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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Karen

Number of Babies Named Karen

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Karen

2 Semi-Mysterious Baby Names: Karil & Caril

I’ve been trying to piece together the stories behind the baby names Karil and Caril lately. Both of them saw increased usage in 1958:

Year Usage of Karil Usage of Caril
1960 8 baby girls .
1959 15 baby girls 7 baby girls
1958 19 baby girls [debut] 10 baby girls
1957 . .
1956 . .

The similar names Carol and Karen were popular in the late ’50s, but I think something more specific would have caused both Karil and Caril to pop up all of a sudden like that.

Right now I have two working theories, and both involve murders (how uplifting!).

The first theory is Caril Ann Fugate, the 14-year-old from Nebraska who went on a killing spree with her boyfriend, 19-year-old Charles Starkweather, in January of 1958. The story stayed in the news for months: Starkweather was sentenced to death in May, Fugate received a life sentence in November, and Starkweather’s execution took place in mid-1959.

The second theory is Karil Graham, a Los Angeles woman who was murdered in ’55 and whose story was recounted (with a lot of embellishment) in the 1958 nonfiction book The Badge by Jack Webb, the creator of Dragnet. In late 1958, many newspapers ran Jim Bishop’s positive review of the book, which included the following excerpt highlighting Karil:

The way it is with so many women who live alone, life had held back on Karil Graham. She was likable and attractive, still a year on the sunny side of 40, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, trim-figured. But there was no husband — a marriage hadn’t worked out — no children, no other man in her lonely life.

Karil hid the hurt and filled the emptiness as best she could. Every day she went to work, on time, to her job as receptionist at a downtown Los Angeles art school. Nights, in her quiet apartment, she listened to music and dabbled in painting. She was just a dilettante, she know resignedly, but records and easel were gracious cover-ups for emptiness.

Do either of these theories seem like the primary answer to you? Do you think the answer could be a bit of both? Or something else entirely…?

Sources:


Round-up of Multiples from 1944

The Badgett Quadruplets in 1944
Jeraldine, Joan, Jean, and Janet Badgett © LIFE

Oodles of multiples — eight sets of twins, one set of triplets, six sets of quadruplets, and one set of quintuplets — were featured in an early 1944 issue of LIFE magazine. Most of these multiples had been born in the 1920s and 1930s.

Curious about the names? I knew you would be! Here they are, along with ages and other details.

Twins:

  • Marjorie and Mary Vaughan, 19.
  • Lois and Lucille Barnes, 21.
  • Betty and Lenore Wade, early 20s.
  • Robert “Bobby” and William “Billy” Mauch, 22.
    • They had starred in the 1937 movie The Prince and the Pauper.
  • Blaine and Wayne Rideout, 27.
    • They had been track stars at the University of North Texas in the late 1930s along with another set of twins, Elmer and Delmer Brown.
  • Charles and Horace Hildreth, 41.
    • Horace was elected Governor of Maine later the same year.
  • Ivan and Malvin Albright, 47.
  • Auguste and Jean Piccard, 60.
    • “Honors as the world’s most distinguished pair of twins must go to Jean and Auguste Piccard, stratosphere balloonists, who are so identical that not everyone realizes there are two of them.”

Triplets:

  • Diane Carol, Elizabeth Ann, and Karen Lynn Quist, 11 months.

Quadruplets:

  • Claire (boy), Cleo (boy), Clayton (boy), and Connie (girl) Brown, 3.
  • Janet, Jean, Jeraldine, and Joan Badgett, 5.
    • “The customary alliteration in multiple names accounts for the “J” in Jeraldine.”
  • Felix (boy), Ferdinand (boy), Frances (girl), and Frank (boy) Kasper, 7.
  • James (boy), Jay (boy), Jean (girl), and Joan (girl) Schense, 13.
  • Edna, Wilma, Sarah, and Helen Morlok — the Morlok Quads — 13.
  • Anthony, Bernard, Carl, and Donald Perricone, 14.
    • “Their Beaumont neighbors call them “A,” “B,” “C” and “D” for short.”

Quintuplets:

  • Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie, and Yvonne Dionne — the Dionne Quints — 9.

Which of these sets of names do you like best? Why?

Source: “Twins: Accident of Their Birth Sets Them Apart from Other People.” LIFE 6 Mar. 1944: 91-99.

Delayed Celebrity Baby Name Debuts

tahnee
Raquel and Tahnee, LHJ, Nov. 1967
Last week we looked at celebrity baby name debuts. These typically occur the same year or the year after a celebrity baby is born (or adopted).

Sometimes, though, there’s a gap of several years. This typically means that the birth/adoption didn’t draw much attention to the name, but some subsequent media event did.

Here are the three earliest examples of “delayed” celebrity baby name debuts that I know of, plus the stories behind what caused them.

Tahnee

In December of 1961, actress Raquel Welch had a baby girl. The baby was legally named Latanne Rene, but her nickname was Tahnee.

But the name Tahnee didn’t debut on the baby name charts until 1967, when Tahnee was 6 years old:

  • 1970: 27 baby girls named Tahnee
  • 1969: 15 baby girls named Tahnee
  • 1968: 28 baby girls named Tahnee
  • 1967: 17 baby girls named Tahnee [debut]
  • 1966: unlisted

Why? Because that’s the year Tahnee and her mother were featured in an issue Ladies’ Home Journal.

Tahnee went on to become an actress, like her mother. The usage of the baby name Tahnee peaked in 1985, the year Tahnee Welch played an alien named Kitty in the summer blockbuster Cocoon.

(Her legal name, Latanne, has never made the SSA’s list.)

Karac

Karac Pendra Plant with his father Robert Plant
Karac with Robert Plant, mid-1970s
In April of 1972, musician Robert Plant welcomed a baby boy named Karac Pendra. “Karac” was inspired by Caractacus, the name of a first-century British chieftain.

But the name Karac didn’t debut until 1979:

  • 1980: unlisted
  • 1979: 6 baby boys named Karac [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted

Sadly, Karac died of a stomach infection in 1977 while Led Zeppelin was on tour in North America.

In 1979, Led Zeppelin released the album In Through the Out Door, which included a tribute to Karac called “All My Love.” At least one high-profile magazine, People, mentioned Karac in its write-up of the album. My guess is that this and other press mentions are what caused the baby name to debut in ’79.

(For the record, several U.S. babies named Karac before 1979. And I found one born in London in 1977 named “Zeppelin Karac.”)

A’keiba

Akeiba Burrell on the cover of Jet with her father MC Hammer in 1992
A’keiba on the cover of Jet, May, 1992
In September of 1987, musician M.C. Hammer welcomed a baby girl named A’Keiba Monique.

But the name Akeiba didn’t debut until 1992, when A’keiba was four years old:

  • 1995: unlisted
  • 1994: 5 baby girls named Akeiba
  • 1993: 6 baby girls named Akeiba
  • 1992: 49 baby girls named Akeiba [debut]
  • 1991: unlisted

M.C. Hammer wasn’t famous in 1987. (“U Can’t Touch This” didn’t become a hit until 1990.) So A’Keiba’s birth wouldn’t have affected the baby name charts that early.

But why did it suddenly hit in 1992?

Because A’keiba was in the spotlight several times that year.

Various publications ran a photo of A’keiba and her father attending the American Music Awards together in January, for instance, and Jet put Hammer and A’keiba (and her name, sans apostrophe) on the cover in May.

*

Delayed celebrity baby name debuts still occur these days, though less often — at least relative to the sheer number of celebrity baby name debuts that we now see on the charts.

The best internet-era example I can think of is Kailand, son of Stevie Wonder and fashion designer Kai Milla (Karen Millard-Morris). He was born in 2001, but his name didn’t debut until 2005 — the year he started showing up to fashion shows (one in February, another in December) with his parents.

Can you think of any other celebrity baby names didn’t debut on time?

Source: Jones, Jerene. “After Tragedy Left Their Hearts Heavier Than Their Metal, Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin Have Risen Again.” People 27 Aug. 1979: 32.

*

Update, 5/1/16: Forgot to add Shangaleza to this list! Baseball player Dock Ellis welcomed a baby girl named Shangaleza in 1969, but her name didn’t debut until 1971. Why? A mention in the August issue of Sports Illustrated (“On the Lam with the Three Rivers Gang“):

Dock Ellis, the hottest-talking, hottest winning pitcher in the National League, explained that his one-year-old daugher’s name, Shangaleza Talwanga, meant “everything black is beautiful” in Swahili.

The name ended up being a one-hit wonder.

Popular Girl Names: Biblical vs. Non-Biblical

The ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names in the girl’s top 20 is about the same today as it was 100 years ago, though the ratio did change a bit mid-century.

(In contrast, there’s been a steady increase in the number of Biblical-origin names among the top boy names.)

Here’s the color-coded table — Biblical names are in the yellow cells, non-Biblical names are in the green cells, and several borderline names (which I counted as non-Biblical) are in the orange cells:

Popular girl names: Biblical vs. non-Biblical, from Nancy's Baby Names.
Popular girl names over time: Biblical (yellow) vs. non-Biblical. Click to enlarge.
  • Biblical names: Abigail, Anna, Betty (via Elizabeth), Chloe, Danielle, Deborah, Debra, Elizabeth, Hannah, Isabella (via Elizabeth), Janet, Jean, Joan, Judith, Judy, Julie, Lillian (via Elizabeth), Lisa (via Elizabeth), Lois, Marie, Marilyn, Mary, Mia (via Maria), Michelle, Nancy (via Anne), Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Sandra (via Alexander), Sarah, Sharon, Stephanie, Susan, Tammy (via Tamar/Tamara)
  • Non-Biblical names: Alexis, Alice, Alyssa, Amanda, Amber, Amelia, Amy, Angela, Ashley, Aubrey, Avery, Barbara, Brenda, Brianna, Brittany, Carol, Carolyn, Catherine, Charlotte, Christina, Christine, Crystal, Cynthia, Diane, Donna, Doris, Dorothy, Edna, Ella, Emily, Emma, Evelyn, Florence, Frances, Gladys, Grace, Harper, Heather, Helen, Irene, Jennifer, Joyce, Karen, Kathleen, Kayla, Kelly, Kimberly, Laura, Lauren, Linda, Lori, Louise, Madison, Margaret, Marjorie, Megan, Melissa, Mildred, Natalie, Nicole, Olivia, Pamela, Patricia, Rose, Shannon, Shirley, Sofia, Sophia, Taylor, Tiffany, Victoria, Virginia
  • Borderline names:
    • Ava (could be based on the Germanic root avi or the Biblical name Eve)
    • Jessica (literary invention, but Shakespeare may have based it on the Biblical name Iscah)
    • Samantha (possibly inspired by the Biblical name Samuel)

Again, feels pretty weird to put overtly Christian names like Christina and Christine in the non-Biblical category, but oh well.

Here are the year-by-year tallies:

Year Top 20 names
given to…
# Biblical # Non-Biblical
1914 31% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1924 31% of baby girls 7 (35%) 13 (65%)
1934 32% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1944 35% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1954 34% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1964 24% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1974 24% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1984 26% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1994 19% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2004 14% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2014 12% of baby girls 5 (25%) 15 (75%)

Just like with the boy names, though, there’s a big difference between the 1914 and 2014 sample sizes — 31% and 12%. So let’s also look at the 2014 top 100, which covers 31% of female births.

By my count, last year’s top 100 girl names were about a quarter Biblical, three-quarters non-Biblical:

Biblical names (27) Non-Biblical/Borderline names (73)
Isabella (via Elizabeth), Mia (via Maria), Abigail, Elizabeth, Chloe, Addison (via Adam), Lillian (via Elizabeth), Hannah, Anna, Leah, Gabriella, Sadie (via Sarah), Sarah, Annabelle, Madelyn (via Magdalene), Lucy (via Lucius), Alexa (via Alexander), Genesis, Naomi, Eva, Lydia, Julia, Khloe, Madeline (via Magdalene), Alexandra, Gianna (via Joanna), Isabelle (via Elizabeth) Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Emily, Madison, Charlotte, Harper, Sofia, Avery, Amelia, Evelyn, Ella, Victoria, Aubrey, Grace, Zoey, Natalie, Brooklyn, Lily, Layla, Scarlett, Aria, Zoe, Samantha, Audrey, Ariana, Allison, Savannah, Arianna, Camila, Penelope, Claire, Aaliyah, Riley, Skylar, Nora, Hailey, Kaylee, Paisley, Kennedy, Ellie, Peyton, Caroline, Serenity, Aubree, Alexis, Nevaeh, Stella, Violet, Mackenzie, Bella, Autumn, Mila, Kylie, Maya, Piper, Alyssa, Taylor, Eleanor, Melanie, Faith, Katherine, Brianna, Ashley, Ruby, Sophie, London, Lauren, Alice, Vivian, Hadley, Jasmine

Faith, Grace, Angela, Nevaeh, Natalie…all technically non-Biblical.

27%-73% is remarkably similar to both 25%-75% (smaller 2014 sample) and 30%-70% (1914 sample).

So here’s the question of the day: If you had to choose all of your children’s names from either one group or the other — Biblical names or non-Biblical names — which group would you stick to, and why?

Starlet Names from the Early 1900s

Ever heard of the WAMPAS Baby Stars?

They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.

WAMPAS baby stars 1928

About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).

Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).

I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).

  • 7: Dorothy
  • 6: Helen
  • 4: Elizabeth
  • 3: Frances, Ruth, Virginia
  • 2: Anita, Ann, Barbara, Betty, Clara, Doris, Dorothea, Eleanor, Evelyn, Gladys, Gwendolyn, Hazel, Jacqueline, Katherine, Laura, Louise, Lucille, Margaret, Maria, Marian, Marie, Marion, Mary, Patricia, Violet
  • 1: Adamae, Alberta, Alma, Anne, Audrey, Augusta, Blanche, Carmelita, Caryl, Constance, Derelys, Dolores, Duane, Edna, Eleanor, Ena, Enriqueta, Ethel, Ethlyne, Evalyn, Flora, Gisela, Gloria, Gretchen, Hattie, Helene, Ina, Ingeborg, Jacquiline, Jean, Joan, Jobyna, Josephine, Juanita, Julanne, Kathleen, Kathryn, Kitty, Launa, Laurette, Lena, Lenore, Lilian, Lola, Lu Ann, Lucile, Madeline, Marceline, Martha, Mildred, Myrna, Natalia, Natalie, Nellie, Neoma, Olive, Olivia, Patsy, Rita, Rochelle, Rose, Sally, Suzanne, Sidney, Toshia, Vera, Vina

And here are the leftover stage names:

  • 5: Sally
  • 4: Mary
  • 3: Joan, June
  • 2: Betty, Jean, Judith, Pauline
  • 1: Alice, Bessie, Boots, Claire, Colleen, Dolores, Dorothy, Elinor, Evelyn, Fay, Frances, Gigi, Ginger, Gladys, Gloria, Gwen, Iris, Janet, Joyce, Julie, Karen, Kathleen, Lila, Lina, Lois, Lona, Loretta, Lucille, Lupe, Marian, Molly, Mona, Natalie, Patricia, Sue

(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)

Finally, a few interesting details:

  • Jobyna is Jobyna Ralston, named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. Jobyna debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1927.
  • Derelys is Derelys Perdue. “Perdue’s boss, future presidential father Joseph P. Kennedy, insisted on changing her name to the more palatable Ann Perdue.” She sued, but lost, and her career never recovered. Derelys was a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s baby name list in 1924.
  • Sidney is Sidney Fox, a female who had the name Sidney/Sydney long before the name became trendy for girls.
  • Lina is Lina Basquette, who I mentioned in last week’s name quote post.
  • One of the Marys is Mary Astor, who went on to give her daughter a Hawaiian name.

Which of the above names do you like best? Why?

Source: Derelys Perdue – Biography – Movies & TV – NYTimes.com