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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Melissa

Number of Babies Named Melissa

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Melissa

Classics on the Decline: Rebecca, Carol, Susan

girl names falling out of fashion

In last week’s “lowest ever” boy names post, I mentioned that reader Caitlin had shared her research on downward-trending baby names with me recently. While many girl names hit relative lows in 2017, for instance…

  • Sarah, now ranked 62nd — lowest ranking since 1970.
  • Rachel, now ranked 195th — lowest ranking since 1960.
  • Melissa, now ranked 273rd — lowest ranking since 1949.

…a couple of the names on her list, Rebecca and Catherine, hit their “lowest ever” rankings last year. (Plus there was Katherine, a borderline case of a lowest-ever tie.)

So I set out to find other “lowest ever” girl names.

Many of the names I checked (like Clare, Lea, and Bridget) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Pauline, Sara, and Mary) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017. Still others (like Yvonne) had to be disqualified because, even though they hit their lowest ranking on record in 2017, they didn’t appear in the data for all 138 years (1880-2017)…an issue I didn’t encounter with any of the boy names.

In the end, I was able to add a dozen thirteen names to the list:

  • Ann. Ranked 1,023rd in 2017; peak was 28th in the 1930s.
  • Barbara. Ranked 908th in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1930s/1940s.
  • Carol. Ranked 1,814th in 2017; peak was 4th in the 1940s.
  • Catherine. Ranked 198th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1910s.
  • Celia. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 141st in the 1880s.
  • Cynthia. Ranked 637th in 2017; peak was 7th in the 1950s.
  • Elisabeth. Ranked 775th in 2017; peak was 286th in the 2000s.
  • Katherine. Ranked 105th in 2017 + 1938; peak 25th in the 1990s.
  • Kathleen. Ranked 871st in 2017; peak was 9th in the 1940s. (Late addition–thanks Kelly!)
  • Linda. Ranked 708th in 2017; peak was 1st in 1940s/1950s.
  • Priscilla. Ranked 527th in 2017; peak was 127th in the 1940s.
  • Rebecca. Ranked 216th in 2017; peak was 10th in the 1970s.
  • Rosa. Ranked 672nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1880s.
  • Susan. Ranked 963rd in 2017; peak was 2nd in the 1950s/1960s.
  • Teresa. Ranked 720th in 2017; peak was 18th in the 1960s.
  • Tressa. Ranked 9242nd in 2017; peak was 761st in the 1960s.

That makes 15 (or 16, if you count Katherine). I certainly could have missed a few, though, so if you can think of a good candidate, please let me know in the comments and I’ll take a look.

Baby Named for Michael Landon

Actress Melissa Gilbert is probably best known for portraying young Laura Ingalls Wilder on the TV series Little House on the Prairie (1974–1984). Her TV father, Charles, was played by actor Michael Landon.

In October of 1995, Melissa and her second husband welcomed a son (12 weeks early). He was named Michael Garrett — “Michael” in honor of Michael Landon, who had died of cancer in 1991, and “Garrett” in honor of the deceased teenage son of family friends.

Landon’s birth name was Eugene Maurice Orowitz. His nickname in primary school was “Ooogy.” He chose his stage name by flipping through a phone book.

Sources:

Popular Baby Names in British Columbia, 2016

According to British Columbia’s Vital Statistics Agency, the most popular baby names in the province in 2016 were Olivia and Lucas.

Here are British Columbia’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2016:

Girl Names
1. Olivia, 265 baby girls
2. Emma, 218
3. Charlotte, 194
4. Ava, 185
5. Sophia, 175
6. Chloe, 164
7. Emily, 155
8. Abigail, 152
9. Amelia, 141
10. Evelyn, 138

Boy Names
1. Lucas, 231 baby boys
2. Benjamin, 222
3. Ethan, 213
4. Oliver, 210
5. Liam, 200
6. Noah, 199
7. James, 189
8. William, 186
9. Jacob, 176
10. Owen, 174

In the girls’ top 10, Evelyn replaces Ella.

In the boys’ top 10, Noah, James, and Owen replace Alexander, Mason, and Hunter.

Names at the other end of the spectrum — used just five times each in 2016 — include:

  • Althea, Blaire, Daya, Emberly, Felicity, Genesis, Hallie, Jaskirat, Lisa, Melissa, Naira, Oona, Patricia, Remy, Silver, Taryn, Uma, Violette, Whitney (girl names)
  • Augustus, Brixton, Cristiano, Duncan, Emilio, Finnian, Gibson, Hassan, Jared, Koa, London, Mantaj, Noel, Rayden, Shea, Tony, Umar, Willem, Zian (boy names)

The top names in 2015 were Emma and Oliver.

According to preliminary 2017 data (covering January 1st to December 15th) the top two names of the current year are likely Olivia and Benjamin.

Sources: Baby’s Most Chosen Names in British Columbia, 2016, British Columbia’s top baby names (prelim. 2017)

Should We Name Hurricanes to Maximize Donations?

hurricaneIn 2008, psychologists Jesse Chandler, Tiffany M. Griffin, and Nicholas Sorensen published a study showing that people who shared an initial with a hurricane name were over-represented among hurricane relief donors. So, for instance, people with R-names donated significantly more than other people to Hurricane Rita relief efforts. (This is an offshoot of the name-letter effect.)

A few years later, marketing professor Adam Alter came up with an interesting idea: Why not use this knowledge to try to maximize donations to hurricane relief efforts? He explained:

In the United States, for example, more than 10% of all males have names that begin with the letter J-names like James and John (the two most common male names), Joseph and Jose, Jason, and Jeffrey. Instead of beginning just one hurricane name with the letter J each year (in 2013, that name will be Jerry), the World Meteorological Organization could introduce several J names each year. Similarly, more American female names begin with M than any other letter–most of them Marys, Marias, Margarets, Michelles, and Melissas–so the Organization could introduce several more M names to each list.

I think his idea is a good one overall. It wouldn’t cost much to implement, but could potentially benefit many hurricane victims.

I would go about choosing the names differently, though.

Repeating initials multiple times within a single hurricane season would be unwise, for instance. It would cause confusion, which would undermine the reason we started naming hurricanes in the first place (“for people easily to understand and remember” them, according to the WMO).

But optimizing the name lists using data on real-life usage? That would be smart.

I might even try optimizing based on demographics. Baby boomers are particularly generous donors, so maybe we should choose letters (or even names) with that generation in mind?

The baby boomers were born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s, so here are the top initials for babies born in 1956 (60 years ago):

Top first letters of baby names, 1956, U.S.

Here are two possible lists of hurricane names using the above letters. I stuck with the WMO’s conventions: 21 names total, alternating genders, and no retired names.

Mid-century style Modern style
Janice
Danny
Rebecca
Martin
Cindy
Scott
Lori
Kenneth
Brenda
Patrick
Theresa
Gerald
Angela
Eugene
Wanda
Vincent
Nancy
Howard
Francine
Ira
Olga
Jasmine
Dominic
Rylee
Matthew
Charlotte
Sebastian
Lucy
Kingston
Bella
Preston
Trinity
Grayson
Ava
Eli
Willow
Victor
Nora
Hunter
Fiona
Isaac
Olivia

And here’s another point: we wouldn’t want to assign these names in order. While the official hurricane season lasts a full six months — June to November — most hurricane activity happens in August, September and October:

Number of Tropical Cyclones per 100 Years (NOAA)

To really optimize, we’d want to reserve the top initials/names for the stronger mid-season hurricanes, which tend to do the most damage. So we could start the season using mid-list names, then jump to the top of the list when August comes around and go in order from that point forward (skipping over any mid-list names that had already been used).

What are your thoughts on assigning hurricane names with disaster relief in mind? Do you think it could work? What strategy/formula would you use to select relief-optimized hurricane names?

Sources: In the “I” of the storm: Shared initials increase disaster donations, Smart Hurricane Names: A Policy Intervention that Costs Almost Nothing but Should Attract Billions of Dollars in Aid, Tropical Cyclone Programme – WMO
Image: Tropical Cyclone Climatology – National Hurricane Center – NOAA

P.S. While J, D and R were the top initials 60 years ago, today’s top initials are A, J and M.

Is the Name Mellona Really that Bad?

Back in 1886, writers at the New York newspaper The Sun spotted the name “Mellie Butterfield” in the Omaha Herald and it piqued their curiosity.

In the same column…we found Nellies and Minnies, Gussies and Lizzies, Mollies and Sadies, Tillies and Sallies, Bessies, Maggies, Jennies, Tudies [sic], and the whole run of nursery names, but we were able to infer the real and dignified names of these lovely young women.

They couldn’t figure out Mellie, though. So they asked the Herald editor for the details. He said Mellie’s real name was Mellona after the Roman goddess Mellona. (Mellona is based on the Latin word mel, meaning “honey.”)

It seems that the young lady’s grandfather was a Presbyterian minister [Rev. Josiah Moulton], and that he gave the name to her mother at the suggestion of a classically inclined brother clergyman, and that Mellona was therefore handed down to the daughter.

The anonymous Sun writers were not keen on the name Mellona:

  • “Mellona? We cannot say that we like the name suggested by the clergyman”
  • “it is so unusual as to be odd”
  • “why did he not call her Melissa”
  • “A very odd name for a girl is objectionable rather than otherwise”
  • “surely there is nothing peculiarly beautiful in Mellona to call for its selection”
  • “the Moulton family have a monopoly of its use — and they are likely to keep it”

Their final comment — “Mellona is a much more suitable name for a young lady than Mellie” — was vaguely complimentary, but it doesn’t quite make up for the string of criticisms that preceded it.

Do you agree with them about the name Mellona?

Source: “Mellie.” Sun [New York] 19 Jul. 1886: 2.

(That post about women’s pet names from a few months ago was also based on a Sun essay.)