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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Isaiah

Number of Babies Named Isaiah

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Isaiah

Most Popular First Letters for Baby Names, 2016

What were the most popular first letters for baby names in 2016?

Here’s a chart showing the first letter breakdown for girl names:

first letter, girl names, baby names, 2016, chart

For girls, the most-used first letter was A, followed by M and E. The least-used first letter was U.

The three most-used girl names per letter last year were…

A: Ava, Abigail, Amelia
B: Brooklyn, Bella, Brianna
C: Charlotte, Chloe, Camila
D: Delilah, Daisy, Daniela
E: Emma, Emily, Evelyn
F: Faith, Finley, Fiona
G: Grace, Genesis, Gabriella
H: Harper, Hannah, Hazel
I: Isabella, Isabelle, Ivy
J: Julia, Josephine, Jade
K: Kennedy, Kaylee, Kylie
L: Lily, Lillian, Layla
M: Mia, Madison, Mila
N: Natalie, Nora, Naomi
O: Olivia, Olive, Oakley
P: Penelope, Paisley, Piper
Q: Quinn, Queen, Quincy
R: Riley, Ruby, Reagan
S: Sophia, Sofia, Scarlett
T: Taylor, Trinity, Teagan
U: Unique, Uma, Una
V: Victoria, Violet, Vivian
W: Willow, Willa, Winter
X: Ximena, Xiomara, Xena
Y: Yaretzi, Yareli, Yamileth
Z: Zoey, Zoe, Zara

Here’s the breakdown for boy names:

first letter, boy names, baby names, 2016, chart

For boys, the most-used first letter was J, followed by A and C. The least-used letter was U.

The three most-used boy names per letter last year were…

A: Alexander, Aiden, Anthony
B: Benjamin, Brayden, Bryson
C: Carter, Christopher, Caleb
D: Daniel, David, Dylan
E: Elijah, Ethan, Eli
F: Finn, Felix, Francisco
G: Gabriel, Grayson, Gavin
H: Henry, Hunter, Hudson
I: Isaac, Isaiah, Ian
J: James, Jacob, Jackson
K: Kevin, Kayden, Kingston
L: Liam, Lucas, Logan
M: Mason, Michael, Matthew
N: Noah, Nathan, Nicholas
O: Oliver, Owen, Oscar
P: Parker, Patrick, Preston
Q: Quinn, Quentin, Quincy
R: Ryan, Robert, Roman
S: Samuel, Sebastian, Sawyer
T: Thomas, Theodore, Tyler
U: Uriel, Uriah, Ulises
V: Vincent, Victor, Valentino
W: William, Wyatt, Wesley
X: Xavier, Xander, Xzavier
Y: Yusuf, Yosef, Yahir
Z: Zachary, Zayden, Zane

Finally, here are both genders side-by-side:

first letter, baby names, 2016, chart

Overall, the top first letter was A, followed by J and M. And the least popular letter was, of course, U.

Here’s last year’s post on the most and least popular first letters of 2015.


The Top Baby Names in Maryland in 2011?

Maryland’s Open Data website includes a single table of Maryland baby name rankings (2011) broken down by race/ethnic group. This is cool because New York City does the exact same breakdown, and we happen to have the equivalent NYC baby name rankings (2011). So we ought to be able to compare and contrast the two sets of rankings, right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought…until I started looking more closely at Maryland’s data.

According to the SSA, these were the top 10 boy names in Maryland in 2011:

  1. Mason
  2. Jacob
  3. Michael
  4. Ethan
  5. Ryan
  6. William
  7. Alexander
  8. Noah
  9. Daniel
  10. Aiden (tied for 10th)
  11. Jayden (tied for 10th)

But according to the state of Maryland, the top 10 boy names were quite different:

Rank OVERALL Asian &
Pacific Isl.
Black Hispanic White
1 Aiden Aiden Jaiden Christopher Lucas
2 Christopher Lucas Aiden Anthony Mason
3 Jayden Alexander Christopher John Jackson
4 Mason Muhammed Cameron Alexander Jacob
5 Lucas Ethan Elijah Daniel John
6 Jacob Nathan Jeremy Matthew Aiden
7 Alexander John Michael Brian Alexander
8 Nathan Andrew Isaiah Justin Liam
9 Michael Justin Mason Jaiden William
10 Ethan Jacob Caleb Kevin Ryan

It isn’t totally implausible that Aiden and Jayden might have ranked 1st and 3rd in 2011, but Christopher in 2nd? Maybe if this were a dataset from thirty years ago, but not five years ago. The SSA indicates that Christopher ranked closer to 18th in the state that year.

And what’s with the two different spellings of Jayden/Jaiden?

Plus there are some sizable raw number discrepancies, such as:

  • Aiden: 588 babies (MD data) vs. 281 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Christopher: 584 babies (MD data) vs. 256 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Jayden: 498 babies (MD data) vs. 281 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Mason: 463 babies (MD data) vs. 432 babies (SSA data for MD)

And now the girl names. According to the SSA, these were the top 10 girl names in Maryland in 2011:

  1. Sophia
  2. Olivia
  3. Isabella
  4. Madison
  5. Ava
  6. Emma
  7. Abigail
  8. Chloe
  9. Emily
  10. Elizabeth

According to the state of Maryland, though, the top 10 girl names in the state were these:

Rank OVERALL Asian &
Pacific Isl.
Black Hispanic White
1 Sophia Sophia Chloe Sophia Sophia
2 Isabel Chloe London Emily Isabel
3 Chloe Isabel Layla Allison Abigail
4 Ava Caitlin/Kate Madison Isabel Olivia
5 Madison Hannah Kennedy Ashley Ava
6 Olivia Olivia Aaliyah Angelina Riley
7 Emily Sara(h) McKenzie Natalie Madison
8 McKenzie Abigail Zoe(y) Genesis Emily
9 Abigail Emily Payton Gabrielle McKenzie
10 Riley Lillian/Lily Taylor Kimberly Chloe

Not only does Isabel magically replace Isabella in the Maryland data, but McKenzie and Riley rank 8th and 10th — even though the SSA says they should be closer to 77th (!) and 28th.

Not to mention the raw number discrepancies, such as:

  • Sophia: 503 babies (MD data) vs. 367 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • McKenzie: 325 babies (MD data) vs. 71 babies (SSA data for MD)
  • Riley: 298 babies (MD data) vs. 118 babies (SSA data for MD)

Intriguing parallels between the MD data and the NYC data do exist. In both locations, Elijah and Isaiah were in the top 10 for African-American boys only, and London, Aaliyah, and Taylor were in the top 10 for African-American girls only.

But if we can’t trust the data, we can’t draw any meaningful conclusions.

Labels like “Caitlin/Kate,” “Sara(h),” “Zoe(y)” and “Lillian/Lily” suggest that variant names were combined here and there. I suspect this is also what happened with Isabel/Isabella, Sophia/Sofia, Aiden, Jayden, MacKenzie, Riley, and maybe even Christopher (perhaps Maryland merged all the “Chris-” names). What are your thoughts on this?

How Did Thurgood Marshall Get His Name?

Thurgood Marshall, 1967Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1967 until 1991.

Prior to that, he was known for having won 29 of the 32 cases he’d argued argued before the Supreme Court. Most were civil rights cases, including the famous Brown v. Board of Education case that ended legal segregation in public schools in 1954.

The year he died, the name Thurgood debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:

  • 1994: unlisted
  • 1993: 5 baby boys named Thurgood [debut]
  • 1992: unlisted

…and it never returned, making Thurgood a statistical one-hit wonder.

So how did Thurgood Marshall get his unusual first name?

It was passed down from his paternal grandfather, who apparently went by either of two names: Thorneygood and Thoroughgood.

The elder Thoroughgood/Thorneygood served in the U.S. Army, and he didn’t know which name to use when he enlisted, so he used both. And he ended up getting two sets of retirement checks because of it.

Thurgood Marshall told TIME: “I was named Thoroughgood after him but by the time I was in the second grade, I got tired of spelling all that and shortened it.”

His maternal grandfather also had a distinctive name: Isaiah Olive Branch Williams. Isaiah and his wife Mary had six children, all with fascinating names — several inspired by Isaiah’s travels abroad with the U.S. merchant marine.

  • Avonia Delicia – first name after Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Avon Nyanza – first name also after Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Denmedia Marketa – after the family’s grocery store, located on Baltimore’s Denmead Street
  • Norma Arica – after the opera Norma and the place where Isaiah first heard it, the Chilean port city of Arica
  • Fearless Mentor – because, according to Isaiah:

    Most kids don’t open their eyes until they’re at least a few hours old. This one looked me straight in the eye as soon as I came in. He’s a fearless little fellow and Fearless will be his name.

  • Ravine Silestria – after a ravine in the Bulgarian/Romanian port city of Silistra

Norma was Thurgood Marshall’s mother. He called Fearless and Denmedia “Uncle Fee” and “Aunt Medi.”

Sources:

Good Advice for Choosing an English Name

Apple, Chlorophyll, Icarus, Kinky, Melon, Omicron, Smacker, Swallow, Winsome, Yoyo…the English names chosen by (or assigned to) native Chinese speakers are often not so great.

And, in many cases, they’re later regretted. Here’s what a Hong Kong business student Fragile Chan had to say about his English name:

“I started using ‘Fragile’ when I was 14,” he says. “I first encountered the word in my English class and I chose it as my name because I liked how it’s pronounced.”

Chan says his name makes it easy for others to remember him and it’s an easy conversation-starter when he meets new people. But in his experience, having an uncommon name isn’t always pleasant.

“I am tired of explaining my name to others when I need to introduce myself. Some people even mock me for having a ‘fragile heart’,” he says. Now Chan has decided to change his name to Nathan. “I would like to be less weird in formal situations,” he says.

One U.S. entrepreneur has created a site called Best English Name, which helps Chinese students choose more appropriate English names. Site-suggested names include “Davis, Max, Eli, and Riley” for males and “Elody, Ava, Jolie, and Ellie” for females. These are a lot better than Kinky and Melon, and style-wise they’re fairly appropriate for current teenagers.

But I think the best advice out there comes from Philip Guo’s blog post How to choose an English name, because it can be applied to any age group.

His main recommendation? Go to the SSA’s website, find the top 100 names for your birth year, and choose one from the list for your gender. He says:

You must choose your name from one of these 100 names. Even if you randomly choose a name (for your gender, of course), then congratulations, I guarantee that you have chosen a better name than most of your friends who tried to be creative!

So a 15-year-old student (b. 2001) can choose from names like:

  • Isabel, Katie, Mia, Sophia, Zoe
  • Aidan, Chase, Isaiah, Jack, Noah

But a 40-year-old business-person (b. 1976) can choose from names that might be a better fit for his/her generation, such as:

  • Amy, Dana, Monica, Tina, Wendy
  • Chad, Dennis, Peter, Shane, Tony

Best of all, every top 100 list includes names appropriate for people of various ages. For example, these names were on both the 1976 and the 2001 lists:

  • Anna, Elizabeth, Michelle, Natalie, Sarah
  • Adam, David, John, Nathan, Victor

Guo’s other recommendations include ignoring name definitions entirely and sticking to the exact version of the name found in the top 100. He also suggests choosing a name that sounds somewhat like one’s birth name, e.g., the English name Shawn would work well for a Chinese man named Sheng.

Do you have any other good advice for people (Chinese people in particular) seeking English names?

Sources: Students with unusual names: ‘at least no one forgets us’, Laowai Entrepreneur Wants to Rid China of English “Stripper Names”, Popular Baby Names – SSA

100 Years Ago, Were Black Names Beneficial?

© Cook, Logan, and Parman
© Cook, Logan, and Parman

In generations past, was it advantageous for a black man to have a distinctively black name?

Yes, according to a study published recently in the journal Explorations in Economic History.

Researchers Lisa D. Cook, Trevon D. Logan, and John M. Parmanc analyzed over 3 million death certificates from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina from 1802 to 1970. They looked specifically at the life expectancy of men with the following distinctively black names:

  • Abe, Abraham
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Booker
  • Elijah
  • Freeman
  • Isaac
  • Isaiah
  • Israel
  • King
  • Master
  • Moses
  • Percy
  • Perlie, Purlie, Pearlie
  • Presley, Presly
  • Prince
  • Titus

What did they find?

That black men with these names lived more than a full year longer (on average) than other black men. In fact, according to the abstract, “[a]s much as 10% of the historical between-race mortality gap would have been closed if every black man was given a black name.”

So what’s behind this beneficial effect?

It’s hard to say, but Lisa D. Cook believes that the black men with Biblical names specifically could have been “held to a higher standard in academic and other activities […] and had stronger family, church or community ties,” and that this could have played a part in their relative longevity.

Studies of modern black names, in contrast, regularly find that such names are a hindrance in the workplace, in academia, etc. My most recent post about this is: Men with “Black” Names Seen as Aggressive, Low Status.

Sources: What’s in a name? In some cases, longer life, The mortality consequences of distinctively black names (abstract)