Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Leonard in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Leonard and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Leonard.
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In late 1914, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctica aboard the Endurance with a crew of 27 men.*
His goal was to be the first to cross the Antarctic by land, traveling from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Poll. (Roald Amundsen had become the first to reach the South Pole several years earlier.)
The expedition didn’t go as planned, though.
The Endurance became trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea. It was crushed and sank in late 1915.
In April of 1916, Shackleton and five crew members set out on a daring 800-mile journey in a 22-foot lifeboat to the island South Georgia. They reached the island after an arduous 16 days, then trekked across the island to find help.
The remaining men were finally rescued in late August. Impressively, everyone survived.
The 28 men of the Endurance shared a total of 20 first names: Alexander (2), Alfred, Charles, Ernest (2), Frank (3), George, Henry, Hubert, James (2), John, Leonard, Lewis, Lionel, Perce, Reginald, Robert, Timothy, Thomas (3), Walter, and William (2). Which one do you like best?
The image below, of the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, was captured in early 1838 by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype.
It may be the earliest surviving photograph of a person. Two people, actually. Both are in the lower left:
Here’s a close-up:
The standing man is getting his shoe shined, and the other man (partially obscured) is doing the shoe-shining.
Of all the people on the sidewalk that day, these were the only two to stay still long enough (about 10 minutes) to be captured in the image.
Now for the fun part!
What would you name these two Frenchmen?
Let’s pretend you’re writing a book set in Paris in the 1830s, and these are two of your characters. What names would you give them?
Here’s a long list of traditional French male names, to get you started:
For some real-life inspiration, here are lists of famous 19th century and 20th century French people, courtesy of Wikipedia. Notice that many of the Frenchman have double-barreled, triple-barreled, even quadruple-barreled given names. (Daguerre himself was named Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.)
Annette Funicello, the most popular member of the original Mickey Mouse Club (1955-1959), passed away a couple of days ago.
Seeing her name in the news made me think about the other original Mouseketeers, most of whom were born in the early to mid-1940s (making them teens in the late 1950s). If you’re looking for a baby name reminiscent of sock hops and soda fountains, the first batch of Mouseketeers is not a bad place to start:
Hilary Parker’s recent post on the 14 most “poisoned” baby names reminded me that I haven’t yet written about the demise of the baby name Hillary. (Or Hilary. Or Chelsea.)
So let’s travel back to 1992 for a minute.
In mid-July, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was selected as the Democratic candidate for the presidency. His wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea were now in the national spotlight.
In early November, Bill managed to beat Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush to become the 42nd president of the United States. Hillary and Chelsea would now stay in the national spotlight.
And in late November, a few weeks after the election, the Miami Herald printed this:
Now that the Clinton women are set to move into the White House, both names are becoming more popular among new parents.
For the first time, Chelsea has cracked the top 10 list of the most popular girl names in Florida. Name expert Leonard R. N. Ashley, a Brooklyn College professor, said he expects Hillary to also catch on.
The popularity of Chelsea, on the rise long before the presidential pre-teen made her Democratic convention appearance, is likely to get a boost from the first family pedigree, Ashley said.
The “name expert” got it wrong, of course.
Hillary did not catch on. Nor did Chelsea. Both names had been on the rise, but usage dropped significantly after 1992.
Here are the spikes, both graphically and numerically:
The Baby Name Hillary
1994: 408 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 566th]
1993: 1,064 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 261st]
1992: 2,522 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 132nd]
1991: 1,789 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 166th]
1990: 1,523 baby girls named Hillary [rank: 192nd]
That’s a 58% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hillary fell so low that it got pushed out of the top 1,000 entirely for two years (2002 and 2003).
The Baby Name Hilary
1994: 145 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 1,208th]
1993: 343 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 651st]
1992: 1,171 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 233rd]
1991: 1,148 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 243rd]
1990: 1,216 baby girls named Hilary [rank: 232nd]
A 71% drop from 1992 to 1993. Hilary was out of the top 1,000 by 1994 and hasn’t been back since. (Hilary Parker says the name Hilary is “clearly the most poisoned.”)
The Baby Name Chelsea
1994: 7,713 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 38th]
1993: 11,288 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 25th]
1992: 16,176 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 15th]
1991: 13,508 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 18th]
1990: 12,782 baby girls named Chelsea [rank: 24th]
The drop here isn’t as dramatic — just 30% — but Chelsea was out of the top 100 by 1999. It currently ranks 222nd.
Why did the name Hillary slip after Hillary Clinton became a fixture in the White House?
Because she violated gender norms — that’s my guess.
Hillary Clinton was a new kind of First Lady. She was a lawyer, a businesswoman, a scholar and an activist. She was the first First Lady with an earned (vs. honorary) post-graduate degree, and the first to have her own professional career.
But, instead of being praised for her intelligence and ambition, she was criticized for it.
Just two months after the inauguration, Anna Quindlen of the New York Times made note of the double standard:
Maybe some of our daughters took notice of how Hillary Clinton was seen as abrasive, power-hungry and unfeminine when to some of us she seemed merely smart, outspoken and hard-working. Maybe they saw the masquerade and recognized intuitively the age-old message about how much more attractive women are when they are domestic, soft, contented, the message aimed over the years at Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, Eleanor Roosevelt and many, many others.
To expectant parents, it didn’t matter that Hillary Clinton was smart and successful. They began avoiding the name Hillary in 1993 because the First Lady — the most high-profile Hillary in the nation — was making her name seem “unfeminine.”
Many babies have been given the trendy name Cohen in the last decade.
One of these babies was born earlier this month to Halifax filmmaker Rohan Fernando and his wife. How was this particular baby Cohen named? The decision was relationship-inspired:
The baby’s name is partially a tribute to the Sri Lankan-born director’s second date with Carolle, the artistic director of Mocean Dance, seeing poet balladeer Leonard Cohen at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium.
They also liked that the name Cohen is similar to the names Rohan and Mohan (Rohan’s father’s name).