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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Michael

Number of Babies Named Michael

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Michael

Classics on the Decline: Paul, Jesse, Frank

boy names falling out of fashion

A few weeks back, a reader named Caitlin emailed me a cool list of well-known names that were decreasing in usage. Her list included:

  • Andrew, now ranked 40th — lowest ranking since 1963
  • Michael, now ranked 12th — lowest ranking since 1942
  • David, now ranked 23rd — lowest ranking since 1924

She also generously told me that I could share her findings (thank you Caitlin!).

The names that intrigued me most were the “lowest ever” names: names that had been in the data since 1880, but that saw their lowest usage ever (in terms of rankings) in 2017. Three of the boy names on her list — Paul, Richard, Robert — were “lowest ever” names, so I decided start with these and search for others.

I checked hundreds of potential candidates. Many (like Andrew, Michael, and David) hit a low in 2017, but it wasn’t their all-time low. Many others (like Stanley, Alvin, and Clarence) hit a low recently, but not as recently as 2017.

In the end, I was able to add 15 names to the list:

  • Allen. Ranked 401st in 2017; peak was 71st in the 1940s/1950s.
  • Dennis. Ranked 544th in 2017; peak was 16th in the 1940s.
  • Edgar. Ranked 353rd in 2017; peak was 51st in the 1880s.
  • Edwin. Ranked 332nd in 2017; peak was 52nd in the 1910s/1920s.
  • Frank. Ranked 373rd in 2017; peak was 6th in the 1880s/1890s.
  • Gerald. Ranked 824th in 2017; peak was 19th in the 1930s.
  • Glenn. Ranked 1,288th in 2017; peak was 55th in the 1960s.
  • Herman. Ranked 2,347th in 2017; peak was 44th in the 1880s/1890s.
  • Jerome. Ranked 857th in 2017; peak was 93rd in the 1930s.
  • Jesse. Ranked 186th in 2017; peak was 37th in the 1980s.
  • Lloyd. Ranked 1,570th in 2017; peak was 51st in the 1910s.
  • Martin. Ranked 281st in 2017; peak was 62nd in the 1960s.
  • Marvin. Ranked 559th in 2017; peak was 44th in the 1930s.
  • Paul. Ranked 225th in 2017; peak was 12th in the 1910s/1930s.
  • Raymond. Ranked 293rd in 2017; peak was 14th in the 1910s.
  • Richard. Ranked 175th in 2017; peak was 5th in the 1930s/1940s.
  • Robert. Ranked 65th in 2017; peak was 1st in the 1920s/1930s/1950s.
  • Wayne. Ranked 816th in 2017; peak was 29th in the 1940s.

Interestingly, all 18 have spent time in the top 100. And one, Robert, is still in the top 100. (How long before Robert is out of the top 100, do you think?)

A handful of girl names also saw their lowest-ever rankings in 2017. I’ll post that list next week…

“Broken Arrow” Baby Names

Broken Arrow movie poster

Elliott Arnold’s 1947 novel Blood Brother was a fictionalized account of the adventures of Old West historical figures Cochise, a Chiricahua Apache chief, and Tom Jeffords, a U.S. Indian agent.

The book was later adapted into a movie and a TV series, and both of these things ended up influencing U.S. baby names.

Sonseeahray & Debralee

The movie Broken Arrow was released in the summer of 1950. It starred Jeff Chandler as Cochise and James Stewart as Tom Jeffords. But the two baby names that debuted in the data thanks to the movie were associated with a different character: Sonseeahray, played by teenage actress Debra Paget.

Broken Arrow wasn’t Debra Paget’s first movie, but it was her first big hit, and it helped her achieve a new level of fame. And in 1951, her birth name Debralee debuted in the data. In fact, it was that year’s top debut name.

  • 1955: 7 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1954: 6 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1953: 11 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1952: 9 baby girls named Debralee
  • 1951: 19 baby girls named Debralee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

The public had become aware that Debra Paget was born “Debralee Griffin” in mid-1950, thanks to a newspaper article by AP journalist Hubbard Keavy, who called Debra’s birth name “improbable” (a curious comment, coming from guy named Hubbard Keavy). He quoted Debra’s mother, Margaret Griffin, as saying:

I christened her Debra. Her father’s people were Pagets. I used to call her Debra Lee, thinking that would be a good professional name. But Paget is more unusual and there are no Pagets in the movies.

Debra’s sister, Marcia Eloise Griffin, also acted under a stage name: Teala Loring.

The name of the character Sonseeahray also debuted in 1951:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 7 baby girls named Sonseeahray [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted

Sonseeahray, defined in the novel as “morning star,” seems to be legitimate Apache name; it was included and defined in the book Life Among the Apaches (1868) by John C. Cremony.

Two real-life Sonseeahrays are Fox News reporter Sonseeahray Tonsall and German actress Sonsee Neu, born Sonsee Ahray Natascha Floethmann-Neu.

Marsheela & Ansara

The TV series Broken Arrow first aired on ABC from 1956 to 1958. (Reruns aired in 1959 and 1960.) The show starred Michael Ansara as Cochise and John Lupton as Tom Jeffords. While it did not include the character Sonseeahray, an early episode did feature a Sonseeahray-like character named Marsheela.

Marsheela, played by actress Donna Martell, appeared in the episode “Apache Girl” in mid-1957. The same year, the name Marsheela was a one-hit wonder in the baby name data:

  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 11 baby girls named Marsheela [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

I figured out the source of this one only after posting about Marsheila, which was the most-used spelling of Marsheela that year (no doubt because of the familiarity of the Irish name Sheila, which was a top-100 girl name in the U.S. throughout the ’50s and ’60s).

Another one-hit wonder was the surname of Arab-American actor Michael Ansara. Five baby boys were named Ansara in 1960:

  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Ansara [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

Though Broken Arrow had made Michael Ansara a household name, this debut lines up more cleanly with a later TV Western that Ansara also starred in: Law of the Plainsman, which lasted from 1959 to 1960.

His surname may be based on the Arabic term al-ansar, meaning “the helpers.”

Sources:

Popular Baby Names in Smaller U.S. Territories, 2017

According to the SSA, the most popular baby names in the U.S. territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa — all four regions combined — in 2017 were were Amy and Olivia (tied) and Kevin.

Here are the top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names for the four regions:

Girl Names
1. Amy, 12 baby girls (2-way tie)
2. Olivia, 12 (2-way tie)
3. Sophia, 11
4. Ava, 10 (2-way tie)
5. Emma, 10 (2-way tie)
6. Anna, 9
7. Abigail, 8 (3-way tie)
8. Emily, 8 (3-way tie)
9. Mia, 8 (3-way tie)
10. Annie, 7 (…tied with Charlotte, Isabella, Jasmine, and Sarah)

Boy Names
1. Kevin, 20 baby boys
2. Ethan, 19
3. Daniel, 18 (2-way tie)
4. William, 18 (2-way tie)
5. Michael, 15
6. Lucas, 14
7. Andy, 11 (4-way tie)
8. Joshua, 11 (4-way tie)
9. Liam, 11 (4-way tie)
10. Logan, 11 (4-way tie)

In 2016, the top names were Olivia and Daniel.

Could Kevin’s rise to the #1 spot be due to all the Kevins on U.S. network TV lately?

Here are the top names in Puerto Rico, the largest U.S. territory by both area and population.

Source: Popular Baby Names by Territory (SSA)

The Introduction of Topanga

baby name, television, topanga, 1990s, boy meets world,
Topanga

People who grew up in the ’90s know exactly why the place-name Topanga started popping up in the baby name data that decade:

  • 1999: 44 baby girls named Topanga
  • 1998: 48 baby girls named Topanga [peak]
  • 1997: 33 baby girls named Topanga
  • 1996: 11 baby girls named Topanga
  • 1995: 10 baby girls named Topanga
  • 1994: 5 baby girls named Topanga [debut]
  • 1993: unlisted

Topanga was the name of a character on the coming-of-age sitcom Boy Meets World, which premiered in September of 1993. The “Boy” at the center of the show was Cory Matthews, his love interest throughout the series was Topanga Lawrence (played by Danielle Fishel).

According to Fishel, show producer Michael Jacobs was the one who came up with her character’s name. He was driving down a highway in California when he got a phone call about naming the character. At that moment, he happened to be driving past the Topanga Canyon exit, so he said “Topanga” and it stuck.

The canyon’s modern name comes from the Gabrielino (or Tongva) word topa’nga. The “-nga” suffix indicates that it’s a place name, but the meaning of topa remains unknown.

Another name that may have gotten a boost from Boy Meets World is Morgan, the name of Cory’s little sister. It was already on the rise at that time, but from 1993 to 1994 the increase was higher than expected.

…And I’ll just randomly throw in one more name that was inspired by a geological feature: Cohutta, a 2014 debut inspired by MTV reality star Cohutta Lee Grindstaff, who was born in Georgia and named after the Cohutta Mountains. The place name Cohutta, originally Gahûtĭ, comes from the Cherokee word gahûtâ’yĭ, meaning “a shed roof supported on poles.”

Which place name works better as a baby name, do you think: Topanga or Cohutta?

Which one makes a better baby name?

View Results

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Sources:

  • Danielle Fishel poses for Maxim
  • Gudde, Erwin G. California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. 4th ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
  • Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. New York: Dover, 1995.

Biggest Changes, Baby Boy Names, 2017

Which boy names increased the most in popularity from 2016 to 2017? And which ones decreased the most?

There are a few different ways to answer this question. The SSA, for instance, likes to look at ranking differences within the top 1,000. And I like to augment their list by looking at raw number differences across all the data.

So let’s look at increases first…

Boy Names: Biggest Increases, 2016 to 2017

Rankings

1. Wells, +504 spots
2. Kairo, +423
3. Caspian, +328
4. Nova, +323
5. Colson, +323
6. Kace, +315
7. Kashton, +302
8. Koa, +294
9. Gatlin, +282
10. Bjorn, +276

Wells was influenced by Wells Adams, a contestant from The Bachelorette. Nova may have been influenced by “all those Villanova Wildcats basketball fans naming their sons in celebration of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions.”

Raw Numbers

1. Logan, +2,748 babies
2. Maverick, +1,751
3. Ezekiel, +1,350
4. Mateo, +1,181
5. Lincoln, +1,032
6. Theodore, +1,018
7. Matias, +643
8. Leo, +642
9. Jameson, +639
10. Rowan, +637

Other names that saw raw number increases in the 300+ range included Asher, Santiago, Ezra, Rhett, Waylon, and Legend.

And now let’s check out decreases…

Boy Names: Biggest Decreases, 2016 to 2017

Rankings

1. Riaan, -421 spots
2. Kylo, -245
3. Kolby, -195
4. Urijah, -189
5. Kamdyn, -189
6. Jamar, -163
7. Giovani, -160
8. Nickolas, -155
9. Chad, -155
10. Jair, -147

The higher they climb, the harder they fall: Riaan was the fastest-rising boy name of 2015, and Kylo was the fastest-rising boy name of 2016, and now they’re both plummeting in 2017.

Raw Numbers

1. Mason, -1,728 babies
2. Michael, -1,478
3. Ethan, -1,417
4. Jacob, -1,373
5. Daniel, -1,281
6. Andrew, -1,161
7. Gabriel, -1,124
8. Anthony, -1,049
9. Matthew, -994
10. Owen, -970

Other names that saw raw number drops in the (negative) 300+ range included Aiden, Jackson, Gavin, Ryder, Jase, Hudson, and Tristan.

Do you have any explanations for the name movement above? If so, please comment!

Sources: Change in Popularity, SSA, Emma and Liam Top Social Security’s Most Popular Baby Names for 2017