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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Norma

Number of Babies Named Norma

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Norma

How Did Thurgood Marshall Get His Name?

Thurgood Marshall, 1967Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from 1967 until 1991.

Prior to that, he was known for having won 29 of the 32 cases he’d argued argued before the Supreme Court. Most were civil rights cases, including the famous Brown v. Board of Education case that ended legal segregation in public schools in 1954.

The year he died, the name Thurgood debuted on the U.S. baby name charts:

  • 1994: unlisted
  • 1993: 5 baby boys named Thurgood [debut]
  • 1992: unlisted

…and it never returned, making Thurgood a statistical one-hit wonder.

So how did Thurgood Marshall get his unusual first name?

It was passed down from his paternal grandfather, who apparently went by either of two names: Thorneygood and Thoroughgood.

The elder Thoroughgood/Thorneygood served in the U.S. Army, and he didn’t know which name to use when he enlisted, so he used both. And he ended up getting two sets of retirement checks because of it.

Thurgood Marshall told TIME: “I was named Thoroughgood after him but by the time I was in the second grade, I got tired of spelling all that and shortened it.”

His maternal grandfather also had a distinctive name: Isaiah Olive Branch Williams. Isaiah and his wife Mary had six children, all with fascinating names — several inspired by Isaiah’s travels abroad with the U.S. merchant marine.

  • Avonia Delicia – first name after Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Avon Nyanza – first name also after Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Denmedia Marketa – after the family’s grocery store, located on Baltimore’s Denmead Street
  • Norma Arica – after the opera Norma and the place where Isaiah first heard it, the Chilean port city of Arica
  • Fearless Mentor – because, according to Isaiah:

    Most kids don’t open their eyes until they’re at least a few hours old. This one looked me straight in the eye as soon as I came in. He’s a fearless little fellow and Fearless will be his name.

  • Ravine Silestria – after a ravine in the Bulgarian/Romanian port city of Silistra

Norma was Thurgood Marshall’s mother. He called Fearless and Denmedia “Uncle Fee” and “Aunt Medi.”


Names of the Boston Duck Boats

I’m in Boston right now visiting family, and earlier this week some of us went on a Duck Tour for the first time. The tour was pretty good — I’m on the fence about whether or not I’d recommend it to others — but one thing I did like was finding this list of duck boat names in the pamphlet they gave us:

Boston duck boats
Names of the Boston duck boats
  • Annie Aquarium
  • Arborway Alex
  • Back Bay Bertha
  • Beacon Hilda
  • Beantown Betty
  • Charlie River
  • Commonwealth Curley
  • Copley Squire
  • Dorchester Dottie
  • Espla Nadia
  • Faneuil Holly
  • Fenway Fanny
  • Frog Pond Lily
  • Haymarket Hannah
  • Kenmore Karla
  • Liberty Teresa
  • Longfellow Bridget
  • Miss Emma Science
  • Molly Molasses
  • North End Norma
  • Old Gloria
  • Olga Ironsides
  • Penelope Pru
  • Red Sox Nathan
  • South End Sara
  • Symphony Hal
  • Tub of the Hub
  • Waterfront Wanda

I especially like Espla Nadia and Molly Molasses — the first for the wordplay (a take on “Esplanade”) the second for the historical reference (the Great Molasses Flood).

Which of the above do you like best?

Did You Know About the Babies Named Depression?

In the U.S., the Great Depression started in 1929 and lasted through most of the 1930s.

What was it like to live during the Depression?

Massive unemployment had a profound social and emotional impact upon American workers and their families. […] The great population movement of the thirties was transiency the worker adrift in a sea of unemployment. People, especially the young, girls as well as boys, took to the road because they could no longer bear to stay home. In the middle of the decade when the dust blew in the Great Plains, wiping out their farms, whole families of Okies, Arkies, and Mizoos migrated west, especially to California. The migrants often made their way to the junk-pile Hoovervilles with their Prosperity Roads, Hard Times Avenues, and Easy Streets. The destitute often lost their homes or farms because they were unable to make payments on mortgages.

depressionOne fascinating fact I discovered not long ago is that a small number of babies born during the Great Depression were actually named Depression.

At least three of these babies made the news:

  • In the New York Times: Norma Depression Jacobs, a baby girl born to Joseph and Sally Jacobs of New York in early 1932.
  • In the Reading Eagle: Viola Depression Davis, a baby girl born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, in 1932.
  • In the New York Times: Franklin Depression Pasquale, a baby boy born in New York in 1933. (Franklin was for President Roosevelt, whose presidency began in March of 1933 — “the worst month for joblessness in the history of the United States.”)

And here are more baby Depressions I tracked down using other sources:

  • Robert Depression Cann, born in Oklahoma on October 22, 1931.
  • Joyce Depression Bradford, born in Texas on December 5, 1931.
  • Robert Depression Arnold, born in California on February 2, 1932.
  • Helen Depression Carr, born in Indiana on February 29, 1932.
  • Hoover Depression Norman, born in Texas on June 14, 1932. (Hoover was in office from 1929 to 1933.)
  • Depression Heaton, born Ohio on June 24, 1932. (Born and died the same day, sadly.)
  • William Depression Ellerby, born in North Carolina on August 5, 1932.
  • Depression Brockington, born on October 21, 1932.
  • Depression Ivy, born in Texas on May 28, 1934.
  • Percy Depression Giles, born in West Virginia circa 1934.
  • Depression Austin, born in North Carolina circa 1934.
  • Depression Red, born in Georgia circa 1934. (The sister born right after her was named “Beauty.” Quite the disparity.)
  • Depression Bennett, born in Alabama on February 10, 1938.

I also found two baby Depressions born in the 1870s, during an earlier period of economic recession now called the Long Depression.


  • “Baby Will Know of Depression; In Fact, It’s Her Middle Name.” New York Times 19 Jan. 1932.
  • Bernstein, Irving. “Americans in Depression and War.” The U.S. Department of Labor Bicentennial History of The American Worker, Ed. Richard B. Morris. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1976.
  • “Child, Named for President, Called Franklin Depression.” New York Times 3 May 1933.
  • “Parents Name Baby Viola Depression.” Reading Eagle 26 Oct. 1932: 9.

[Check out these other names from the early-to-mid 1930s: Edwarda, Joretta, Karina, Nira, Norita, Normandie, Rockne, Sharlie]

The Baby Name Moonyeen

smilin through (1922)I wasn’t sure what to make of the names Moonyeen and Moonyean when I first spotted them on a few SSA baby name lists from the 1920s and ’30s:

  • 1936: 9 baby girls named Moonyeen
  • 1934: 5 baby girls named Moonyean [debut]
  • 1933: 14 baby girls named Moonyeen
  • 1922: 7 baby girls named Moonyeen [debut]

Where did the names come from, and why were they on the radar during those decades?

Looks like they can be traced back to the Broadway play Smilin’ Through (1919), which featured a character named Moonyeen. The story was popularized by several film adaptations, including Smilin’ Through (1922), starring Norma Talmadge, and Smilin’ Through (1932), starring Norma Shearer. (That 1932 version was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, but lost to Cavalcade.)

I’m not entirely sure how the writers of the original Smilin’ Through came up with the name. My guess is that they based it on the Irish word muirnín, which means “darling” or “sweetheart.” It’s a term of endearment very similar to mo mhúirnín, “my darling,” which gave rise to the name Mavourneen.

Baby Names that Won’t Make a Comeback? guide Robin Elise Weiss recently published a list of 10 Baby Names That Won’t Make a Comeback. These were her picks:

  • Girl names – Mildred, Eula, Deloris, Gladys, Norma
  • Boy names – Herman, Chester, Elbert, Norman, Ralph

Hm. I can’t quite agree with Robin here. The only thing holding most of these back is style, and style is always in flux.

Even Ralph, which became a slang term for “vomit” several decades ago, isn’t necessarily doomed. Slang meanings stick for a while, but not forever. (Just look at Roger.)

Do you think there are any names out there that will never make a comeback? Which ones, and why?

Baby Name Needed – Girl Name for Baby #4

A reader named Lynn has three children named Aidan Michael, Sophie Alice and August Gabriel. She’s expecting her fourth baby in late September. She’s already picked out a boy name (Jude), but would like some help coming up with a girl name.

What is she looking for? “We love old names. We love names that aren’t duplicated in every classroom.” Right now, the top contenders are Lucy, Daisy and Celia.

She also notes that, when she chose Aidan for her eldest, the name wasn’t yet trendy. “It was an old-fashioned Irish saint! Now you seriously can’t swing a cat in our town without hitting a (non-Irish) Aidan.”

Here are a few girl names I think Lynn might like:

Josephine (Josie)
Margaret (Maggie)

Some of the names in yesterday’s post on girl names that go with Edie might also work for Lynn’s family. (In fact, I used several again in this post.)

Which of the above do you like best with Aidan, Sophie and August? What other names would you suggest to Lynn?