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

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Popularity of the Baby Name Roald


Posts that Mention the Name Roald

Marie Ahnighito, the Snow Baby

Marie Ahnighito Peary
Marie Ahnighito Peary, mid-1890s

Roald Amundsen was the first explorer to verifiably reach the North Pole (in 1926, with the help of a dirigible). But he wasn’t the first explorer to claim to have reached the North Pole.

One of those early claimants was Robert Peary, who said he reached the Pole in 1909. While no one knows for sure if this is true, other facts about Peary’s travels are not in question.

For instance, there’s the fact that he brought his pregnant wife Josephine to northern Greenland in 1893 so that she could give birth to their first child in the Arctic. The baby girl, who arrived in September, was the first Caucasian baby to be born at that altitude.

The baby’s name? Marie Ahnighito. She was often called the “snow baby” by the media.

In her 1901 book “The Snow Baby: A True Story with True Pictures,” Josephine described an outfit one of the Inuit women had constructed for Marie, and that led to the story of the name:

This costume was made by a woman named AH-NI-GHI-TO; so, when the baby was christened, she too was called AH-NI-GHI-TO. She was also named Marie for her only aunt, who was waiting in the far-off home land to greet her little niece.

(I wish she’d included a translation/interpretation of Ahnighito, but alas she did not.)

Marie Ahnighito was probably the first non-Inuit baby to get that particular Inuit name, but she wasn’t the last. So far I’ve found four U.S. babies (two male, two female) named Ahnighito. Two were born in the late 1930s, not long after Marie’s book “The Snowbaby’s Own Story” (1934) was published, and the other two were born in the late 1950s. (One was Ahnighito Eugene Riddick.)

…Oh, and I know of one more thing named after Marie Ahnighito: A meteorite. Or at least a big chunk of one.

About 10,000 years ago, a meteorite entered the atmosphere, broke up, and landed in pieces close to Cape York, Greenland. For centuries the Inuit of the region used iron from the fragments to make tools and harpoons.

Peary discovered these meteorite fragments around 1894. A few years later, he sold the three largest pieces — called “Tent,” “Woman” and “Dog” by the Inuit — to the American Museum of Natural History for $40,000. (Essentially, he profited from stealing/selling the Inuit’s only source of metal.) At some point Peary renamed the largest fragment “Ahnighito” in honor of his daughter, and today all three pieces — Ahnighito, Woman and Dog — remain on display in New York City.

Sources:

Image: Marie Peary (LOC)

Olivia Twenty, Named for $20

Children’s book author Roald Dahl, who was named after Roald Amundsen and who also created the Fifinella gremlin, was born in Wales in 1916.

He married American actress Patricia Neal in 1953 and they had a total of five children together.

Their first baby was named Olivia Twenty. Why a number as a middle name?

Olivia Twenty was born in New York on April 20, 1955, and named after her mother’s favorite Shakespearean heroine, the date of her birth, and the fact that Roald had $20 in his pocket when he came to visit Pat in the hospital.

And their second child, originally called Chantal Sophia, ended up getting a name change:

A few days after Chantal had been christened, Roald realized her name rhymed with Dahl and renamed her Tessa.

The last three three Dahl children were named Theo Matthew, Ophelia Magdalena, and Lucy Neal. My guess is that Ophelia is another Shakespeare reference, and that Sophia and Magdalena came from Dahl’s mother, Sofie Magdalene. I’m not sure what inspired the other names.

[Sadly, Olivia Twenty died of the measles in 1962, before a reliable measles vaccine had been developed.]

Source: Sturrock, Donald. Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Babies Named for Robert Falcon Scott

Robert Falcon Scott

Roald Amundsen wasn’t the only person racing southward in the early 1910s. English explorer Robert Falcon Scott was also trying to be the first to reach the South Pole.

But Scott’s team arrived in January on 1912 — more than a month after Amundsen’s team. Even worse, during the 800-mile return trek, Scott and all four of his companions died.

Scott’s body was discovered in November, but the news of his death didn’t reach civilization until February of 1913. At that point, he became a national hero.

It’s hard to know how many babies worldwide were named “Robert” in his honor, given both the prevalence of the name and the sheer size of the British Empire at that time, but I have found a pair of unmistakable tributes:

  • Robert Falcon Scott Simpson, born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1913.
  • Robert Falcon Scott Grieve, born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1916.

Both babies were born in Canada, but Simpson’s parents were both from England, while Grieve’s were from the U.S. and Scotland.

Source: Robert Falcon Scott – Wikipedia

The Baby Name Roald

roald amundsen
Roald Amundsen

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to cross the Northwest Passage (1905), to reach the South Pole (1911), and to reach both poles (1926).

His name, Roald, can be traced back to an Old Norse name made up of the words hróðr, meaning “fame,” and valdr, meaning “ruler.” It first appeared on the U.S. baby name charts in 1912:

  • 1915: 6 baby boys named Roald
  • 1914: 7 baby boys named Roald
  • 1913: 5 baby boys named Roald
  • 1912: 10 baby boys named Roald [debut]
  • 1911: unlisted

Why 1912? Because, even though Amundsen reached the South Pole in December of 1911, the rest of the world wasn’t aware of his accomplishment until after he’d left Antarctica and arrived in Tasmania in March of 1912.

The SSDI shows a similar rise in the number of Roalds born in 1912:

  • 1915: 4 people named Roald
  • 1914: 5 people named Roald
  • 1913: 6 people named Roald
  • 1912: 9 people named Roald
  • 1911: 3 people named Roald

Many of the U.S. babies named Roald during the 1910s were born to parents who had emigrated from Norway.* Amusingly, four or five of these baby Roalds were born into families with the surname Amundson or Amundsen.

Peak usage happened in 1928, the year Roald Amundsen went missing and was presumed dead after a plane crash in the Arctic.**

Finally, though I don’t have any data to back it up, my hunch is that the name Roald also saw increased usage in other regions in the 1910s and 1920s, and perhaps later. Amundsen’s two most famous namesakes are writer Roald Dahl, born in Wales in 1916, and chemist Roald Hoffmann, born in Poland in 1937.

*Similar to the way Bertil became trendy among Swedish immigrants.
**Same thing happened to the name Knute the year Knute Rockne died, also in a plane crash.

Source: Roald Amundsen – Wikipedia