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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Lisa

Number of Babies Named Lisa

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Lisa

Name Quotes #45 – Traxton, Sadi, Yeimary

Ready for more name quotes?

From an essay by Hans Fiene about BuzzFeed’s criticism of Chip And Joanna Gaines’ church:

“People who give their kids weird names are unsophisticated morons,” I thought to myself when I was 23 years old and busy substitute-teaching a class full of kids named Brysalynn and Traxton.

[…]

Then, a few years later, one of my closest friends had a kid and named him something dumb. At the moment of said dumb-named kid’s entrance into this world, two options stood before me. Option A: I was wrong about baby names, and it was, in fact, possible to be an interesting, intelligent person while also being sweet on absurd baby monikers. Option B: Despite having a mountain of evidence that my friend was interesting and intelligent, this was all a ruse and he had been a moron the entire time.

From The Toast, an in-depth look at “ship names” — short for relationship names, i.e., name blends that represent fan-created relationships between fictional characters:

Onset conservation is also why we get Drarry (Draco/Harry), Dramione (Draco/Hermione), Klaroline (Klause/Caroline), Sterek (Stiles/Derek), Stydia (Stiles/Lydia), Clex (Clark Kent/Lex Luthor), Chlex (Chloe/Lex), Phrack (Phryne/Jack), Cherik (Charles/Erik), CroWen (Cristina/Owen), Bedward (Bella/Edward), Brucas (Brooke/Lucas), Brangelina (Brad/Angelina), and so on.

(“Olicity Is Real” was trending on Twitter recently…I wonder how long it’ll be before we start seeing ship names on birth certificates.)

From the 2007 New York Times obituary of The Mod Squad actor Tige Andrews (whose name was one of the top debut names of 1969):

Tiger Andrews was born on March 19, 1920, in Brooklyn; he was named after a strong animal to ensure good health, following a Syrian custom.

From a footnote in a 1986 translation of the book Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire (1824) by French scientist Nicolas-Léonard “Sadi” Carnot:

Sadi was named after the thirteenth-century Persian poet and naturalist, Saadi Musharif ed Din, whose poems, most notably the Gulistan (or Rose Garden), were popular in Europe in the late eighteenth century. It seems likely that Lazare [Sadi’s father] chose the name to commemorate his association, in the 1780s, with the Société des Rosati, an informal literary society in Arras in which a recurring theme was the celebration of the beauty of roses in poetry.

From Ed Sikov’s 2007 book Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis (spotted while doing research for the Stanley Ann post):

Manly names for women were all the rage [in Hollywood movies] in 1941: Hedy Lamarr was a Johnny and a Marvin that year, and the eponymous heroines of Frank Borzage’s Seven Sweethearts were called Victor, Albert, Reggie, Peter, Billie, George, and most outrageous of all, Cornelius.

Speaking of Cornelius…some comedy from John Oliver‘s 2008 special Terrifying Times:

[A] friend of mine emailed me and he said that someone had created a Wikipedia entry about me. I didn’t realize this was true, so I looked it up. And like most Wikipedia entries, it came with some flamboyant surprises, not least amongst them my name. Because in it it said my name was John Cornelius Oliver. Now my middle name is not Cornelius because I did not die in 1752. But obviously, I want it to be. Cornelius is an incredible name. And that’s when it hit me — the way the world is now, fiction has become more attractive than fact. That is why Wikipedia is such a vital resource. It’s a way of us completely rewriting our history to give our children and our children’s children a much better history to grow up with.

From Piper Laurie‘s 2011 memoir Learning to Live Out Loud:

It never occurred to me that I didn’t have to change my name. For the last twenty or thirty years, I’ve admired and envied all the performers who have proudly used their real names. The longer and harder to pronounce, the better.

(Was Mädchen Amick one of the performers she had in mind? They worked together on Twin Peaks in the early 1990s…)

From a New York Times interview with Lisa Spira of Ethnic Technologies, a company that uses personal names to predict ethnicity:

Can you give an example of how your company’s software works?

Let’s hypothetically take the name of an American: Yeimary Moran. We see the common name Mary inside her first name, but unlike the name Rosemary, for example, we know that the letter string “eimary” is Hispanic. Her surname could be Irish or Hispanic. So then we look at where our Yeimary Moran lives, which is Miami. From our software, we discover that her neighborhood is more Hispanic than Irish. Customer testing and feedback show that our software is over 90 percent accurate in most ethnicities, so we can safely deduce that this Yeimary Moran is Hispanic.

From Duncan McLaren’s Evelyn Waugh website, an interesting fact about the English writer and his first wife, also named Evelyn:

Although I call the couple he- and she-Evelyn in my book, Alexander [Evelyn Waugh’s grandson] has mentioned that at the time [late 1920s] they were called Hevelyn and Shevelyn.

(Evelyn Waugh’s first name was pronounced EEV-lyn, so I imagine “Hevelyn” was HEEV-lyn and “Shevelyn” SHEEV-lyn.)

Want more name-related quotes? Here is the name quotes category.


100 Years Ago, Were Black Names Beneficial?

© Cook, Logan, and Parman
© Cook, Logan, and Parman

In generations past, was it advantageous for a black man to have a distinctively black name?

Yes, according to a study published recently in the journal Explorations in Economic History.

Researchers Lisa D. Cook, Trevon D. Logan, and John M. Parmanc analyzed over 3 million death certificates from Alabama, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina from 1802 to 1970. They looked specifically at the life expectancy of men with the following distinctively black names:

  • Abe, Abraham
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Booker
  • Elijah
  • Freeman
  • Isaac
  • Isaiah
  • Israel
  • King
  • Master
  • Moses
  • Percy
  • Perlie, Purlie, Pearlie
  • Presley, Presly
  • Prince
  • Titus

What did they find?

That black men with these names lived more than a full year longer (on average) than other black men. In fact, according to the abstract, “[a]s much as 10% of the historical between-race mortality gap would have been closed if every black man was given a black name.”

So what’s behind this beneficial effect?

It’s hard to say, but Lisa D. Cook believes that the black men with Biblical names specifically could have been “held to a higher standard in academic and other activities […] and had stronger family, church or community ties,” and that this could have played a part in their relative longevity.

Studies of modern black names, in contrast, regularly find that such names are a hindrance in the workplace, in academia, etc. My most recent post about this is: Men with “Black” Names Seen as Aggressive, Low Status.

Sources: What’s in a name? In some cases, longer life, The mortality consequences of distinctively black names (abstract)

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?

Baby Name Battle – Jackie, Lisa, Nicky, Tomeka

Toward the end of “No Diggity” (1996) by Blackstreet you’ll hear the lyrics:

Jackie in full effect
Lisa in full effect
Nicky in full effect
Tomeka in full effect

(Most of the lyrics sites I checked had these specific spellings.)

Which of these names do you like best?

Which "No Diggity" name do you like best?

View Results

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Here are the popularity graphs for Jackie, Lisa, Nicky and Tomeka.

Baby Name Battle – Lisa, Angela, Pamela, Renee

lisa, angela, pamela or renee?

LL Cool J’s hit “Around the Way Girl” came out in 1990.

Toward the end of the song you’ll hear the lyrics: “Lisa, Angela, Pamela, Renee, I love you, you’re from around the way.”

Which of these girl names do you like best?

Which "Around the Way Girl" name do you prefer?

View Results

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Here are the popularity graphs for Lisa, Angela, Pamela and Renee, btw.

Cosby Show Baby Names – Vanessa, Keshia, Phylicia…

cosby showRemember The Cosby Show?

The ground-breaking ’80s sitcom focused on the Huxtables, a well-off African-American family living in New York City. It starred Bill Cosby as Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable.

The show ran from mid-1984 to mid-1992 and was the top-rated program in the nation for 5 consecutive seasons.

And it influenced a whole bunch of baby names, such as…

Vanessa & Tempestt

Vanessa, the second-youngest Huxtable child, was played by Tempestt Bledsoe. The baby name Vanessa saw its highest-ever levels of usage during the years the show was on:

  • 1989: 6,955 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 50th)
  • 1988: 7,515 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 41st)
  • 1987: 7,345 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
  • 1986: 7,367 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 43rd)
  • 1985: 7,562 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 42nd)
  • 1984: 7,153 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 45th)
  • 1983: 6,383 baby girls named Vanessa (ranked 49th)

And the baby name Tempestt debuted on the charts the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 70 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1989: 98 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1988: 72 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1987: 87 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1986: 78 baby girls named Tempestt
  • 1985: 36 baby girls named Tempestt [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

The name Tempest also got a boost during the last half of the ’80s.

Rudy & Keshia

Rudith “Rudy” Huxtable, the baby of the family, was played by Keshia Knight Pulliam. The baby name Keshia entered the top 1,000 for the very first time the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 385 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 594th)
  • 1989: 496 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 479th)
  • 1988: 398 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 547th)
  • 1987: 483 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 457th)
  • 1986: 511 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 426th)
  • 1985: 321 baby girls named Keshia (ranked 596th)
  • 1984: 96 baby girls named Keshia
  • 1983: 64 baby girls named Keshia

The name Rudy also rose in usage, and the variant spelling Rudi debuted on the charts in 1985.

Phylicia

Huxtable mother Clair was played by actress Phylicia Rashād. The baby name Phylicia entered the top 1,000 for the first time two years after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 257 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 787th)
  • 1989: 265 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 744th)
  • 1988: 286 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 679th)
  • 1987: 290 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 649th)
  • 1986: 213 baby girls named Phylicia (ranked 789th)
  • 1985: 122 baby girls named Phylicia
  • 1984: 13 baby girls named Phylicia
  • 1983: 7 baby girls named Phylicia

Theo & Malcolm-Jamal

Theo, the middle Huxtable child (and the only male in the family besides Cliff) was played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner. The baby name Theo almost tripled in usage the year after the show premiered:

  • 1990: 66 baby boys named Theo
  • 1989: 75 baby boys named Theo
  • 1988: 77 baby boys named Theo
  • 1987: 75 baby boys named Theo
  • 1986: 85 baby boys named Theo
  • 1985: 76 baby boys named Theo
  • 1984: 23 baby boys named Theo
  • 1983: 26 baby boys named Theo

Usage of the baby name Malcolm also began to rise in the mid-’80s, and the baby name Malcolm-Jamal (rendered Malcolmjamal by the SSA, which leaves off hyphens) debuted on the baby name charts two years after the show premiered:

  • 1990: unlisted
  • 1989: unlisted
  • 1988: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal
  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 5 baby boys named Malcolm-Jamal [debut]
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: unlisted

(Where did actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner get his name, btw? He was named after civil rights activist Malcolm X and jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.)

So now here’s the question: Does The Cosby Show beat Family Ties in terms of impact on the baby name charts? Cosby clearly affected a greater number of names, but is that enough to offset the massive rises of both Mallory and Alex?

P.S. Did you know that Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy Huxtable were loosely based on Cosby’s real-life kids Erika, Erinn, Ennis, Ensa, Evin?

Ebony Magazine’s Influence on Baby Names

cushena
10-month-old Cushena in 1985
© Ebony
So far, I’ve found only one baby name (Theonita) that saw increased usage thanks to African-American news magazine Jet.

But I know of five (!) that saw increased usage after being mentioned in various issues of African-American lifestyle magazine Ebony, which is owned by the same company.

Here are all five:

Loukisha

Loukisha has appeared on the SSA’s baby name list three times:

  • 1976: unlisted
  • 1975: 7 baby girls named Loukisha
  • 1974: 14 baby girls named Loukisha
  • 1973: 48 baby girls named Loukisha [debut]
  • 1972: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in the July 1973 issue of Ebony, in an article about SIDS. “Loukisha Gray, four-month-old victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, was laid to rest May 11, 1973 in Harlem.”

Kimario and Nykeba

Kimario has appeared on the list once:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: 13 baby boys named Kimario [debut]
  • 1979: unlisted

And Nykeba was a one-hit wonder the same year:

  • 1981: unlisted
  • 1980: 26 baby girls named Nykeba [debut]
  • 1979: unlisted

Both names had been mentioned in the April 1980 issue of Ebony in an article called “Sex and the Single Parent.” Kimario was the 4-year-old son of Aisha Nanji of Atlanta, and Nykeba was the 3-year-old daughter of Vicki Newsum of Memphis.

Cushena

Cushena has appeared on the list twice:

  • 1987: unlisted
  • 1986: 9 baby girls named Cushena
  • 1985: 11 baby girls named Cushena [debut]
  • 1984: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in two issues of Ebony — the March 1985 issue and the August 1986 issue. The first time, it was in an article about teenage parenthood. “Fifteen-year-old Lisa Robinson of Chicago cuddles her 10-month-old daughter, Cushena, while trying to concentrate on her homework.” (This quote goes with the image above.) The second time, it was in an article about black children.

Ziyadah

Ziyadah has appeared on the list once:

  • 1995: unlisted
  • 1994: 5 baby girls named Ziyadah [debut]
  • 1993: unlisted

The name had been mentioned in the January 1994 issue of Ebony, in an article about first-time mothers. “Joy of motherhood radiates from first-time mom DiAnna Toliver Muhammad of San Diego as she cuddles her 10-month-old daughter Ziyadah Iman.”

*

I’m sure there are more Ebony– and Jet-inspired baby names out there. If you own any old issues of either magazine, and one of your issues contains an uncommon name, please leave a comment with the name (and the month/year) so I can check it out!

Sources:

  • Edelman, Marian Wright. “Save the Children.” Ebony Aug. 1986.
  • “First-Time Moms.” Ebony Jan. 1994.
  • Harris, Ron. “Sex and the Single Parent.” Ebony Apr. 1980.
  • Height, Dorothy I. “What Must Be Done About Children Having Children.” Ebony Mar. 1985.
  • Horton, Luci. “The Mystery of Crib Death.” Ebony July 1973.