How popular is the baby name Leslie in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Leslie and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Leslie.
The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.
Leslie Hills worked as a teacher in Scotland for several decades starting in the 1960s. Writing about her experiences in the 1990s, she mentioned Senga Syndrome:
Years later I heard my experience summed up by a very senior official in Lothian Region. The Senga Syndrome he called it and when pressed for an explanation by his male east-coast audience, explained that Senga, a name found only among the working classes in the West, was Agnes backwards and Senga was the typical Glasgow working class girl from a state school, who goes to Glasgow University, does an Ordinary degree, goes to Jordanhill College and returns, if she has ever left, to live near and teach in her old school or very close to it. Unfortunately this cruel description was largely accurate.
Senga Syndrome reminds me of Germany’s Kevinismus and of Sweden’s y-name syndrome. In all three cases, a certain name or type of name emerged to symbolize (in a derogatory way) a particular group or class.
Senga, FWIW, might be Agnes backwards, or it might be based on the Scottish Gaelic word seang, meaning “slender, lanky.”
Hills, Leslie. “The Senga Syndrome: Reflections on Twenty-One Years in Scottish Education.” Identity and Diversity: Gender and the Experience of Education, edited by Maud Blair, Janet Holland, and Sue Sheldon, The Open University, 1995, 51-60.
One of the pop culture baby names we’re keeping an eye on right now is Misty, which may have gotten a boost in 2015 thanks to ballerina Misty Copeland.
But before we find out about Misty (in a matter of days!) let’s talk about Gelsey, which debuted in 1979:
1979: 5 baby girls named Gelsey [debut]
The inspiration? American ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, whose first name is pronounced with a hard g, like Gilbert and Gertrude.
Gelsey Kirkland started dancing at the age of 8. She was asked to join the New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1968, at the age of 15. She was promoted to soloist in 1970, then promoted to principal dancer (the highest rank possible) in 1972.
In the mid-1970s, she left the NYCB to join the American Ballet Theater and begin her famous partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. They danced together in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and most famously in a televised performance of The Nutcracker, which aired in late 1977.
In May of 1978, Gelsey — dressed as Kitri from Don Quixote — was featured on the cover of Time magazine. This cover is likely what gave her name the exposure it needed to land on the SSA’s baby name list in 1979.
[She might have had an even earlier impact on the charts had she performed alongside Baryshnikov, as planned, in the dance movie The Turning Point (1977). Instead the part was played by ballerina Leslie Browne, who received an Oscar nomination.]
The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).
Victorian Era Female Names
Victorian Era Male Names
Abigale / Abby
Almira / Almyra
Ann / Annie
Dorothy / Dot
Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy
The article also mentioned that, over the years, some names have been outpaced by their diminutive forms — Alfred by Alfie, Frederick by Freddie, Archibald by Archie, Charles by Charlie, Alexandra by Lexi, Sophia by Sophie, Eleanor by Ellie, and so forth.
*Blodwen is Welsh for “white flowers.” The Breton form is Bleuzen, in case you were wondering.
The comic strip Dondi was first published in September of 1955.
The strip featured a six-year-old Italian “mid-European” boy who was orphaned during WWII. When he was discovered by American soldiers, he was looking for his parents, crying out donde* (“where” in Spanish), so the soldiers dubbed him Dondi. He was discovered and befriended by a pair of American G.I.s who’d found him “cowering behind a rubble heap.”
When the soldiers were ordered back to the U.S., Dondi inadvertently smuggled himself into the U.S. by boarding the same boat as his “buddies.” Eventually he was adopted by one of the soldiers and “the early focus of the strip was Dondi’s discovery of America.”
In 1956, the name Dondi appeared for the first time — both as a boy name and as a girl name — in the Social Security Administration’s baby name data:
1962: 48 baby boys and 24 baby girls named Dondi
1961: 50 baby boys and 19 baby girls named Dondi
1960: 17 baby boys and 10 baby girls named Dondi
1959: 14 baby boys named Dondi
1958: 23 baby boys and 5 baby girls named Dondi
1957: 31 baby boys named Dondi
1956: 19 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Dondi [debut]
One of Dondi’s first namesakes was Stephen Dondi Thomas, born in late 1955 to Mr. and Mrs. Leslie F. Thomas of Dayton, Ohio. “The Thomases named him as they did because the illegal entry problems of the comic strip Dondi closely paralleled the experience of their daughter, Janie, 4.” Born in Italy to an Italian mother and an American father, Janie was facing deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Both the strip and the name peaked in popularity in the early ’60s. The strip ran until 1986; the name last appeared on the SSA’s list in 2002.
*Is donde used in Italian? Should the strip’s writers have used dove instead?
Update, Sept. 2017: My sources were wrong! I finally checked out the original strip. Turns out that Dondi’s name was not from donde — an explanation that never made much sense anyway — but from someone calling him a “dondi boy” (dandy boy). Here’s some of the Dondi dialogue that ran in mid-October:
“All right now, sonny, tell us your name.”
“My name Dondi!”
“Dondi what? What is your last name?”
“Dondi last name I ever have.”
“Come now, Dondi, didn’t you ever have some other name?”
“Long time ago pretty lady is holding me and saying ‘you dondiboy.’ So everybody is calling me Dondi.”