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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Isabel

Number of Babies Named Isabel

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Isabel

What’s Wrong with U? (7 Usable U-Names)

u names, ursa, upton, upson, umber, ukiah, unity, union

What’s wrong with U?

No, I don’t mean you. I mean the letter U.

If 1 is the loneliest number, then U is definitely the loneliest letter. Because, ever since I started looking at first letter frequency in baby names, U has always been the least-used.

Currently just four U-names are in in the boys’ top 1,000, and exactly zero are in the girls’ top 1,000. And those four boy names — Uriel, Uriah, Ulises, and Urijah — make up a sizable chunk of what little U-usage there happens to be.

Does this anti-U trend signify something about modern society, do you think?

We’re more individualistic than ever before — some say more narcissistic. And we do see this individualism reflected in the rise of unusual names, particularly ones that glorify the self, like Amazing, Awesome, Celebrity, Epic, Famous, Gorgeous, Handsome, King, Messiah, President, and Prodigy.

So is this individualism also being reflected in first the letters/sounds we choose? After all, a handful of I-names (Isabella/Isabelle/Isabel, Isla, Isaac, Isaiah) have become prominent lately. So have a pair of “me” names (Mia, Mila).

Meanwhile, the humble U remains at the bottom of the heap. Is it because no one wants to open a name with a letter that reminds them of “you”?

Hm…

If you’re interested in giving U-names a boost, here are 7 under-the-radar options to consider:

Ursa

We’re all familiar with Ursula. She’s a sea-witch, a Bond girl, and a Catholic saint. In other words, Ursula has some strong associations.

Not so with Ursa, the word upon which Ursula was based. Ursa doesn’t have any strong human/character associations — just a couple of celestial ones: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Ursa is based on the Latin word ursus, meaning “bear.” (Bear is itself a trendy choice among celebs these days.) And even though four-letter, vowel-bounded girl names (like Emma, Ella, Aria, Isla, Ayla, and Elsa) are trendy right now, Ursa remains rare.

Upton & Upson

Many toponymic surnames — from Milton and Clifton 100 years ago to Easton and Ashton today — have gone on to become popular baby names. But not Upton and Upson, which are uncommon despite their optimistic sound (up!).

The surnames stem from any of several similar place names that, in most cases, can be traced back to a pair of Old English words meaning “upper, above” (in terms of either altitude or status) and “farm, settlement.”

The most famous Upton was muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, whose best-known work, a 1906 exposé of the meatpacking industry called The Jungle, led to the passage of both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act (which, eventually, gave rise to the FDA).

Umber

We all know an Amber. Maybe even an Ember. But how many of us know an Umber? Probably not many of us, as the name is so rare that it’s only appeared in the SSA data one time (in 1995, when 5 baby girls were named Umber).

You know how ombre hair color is fashionable right now? The words ombre and umber are related — both can be traced back to the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow.”

Along with Ochre and Sienna, Umber is an “earth pigment” — a naturally occurring mineral used by humans since prehistoric times (i.e., for coloring cave walls, clothing, tools, even skin). The color ranges from brown to reddish-brown. Many famous historical artists, including Caravaggio and Rembrandt, used umber in their paintings.

Ukiah

(yoo-KYE-uh)

Uriah is a Biblical name. So are Josiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Obadiah, and many other names with that telltale “-iah” ending. Sounds like Ukiah should be part of this group, right? But it isn’t.

Ukiah is the name of a place in California. It’s based on Yokaya, which comes from Rancho Yokaya — the name of the mid-19th century Mexican land grant that encompassed what is now the Ukiah Valley. The word yokaya means “south valley” in the language of the Pomo people, the original inhabitants of the region.

In 1973, the California-based band The Doobie Brothers released a song about Ukiah.

Though Ukiah has always been rare as a baby name, usage has picked up slightly since the turn of the century.

Unity & Union

Unique is the most self-focused U-name I’m aware of. And now that thousands of people have been named Unique, well, the name just isn’t very unique anymore.

Want to really stand out in the world of baby names today? Choose a name that emphasizes the oneness of the whole as opposed to the oneness of the self.

The names Unity and Union could be seen as opposites of the name Unique. And yet all three are ultimately derived from the same Latin word: unus, meaning “one.”

Unity is given to a couple dozen baby girls per year these days, but Union hasn’t appeared in the SSA data since the 1920s.

*

Do you like any of the U-names above? What other U-names would you recommend?

Sources: Upston – Surname DB, Ukiah, California – Wikipedia


One-Hit Wonder Baby Name: Ysobel

movie, 1916, yaqui, yona

If you like the baby names Isabelle and Isabel but want a something a bit different, here’s an idea: Ysobel, which appeared for the first and only time on the U.S. baby name charts in 1916:

  • 1917: unlisted
  • 1916: 6 baby girls named Ysobel [debut]
  • 1915: unlisted

The inspiration was either (or both?) of two 1916 films featuring characters named Ysobel:

  • The Yaqui, released in March of 1916. Ysobel was played by actress Yona Landowska.
  • Lieutenant Danny, U.S.A., released in August of 1916. Ysobel was played by actress Enid Markey.

queen ysabel, spain, 1492(My guess is that the first film had more influence, both because it was released earlier and because another character name, Modesta, also saw higher usage in 1916.)

The rare spelling “Ysobel” is likely based on the Old Spanish version of the name, Ysabel.

In fact, did you know that the historic Spanish queen we call “Isabella” in English was actually known as “Ysabel” during her lifetime? (And her husband Ferdinand was actually “Fernando.”) Their initials, “F” and “Y,” were featured on the banner that Christopher Columbus created for his 1492 expedition to the New World.

Images:

  • The Movie Picture World, Mar. 18, 1916: 1847.
  • Lossing, Benson J. The Pictorial Field-book of the Revolution. Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851.

Baby Isla, Named after Coney Island

Isla Tudor, 1915In the late 1800s and early 1900s, English showman and “Animal King” Frank C. Bostock brought his performing menagerie of lions, jaguars, elephants, camels, and other animals to various cities in Great Britain and America.

Given that Bostock was famous for hosting weddings (for humans) inside the lion cage, the following story isn’t too surprising:

On August 23, 1903, Bostock’s English-born, Brooklyn-based business manager, Harry E. Tudor, had a baby girl. At three weeks old, the newborn was taken to an afternoon Bostock show on Coney Island, at the Sea Beach Palace.

Bostock’s lion tamer, Captain Jack Bonavita, took the newborn inside the lion cage, which contained 27 lions at the time. “[H]e commanded them to stand on their hind legs, which they did, supporting themselves against the bars of the cage.”

He then conducted some sort of naming ceremony in front of several thousand spectators, choosing the name Isla for the baby because, he said, it paid tribute to Coney Island. The baby was then passed out of the cage “and the regular exhibition took place.”

According to New York City birth records, the baby’s name was officially Isabel, same as her mother. Regardless, she was always called Isla by the newspapers.

And why was she in the newspapers? Because she led a fascinating (if short) life.

During her childhood, Isla crossed the Atlantic dozens of times “and visited Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.” She spent her eighth birthday sailing to Europe aboard the RMS Olympic, and her 12th picnicking with a lion named Baltimore at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

When her father took up flying, she took it up as well. She participated in aviation exhibitions in both England and America, eventually piloting a plane herself. Aerial Age Weekly said Isla was “known on two continents as the youngest girl aviator.”

isla tudor, air lady
Isla Tudor, “Little Air Lady” (1914)

Sadly, Isla Tudor died of appendicitis in 1916, one month after her 13th birthday. News of her death was reported in the New York Times, Billboard magazine, and many other publications. (In the New York City death records she’s listed as Isla, not Isabel; her name may have been legally changed at some point.)

Sources:

The “Elda Rema” Baby Name Formula

baby name formula, elda rema

In his book The American Language, H. L. Mencken mentioned a “woman professor in the Middle West [with] the given name of Eldarema, coined from those of her grandparents, Elkanah, Daniel, Rebecca and Mary.”

The woman he’s talking about did exist, but Mencken didn’t get her name quite right.

Elda Rema Walker was botany professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. And so was her sister — here they are, listed one after the other, in the University of Nebraska General Catalog for 1916-1917:

elda rema walker, leva belle walker

(Leva Belle’s names were also inspired by family — parents Levi and Isabel.)

So here’s the Elda Rema baby name formula:

  • First name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandfather’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandfather’s name
  • Middle name =
    • First 2 letters of one grandmother’s name +
    • First 2 letters of the other grandmother’s name

Using the names of your parents and your partner’s parents, can you come up with any usable first + middle combos?

The best I can do is “Aujo Elhe.” Hopefully you can do better…

Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

Poll: Favorite “Feminine Blend”?

Nope, this isn’t a post about a pink smoothies. “Feminine blend” was a phrase Henry Louis (H. L.) Mencken used in his 1921 book The American Language to describe a female name created by blending two other names together. Here are the feminine blends he lists:

Adelloyd
(Addie + Lloyd)

Adnelle
(Addison + Nellie)

Adrielle
(Adrienne + Belle)

Armina
(Ardelia + Wilhelmina)

Bethene
(Elizabeth + Christine)

Birdene
(Birdie + Pauline)

Charline
(Charles + Pauline)

Leilabeth
(Leila + Elizabeth)

Lunette
(Luna + Nettie)

Marjette
(Marjorie + Henrietta)

Maybeth
(May + Elizabeth)

Olabelle
(Ola + Isabel)

Olouise
(Olive + Louise)

Romiette
(Romeo + Juliette)

Rosella
(Rose + Bella)

If you had to use one of the above in real life, which one would you choose?

Favorite "feminine blend"?

View Results

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Source: H. L. Mencken. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.