Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Rita in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Rita and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Rita.
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Tess didn’t start out as Tess. Hardy often changed names when he was writing, and he tried out Love, Cis and Sue, using Woodrow as a surname, narrowing the name down to Rose-Mary Troublefield or Tess Woodrow before finally settling on Tess Durbeyfield.
But I’m now far too practical for whimsical names. I want to spare my kids the time wasted spelling their name slowly over the phone and correcting its pronunciation millions of times. So out the window went some of the iconoclastic names I loved, but which seemed difficult, along with two names I adored but couldn’t figure out how to spell in a way that would make their pronunciation obvious: CARE-iss and k’r-IN.
While some believed a central institution or figure had to be behind a skyrocketing trend — say, Kim Kardashian or Vogue magazine — researchers have discovered through a new Web-based experiment that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, the study suggests that populations can come to a consensus about what’s cool and what’s not in a rapid, yet utterly spontaneous way.
The process to change your name is surprisingly lengthy, pricey and arguably outdated. People fill out forms, pay a $168 filing fee (there is also a fee to obtain a new birth certificate once the name is legally granted), get assigned to a judge, schedule a hearing date with the court and take out a statement in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel or the Daily Reporter three weeks in a row declaring intent of name change.
News websites are not approved for legal name change declaration, but this does not mean they couldn’t be someday, according to Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Court John Barrett.
“The process is very old and it hasn’t been changed in a long time, but that’s not to say it couldn’t be,” says Barrett. “The Wisconsin legislature decides that. Someone would have to have an interest in that change and take the time to make the argument that we’re in a changing world and publications shouldn’t be limited to print.”
If you work in startups, there’s a good chance you know Oscar. And Alfred. Benny, too. And don’t forget Lulu and Clara. These aren’t the prominent Silicon Valley people that techies know by first name (although those exist—think Marissa, Satya, Larry and Sergey, Zuck). Rather, Oscar, Alfred, Benny, Lulu and Clara are companies. The latest trend in startup names is regular old human names.
For students, especially the children of immigrants or those who are English-language learners, a teacher who knows their name and can pronounce it correctly signals respect and marks a critical step in helping them adjust to school.
But for many ELLs, a mispronounced name is often the first of many slights they experience in classrooms; they’re already unlikely to see educators who are like them, teachers who speak their language, or a curriculum that reflects their culture.
“If they’re encountering teachers who are not taking the time to learn their name or don’t validate who they are, it starts to create this wall,” said Rita (‘ree-the’) Kohli, an assistant professor in the graduate school of education at the University of California, Riverside.
Born on July 11, 1767 in Braintree, Massachusetts, he was the son of two fervent revolutionary patriots, John and Abigail Adams, whose ancestors had lived in New England for five generations. Abigail gave birth to her son two days before her prominent grandfather, Colonel John Quincy, died so the boy was named John Quincy Adams in his honor.
(Quincy, Massachusetts, was also named after Colonel John Quincy.)
In 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.
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):
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.
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:
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?
When a major celebrity chooses an uncommon baby name, there’s a good chance that name will become trendy.
Seems like this might be a modern phenomenon, right? Maybe tied to the rise of the Internet?
Nope. In fact, I bet you’ll be surprised at just how far back it goes.
Let’s take a look at celebrity baby names through the decades, focusing on those that inspired debuts on the SSA’s baby name list. (To debut, a rare names needs to be given to at least 5 babies of one gender or the other in a single year.)
Which baby name was the very first to debut on the charts thanks to a celebrity baby?
The answer depends on how strict you want to be about spelling.
If you exact-spelling debuts are what you want, the first I know of doesn’t appear until the late ’40s.
If variant-spelling debuts are okay, though, there’s a celebrity baby name from the early ’40s that inspired at whopping six of them:
In October of 1941, actor/comedian George Jessel (43 years old) and showgirl Lois Andrews (17) welcomed a baby girl named Jerilyn.
The name Jerilyn itself had already been on the list for a few years, but usage rose significantly in both 1941 and 1942:
1943: 182 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 558th]
1942: 325 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 397th]
1941: 135 baby girls named Jerilyn [rank: 608th]
1940: 10 baby girls named Jerilyn
The popularity of similar names like Jerrilyn and Jerelyn also increased, and six other variants appeared on the national list for the very first time in either 1941 or 1942 (asterisks denote debuts):
I was skeptical about this one for a while, as I’d never heard of George Jessel before. Was he really high-profile enough for his baby to have that sort influence? Turns out he was indeed a popular entertainer from the ’20s until at least the ’50s. He’s the one responsible for the “Garland” part of Judy Garland’s stage name, and some sources even claim he invented the Bloody Mary.
Even more variants of Jerilyn (e.g., Gerilynn) debuted during the ’40s and early ’50s, when young Jerilyn was being mentioned in newspaper articles and appearing on TV and in films with her father. Here’s a fundraising film from 1953, for instance, featuring both George and Jerilyn.
Jerilyn Jessel’s influence on the U.S baby names was impressive, but, technically speaking, she didn’t put “Jerilyn” on the map.
The first exact-spelling celebrity baby name debut was Yasmin, which appeared on the list in 1949.
In December of 1949, actor Rita Hayworth and her husband Prince Aly Khan welcomed a baby girl named Yasmin. The same year, the baby name Yasmin appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
(The name Yasmin was late addition to the post. Thank you, Becca!)
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1950s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In October of 1951, actors Tyrone Power and Linda Christian welcomed a baby girl named Romina. The same year, the baby name Romina appeared on the SSA’s list for the very first time.
In September of 1953, Power and Christian welcomed their second baby girl, Taryn, whose name was likely inspired by “Tyrone.” The same year, the baby name Taryn debuted on the list.
In November of 1956, boxer Floyd Patterson and his wife Sandra welcomed a baby girl named Seneca. The same year, the traditionally male name Seneca debuted on the list as a female name. Patterson said the name was inspired by a street sign.
In October of 1958, actor/singer Rosemary Clooney and actor José Ferrer welcomed a baby girl named Monsita — their fifth child. The same year, Monsita debuted. It fell off the list the very next year, though, making it a one-hit wonder.
Honorable mentions from the ’50s include:
Liza, which became more popular after Liz Taylor named her daughter Liza in 1957.
Tyrone, which became more popular after Tyrone Power named his third child Tyrone in 1959. The increased usage could also have been influenced by the death of the actor himself the same year, though.
At least four of the baby names that debuted during the 1960s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In September of 1961, singer of Nat King Cole and his wife Maria welcomed identical twin baby girls named Timolin and Casey. The same year, the baby name Timolin debuted on the list.
In September of 1965, actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands welcomed a baby girl named Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes. The same year, the baby name Xan debuted on the list.
In June of 1968, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed a baby girl named Maryum. The same year, the baby name Maryum debuted on the list.
In March of 1969, singers Cher and Sonny Bono, welcomed a baby girl named Chastity. The same year, the baby name Chastity debuted on the list. In May of 2010, Chastity legally changed genders and adopted the name Chaz.
At least eight of the baby names that debuted during the 1970s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 1970, boxer Muhammad Ali and his wife Belinda welcomed twin baby girls named Rasheda and Jamillah. The same year, the baby name Rasheda debuted on the list.
(An Ebony article from 1971 misspelled her name “Reeshemah.” The same year, there was a spike in the usage of Reeshemah and a dip in the usage of Rasheda.)
In 1971, comedian/activist Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian welcomed a baby girl named Ayanna. The same year, the baby name Ayanna debuted on the list.
In July of 1973, Dick Gregory and Lillian welcomed a baby boy named Yohance. The same year, the baby name Yohance debuted on the list.
In March of 1974, musician/producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton welcomed a baby girl named Kidada. The same year, the baby name Kidada debuted on the list.
In August of 1975, singer Tito Jackson (of The Jackson 5) and his wife Dee Dee welcomed a baby boy named Taryll. The same year, the baby name Taryll debuted on the list.
In April of 1975, singer Mary Wilson (of The Supremes) and her husband Pedro welcomed a baby girl named Turkessa. The same year, the baby name Turkessa debuted on the list. Turkessa was just 3 babies away from being the top baby name debut of the year. Here’s how Mary came up with the name:
Pedro brought me a beautiful plant. I asked him was it was called. “Turquesa,” he replied, “Spanish for turquoise.” So we named our daughter Turkessa.
In November of 1975, singer Diana Ross (also of The Supremes) and her husband Robert welcomed a baby girl named Chudney. The next year, the baby name Chudney debuted on the list. Here’s how Diana came up with the name:
Friends kept suggesting popular names like Courtney, but so many girl babies were getting that. I suddenly thought of something I liked very much — chutney. Only I didn’t know how to spell it — I put a ‘d’ where the ‘t’ should have been on the birth certificate. And that’s how my little girl became Chudney!
In 1978, Puerto Rican dancer/singer Iris Chacón and her husband Junno welcomed a baby girl named Katiria. The same year, the baby name Katiria debuted on the list. Most of these babies were born in New York.
At least three of the baby names that debuted during the 1980s were inspired by celebrity babies, and at least one was inspired by a celebrity grandbaby:
In September of 1984, singer Gladys Knight didn’t have a baby, but her son James (b. 1962) and his wife Michelene did. They welcomed a boy named Rishawn. The next year, the baby name Rishawn debuted on the list.
In November of 1986, football player Willie Gault and his wife Dainnese welcomed a baby girl named Shakari. The next year, the baby name Shakari debuted on the list.
I wrote about Condola a few months ago, but here’s a recap: In December of 1986, actress Phylicia Rashad and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad welcomed a baby girl named Condola. The next year, the baby name Condola debuted on the list.
In December of 1987, filmmaker/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow welcomed a baby boy named Satchel. The next year, the baby name Satchel debuted on the list. He now goes by Ronan, and rumor has it that he is *possibly* the biological son of Frank Sinatra.
At least three of the baby names the debuted during the 1990s were inspired by celebrity babies:
In July of 1991, actors Demi Moore and Bruce Willis welcomed a baby girl named Scout. (And in August, that famous image of 7-months-pregnant Demi ran on the cover of Vanity Fair.) The next year, the baby name Scout debuted on the list, for both genders.
In February of 1995, actor Michael J. Fox and his wife Tracy welcomed twin baby girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. The same year, the baby name Aquinnah debuted on the list. (I wrote more about the name Aquinnah a few years ago.)
In July of 1998, model Christie Brinkley and her husband Peter welcomed a baby girl named Sailor. The same year, the baby name Sailor debuted on the list as a girl name. It had debuted as a boy name the year before.
Honorable mentions from the ’90s include:
Seven, which became more popular after Erykah Badu named her son Seven in 1997.
Zion, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her son Zion in 1997.
Selah, which became more popular after Lauryn Hill named her daughter Selah in 1998.
At least five of the baby names that debuted during the 2000s (the decade) were inspired by celebrity babies:
In August of 2001, singer Shania Twain and her husband Robert welcomed a baby boy named Eja. The same year, the baby name Eja debuted on the list (as a girl name).
In August of 2001, actors Tisha Campbell-Martin and Duane Martin welcomed a baby boy named Xen. The same year, the baby name Xen debuted on the list.
In March of 2003, singer Toni Braxton and musician Keri Lewis welcomed a baby boy named Diezel. The same year, the baby name Diezel debuted on the list.
In June of 2005, magician Penn Jillette and his wife Emily welcomed a baby girl named Moxie (middle name CrimeFighter). The next year, the baby name Moxie debuted on the list.
In September of 2006, model Anna Nicole Smith and her partner Larry Birkhead welcomed a baby girl named Dannielynn. The next year, the baby name Dannielynn debuted on the list.
Honorable mentions from the ’00s include:
Massai, which became more popular after Nia Long named her son Massai in 2000.
Rocco, which became more popular after Madonna and Guy Ritchie named their son Rocco in 2000.
Denim, which became more popular after Toni Braxton named her son Denim in 2001.
Maddox, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted son Maddox in 2002.
Carys, which became more popular after Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas named their daughter Carys in 2003.
Stellan, which became more popular after Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their son Stellan in 2003.
Apple, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple in 2004.
Coco, which became more popular after Courtney Cox and David Arquette named their daughter Coco in 2004.
Zahara, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie named her adopted daughter Zahara in 2005.
Moses, which became more popular after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their son Moses in 2006.
Kingston, which became more popular after Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale named their son Kingston in 2006.
Suri, which became more popular after Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their daughter Suri in 2006.
Shiloh, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter Shiloh in 2006.
Pax, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their adopted son Pax in 2007.
Harlow, which became more popular after Nicole Richie and Joel Madden named their daughter Harlow in 2008.
Knox & Vivienne, which became more popular after Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their twins Knox and Vivienne in 2008.
Honor, which became more popular after Jessica Alba named her daughter Honor in 2008.
Nahla, which became more popular after Halle Berry named her daughter Nahla in 2008.
Bronx, which became more popular after Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz named their son Bronx in 2008.
They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.
About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).
Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).
I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).
(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)
Finally, a few interesting details:
Jobyna is Jobyna Ralston, named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. Jobyna debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1927.
Derelys is Derelys Perdue. “Perdue’s boss, future presidential father Joseph P. Kennedy, insisted on changing her name to the more palatable Ann Perdue.” She sued, but lost, and her career never recovered. Derelys was a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s baby name list in 1924.
Lord Francis Knollys was a close friend of the British royal family. So close that he served as as Private Secretary to the Sovereign under both Edward VII (from 1901 to 1910) and George V (from 1910 to 1913).
It’s not too surprising, then, that both of Knollys’ children were named in honor of the royals. His daughter was named Alexandra Louvima Elizabeth (b. 1888) and his son was named Edward George William (b. 1895).
Alexandra, Elizabeth, Edward, George, William — these are all names we know.
But “Louvima”? Where did that come from?
Turns out it’s an acronym. Edward VII (who was still “Albert Edward, Prince of Wales” back in 1888) and his wife Alexandra had six children: Albert Victor, George (later George V), Louise, Victoria, Maud, and Alexander John. “Louvima” was created from the first letters of the names of Edward’s three daughters:
Louvima = Louise + Victoria + Maud
The papers picked up on the interesting birth name right away. Here’s an article that appeared in a New Zealand newspaper in July of 1888:
Few people have noticed the second name bestowed on Sir Francis Knollys’ little daughter, who was baptised on May 5. Sir Francis, as every one knows, is the energetic and popular private secretary of the Prince of Wales, and in a torrent of grateful loyalty he has called his firstborn “Louvima,” a marvellous amalgam of the Christian names of the three young Princesses of Wales, “Louisa [sic], Victoria, Maud.” Since the expectant Mrs. Kenwigs invented the name of Morleena we have had nothing quite so good as this.
(Morleena Kenwig is a character in the Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby.)
Here’s a second-hand account printed in Notes & Queries that same month:
Louvima, a new Christian Name — It is stated in the newspapers — but it may not be correct; for, as Theodore Hook said to the credulous old lady, “Those rascally newspapers will say anything” — that Sir Francis Knollys, private secretary to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, has named his first-born Louvima, which is an ingenious amalgam of the names of the three daughters of the Prince — Louise, Victoria, and Maud.
After the news of Louvima Knollys got out, the rare name Louvima was given to baby girls in England (and other English-speaking regions) considerably more often. This lasted until the late 1910s.
Here are some of the Louvimas I found:
Hilda Louvima Pritchard, born in 1888 in England
Evangeline Louvima Brumbley, born in 1888 in England
Louvima Perline Ann Cunningham, born in 1889 in Arkansas
Lilian Louvima Daisy Blake, born in 1889 in South Africa
Louvima Primrose Massey-Hicks, born in 1890 in South Africa
Nina Louvima Shann, born in 1892 in New Zealand
Louvima Evelina Youell, born in 1893 in England
Louvima Griswold, born in 1894 in Idaho
Annie Louvima Brooksband, born in 1895 in England
Rita Louvima Faulkner, born in 1898 in Canada
Louvima Marie Crosson, born in 1901 in Florida
Louvima Naylor, born in 1902 in Iowa
Laura Louvima McKenzie, born in 1902 in Michigan
Florence Louvima Major, born in 1908 in Canada
I also discovered more than a few horses and boats named Louvima during this period.
One of those horses, in fact, belonged to the royal family itself. Which makes me wonder: who came up with the name originally? Was it Francis Knollys’ invention, or did he get the idea from someone in the royal family? Maybe one of the sisters? (The Romanov sisters — Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia — referred to themselves by the acronym “OTMA.”)
Louvima Knollys grew up very close to the royal family. In the photo below, taken in 1897, she’s posing with Queen Alexandra. The Queen is dressed as Marguerite de Valois, wife of Henry IV of France, and Louvima is dressed as a pageboy.
Louvima married twice, and had a son with her first husband (who died during WWI). Through her son she had four grandchildren and at least six great-grandchildren. As far as I can tell, Louvima’s unique name has not (yet) been passed down to any of her descendants.
Bede, Cuthbert. “Louvima, a New Christian Name.” Notes & Queries 7 Jul. 1888: 6.
Dutt, William Alfred. The King’s Homeland. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1904.
A reader named Andrea is expecting her second daughter in May and she’d appreciate some name suggestions. Here’s what she writes:
My husband and I love unusual names that have a little bit of a retro feel (my first daughter is Edie). We’ve been trying to think of something fun and different but still feminine. A few we like: Camilla, Lina, Romi, Gia, Neve and Leigh.
Here are some other names I think they might like: