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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Patty

Number of Babies Named Patty

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Patty

The Brief Rise of Rhoda

patty mccormack, rhoda penmark, bad seed, 1956
Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack)
Here’s a girl name that might be a good fit for a Halloween baby…

The name is Rhoda, which comes from the ancient Greek word rhodon, meaning “rose.” Which is lovely…but, for many, the strongest association isn’t roses but Rhoda Penmark, the “murderous moppet so cold she could practice her piano lessons methodically while her latest victim was burning to death in the basement below.” Not so lovely.

The character of Rhoda was played by 11-year-old Patty McCormack in the movie The Bad Seed (1956), which was successful at the box office and earned McCormack an Oscar nomination. McCormack had originated the role* in the 1954 Broadway play, which was adapted from the 1954 book by Alabama author William March.

Evil children are now a horror trope, but back in the ’50s, Rhoda was breaking new ground. She “was a character with no precedent in film history” who had inherited her homicidal tendencies from her serial killer grandmother.

The movie gave the name Rhoda a lot of exposure, and as the result — despite the character’s sinister nature and obnoxiously perfect braids — the name saw a temporary rise in usage in 1957:

  • 1959: 259 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 619th]
  • 1958: 265 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 611th]
  • 1957: 356 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 504th]
  • 1956: 241 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 617th]
  • 1955: 238 baby girls named Rhoda [rank: 598th]

What are your thoughts on the name Rhoda?

*Another young actress who played Rhoda early on was Kimetha Laurie, who we talked about yesterday.

Source: The Bad Seed – TCM

The Coming of Kimetha

bad seed, book, rhoda, 1950sThe name Kimetha appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 1955:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1959: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1958: 16 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1957: 9 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1956: 20 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Kimetha
  • 1954: unlisted
  • 1953: unlisted

The influence? Child actress Kimetha Laurie.

She had appeared on television and in theater productions throughout the 1950s, but her most high-profile role was as sociopathic Rhoda Penmark in the play The Bad Seed (based on the classic thriller of the same name written by William March and published in 1954).

But, wait a minute…how is that right? We’ve all seen images of the little girl from in The Bad Seed. She was played by actress Patty McCormack — wearing those long blonde braids — in both the successful Broadway play (Dec. 1954 to Sept. 1955) and the equally successful movie (released Sept. 1956).

Ah, but in between the play and the film a touring company took the show on the road for 31 weeks. The first performance was in Delaware on December 1, 1955. In this production, Rhoda the “murderous moppet” was played by Kimetha Laurie — wearing long brunette braids. She had won the part of Rhoda “over 90 other applicants.”

So how did Kimetha Laurie come to have that name? Kimetha was her birth name, coined by her mother, who took “Kim” from her husband’s name (Arthur Kimble Ouerbacker) and added a fanciful ending. She began acting as Kimetha Ouerbacker, but soon switched to the easier-to-pronounce stage name Kimetha Laurie. (Laurie was a family name; the influence wasn’t Piper Laurie.)

A handful of girls born in 1955 and over the next few years got her full stage name, “Kimetha Laurie,” as their first and middle name. One example is Kimetha Laurie Ramler (b. 1959).

Two other baby names that debuted in the data around this time, Kennetha and Kenetha, may have showed up thanks to the combined influences of Kimetha and then-trendy Kenneth.

Do you like the name Kimetha?


  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman. Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.
  • “Did You Ever Dine With a Murderess?” Detroit Free Press 18 Jan. 1956: 22.
  • Kimetha Laurie – IBDb
  • Kimetha Laurie – IMDb
  • “Kimetha Laurie Won Out Over 90 Other Applicants for “The Bad Seed” Role.” Daily Boston Globe 11 Dec. 1955: A39A.
  • “Louisville Girl Has Starring Role With ‘Bad Seed’ Road Company.” Courier-Journal [Louisville, KY] 10 Nov. 1955: 10.
  • Monahan, Kaspar. “Chilling ‘Bad Seed’ Stars Nancy Kelly at Nixon Theater.” Pittsburgh Press 3 Jan. 1956: 12.
  • “Monster to Ingenue – Actress Gets Variety.” Cincinnati Enquirer 25 Nov. 1959: 11.

P.S. Like Tirrell, Kimetha also had a part on the soap opera Love of Life in the ’50s.

How Do You Like Your Name, Patricia?

Today’s name interview is with Patricia, who is 70 years old and hails from Iowa.

How did Patricia get her name?

In 1942, Patricia ranked #3 and had been in the top 10 names in the USA for 13 years. I think of Patricia as “the Jennifer” of those days, and I think my mother chose it because she was hearing it so much. She knew a woman named Ellen at her work and that’s how she came up with my middle name. I think my mother chose my name with my dad agreeing.

I think Patricia vs. Jennifer is a good comparison.

Her mother also had the name Pamela Eileen picked out, in case Patricia had a twin sister.

What does Patricia like most about her name?

I like the name’s history, dating back to the Romans, and it’s meaning, “well born” or “patrician”. I like the name’s many positive associations with others of the name. I like the sound of the name. When I was in high school I had a close friend with the name (and also two close friends with the middle name Ellen), and I liked that. Although there was several other Pats or Pattys in my high school class, I was never called “Pat B.” but by my full first and last name if it was necessary to distinguish between two of us.

What does she like least about her name?

Really nothing! As a young child, I was called Patty. At about age 12, I felt too grown up for that nn and insisted I be called Pat. More recently, I’ve introduced myself as Patricia, preferring the full name now, but of course many people still call me “Pat”. So if there’s anything I dislike about the name now, it’s the short form “Pat”.

Would she recommend that the name Patricia be given to babies nowadays?

Probably not, although it makes a nice middle name, and my second daughter has Patricia as her middle name. I think the name is somewhat ‘dated’ right now, although it could make a comeback in another 20 years or so. Also, I don’t think the nn options — Pat, Patty, Patsy, Tricia — fit that well with current naming trends. I wonder if it is mainly Spanish-speakers who are keeping Patricia in the top 1000 names, ranking 667 in 2011. (I have a Latina daughter-in-law whose middle name is Patricia.) I think Ellen or similar names may have more appeal at this time. My oldest granddaughter Sarah Ellen has Elena picked out for her hoped-for daughter’s name — after my middle name and hers.

Thank you very much, Patricia!

[Would you like to tell me about your name?]

It’s Paddy, Not Patty

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, so now is a good time to mention that the diminutive used in Ireland is Paddy, Not Patty. Here’s why:

Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig, hence those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.

Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.

There’s not a sinner in Ireland that would call a Patrick, “Patty”. It’s insulting. It’s really as simple as that.

And there you have it. Paddy, not Patty.

(h/t Grammar Girl.)

The Baby Names Shelva and Shelby

The Woman in Red movie posterShelva was the highest-hitting debut name for both baby girls and baby boys in 1936.

In fact, Shelva was the highest-hitting of all the highest-hitting newbie girl names up to that point, and it would remain the record-holder until 1959.*

Here are the numbers:

  • 1939: 100 baby girls named Shelva (533rd)
  • 1938: 163 baby girls named Shelva (681st)
  • 1937: 194 baby girls named Shelva (471st)
  • 1936: 89 baby girls named Shelva [debut] (708th) & 9 baby boys named Shelva
  • 1935: unlisted

Where did the name Shelva come from?

It took me forever to figure this one out, but the answer is Shelby.

Turns out that many Shelby-like names (Shelva, Shelbie, Shelba, Shelbia, Shelvy, Shelvie, Shelvia, Shelvey, Shelda, Shelma) debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in the mid-1930s, right around the time Shelby — previously more of a boy name — became popular for girls:

  • 1939: 1,164 baby girls and 206 baby boys named Shelby
  • 1938: 1,713 baby girls and 213 baby boys named Shelby
  • 1937: 1,996 baby girls and 203 baby boys named Shelby
  • 1936: 1,072 baby girls and 150 baby boys named Shelby
  • 1935: 67 baby girls and 121 baby boys named Shelby
  • 1934: 17 baby girls and 133 baby boys named Shelby

Why the spike and the sex-change for Shelby circa 1936?

The popular 1935 film The Woman in Red [vid], which starred Barbara Stanwyck as professional horse rider Shelby Barret. The movie was based on the book North Shore by Wallace Irwin.

*In 1959, Shelva (89) was ousted by Torey (102). Torey’s newfound fame was likely inspired by the character Torey Peck, played by Patty McCormack, on the short-lived summer sitcom Peck’s Bad Girl (1959).