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, see baby names similar to Mary and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Mary.
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.
A baby name becomes trendy for one generation. For the next two generations — while those initial babies are parent-aged and grandparent-aged — you can expect the name to go out of style. But during the third generation — once the cohort reaches great-grandparent age — the name is free to come back into fashion.
Evelyn is a name with a usage pattern that fits this description well.
I’ve seen it described elsewhere as the “100-Year Rule,” but I prefer to call it the “Great-Grandparent Rule,” as it makes more sense to me to frame it in terms of generations.
Essentially, the pattern has to do with a name’s main generational association shifting from “a name that belongs to real-life old people” to “a name that sounds pleasantly old-fashioned.”
I used to think the pattern was one we’d only recently discovered — something we needed the data to see — but it turns out that at least one observant person noticed this trend and wrote about it in The San Francisco Call more than 100 years ago (boldface mine):
Time was — and that not very long ago — when old fashioned names, as old fashioned furniture, crockery and hand embroideries, were declared out of date. The progress of the ages that replaced the slower work of hand by the speed of machines cast a blight on everything that betokened age.
Spinning wheels were stowed away in attics, grandmothers’ gowns were tucked into cedar chests, old porcelain of plain design was replaced by more gaudy utensils and machine made and embroidered dresses and lingerie lined the closets where formerly only handwork was hung.
So with given names. Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, Sarah, Hannah and Anne, one and all, were declared old fashioned and were relegated to past ages to be succeeded by Gladys, Helen, Delphine, Gwendolyn, Geraldine and Lillian and a host of other more showy appellations.
Two generations of these, and woman exercised her time honored privilege and changed her mind.
She woke suddenly to the value of history, hustled from their hiding places the ancient robes and furnishings that were her insignia of culture, discarded the work of the modern machine for the finer output of her own fair hands, and, as a finishing touch, christened her children after their great-grandparents.
Old fashioned names revived with fervor and those once despised are now termed quaint and pretty and “quite the style, my dear.”
Pretty cool that this every-third-generation pattern was already an observable phenomenon three generations ago.
The article went on to list society babies with names like Barbara, Betsy, Bridget, Dorcas (“decidedly Puritan”), Dorothea, Frances, Henrietta, Jane, Josephine, Lucy, Margaret, Mary, Olivia, and Sarah (“much in vogue a century ago”).
Have you see the “100-Year Rule”/”Great-Grandparent Rule” at play in your own family tree? If so, what was the name and what were the birth years?
Source: “Society” [Editorial]. San Francisco Call 17 Aug. 1913: 19.
Image: Frances Marie via Morguefile
Dido’s duet with Eminem…”Stan,” [was] a collaboration which she never imagined fans would connect to her son’s moniker.
“Stanley was actually our favorite name, coincidentally both of our favorite names. He could never have been called anything else to be honest,” Dido shares. “I’m so stupid, I didn’t think anyone would make the connection.”
Proud of her choice, Dido jokes the name game in her family is always a fun affair. “It’s fine,” she says of her final decision. “I was named after a crazy queen who threw herself on a fire.”
I’m 26 years old and I can probably count on two hands the number of times a person has gotten the pronunciation of my name right on the first go — a surprising minority, considering it has the word “less” right in it. Whenever someone does get it right, my jaw drops, because these moments are few and very far between — I often consider hugging the person for making me feel so normal. But the other 99 percent of the time, people get my name wrong.
The beginning of this capital story [The Opened Shutters] was not with Tide Mill, however, but with the name Thinkright Johnson. Like certain persons whose appearance before Mrs. Burnham’s mind’s eye has compelled her to write about them, this New Englandish appellation gave birth to a book. Thinkright Johnson–Thinkright Johnson; the name haunted Mrs. Burnham for days and weeks, “till I knew that the only way I could have any peace was to write something about him.”
Clara is my 2-year-old Wheaten terrier and one of several dogs in my neighborhood with a name that sounds as if it came from a shuffleboard tournament on a golden-years cruise. Among her pals, Fern is red-nose pit bull, Alfie is (mostly) a black lab and Eleanor is a mix of Bernese mountain dog and poodle.
This pack has led me to conclude that whereas we look back to remote centuries when giving children trendy names like Emma, Sebastian, Julian or Charlotte, we name our dogs after our grandparents.
This means that future generations of dogs should be prepared to be called the mom-and-dad names of today. Names like Kimberly, Jason and Heather.
The country nowadays is full of children burdened with grotesque names. Are we to ban them? If you forbid Cyanide, should you permit Chardonnay? A further complication is that the little girl is a twin, and her mother wanted to call her twin brother Preacher. This too Lady Justice King forbade because, although Preacher ‘might not be an objectionable name’, ‘there was considerable benefit for the boy twin to be in the same position as his sister’ and for both to be named, as was proposed, by their half-siblings. We are not told what names the half-siblings want. I do hope it is something kind and simple, like Jack and Jill.
Rachida Dati reacted angrily after journalist Eric Zemmour criticised her choice of name for seven-year-old daughter Zohra.
He said it was unpatriotic because it did not come from an official list of French Christian names.
He added: “I consider that by giving Muslim first names, you are refusing to accept the history of France.”
“Do you find it scandalous to give your mother’s name to your children?” [Rachita Dati] asked, in a vigorous defence of her choice of name.
“I loved my mother. I have a little girl, and I called her after my mother. Like millions of French people do every day.”
From the 2013 book The Lahu Minority in Southwest China: A Response to Ethnic Marginalization on the Frontier by Jianxiong Ma:
When a baby is born, his or her name is decided by the birthday tiled by the twelve zodiac days together with gender, so he or she will normally be named Za Birthday for male or Na Birthday for female. For example, if two babies were born on the rat day (fa ni) and the ox day (nu ni) respectively, if they are boys, their names should be Zafa and Zanu, but if they are girls, their names should be Nafa and Nanu, and so on. […] In general, there are about 45 names that can be used in the village for individual persons, even though the very basic names total 24, twelve days for both male and female members.
(The extra baby names used by the Lahu are essentially replacement names used in case of childhood sickness. These replacement names also follow specific formulas.)
Looking for an under-the-radar girl name with a retro feel?
A few years ago I combed though a bunch of IMDb pages looking for interesting female names associated with old films (1910s-1940s).
Most of the names I spotted — names like Mabel, Maisie, Hazel, Hattie, Elsie, Selma, Bessie, and Betty — were ones I expected to see. But I did manage to collect thousands of rarities, many of which have never appeared in the SSA data before.
Want to check out all these unusual names? I thought so! To make things interesting I’ll post the Z-names first and go backwards, letter by letter.
Zabette de Chavalons was a character played by actress Bebe Daniels in the film Volcano! (1926).
Zabie Elliot was a character played by actress Mary Alden in the film The Broken Butterfly (1919).
Zada L’Etoile was a character played by actress Sylvia Breamer in the Cecil B. DeMille-directed film We Can’t Have Everything (1918).
Zena Dare was an actress who appeared in films during the 1920s and 1930s. She was born in England in 1887. Zena Keefe was an actress who appeared in films during the 1910s and 1920s. She was born in California in 1898. Zena was also a character name in multiple films, including The Code of Honor (short, 1916) and The New York Peacock (1917).
Speaking of popular baby names Nova Scotia…did you know that the province’s Open Data site includes birth registration records from the mid-1800s and from the early 1900s? I isolated the records from 1914 — the most recent year in the data — and came up with baby name rankings for about a century ago:
Top Girl Names, 1914
1. Mary (close to 700 girls)
9. Catherine (over 100 girls)
Top Boy Names, 1914
1. John (close to 600 boys)
10. Edward (over 100 boys)
The rankings represent about about 6,700 baby girls and about 6,800 baby boys born in Nova Scotia in 1914. I’m not sure how many babies were born that year overall, but it looks like the province’s total population in 1914 was roughly 500,000 people.
Hundreds of the names were used just once. Here are some examples:
New York City’s less-popular names (used 10 times each) included…
Damaris, Eunice, and Shirin (girl names)
Dimitri, Immanuel, and Ousmane (boy names)
The news release also mentioned that NYC’s baby name data goes back as far back as 1898. That year, the top girl names were Mary, Catherine, and Margaret, and the top boy names were John, William, and Charles.
According to provisional data released yesterday by Nova Scotia’s Registry of Vital Statistics, the most popular baby names in the province in 2016 were Olivia and William.
Here are Nova Scotia’s projected top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2016:
1. Olivia, 48 baby girls
2. Abigail, 40
3. Ava and Emma, 38 each (tie)
4. Charlotte, 35
5. Violet, 34
6. Amelia, 32
7. Sophie, 30
8. Claire, 29
9. Sophia, 28
10. Evelyn and Isla and Lily, 27 each (tie)
1. William, 62 baby boys
2. Benjamin and Oliver, 47 each (tie)
3. Noah, 40
4. Liam, 39
5. Owen, 37
6. Ethan, 36
7. Hunter and Jacob and Logan and Mason, 35 each (tie)
8. Lucas, 34
9. Henry, 32
10. Emmett and Jack and John, 31 each (tie)
These rankings/numbers cover births in the province through December 19.
“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.)
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.
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…)
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.)