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

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Popularity of the Baby Name John

Number of Babies Named John

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name John

How to Name Fictional Characters

three tips on choosing a character name

How-to articles on naming fictional characters are a dime a dozen. But most are a litany of tips — some important, others not so much. So I thought I’d try boiling the best of the advice down to a single sentence. Here’s what I came up with:

“Each character’s name should fit the setting, fit the character, and be distinct within the story.”

The sentence contains three different objectives, so let’s look out each one separately:

Fit the setting

The name should be appropriate for the time and place in which the story occurs. A romance set in 18th-century England could be between an Elizabeth and a Frederick, but not a Nevaeh and a Jayden. Similarly, the protagonist of a 24th-century space opera could be named something standard/plain (John) or futuristic (Loxxan), but probably not something very old (Holmketill), or even slightly old (Clarence).

Fit the character

The name should suit the character, primarily in terms of permanent descriptors (e.g., gender, age, ethnicity), but also, perhaps, in terms of personality traits (e.g., bubbly, gracious, haughty).

Stereotyping in general is bad, but when it comes to character names, it’s very useful: You want the name to give the correct impression of the character right away. A woman from India should be named Padma, not Margaret. A man from Germany should be called Armin, not Oakley.

You could also take it a step further and choose a name that reflects the character’s personality in a subtle way. A friendly woman could be an Amy, while a complex woman could be Demetria. Do this mainly with sounds and associations, which will be picked up instantly by the reader.

Be distinct within the story

The name should not look or sound similar to any of the other names in the story, or else the reader could get confused. Pay special attention to first letters and to repeated sounds. If the protagonists are sisters, name them Mila and Harriet, not Katie and Kelly. Likewise, if the main characters are brothers, use the names Brian and Luke, not Aidan and Adam.

…What are your thoughts on this topic?

Name Spotting: Malancthon

sign, colorado, names
Sign inside Garden of the Gods

My dad came out to visit us in Colorado recently. He loves geology, so we made sure to take him to several different places with impressive rocks/terrain.

One place we visited was Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. In this park we spotted the above sign, which described how the park got its name back in the 1850s:

As they looked over this area of cathedral-like rock spires, one man, Malancthon Beach, commented that the spot would be a great place for a beer garden someday. His friend, a poetic young man named Rufous Cable, replied that it was a place “fit for the Gods.”

It’s a cool story, but, to me, that first name “Malancthon” is way more interesting than the origin of the park name. Where did it come from?

My best guess is that Malancthon is a tribute to 16th-century German theologian Philipp Melanchthon, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. His surname at birth was Schwartzerd (“black earth” in German), but as a young man he Latinized his name to the classical equivalent Melanchthon (“black earth” in Greek).

Civilian Conservation Corps, new deal
CCC Company 1848

We also saw some names at Red Rocks, which is both a park and a famous amphitheater.

The amphitheater was constructed from 1936 to 1941 by men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief program that existed during the Great Depression. One display included a photo of 124 of the men in the local CCC. Here are their first names, sorted by frequency:

  • 5: Joe, Raymond
  • 4: Charles
  • 3: Arthur, Clarence, Edward
  • 2: Bill, Byron, Carl, David, Earnest, Edwin, Everett, Jack, James, Leo, Maurice, William
  • 1: Aaron, Albert, Aldine, Alfonso, Allen, Alva, Amos, Ancelmo, Arleigh, Aubrey, Audrey, Barnett, Blaine, Calvin, Celestino, Charley, Claud, Claude, Clayton, Cleston, Dale, Damas, Dan, Darold, Dick, Don, Donald, Ed, Elden, Elias, Elipio, Emerson, Emilio, Eric, Ernest, Eston, Fares, Frank, Fred, Glenn, Grant, Gust, Guy, Horace, Hubert, Irvin, Jake, Jasper, Jesse, Jim, John, Jose, Kenneth, Lawrence, Leland, Leonard, Lester, Louis, Lyman, Manual, Marvin, Max, Merce, Noah, Norman, Orval, Pasqual, Paul, Pete, Richard, Rowland, Rudolfo, Russel, Russell, Sandeford, Trenton, Willard

…What interesting names have you spotted while out and about recently?

Old-Fashioned Double Names: Jimbob, Troydale, Earlray

old-fashioned double names

Last month I posted a long list of old-fashioned double names for girls, so this month let’s follow up with a similar list for boys.

To come up with these names, I used the same search method and focused on the same type of name: double names written as a single names in the records.

Pairings that didn’t seem “old fashioned” enough (like Williamjohn and Jamespaul) were omitted, but pairings that also happen to be surnames (like Gilroy and Aldean) were left alone for the most part.

Again I limited the search to 15 second names, but of course plenty of other pairings exist. (One I remember spotting was “Philherbert,” for instance.)

*

-Bob

Billbob, Billiebob, Billybob, Eddybob, Elbertbob, Jimbob, Jobbob, Joebob, Leebob, Norrisbob, Olybob, Raybob, Roybob, Tombob, Willbob, Williebob

-Dale

Alfreddale, Billydale, Carldale, Clemdale, Cliffdale, Dougdale, Dondale, Earldale, Genedale, Georgedale, Glendale, Harrydale, Henrydale, Jaydale, Joedale, Leedale, Lesterdale, Maxdale, Orveldale, Pauldale, Ralphdale, Raydale, Rexdale, Robertdale, Rondale, Royaldale, Roydale, Russeldale, Standale, Thomasdale, Troydale, Vandale, Verndale, Vernondale, Walterdale, Warrendale, Willdale

-Dean

Abedean, Albertdean, Aldean, Alfreddean, Arnolddean, Barrydean, Bertdean, Billydean, Bobbydean, Carldean, Cobydean, Coydean, Daviddean, Donalddean, Dondean, Eddean, Elbertdean, Elmerdean, Floyddean, Freddean, Genedean, Georgedean, Geralddean, Glendean, Harolddean, Harrydean, Howarddean, Jackdean, Jaydean, Jerrydean, Joedean, Leedean, Leodean, Lexdean, Maxdean, Ollydean, Raydean, Rexdean, Robdean, Rondean, Rothdean, Roycedean, Roydean, Rupertdean, Samydean, Teddean, Vernondean, Warrendean, Wendeldean

-Dell

Albertdell, Aldell, Bertdell, Carldell, Cecildell, Coydell, Drewdell, Freddell, Georgedell, Glendell, Harrydell, Jaydell, Jeddell, Jimdell, Joedell, Leodell, Lyndell, Maxdell, Pauldell, Raydell, Rexdell, Roydell, Samdell, Standell, Verndell, Wesdell, Wildell, Wilfdell, Willydell

-Jack

Abejack, Adolfjack, Aljack, Benjack, Bertjack, Billjack, Billyjack, Bobjack, Edgarjack, Elwinjack, Jimjack, Johnjack, Kennethjack, Leejack, Leroyjack, Monroejack, Pauljack, Rayjack, Ronjack, Rossjack

-Jim

Benjim, Billiejim, Thorvaldjim

-Joe

Aljoe, Alphonsejoe, Anthonyjoe, Artjoe, Benjoe, Billyjoe, Bobbyjoe, Carljoe, Chrisjoe, Danjoe, Douglasjoe, Edjoe, Frankjoe, Harrisjoe, Ivanjoe, Jackiejoe, Jimyjoe, Johnjoe, Nedjoe, Peterjoe, Rayjoe, Rochejoe, Royjoe, Sammyjoe, Teryjoe, Tomjoe, Valentinejoe, Vanjoe, Williejoe, Willjoe

-John

Adolfjohn, Albertjohn, Alfjohn, Alfredjohn, Aljohn, Altonjohn, Angusjohn, Anthonyjohn, Antonjohn, Archiejohn, Arthurjohn, Benjohn, Bernardjohn, Bertjohn, Carljohn, Casimirojohn, Casperjohn, Chesterjohn, Chrisjohn, Davidjohn, Deanjohn, Donaldjohn, Earljohn, Edmundjohn, Edwinjohn, Elmerjohn, Emanueljohn, Emiljohn, Erichjohn, Eugenejohn, Francisjohn, Fredjohn, Georgejohn, Gerritjohn, Gilesjohn, Groverjohn, Gusjohn, Hermonjohn, Howardjohn, Irwinjohn, Jackjohn, Jayjohn, Johnnyjohn, Leejohn, Leojohn, Lewisjohn, Lioneljohn, Louisjohn, Martinjohn, Nilsjohn, Oscarjohn, Ottojohn, Philjohn, Rexjohn, Royjohn, Samueljohn, Vernonjohn, Victorjohn, Vincentjohn, Walterjohn, Weldonjohn, Wiljohn, Willardjohn

-Lloyd

Aloislloyd, Charleslloyd, Davidlloyd, Gaylloyd, Jaylloyd, Johnlloyd, Leelloyd, Leroylloyd, Lewislloyd, Macklloyd, Martinlloyd, Reylloyd, Thomaslloyd, Williamlloyd

-Mack

Billmack, Burlmack, Charleymack, Chestermack, Colliemack, Conmack, Danmack, Deemack, Donmack, Eddiemack, Galemack, Georgemack, Glenmack, Joemack, Johnmack, Kylemack, Lannymack, Leemack, Leomack, Lonmack, Michaelmack, Raymack, Williemack, Willmack

-Paul

Alfredpaul, Alpaul, Antonpaul, Archiepaul, Arthurpaul, Carlpaul, Clauspaul, Clementpaul, Donpaul, Edwardpaul, Edwinpaul, Erhardpaul, Ernestpaul, Eugenepaul, Francispaul, Frankpaul, Georgepaul, Glenpaul, Gordonpaul, Haroldpaul, Harrypaul, Henrypaul, Hermanpaul, Homerpaul, Howardpaul, Jaypaul, Johnnypaul, Lawrencepaul, Leepaul, Leonpaul, Louispaul, Mauricepaul, Maxpaul, Morrispaul, Oscarpaul, Raphaelpaul, Raymondpaul, Raypaul, Ronaldpaul, Samuelpaul, Sanfordpaul, Stephenpaul, Tompaul, Vincentpaul, Wesleypaul, Willpaul

-Ralph

Alralph, Conralph, Edwardralph, Ernestralph, Henryralph, Horaceralph, Jamesralph, Johnralph, Josephralph, Leeralph, Lesterralph, Orsonralph, Thomasralph,

-Ray

Alfray, Alfredray, Alray, Artray, Barnyray, Benray, Bertray, Billyray, Bobbyray, Bobray, Carlray, Charlesray, Charleyray, Conray, Coyray, Danray, Deeray, Delbertray, Delray, Dennyray, Donaldray, Donray, Earlray, Edray, Elray, Eugeneray, Ferdray, Frankieray, Fredray, Generay, Georgeray, Glenray, Guyray, Howardray, Jayray, Jimray, Joeray, Johnray, Kennyray, Kenray, Leeray, Leoray, Maxray, Nedray, Paulray, Robertray, Robray, Ronray, Sammieray, Samray, Sidray, Thomasray, Vanray, Willieray, Willray, Wilmerray

-Roy

Alfroy, Alroy, Andrewroy, Benroy, Bertroy, Bobroy, Carlroy, Clayroy, Clemroy, Conroy, Deeroy, Delroy, Donroy, Earlroy, Ebertroy, Edroy, Elroy, Generoy, Gilroy, Glenroy, Hughroy, Jamesroy, Jayroy, Jedroy, Joeroy, Johnroy, Kenroy, Kimroy, Leeroy, Leighroy, Leoroy, Lesroy, Lewroy, Louisroy, Mackieroy, Maxroy, Melroy, Milroy, Ollieroy, Paulroy, Philroy, Rayroy, Rexroy, Robertroy, Robroy, Samroy, Timroy, Toddroy, Tomroy, Vanroy, Vernonroy, Walterroy, Williamroy, Willieroy, Wilroy, Zephroy

-Tom

Bentom, Carltom, Chestertom, Claytom, Clemtom, Edtom, Jimmytom, Jimtom, Joetom, Johntom, Williamtom, Willietom

*

Which of these old-fashioned double names do you like best? Would you consider using any of them for a modern-day baby boy?

“Broken Arrow” Baby Names

Broken Arrow movie poster

Elliott Arnold’s 1947 novel Blood Brother was a fictionalized account of the adventures of Old West historical figures Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, a U.S. Indian agent.

The book was later adapted into a movie and a TV series, and both of these things ended up influencing U.S. baby names.

Sonseeahray & Debralee

The movie Broken Arrow was released in the summer of 1950. It starred Jeff Chandler as Cochise and James Stewart as Tom Jeffords. But the two baby names that debuted in the data thanks to the movie were associated with a different character: Sonseeahray, played by teenage actress Debra Paget.

Broken Arrow wasn’t Debra Paget’s first movie, but it was her first big hit, and it helped her achieve a new level of fame. And in 1951, her birth name Debralee debuted in the data. In fact, it was that year’s top debut name.

  • 1955: 7 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1954: 6 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1953: 11 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1952: 9 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Debralee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

The public had become aware that Debra Paget was born “Debralee Griffin” in mid-1950, thanks to a newspaper article by AP journalist Hubbard Keavy, who called Debra’s birth name “improbable” (a curious comment, coming from guy named Hubbard Keavy). He quoted Debra’s mother, Margaret Griffin, as saying:

I christened her Debra. Her father’s people were Pagets. I used to call her Debra Lee, thinking that would be a good professional name. But Paget is more unusual and there are no Pagets in the movies.

Debra’s sister, Marcia Eloise Griffin, also acted under a stage name: Teala Loring.

The name of the character Sonseeahray also debuted in 1951:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Sonseeahray [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Sonseeahray, defined in the novel as “morning star,” seems to be legitimate Apache name; it was included and defined in the book Life Among the Apaches (1868) by John C. Cremony.

Two real-life Sonseeahrays are Fox News reporter Sonseeahray Tonsall and German actress Sonsee Neu, born Sonsee Ahray Natascha Floethmann-Neu.

Marsheela & Ansara

The TV series Broken Arrow first aired on ABC from 1956 to 1958. (Reruns aired in 1959 and 1960.) The show starred Michael Ansara as Cochise and John Lupton as Tom Jeffords. While it did not include the character Sonseeahray, an early episode did feature a Sonseeahray-like character named Marsheela.

Marsheela, played by actress Donna Martell, appeared in the episode “Apache Girl” in mid-1957. The same year, the name Marsheela was a one-hit wonder in the baby name data:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 11 baby girls named Marsheela [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

I figured out the source of this one only after posting about Marsheila, which was the most-used spelling of Marsheela that year (no doubt because of the familiarity of the Irish name Sheila, which was a top-100 girl name in the U.S. throughout the ’50s and ’60s).

Another one-hit wonder was the surname of Arab-American actor Michael Ansara. Five baby boys were named Ansara in 1960:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Ansara [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

Though Broken Arrow had made Michael Ansara a household name, this debut lines up more cleanly with a later TV Western that Ansara also starred in: Law of the Plainsman, which lasted from 1959 to 1960.

His surname may be based on the Arabic term al-ansar, meaning “the helpers.”

Sources:

Baby Names from Obscure Sorrows?

Ever heard of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows? It’s a blog written by John Koenig, who invents words and gives them melancholic definitions in order “to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.”

I discovered the site via Merriam-Webster’s 10 Perfectly Cromulent Words, which features the Obscure Sorrows word Vellichor (“the strange wistfulness of used bookstores”). It’s a made-up word, but it’s been getting traction online, so…does Vellichor qualify as a “real” word now?

And let’s take it a step further: Vellichor sounds like Petrichor, which has seen usage as a baby name. So could Vellichor also become a baby name?

If so, could other Obscure Sorrows words become baby names too? Here are some of Koenig’s coinages that may have onomastic potential:

  • Opia, “the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye”
  • Tangency, from a “moment of tangency,” which is “a glimpse of what might have been”
  • Fitzcarraldo, “an image that somehow becomes lodged deep in your brain” and “grows into a wild and impractical vision”
  • Sonder, “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”

Could you imagine any of the words above morphing into human names?