, if you’d like to compare the regions…

England’s top ten…Wales’s top ten…
Girl NamesOlivia, Amelia, Isla, Ava, Mia, Isabella, Grace, Sophia, Lily, EmilyOlivia, Amelia, Isla, Ava, Freya, Willow, Mia, Ella, Rosie, Elsie
Boy NamesOliver, George, Arthur, Noah, Harry, Muhammad, Leo, Jack, Oscar, CharlieOliver, Noah, Charlie, Jacob, Theo, George, Leo, Arthur, Oscar, Alfie

Finally, here are some of the rare baby names from the other end of the rankings. Each one was given to exactly 3 babies in England and Wales last year.

Rare Girl NamesRare Boy Names
Aiste, Bella-Blue, Cosmina, Dolcieanna, Elliw, Floella, Gurveen, Harerta, Iffah, Jainaba, Kalsoom, Lussy, Mallie, Nellie-Beau, Otterly, Primavera, Reevie, Saffanah, Tuppence, Venba, Winter-Lily, Yidis, ZeemalAuburn, Boycie, Cybi, Dawsey, Eason, Folarin, Glyndwr, Hadrian, Isaa, Johnjo, Kaniel, Lazo, Madani, Now, Olgierd, Pijus, Rakai, Smit, Taqi, Veselin, Wilby, Yilmaz, Zarel

Cybi, pronounced “kubby,” is the (Welsh) name of a 6th-century Cornish saint.

Sources: Baby names in England and Wales: 2019, Baby names for boys in England and Wales (dataset), Baby names for girls in England and Wales (dataset)

*Kosovar refugees are also mentioned in the posts on Amerikan and Tonibler.

The Emergence of Makeba

miriam makeba, singer, baby name, 1960s
Miriam Makeba

The baby name Makeba started appearing in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1960s:

  • 1966: 8 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1965: unlisted
  • 1964: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1963: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Makeba
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

It saw peak usage in the early 1970s.

What launched the name?

South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was born near Johannesburg in 1932 to a Xhosa father and a Swazi mother.

Her birth name was actually Zenzile, nickname Zenzi. (The English name Miriam was adopted later for career purposes.) According to Makeba, the name Zenzile means “you have no one to blame but yourself” or “you have done it to yourself.”

But “Zenzile Makeba” wasn’t her full name. Her full name was Zenzile Makeba Qgwashu Nguvama Yiketheli Nxgowa Bantana Balomzi Xa Ufun Ubajabulisa Ubaphekcli Mbiza Yotshwala Sithi Xa Saku Qgiba Ukutja Sithathe Izitsha Sizi Kkabe Singama Lawu Singama Qgwashu Singama Nqamla Nqgithi.

Why so long?

The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling; about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story. This may sound most unusual to Americans, but it is the custom of my people.

Miriam Makeba began singing professionally in the early 1950s. In the late ’50s she met famous Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte, who introduced her to American audiences. Her fame grew (both in the U.S. and in Europe) during the ’60s, and she became “the first African artist to globally popularize African music.”

I haven’t had any luck tracking down the etymology of Makeba, but I know the name came from Miriam’s mother, Nomkomendelo Christina Makeba. The name Nomkomendelo means “the one whose father was commandeered” (as she was born on the day her father was forced to join the British army to help fight the Second Boer War).

Do you like the name Makeba?

Sources:

Image: from the movie Come Back, Africa (1959)

P.S. Here are a few more names inspired by the Second Boer War

The Beginning of Buff

mike wallace, buff cobb, 1950s, television

Here’s a curious one: Buff. It appeared in the SSA data in the middle of the 20th century as both a boy name and a girl name — but slightly more often as a girl name. The female usage was entirely in the 1950s:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 5 baby girls named Buff
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Buff
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Buff
  • 1954: 10 baby girls named Buff
  • 1953: 6 baby girls named Buff
  • 1952: 5 baby girls named Buff [debut]
  • 1951: unlisted

What was the influence here?

An actress with an intriguingly gender-neutral name: Buff Cobb.

She was born Patrizia Chapman in Italy in 1927 to American parents. When she decided in her teens to become a film star, she created the stage name “Buff Cobb” from her mother’s nickname, Buffy, and her maternal grandfather’s surname, Cobb. (He was writer/humorist Irvin Cobb.)

While Buff’s film career didn’t pan out, she did tour with a company putting on Noël Coward’s play Private Lives in the late ’40s. During a stop in Chicago, she was interviewed for a radio show by a young reporter named Mike Wallace — most famous today for his work as a 60 Minutes correspondent from 1968 to 2006.

She and Mike got married in 1949 and began co-hosting a Chicago radio show, which led to two New York City TV shows (both live):

  • Mike and Buff (1951-1953), originally entitled Two Sleepy People, one of television’s first talk shows. “[T]he couple would engage in heated debate over a different topic each day, then try to settle their differences after interviewing experts.” One of Mike’s catchphrases on the show was: “Smarten up, Buff!” The show was sponsored by Pepsi and guests included Harry Belafonte and Mickey Spillane.
  • All Around the Town (1951-1952), an interview show typically broadcast from different parts of New York City.
mike and buff

A year after Mike and Buff was cancelled, the real Mike and Buff were also cancelled — they divorced in 1954. Buff appeared regularly on just one more TV show after that: the ’50s game show Masquerade Party, from 1953 to 1955. Usage of the (female) name Buff was highest during these years.

Do you like the name Buff for a baby girl? Do you like it more or less than Buffy and Buffie (both of which also debuted during the first half of the ’50s)?

Sources:

Image: Clipped from page 12 of the December 1952 Radio-TV Mirror.

The Emergence of Jolie

red foley, jolie blon, song, baby name, 1940s
Red Foley

These days, main association for the name Jolie, from the French word for “pretty,” is actress Angelina Jolie (who single-handedly turned Maleficent into a baby name a few years ago). But Angie — though she’s certainly influenced the usage of the name recently — didn’t put the name on the map in the late ’40s:

  • 1952: 22 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1950: 26 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1949: 6 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1948: 9 baby girls named Jolie
  • 1947: 7 baby girls named Jolie [debut]
  • 1946: unlisted

In 2006, name expert Cleveland Kent Evans noted that the name “was first brought to the attention of Americans by Jolie Gabor…the mother of actresses Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor.” I don’t think this is wrong — I think Jolie Gabor may account for some of the usage of the name during the ’50s — but I also don’t think it’s right, as Zsa Zsa wasn’t terribly famous in ’40s. (The name Zsa Zsa first appeared in the data in 1957.)

My guess on the 1947 debut of Jolie is the song “New Jolie Blonde” by country singer Red Foley. That, plus a couple of the similar songs: “New Pretty Blonde (Jole Blon)” by Aubrey “Moon” Mullican and “(Our Own) Jole Blon” by Roy Acuff. All three saw heavy play on juke boxes in 1947, according to Billboard. Red’s rendition, which featured the “Jolie” spelling in the title, was the most successful.

The song is ultimately based on the old (pre-1900) Cajun song “Jole Blon.” In 1946, Cajun fiddler Harry Choates came out with an updated version of the song that saw moderate success. Other performers then followed Harry’s lead with their own versions.

(According to one source, the title of the version by Harry Choates was initially misspelled jolie blonde, “thus forever altering the song title among Anglophone audiences,” but I haven’t seen any evidence of this misspelling, so I doubt it would have had much impact. The Choates version was only ever called “Jole Blon” in Billboard magazine, for example.)

What do you think of the baby name Jolie?

Sources:

The Story of Tondalaya

leon gilbert, tondalaya, 1955,
Leon Gilbert with children Leon and Tondalaya
© 1955 Jet

The sudden appearance of Tondalaya in the SSA’s baby name data in the mid-1950s had me stumped for a long time.

  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: 11 baby girls named Tondalaya
  • 1954: unlisted

Why? Because “Tondalaya” was so suspiciously close to “Tondelayo,” the name of a character from the 1942 movie* White Cargo. The character was a mixed-race African character played by Hedy Lamarr.

tandelayo, hedy lamarr
(from the White Cargo trailer)

But the spelling didn’t match, and the timing was way off.

Finally, years later, I happened to find the link between these two things: a photo in a 1955 issue of Jet magazine that featured an 11-year-old girl named Tondalaya. Here’s what the caption said:

Paroled after five years imprisonment for disobeying Army orders while a lieutenant in Korea, Leon A. Gilbert is reunited with his wife, Kay, son Leon, and daughter Tondalaya at Los Angeles’ International Airport.

(Further research revealed that her name was actually spelled “Tondalayo.”)

So that solved the mystery of the name, but…who was Leon Gilbert?

Up until mid-1950, he was a decorated WWII veteran serving with the 24th Infantry Regiment in Korea.

But on July 31, he refused an order and was arrested on the spot.

Seems like an appropriate outcome for a disobedient soldier during wartime…until you consider that the 24th was an all-black unit, that the 24th’s commanders were all white, and that this particular order amounted to a multi-man suicide mission. (The order would have had Gilbert leading about a dozen men back to a location that had been abandoned due to heavy enemy fire.)

Leon Gilbert was court-martialed. At the trial, which lasted about four hours, no witnesses were called on Gilbert’s behalf, medical reports indicating that he suffered from acute stress reaction were ignored, and the defense attorney didn’t bother to make a closing statement. Leon Gilbert was convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad.

Back home, the case was being followed closely by the press — particularly by the black press. The sentence angered many Americans, and “petitions calling for [Gilbert’s] freedom were sent to Washington from around the country.”

An investigation carried out by NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall found that Gilbert was one of “many blacks and no white troops who had been charged with misconduct in the presence of the enemy.” He also said that “[i]t seems apparent that some of [the black soldiers] are being made scapegoats for the failures of higher personnel.”

In late November, President Harry Truman commuted the death sentence to 20 years in prison.

Ultimately — as mentioned in the photo caption — Leon Gilbert served five years in a military prison before he was released on parole in 1955.

Sources:

*The movie was based on play of the same name from the 1920s. In the play, the character’s name was spelled “Tondeleyo.” The play was based on the novel Hell’s Playground (1912) by Ida Vera Simonton, but Tondeleyo did not appear in the novel. Playwright Leon Gordon created (and named) Tondeleyo by combining the attributes/histories of two of the book’s female characters, Ndio and Elinda.