How popular is the baby name Mary 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 Mary.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Mary


Posts that Mention the Name Mary

The One-Hit Wonder Name Deltina

deltina, 1956, baby name
Deltina in the news (late April, 1956)

The name Deltina was in the U.S. baby name data for one year only in the mid-1950s:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 6 baby girls named Deltina [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Why? Because of a sad news story.

On March 24, 1956, 7-year-old Deltina “Tina” Norvall of Tennessee got too close to a burning trash pile. A spark from the flame landed on her dress, the dress caught fire, and she received third-degree burns to over 65% of her body.

She had two major skin graft operations — one with the help of a donor, Pfc. Gene E. McDonald (pictured above). Ultimately, though, neither operation was successful. Deltina died on May 12.

Deltina…was happily munching a cherry popsicle seconds before her death. She had craved the treat for days. She looked at a friend, Mrs. Mary Summers, who had brought her the popsicle, and said: “I feel so funny. Something is happening.” She closed her eyes and died.

Newspapers nationwide covered the story, but Nashville newspaper The Tennessean followed Deltina’s seven-week ordeal particularly closely.

(It looks like her name was inspired by the middle name of her father, William Delton Norvall, who had drowned while swimming less than a year earlier, tragically.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Deltina?

Source: “Plucky Little Girl Loses Fight Of Life.” Lubbock Morning Avalanche 14 May 1956: 8.

The Emergence of Mala

mala powers, roxane, cyrano de bergerac, 1950
Mala Powers in Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)

The name Mala first appeared in the SSA’s baby name data in the early 1950s:

  • 1957: 17 baby girls named Mala
  • 1956: 51 baby girls named Mala [peak]
  • 1955: 17 baby girls named Mala
  • 1954: 18 baby girls named Mala
  • 1953: 13 baby girls named Mala
  • 1952: 10 baby girls named Mala
  • 1951: 12 baby girls named Mala [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Whenever I see the name Mala, I think of the Indian name that’s based on the Sanskrit word mala, meaning “garland” or “necklace.”

But Sanskrit isn’t the source for these mid-century American Malas — these Malas were named with actress Mala Powers in mind. In her case, “Mala” was a stage name that came from a childhood nickname:

I was born Mary Ellen Powers, December 20, 1931, in San Francisco, but I never used that name. Even as a small child, whenever someone would call me Mary Ellen, I would say, ‘No, my name is Mala!’

During the second half of 1950, Mala Powers could be seen at the theaters in three different films: Edge of Doom, Outrage, and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Her portrayal of Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac earned her a nomination for the “New Star of the Year” Golden Globe in 1951. (Her co-star José Ferrer* won an Oscar for his performance as Cyrano.)

After this early success, however, Mala Powers’ career was derailed by serious illness.

The story of her illness was brought to TV in early 1956, when Mala was featured on This is Your Life in January. This television appearance may have been what gave the name a boost in 1956 specifically.

Mala’s only child, Toren Michael, was born in mid-1957. The name Toren didn’t appear in the SSA’s data that year, but did show up a couple of years later. (It may have been a delayed celebrity baby name debut, though so far I can’t find any 1959 media coverage of Toren.)

Do you like the name Mala?

Sources:

*Ferrer was the first Hispanic actor to win an Academy Award.

Rare Girl Names from Early Cinema: A (part 1)

Looking for an under-the-radar girl name with a retro feel?

Check out this post and the rest of the “early cinema” series, featuring thousands of uncommon female names collected from old movies (1910s-1940s).

Many of these names have never appeared in the SSA data before. For those that have, I’ve included links to the popularity graphs.

Enjoy!

*

Abbasah
Abbasah was a character played by actress Helen Gardner in the film The Miracle (1912).

Acquanetta
Burnu Acquanetta, often credited simply as Acquanetta, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1990s. She was born in Wyoming in 1921. Her birth name was Mildred Davenport.

Adamae
Adamae Vaughn was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1930s. She was born in Kentucky in 1905.

  • Usage of the baby name Adamae.

Adda
Adda Gleason was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1950s. She was born in Illinois in 1888.

  • Usage of the baby name Adda.

Adorée
Adorée was a character name in multiple films, including A Maid of Belgium (1917) and The Auction Block (1917).

  • Usage of the baby name Adoree.

Adraste
Adraste was a character played by actress Alice White in the film The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1928).

Adrea
Adrea Spedding was a character played by actress Gale Sondergaard in the Sherlock Holmes film The Spider Woman (1944).

  • Usage of the baby name Adrea.

Adrean
Adrean Wainwright was a character played by actress Ruth Clifford in the film The Thrill Seekers (1927).

  • Usage of the baby name Adrean.

Aelita
Aelita was a character played by actress Yuliya Solntseva in the film Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924).

  • Usage of the baby name Aelita.

Afy
Aphrodite “Afy” Hallijohn was a character played by various actresses (such as Madge Kirby and Belle Bennett) in various movies called East Lynne, all based on the novel of the same name by Ellen Wood.

Aggie
Aggie was a character name in multiple films, including Her Better Self (1917) and Women Won’t Tell (1932).

  • Usage of the baby name Aggie.

Agia
Agia was a character played by actress Eugenie Forde in the film The Virgin of Stamboul (1920).

Agostina
Agostina was a character played by actress Patricia Medina in the film Children of Chance (1949).

Aho
Aho was a character played by actress Maude George in the film The Marriage Ring (1918).

Ailea
Ailea Lorne was a character played by actress Gertrude McCoy in the film series The Chronicles of Cleek (1913-1914).

  • Usage of the baby name Ailea.

Airleen
Airleen MacGregor was a character played by actress Adrienne Kroell in the short film The Laird’s Daughter (1912).

Aisla
Aisla Crane was a character played by actress Belle Chrystall in the film The Frightened Lady (1932).

  • Usage of the baby name Aisla.

Aissa
Aissa was a character played by actress Laura Winston in the film The Demon (1918).

  • Usage of the baby name Aissa.

Akanesi
Akanesi was a character played by actress Lily Phillips in the film The Adorable Savage (1920).

Alabam
Alabam Lee was a character played by actress Carole Lombard in the film Lady by Choice (1934).

Alaire
Alaire Austin was a character played by actress Anna Q. Nilsson in the film Heart of the Sunset (1918).

  • Usage of the baby name Alaire.

Alathea
Alathea Bulteel was a character played by actress Harriet Hammond in the film Man and Maid (1925).

Alatia
Alatia Marton was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Texas in 1894.

Alayne
Alayne Archer was a character played by actress Kay Johnson in the film Jalna (1935).

  • Usage of the baby name Alayne.

Albany
Albany Yates was a character played by actress Dorothy Lamour in the film Chad Hanna (1940).

  • Usage of the baby name Albany.

Alberta
Alberta Vaughn was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1930s. She was born in Kentucky in 1904. Alberta was also a character played by actress Helene Chadwich in the film The Challenge (1916).

Albertine
Albertine was a character played by actress Sarah Padden in the film Assignment in Brittany (1943).

Albina
Albina was a character played by actress Kate Toncray in the film The Narrow Street (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Albina.

Albine
Albine was a character played by actress Polly Moran in the film The Passionate Plumber (1932).

Alcolma
Alcolma was a character played by actress Eva Moore in the film Chu-Chin-Chow (1923).

Alda
Alda was a character played by actress Katharine Alexander in the film Death Takes a Holiday (1934).

  • Usage of the baby name Alda.

Aldyth
Aldyth was a character played by actress Clara Kimball Young in the short film The Last of the Saxons (1910).

  • Usage of the baby name Aldyth.

Alene
Princess Alene was a character played by actress Mary Charleson in the film serial The Road o’ Strife (1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Alene.

Aleska
Aleska was a character played by actress Malvina Longfellow in the film Betta the Gypsy (1918).

  • Usage of the baby name Aleska.

Aleta
Aleta Doré was an actress who appeared in 1 film in 1925. Aleta was also a character played by actress Lois Collier in the film Slave Girl (1947).

  • Usage of the baby name Aleta.

Alexandrine
Alexandrine Zola was a character played by actress Gloria Holden in the film The Life of Emile Zola (1937).

Algeria
Algeria was a character played by actress Linda Darnell in the film The Walls of Jericho (1948).

Alida
Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy in 1921. Her birth name was Alida Maria Laura Altenburger von Marckenstein-Frauenberg. Alida was also a character name in multiple films, including The Lure of Jade (1921) and Crimson Romance (1934).

  • Usage of the baby name Alida.

Aliette
Aliette Brunton was a character played by actress Isobel Elsom in the film The Love Story of Aliette Brunton (1924).

Aline
Aline MacMahon was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1960s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1899. Aline was also a character name in multiple films, including Seeds of Wealth (short, 1913) and A Fool and His Money (1920).

  • Usage of the baby name Aline.

Alis
Alis Porter was a character played by actress Vera Reynolds in the film The Million Dollar Handicap (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Alis.

Alisande
Alisande La Carteloise was a character played by actress Rhonda Fleming in the film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949).

Alisia
Alisia Stafford was a character played by actress Anna Q. Nilsson in the film Tide of Battle (1912).

  • Usage of the baby name Alisia.

Alita
Alita Allen was a character played by actress Bebe Daniels in the film Daring Youth (1924).

  • Usage of the baby name Alita.

Alix
Alix was a character name in multiple films, including The Call of Home (1922) and The Little French Girl (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Alix.

Alixe
Alixe was a character played by actress Helen Gardner in the short film Alixe; or, The Test of Friendship (1913).

  • Usage of the baby name Alixe.

Alla
Alla Nazimova, often credited simply as Nazimova, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in Russia (now Ukraine) in 1879. Her birth name was Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon. Alla was also a character played by actress Sally Crute in the film The Cossack Whip (1916).

  • Usage of the baby name Alla.

Allaine
Allaine Grandet was a character played by actress Dorothy Dalton in the film Tyrant Fear (1918).

Allana
Allana was a character played by actress Constance Bennett in the film Son of the Gods (1930).

  • Usage of the baby name Allana (which debuted in the data in 1930).

Allane
Allane Houston was a character played by actress Beverly Bayne in the film The Voice of Conscience (1917).

Allayne
Allayne was a character name in multiple films, including The Poison Pen (1919) and The Net (1923).

Allegheny
Allegheny Briskow was a character played by actress Anna Q. Nilsson in the film Flowing Gold (1924).

Allene
Allene was a character name in multiple films, including Flattery (1925) and The Love Route (1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Allene.

Allida
Allida Bederaux was a character played by actress Hedy Lamarr in the film Experiment Perilous (1944).

  • Usage of the baby name Allida (which debuted in the data in 1945).

Allifair
Allifair McCoy was a character played by actress Gigi Perreau in the film Roseanna McCoy (1949).

Allisa
Allisa Randall was a character played by actress Mildred Harris in the film The Inferior Sex (1920).

  • Usage of the baby name Allisa.

Allouma
Allouma was a character played by actress Violet MacMillan in the film The Dragoman (1916).

Alluna
Alluna was a character played by various actresses (such as Neola May and Sara Haden) in various movies called The Barrier, all based on the novel of the same name by Rex Beach.

Aloha
Aloha was a character played by actress Nina Campana in the film Honolulu Lu (1941).

  • Usage of the baby name Aloha.

Alois
Alois was a character played by actress Mignon Anderson in the short film A Dog of Flanders (1914).

  • Usage of the baby name Alois (which debuted in the data in 1915).

Aloisa
Aloisa Weber Lange was a character played by actress Conchita Montenegro in the film Eternal Melodies (1940).

Aloma
Aloma was a character played by actresses Gilda Gray in the film Aloma of the South Seas (1926) and by actress Dorothy Lamour in the film Aloma of the South Seas (1941).

  • Usage of the baby name Aloma.

Alouette
Alouette DeLarme was a character played by actress Louise Glaum in the film A Law Unto Herself (1918).

Alta
Alta Wilton was a character played by actress Mona Barrie in the film A Tragedy at Midnight (1942).

  • Usage of the baby name Alta.

Alva
Alva was a character name in multiple films, including Revenge (1918) and Friends of Lovers (1931)

  • Usage of the baby name Alva.

Alvah
Alvah Morley was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film If You Believe Me, It’s So (1922).

  • Usage of the baby name Alvah.

Alvarez
Alvarez Guerra was a character played by actress Carmelita Geraghty in the film This Thing Called Love (1929).

Alvern
Alvern Adams was a character played by actress Margaret Lindsay in the film Louisiana (1947).

  • Usage of the baby name Alvern.

Alverna
Alverna was a character name in multiple films, including Mantrap (1926) and Untamed (1940).

Alvira
Alvira was a character name in multiple films, including The Scarlet Shadow (1919) and Along Came Auntie (1926).

  • Usage of the baby name Alvira.

Alys
Alys was a character name in multiple films, including Cutie Plays Detective (short, 1913) and Ermine and Rhinestones (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Alys.

Alysia
Alysia Potter was a character played by actress Billie Dove in the film Polly of the Follies (1922).

  • Usage of the baby name Alysia.

*

…Which of the above names do you like best?

Source: IMDb

The Inception of Sway

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:

  • 2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
  • 2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
  • 2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.

One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.

The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia

Name Story: Anna May Wong

Anna May Wong photo

Chinese-American movie star Anna May Wong was born “Wong Liu Tsong” in Los Angeles in 1905.

Here’s what she had to say about her birth name in 1926:

I was named Wong Lew Song, which means Frosted Yellow Willows. A rather unusual name, isn’t it. Most Chinese children have names, which, interpreted into English, sound rather attractive, though they wouldn’t do for everyday use. They are all right in poetry, but I wouldn’t want to be called Frosted Yellow Willows by my acquaintances. It sounds altogether too quaint for a modern Chinese girl.

Here’s what she had to say about her American name and her stage name in 1928:

I was educated in Los Angeles. […] Our family did not live in the Chinese quarter but on Figueroa Street, where our neighbors were Americans and we were called by our English names. The doctor who brought me into the world named me ‘Anna’; my Chinese name is Tsong. When I was old enough to begin to think about a career, I added ‘May’ to ‘Anna,’ partly because we [daughters] all had four-letter names and I wanted to be different, and partly because it made a prettier signature.

(Her siblings’ American names were Lulu, James, Mary, Frank, Roger, and Richard.)

And, finally, here’s something funny I spotted in a newspaper about the 1924 movie Thief of Bagdad, which featured Wong:

The Mongol slave, a part that required emotional subtlety and balance, was played by Anna May Wong, a Chinese girl, educated in America. Her Chinese name is Lew Wong Song [sic], and means two yellow willows. When the picture was being filmed Miss Wong almost walked out on her job because an enthusiastic press agent misunderstood the translation of her name and published it as “two yelling widows.”

I saw several versions of this “two yelling widows” story, but never managed to track down the press agent’s original mis-translation.

Sources: