How popular is the baby name Julie 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 Julie.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Julie


Posts that Mention the Name Julie

Baby Names from “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” Pageant

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World Pageant, 1984

In January of 1984, a one-of-a-kind beauty pageant called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was broadcast live on television from Oahu, Hawaii.

What made it unique? The fact that viewers at home could participate in picking the winner!

Back in 1984, this was a novel idea — so novel that, even though creator Dick Clark had come up with the concept back in the late ’60s, he wasn’t able to garner any interest in it until decades later.

The show was hosted by Jayne Kennedy and David Hasselhoff. In fact, the Hoff was featured in the TV commercial for the pageant:

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World tv commercial, David Hasselhoff

Twenty-one young women from around the globe were chosen as contestants. Here are their names and the regions they represented (in order of introduction):

  • United States: Susanne Ashley Trimble
  • India: Safira Afzaal
  • Great Britain: Debi Brett
  • Japan: Yoko Ami
  • Swaziland: Zanella Tutu
  • Denmark: Lene Nyholm Jensen
  • Spain: Maria Jose Bustos
  • Italy: Antonia Dell’Atte
  • Brazil: Carmen Carolina Baldelli
  • Germany: Birgit Wiemann
  • Saipan: Zelma Tomokane
  • Puerto Rico: Deborah Carthy Deu
  • The Philippines: Yoraidyl (YOR-ah-dil) Diaz Stone
  • Canada: Elizabeth Stimson
  • Mexico: Jaqueline De La Vega Pineda
  • Singapore: Julie Nickson
  • Morocco: Nadia Bahy
  • France: Patricia Talazac
  • Hong Kong: Tracy Chan
  • Australia: Melanie Ivanhoe
  • Israel: Yarden Levinson

I want to draw your attention to two of these contestants, Safira Afzaal and Yarden Levinson, because the rare names Safira and Yarden both debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1984 specifically:

Safira usageYarden usage
1986unlistedunlisted
1985unlistedunlisted
198418 baby girls6 baby girls
1983unlistedunlisted
1982unlistedunlisted

(Safira may be based on the Islamic name Safeerah, meaning “messenger”; Yarden, the Hebrew name of the Jordan River, is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “descend” or “flow down.”)

Here’s how these two contestants looked during the introductions…

Safira:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Over the course of the two-hour program, the field of contestants was reduced three times: from 21 to 10 (by a panel of judges), from 10 to 3 (again by the judges), and finally from 3 to 1 (by popular vote).

Both Safira and Yarden survived the first cut. The second portion of the show featured the ten remaining women modeling in swimsuits, modeling in evening gowns, and, rather unusually, doing aerobic exercise. (How ’80s is that?)

Here’s Safira doing aerobics:

Safira Afzal, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

And here’s Yarden:

Yarden Levinson, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

Before the three finalists were announced, David Hasselhoff explained that each of the three would be assigned a specific “1-900” phone number.

To cast a vote for your favorite girl, you simply dial her phone number. It’s that easy. Your vote will automatically be registered in the phone company’s computer in Kansas City, Missouri, and there’ll be a telephone charge of 50 cents. The total number of calls received at the end of the ten-minute period by the phone company’s computer in Kansas City will be transmitted to us, five thousand miles away, in Hawaii, and we will know our winner.

The three finalists? Debi, Jaqueline, and Yarden. (Not Safira, sadly.)

Here’s Yarden, right after being named a finalist:

Yarden Levinson, finalist in The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, beauty pageant, 1984

During the next ten minutes, viewers saw (among other things) clips of the finalists talking about themselves. Yarden mentioned that, in Israel, every girl goes into the military and “learns how to fight,” and that she “served in a rescue unit in the Air Force.” She also said:

I come to the competition and they look at me and they say, ‘You’re Israeli? You’re blonde, I mean, how can that be?’

Alas, Yarden finished in third place with just 17.48% of the vote.

The winner was Debi Brett, the Brit, with 53.46% of the vote. (She received over $100,000 in cash and prizes, including a 30-day round-the-world trip, a full-length mink coat, a grand piano, a diamond ring, a Dodge 600 convertible, and a Ricoh 35mm camera.)

So, neither Safira nor Yarden won the pageant. But their names live on the U.S. baby name data, which is arguably far cooler. :)

I’m not sure what became of Yarden after the pageant, but I can tell you a bit about Safira (whose last name is actually spelled Afzal). She was born in Pakistan, raised in England, and went on to earn a law degree and become a barrister.

(Other post-pageant careers: Debi became photographer; Antonia became a model/TV personality; Deborah won Miss Universe 1985 and became an actress/TV personality; “Jaqueline” (actually spelled Jacqueline) became a model/TV personality; and “Julie” (Julia) became an actress — in fact, she played the female lead in the second Rambo movie.)

So what are your thoughts on the names Safira and Yarden? Which one would you be more likely to use for a baby girl?

I'd go with...

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Sources:

“Real World” Baby Names: Amaya, Baya, Brynn…

“This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a loft…and have their lives taped…”

Several months ago, the cast of the inaugural season of MTV’s The Real World held a 6-day reunion in the very same NYC loft they shared back in 1992. The reunion — which was filmed, of course — is now airing as a series on the Paramount+ platform. (Here’s the trailer.)

When I was a teenager, I loved watching The Real World. (And I appreciated that the names of the cast members were always prominently displayed in the opening credits!) So I think now would be a great time to go back and see if any Real World cast member names had an influence on U.S. baby names.

First, let’s start with a comprehensive list of all the cast member names from each of RW‘s 33 (!) seasons…

  1. The Real World: New York (1992): Andre, Becky, Eric, Heather, Julie, Kevin, Norman
  2. The Real World: California (1993): Aaron, Beth (x2), David, Dominic, Glen, Irene, Jon, Tami
  3. The Real World: San Francisco (1994): Cory, Jo, Judd, Mohammed, Pam, Pedro, Puck, Rachel
  4. The Real World: London (1995): Jacinda, Jay, Kat, Lars, Mike, Neil, Sharon
  5. The Real World: Miami (1996): Cynthia, Dan, Flora, Joe, Melissa, Mike, Sarah
  6. The Real World: Boston (1997): Elka, Genesis, Jason, Kameelah, Montana, Sean, Syrus
  7. The Real World: Seattle (1998): David, Irene, Janet, Lindsay, Nathan, Rebecca, Stephen
  8. The Real World: Hawaii (1999): Amaya, Colin, Justin, Kaia, Matt, Ruthie, Teck
  9. The Real World: New Orleans (2000): Danny, David, Jamie, Julie, Kelley, Matt, Melissa
  10. The Real World: Back to New York (2001): Coral, Kevin, Lori, Malik, Mike, Nicole, Rachel
  11. The Real World: Chicago (2002): Aneesa, Cara, Chris, Keri, Kyle, Theo, Tonya
  12. The Real World: Las Vegas (2002-2003): Alton, Arissa, Brynn, Frank, Irulan, Steven, Trishelle
  13. The Real World: Paris (2003): Ace, Adam, Chris, Christina, Leah, Mallory, Simon
  14. The Real World: San Diego (2004): Brad, Cameran, Charlie, Frankie, Jacquese, Jamie, Randy, Robin
  15. The Real World: Philadelphia (2004-2005): Karamo, Landon, Melanie, M.J., Sarah, Shavonda, Willie
  16. The Real World: Austin (2005): Danny, Johanna, Lacey, Melinda, Nehemiah, Rachel, Wes
  17. The Real World: Key West (2006): Janelle, John, Jose, Paula, Svetlana, Tyler, Zach
  18. The Real World: Denver (2006-2007): Alex, Brooke, Colie, Davis, Jenn, Stephen, Tyrie
  19. The Real World: Sydney (2007-2008): Ashli, Cohutta, Dunbar, Isaac, KellyAnne, Parisa, Shauvon, Trisha
  20. The Real World: Hollywood (2008): Brianna, Brittini, Dave, Greg, Joey, Kimberly, Nick, Sarah, Will
  21. The Real World: Brooklyn (2009): Baya, Chet, Devyn, J.D., Katelynn, Ryan, Sarah, Scott
  22. The Real World: Cancun (2009): Ayiiia, Bronne, CJ, Derek, Emilee, Jasmine, Joey, Jonna
  23. The Real World: D.C. (2009-2010): Andrew, Ashley, Callie, Emily, Erika, Josh, Mike, Ty
  24. The Real World: New Orleans (2010): Ashlee, Eric, Jemmye, McKenzie, Preston, Ryan (x2), Sahar
  25. The Real World: Las Vegas (2011): Adam, Dustin, Heather (x2), Leroy, Michael, Nany, Naomi
  26. The Real World: San Diego (2011): Alexandra, Ashley, Frank, Nate, Priscilla, Sam, Zach
  27. The Real World: St. Thomas (2012): Brandon (x2), LaToya, Laura, Marie, Robb, Trey
  28. The Real World: Portland (2013): Anastasia, Averey, Jessica, Johnny, Joi, Jordan, Marlon, Nia
  29. Real World: Ex-Plosion (2014): Arielle, Ashley (x2), Brian, Cory, Hailey, Jamie, Jay, Jenna, Jenny, Lauren, Thomas
  30. Real World: Skeletons (2014-2015): Bruno, Jason, Madison, Nicole, Sylvia, Tony, Violetta
  31. Real World: Go Big or Go Home (2016): CeeJai, Chris, Dean, Dione, Dylan, Jenna, Kailah, Sabrina
  32. Real World Seattle: Bad Blood (2016-2017): Anika, Anna, Jennifer, Jordan, Kassius, Katrina, Kimberly, Mike, Orlana, Peter, Robbie, Theo, Tyara, Will
  33. The Real World: Atlanta (2019): Arely, Clint, Dondre, Justin, Meagan, Tovah, Yasmin

The names in boldface line up with a discernible increase in baby name usage. (Other Real World names may have affected baby names as well, but it can be hard to tell when, say, a name is already common, or already on the rise.)

Here are details on all the boldfaced names, plus two more influential RW names (from seasons 6 and 18) that didn’t even belong to primary cast members.

  • The name Jacinda (from season 4; 1995) saw peak usage in 1996.
  • The name Flora (5; 1996) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Kameelah (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Syrus (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Jason (6; 1997) was probably not affected, but the name of Jason’s girlfriend, Timber, saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Amaya (8; 1999) saw sharply increased usage in 1999 and 2000.
  • The name Kaia (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Ruthie (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Aneesa (11; 2002) saw peak usage in 2002.
  • The name Arissa (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2003.
  • The name Brynn (12; 2002-3) saw sharply increased usage in 2003.
  • The name Irulan (12; 2002-3) debuted in the data in 2003.
    • It looks like she was named after the fictional character Princess Irulan from Frank Herbert’s Dune books…?
  • The name Trishelle (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Mallory (13; 2003) saw increased usage in 2003 and 2004.
  • The name Cameran (14; 2004) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Jacquese (14; 2004) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Johanna (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005.
  • The name Nehemiah (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005 and 2006.
  • The name Janelle (17; 2006) saw increased usage in 2006.
  • The name Svetlana (17; 2006) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Colie (18; 2006-7) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Tyrie (18; 2006-7) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name of Tyrie’s girlfriend, Jazalle, debuted in 2007 and is a one-hit wonder so far.
  • The name Kellyanne (19; 2007-8) returned to the data in 2008.
  • The name Baya (21; 2009) saw sharply increased usage in 2009. In fact, Baya was one of the fastest-rising baby names of 2009.
  • The name Averey (28; 2013) saw peak usage in 2013.
  • The name Kassius (32; 2016-17) saw increased usage in 2017.

Of all the names above, which one(s) do you like most?

And, for all the Real World fans out there: which season(s) do you like most? :)

Source: The Real World (TV series) – Wikipedia

Popular Baby Names in Casper, WY, in 2020

In 2020, the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper welcomed 892 babies. The names of about 620 of these babies were shared online via the hospital’s website. A few days ago, the hospital “mined those announcements for our most popular names list for 2020,” finding that the most frequently occurring names for girls was Paisley and for boys was Jackson.

I don’t usually post rankings from non-governmental sources, but, in this case, there were just so many names in comparison to the size of the city (about 58,000 residents) that I decided to go ahead and publish the full list…

10 babies named:

  • Jackson (Jaxen, Jaxon, Jaxson, Jaxxon)

7 babies named:

  • Logan
  • Oliver
  • Paisley (Paizlee, Paizleigh)

6 babies named:

  • Adaline (Adeline, Adalyn, Adalynn, Addilynn)
  • Amelia (Emelia, Emilia)
  • Emma
  • Grayson
  • Reilly (Rieleigh, Riely, Riley, Ryleigh)
  • Sawyer

5 babies named:

  • Cooper
  • Everlee (Everleigh, Everly)
  • Oakleigh (Oakley)
  • Theodore

4 babies named:

  • Addison (Addyson)
  • Asher
  • Ava
  • Benjamin
  • Caysen (Kasen, Kason)
  • Charlie (Charlee, Charles)
  • Everette
  • Isabella (Izabella, Izzabella)
  • Kinsleigh (Kinsley)
  • Nathan
  • Wyatt

3 babies named:

Adrian, Alexander, Ashton (Ashtyn), Aspen, Aurora, Bennett, Blake (Blayke), Bristol, Brixley (Brixleigh, Brixli), Brooklyn, Carter, Christian, David, Declan (Deklynn), Elijah, Elizabeth, Ella, Ellie, Ethan, Ezra, Grace, Hunter, Holden, Jack, Layla, Leo, Liam, Lyla (Lilah), Lincoln, Lorenzo, Lydia, Lyra, Mason, Noah, Olivia, Owen, Richard, Rilynn (Ryelin, Ryelynn), Rowan (Rowen), Ryker, Skyla, Sophia (Sofia)

2 babies named:

Aiden/Aidyn, Allison/Alyson, Amara, Annabelle, Arya, Aubriella, Averie/Avery, Barrett, Bentley, Bodhi/Bodie, Braxton, Bryar/Bryor, Brynlee, Caroline, Carson/Karson, Catherine/Katherine, Colt, Colten/Colton, Damian, Daniel, Daxton, Dayton, Dylan, Eli, Eliana, Elliot, Emerson/Emersyn, Emery/Emory, Evelyn, Finley, Gabriella, Gentry, Harmony, Harper, Harrison, Haven/Hayven, Hayden, Hazel, Hazely/Hazleigh, Henry, Hudson, Ian, Isaac, Isaiah, Islah/Islla, Jasper, Jaxtyn, Jayden, Joel, Julian, Julius, Justin, Kaiser/Kaizer, Kamara, Kaysen/Kayson, Kellen, Kennedi/Kenydee, Kenzlee/Kenzleigh, Kinley/Kynleigh, Kyran/Kyren, Leighton/Leyten, Lenix/Lennox, Levi, Lorelai/Lorelei, Madeline/Madelyn, Malachi, Malaya/Maleah, Maria/Meriah, Maverick, Maya, Mila, Miles, Millie, Naomi, Natalia, Nevaeh, Parker, Paul, Penelope, Rachael/Rachel, Rae/Rey, Raylan, Ronan, Ryder, Samantha, Samuel, Sara/Sarah, Savanna/Savannah, Scarlett, Sebastian, Silas/Sylias, Skylar/Skyler, Spencer, Sydney/Sidney, Tenslee/Tensley, Theo, Weston/Westin, Violet, Zachary, Zoey

1 baby named:

  • Abel, Abraham, Ace, Adam, Adonis, Aeris, Adrian, Aiden, Aksel, Aleassia, Alexandria, Alianna, Allen, Ambrose, Amias, Amiya, Anderson, Angel, Anika, Annalynn, Annie, Anson, Antonina, Archer, Ariella, Ariya, Armando, Arrow, Ashlyn, Athena, Aubree, August, Augustus, Avaianna, Aynslee, Azariah, Azayla
  • Bailey, Baylor, Beau, Becklynn, Bella, Berklie, Bethany, Bonnie, Bradley, Braitton, Branson, Brantley, Braxley, Brayden, Braylee, Brennan, Brexton, Brian, Briggson, Brittany, Brixon, Brock, Broden, Bronx, Brooks, Brylee, Burke
  • Caelan, Cain, Callie, Callum, Calvin, Cameron, Cannon, Carilina, Case, Cash, Charisma, Chasyn, Chloe, Christopher, Ciella, Claire, Cody, Colby, Collyn, Colter, Cree, Crew, Cullen, Cuyler
  • Dailyn, Dakota, Dani, Dean, Delilah, Destin, Diesel, Divine, Douglas, Draco, Draeden
  • Ebony, Eccho, Edison, Eleanor, Elias, Elivia, Ellen, Ellis, Ember, Emily, Emmanuel, Emmie, Emmitt, England, Etta, Evan, Evander, Ezmae
  • Felix, Francis, Fredrick, Freya
  • Genevieve, George, Gideon, Graham, Grey, Griffin
  • Hodassah, Haddie, Hadley, Hailey, Harlan, Harley, Harlow, Harris, Harvey, Hayes, Hendrix, Henleigh
  • Icelynn, Ily, Isabelle, Isaias, Ivan, Ivy, Iylah
  • Jaden, Jaime, Jalin, James, Jameson, Jase, Javier, Jayce, Jaycee, Jayson, Jeremiah, Jessica, Jessie, Jett, JJ, Joanna, John, Jojo, Jolie, Jonah, Jonathan, Josephine, Josie, Joyce, Jude, Julie, June
  • Kade, Kaelyn, Kaiden, Kaii, Kaleah, Kamari, Kambry, Kambryn, Kamdyn, Kane, Karalynn, Kaspian, Kaylee, Kaylynn, Keaton, Keenston, Keira, Kenai, Kendrey, Kevin, Keylin, Khaos, Kieran, Killian, Kimber, Kimora, Kit, Klarke, Kodah, Koen, Kolby, Kole, Korah, Korbyn, Koy, Kyara, Kyden, Kylie, Kyson
  • Lainey, Lakelyn, Lance, Laramie, Laura, Layne, Legend, Lennon, Leopold, Lillian, Lilliean, Lillyanna, Lily, Lola, Londyn, Lorraine, Luca, Lucius, Luke, Lynlee, Lyvie
  • Macie, Macklin, Maddison, Maddox, Mae, Maevelyn, Maggie, Maisey, Mandy, Marceline, Margaret, Mario, Marisa, Marisol, Marleigh, Mary, Mateo, Matthias, Mavis, Maxwell, Mazikeen, Mckenzie, Meadow, Melia, Melody, Merrik, Merritt, Meyer, Mia, Michael, Michelle, Miklo, Milo, Mira, Montana, Myra
  • Nancy, Nash, Natalie, Nathaneil, Naylin, Nehemiah, Nicholas, Nolen, Nora, Nova, Nylin
  • Oaks, Onyx, Oraya, Orian, Orin, Ostara
  • Paxton, Persephone, Presley, Pyper
  • Quincy
  • Rableen, Raeleah, Raven, Reed, Relik, Remi, Remington, Renato, Revi, Rhett, Riatta, Riggs, Rodolfo, Rogan, Roman, Rosalee, Rosemarie, Rowdy, Roxas, Roy, Ruby, Ryann, Ryatt, Ryott
  • Sadie, Sage, Sandra, Saphira, Seraphina, Serenah, Serenity, Shadow, Shelby, Sheridan, Shyanne, Simon, Skadi, Skylynn, Solveig, Sophie, Sorin, Stella, Sterling, Stetley, Storey, Sturgis, Sutton, Sylar, Sylvia
  • Tala, Talia, Tareyn, Tate, Tavin, Taylee, Teagan, Tennyson, Tess, Tessin, Theotis, Thomas, Tillie, Tinlee, Titan, Tobin, Travis, Trenton, Trexton, Tripp, Turner
  • Vada, Vanessa, Vera, Vincent
  • Walker, Watson, Waylon, Westley, Wilder, Wiley, William
  • Xavier, Xia, Xililah, Ximena
  • Yianeli
  • Zachariah, Zaydin, Zayne, Zeppelin, Zinnia, Zoe

Source: Casper’s most popular baby names, 2020 – Wyoming Medical Center

Name Quotes #87: Kamala, Simon, Genghis

From a recent CNN article about how to pronounce Sen. Kamala Harris’s name:

Harris wrote in the preface of her 2019 memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” “First, my name is pronounced ‘comma-la,’ like the punctuation mark. It means ‘lotus flower,’ which is a symbol of significance in Indian culture. A lotus grows underwater, its flower rising above the surface while its roots are planted firmly in the river bottom.

From a 1982 Washington Post article about actors Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill:

Lucie Arnaz, whose illustrious pedigree is evident in her name, and actor Laurence Luckinbill were Simonized several years ago.

He was on Broadway doing Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two.” She was on Broadway doing Neil Simon’s “They’re Playing Our Song.” They met at Joe Allan’s, the famous Broadway restaurant, and started seeing each other entr’acte.

[…]

Twenty months ago, they had a son, whom they named…Simon.

From a 2015 Indian Express article in which Rebel Wilson talks about her name:

A little girl named Rebel sang at my parents’ wedding. My mum is really big on theme names like that – my sisters are called Liberty and Annachi, and my brother is Ryot. I did pretty well in comparison. I love it.

You can’t be a shrinking violet if you have a name like Rebel. It gives me an edge and helps me not give in to my fears. I try to live that way.

From a 1998 BBC article about All Saint singer Melanie Blatt:

Melanie and her boyfriend, musician Stuart Zender [of Jamiroquai], revealed in a magazine interview that they intend to name their daughter Lily Ella [sic]: Lily after the first flowers he bought her during their courtship and Ella after the music legend Ella Fitzgerald.

(Technically, her name is Lilyella.)

From a case study (pdf) of Amtrak’s automated customer service representative, “Julie,” launched in 2001:

Julie became popular with callers and even garnered national acclaim through blogs, YouTube videos, and as an answer on the TV quiz game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Her persona was even featured on Saturday Night Live. “I’ve been surprised about how attached people have gotten to Amtrak Julie,” says the woman who provides the voice of Julie, Julie Stinneford. “I find it funny. Because they’re not really talking to me. They’re talking to a computer.”

From a 2019 NPR interview with musical duo (and identical twins) Tegan and Sara, who originally called themselves “Sara and Tegan”:

We changed the name only because we had a manager [who] gave us one good piece of advice during that time. He said, “When people say ‘Sara and Tegan,’ it all blends together into one word and they don’t know what you’re saying. But if you say ‘Tegan and Sara,’ you have to enunciate. So I think you should switch your names around.” So we did.

From a recent Crunchyroll article about parents who named their son Asta after the anime character (Black Clover):

We came up with that name early on but had other names we considered like Natsu, Sora, Roxas, and Yuki.

From a 2007 Times Colonist [Victoria, British Columbia] article about unusual baby names:

The time was when naming a baby Conan or Calamity could doom a kid to years of schoolyard drubbings, but if Genghis Charm Usher’s experience is any indication, the times are changing.

Genghis, 13, can’t recall any friction caused by his unusual name, pointing out “that you don’t have to have a weird name to get teased.”

[…]

“I love my name. Once they get my name, they don’t forget it,” he says.

What popularized the baby name Lara?

Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:

You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:

Here’s the data, side-by-side:

Laura usage (rank)Lara usage (rank)
196818,743 baby girls (11th)1,295 baby girls (227th)
196715,817 baby girls (15th)945 baby girls (277th)
196615,549 baby girls (19th)236 baby girls (618th)
196516,213 baby girls (18th)65 baby girls (1,376th)
196418,974 baby girls (14th)57 baby girls (1,512th)

So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?

Doctor Zhivago movie poster

The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.

Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.

But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:

Lara, my own, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.

Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.

The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder name Zhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”

Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)

Now let’s try a poll: Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura? Give me your reasons in the comments!

Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura?

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Sources: Doctor Zhivago (film) – Wikipedia, Doctor Zhivago – Orthodox England, Lara’s Theme – Wikipedia, Top 10 Highest-Grossing Films of All Time in the US, Ray Conniff – Billboard, Roger Williams – Billboard, Ray Conniff – Grammy.com, Laura – Behind the Name, Lara – Behind the Name

P.S. A woman named Lara after the Zhivago character was mentioned in Name Quotes 78.