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

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.)

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?

Popular Baby Names in Switzerland, 2013

Switzerland’s (many) top baby names of 2013 were announced recently.

According to data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the country’s most popular baby names last year were:

  • Emma and Gabriel for French-speakers,
  • Mia and Noah for German-speakers,
  • Sofia and Gabriel for Italian-speakers, and
  • Chiara and Jonas for Romansh-speakers.

Here are Switzerland’s top girl names and top boy names of 2013 within each language group.

French-speakers:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Emma (125 baby girls)
2. Chloé (98)
3. Léa (93)
4. Eva (90)
5. Alice (86)
6. Zoé (84)
7. Sofia (76)
8. Camille (75)
1. Gabriel (142 baby boys)
2. Liam (120)
3. Théo (112)
4. Noah (109)
5. Luca (104)
6. Nathan (104)
7. Léo (100)
8. Thomas (97)

The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Liam (11th to 2nd) and Camille (16th to 8th).

German-speakers:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Mia (313 baby girls)
2. Alina (281)
3. Sara (248)
4. Laura (247)
5. Lea (244)
6. Sophia (241)
7. Leonie (238)
8. Emma (227)
1. Noah (307 baby boys)
2. Leon (281)
3. Luca (271)
4. Julian (243)
5. Levin (241)
6. David (234)
7. Nico (229)
8. Gian (219)

The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Sara (13th to 3rd) and Sophia (16th to 6th).

Italian-speakers:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Sofia (33 baby girls)
2. Emma (28)
3. Emily (26)
3. Giulia (26)
5. Alice (23)
5. Melissa (23)
7. Mia (21)
8. Noemi (19)
1. Gabriel (35 baby boys)
2. Leonardo (34)
3. Mattia (29)
4. Matteo (27)
5. Alessandro (26)
6. Nathan (24)
7. Samuele (21)
8. Federico (20)

The fastest risers from 2012 to 2013 were Emily (32nd to 3rd) and Noemi (19th to 8th).

Romansh-speakers:

Girl Names Boy Names
1. Chiara (4 baby girls) 1. Jonas (3 baby boys)

Last year, when I posted about the 2012 names, I mentioned Switzerland’s small Romansh-speaking population. What were their top names? Cool to see some data being released this year!

Sources: Swiss parents steadfast in baby name choices, Swiss Statistics – The most popular first names

Female Names in Texas, 1860

Vicki Betts, a librarian at the University of Texas, put together a neat list of female names using the 1860 census records for Smith County, Texas.

Here’s some background information, per Vicki:

Ninety per cent of the people had emigrated to the county within the preceding ten years, 95.8% born in the states of the future Confederacy, 1.8% in the border states, 1.6% in northern states, and 0.8% in foreign countries. Therefore, these name should be fairly representative of Southern female names in general, with the exception of Alamo, Texas, Texana, etc.

And now the names! Here are the names that appeared most frequently on the 1860 Smith County census:

Mary, 501
Sarah, 271
Martha, 247
Elizabeth, 218
Jane, 199
Ann, 198
Nancy, 176
Margaret, 98
Susan, 95
Frances, 94
Eliza, 74
Amanda, 65
Louisa, 61
Laura, 52
Lucinda, 50
Rebecca, 50
Emily, 49
Catherine, 48
Caroline, 41
Julia, 39
Anna, 31
Isabella, 28
Ellen, 26
Josephine, 25
Harriet, 24
Emmer, 22
Lucy, 22
Rachel, 22
Melissa, 18
Adeline, 17
Malinda, 17
Matilda, 16
Allice, 15
Mariah, 15
Virginia, 15
Minerva, 14
Ella, 13
Eveline, 13
Charlotte, 12
Cynthia, 10
Evaline, 10
Victoria, 10
Emeline, 9
Hannah, 9
Hellen, 9
Theodosia, 9
Angeline, 8
Eudora, 8
Eugenia, 8
Mahala, 8
Ophelia, 8
Permelia, 8
Dorotha, 7
Fannie, 7
Missouri, 7
Olive, 7
Samantha, 7
Tabitha, 7
Ada, 6
Charity, 6
Delilah, 6
Flora, 6
Georgia, 6
Tennessee, 6

Names in the 2-to-5 range:

  • 5: Clementine, Cyntha, Florence, Ida, Joannah, Narcissa, Priscilla, Serena, Texana, Texas
  • 4: Almeda, Amelia, Augusta, Celia, Clara, Cornelia, Dicy, Dora, Henrietta, Janetta, Louisiana, Louvenia, Lulah, Mollie, Parmelia, Penelope, Ruth, Susannah
  • 3: Alma, Amarillo, Angelina, Antonette, Carrie, Casandra, Christiana, Clarissa, Cora, Cordelia, Edna, Emma, Ester, Fanny, Irena, Jemima, Kesiah, Leona, Leonora, Lucretia, Lyddia, Manerva, Maranda, Morando, Mildred, Milly, Narcissus, Olevia, Piety, Rhoda, Sallie, Sefrona, Sophrona, Telulah, Zelida
  • 2: Abigal, Adaline, Adelia, Agnes, Alabama, Alcasarah, America, Amy, Annetta, Araminta, Armelia, Arrenia, Candis, Caledonia, Celina, Easter, Eller, Elvira, Epsey, Exer, Henryetta, Jaly, Judy, Leah, Luella, Madora, Malissa, Marsileet, Medorah, Melinda, Mattie, Minnie, Moranda, Nelly, Olivia, Priscella, Rhody, Roxana, Salena, Sirena, Sophia, Temperance, Viola, Willie

Finally, names that appeared only once:

Abbigal
Abi
Absaly
Adah
Adalade
Adaline
Addia
Adelade
Adella
Ader
Aimenetta
Alamanzer
Alamo
Alcisty
Alis
Allethia
Almanda
Alphine
Alsey
Althie
Alvarado
Alvira
Amarantha
Amarylles
Amazor
Ameda
Americus
Amira
Ansebell
Appy
Arabella
Arainetta
Aramintha
Aranda
Arcadia
Ardalla
Armedilla
Armel
Armelda
Arminda
Artele
Arvezene
Arvilla
Atha
Audella
Aurire
Azeline
Barbary
Belzora
Bendett
Bernessa
Bethania
Bethany
California
Callie
Camella
Camilla
Candas
Candice
Cansandra
Carrentha
Casandre
Castero
Cecily
Celistia
CerroGordo
Christana
Cicily
Claranda
Claricinda
Conzada
Darcus
Deannah
Debra
Delila
Delitha
Della
Delmar
Derinda
Deziah
Dicey
Dilla
Dilly
Disha
Dlia
Dola
Domaris
Dorothea
Dovy
Drucilla
Dulcena
Dyca
Eddie
Edith
Editha
Elander
Eleanor
Elisa
Ellenor
Elmina
Elsy
Elvy
Elwina
Elzina
Elzona
Emaline
English
Eunis
Euphema
Euphemia
Euratasa
Evy
Falby
Fenette
Fillmore
Flore
Florida
Fransina
Georgana
George Eller
Georgiana
Harmoner
Hazeltine
Heepsebeth
Heland
Hester
Hetty
Hilery
Hutoka
Idella
Imogenia
Indiana
Inez
Irine
Isabelle
Isadora
Jeannah
Jerusha
Jessie
Joana
Joicy
Joly
Judah
Judith
Juliett
June
Kasandre
Kasana
Keburah
Keturah
Lailah
Larresa
Larrissa
Laurena
Lavacca
Lela
Leora
Leuella
Levega
Levina
Lewella
Lilla
Lillian
Lilly
Lina
Livana
Livona
Lizza
Loreey
Loreta
Lourana
Lourena
Lourenia
Louretta
Louvena
Louvina
Lova
Lovena
Lucretice
Lurana
Lurena
Lutitia
Luvena
Lydda
Madella
Madosa
Malabry
Mariella
Marietta
Marinda
Marion
Marbre
Marcella
Marcena
Marg
Matta
McReudry
Medarah
Melbry
Melvina
Mercena
Milley
Millison
Minor
Missoura
Mitty
Molly
Morinua
Mouring
Mourmen
Mourning
Nannett
Narcisa
Nebraska
Neome
Neomia
Nicy
Nina
Nisse
Occo
Octavia
Oja
Oliva
Omino
Orpha
Oudelia
Paralee
Paralie
Parilee
Parolee
Parthena
Pauline
Pemelia
Pernetta
Pernisia
Petrona
Phebe
Pheby
Phereby
Philliss
Pleasant
Pope
Prascovia
Pricilla
Prudence
Recella
Resalla
Reozia
Resiah
Rhina
Rosana
Rosanna
Rosena
Sabra
Sabrina
Salina
Samaria
Saphona
Saphrona
Sareta
Sebrina
Sefrone
Seleta
Selethia
Selina
Shaby
Sharlotti
Silena
Sina
Sirena
Sobrina
Sofrona
Solona
Sonora
Sophier
Stacy
Surana
Tabetha
Taletha
Talitha
Telpha
Teressa
Texanah
Texanna
Theodora
Theressa
Tranquilla
Trephemia
Ululie
Vanburena
Vandalia
Varlinda
Vashti
Vasti
Verlinda
Vertula
Victora
Victorier
Vina
Vinolia
Violet
Vunavista
Wennyford
Wilford
Wilmouth
Wineford
Winerfred
Winnaford
Winnfred
Zarilla
Zeban
Zeleame
Zira
Zouley

See any names you like? Any that make you curious?

Here are some thoughts I had:

  • Location names were more common than I thought they’d be. Seven females named Missouri? Six named Tennessee? Huh.
  • I love that Emmer appeared 22 times, while Emma appeared a mere 3 times.
  • The Battle of Cerro Gordo (1847) inspired a handful of namesakes. Cerro gordo is Spanish for “fat hill.”
  • Hutoka: Or, The Maid of the Forest: a Tale of the Indian Wars (1846) by Osgood Bradbury inspired several hundred namesakes nationwide. The book claimed that the fictitious Native American name Hutoka meant “springing fawn.”
  • Martin Van Buren — no doubt the inspiration behind Vanburena — was president of the U.S. from 1837 to 1841.
  • I’m thinking Vunavista was based on buena vista, Spanish for “good view.”

Source: Female First Names in the 1860 Smith County, Texas, Census, via Vicki Betts

Named David? Headed to Italy? Here’s a Hotel Discount…

statue of David
Replica of David
Hotel David in Florence, Italy, offers a 5% discount to guests named David. So if your name is David and you’re planning to be in Florence anytime soon, you may want to check them out. If you decide to book, remember to use the promo code “DAVID” and be prepared to prove that your name really is David when you check in.

The hotel, which has been around since the 1950s, was named after Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, which has been on display in Florence since 1504.

I don’t know if the hotel’s David offer is permanent (like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Isabellas Free…Forever! program) but there’s no expiration date listed.

*

Here’s another name-based hotel deal I discovered recently, but this one does have an expiration date, so you’ll have to act quickly if you want to take advantage of it.

From Aug. 20 until Oct. 31, Breezes Bahamas is giving $100 to any guest staying at least 5 nights whose legal first name is on the 2013 National Hurricane Center list of storm names: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van or Wendy.

The spelling of your name must match the storm name exactly (i.e., “Sebastian” and “Rebecca” don’t count).

Baby Named Ella for Elevator

Here’s something I haven’t seen before: a baby named after an elevator.

In early July, Melissa Cavanagh of England gave birth to a baby girl in a broken-down elevator, where she had been stuck for 45 minutes along with per partner, Paul Yeomans, and three paramedics.

Emergency care assistant Nigel Goodman, who was part of the ambulance crew trapped in the lift, said: “When it was all over, I remember saying to Melissa and Paul that they should call her Ella, short for elevator – and they have!”

Ella’s middle name, Nicola, is in honor of one of the other paramedics, Nikki Wildman.

Source: Baby name inspired by lift birth