How popular is the baby name Sam 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 Sam.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Sam


Posts that Mention the Name Sam

Name Quotes #99: Silbestre, Iris, Kin

Silbestre Esquivel’s inscription (via Petrified Forest NP’s IG)

About the historical “Silbestre Esquivel” inscription inside Petrified Forest National Park:

Who was Silbestre Esquivel? In 1811, he inscribed his name in what would become Petrified Forest National Park. Was he passing through? Was he a lonely cowboy or shepherd? Even the history of discovery of the inscription is mysterious. Two different articles in a magazine and a newspaper in 1943 and 1945 claim to discover the name. The earlier one found it by directions from a business woman in the area—wouldn’t she be the one to have discovered it? A professional photographer, Michael Bend, did find out that the man was part of a party traveling from Santa Fe to Utah lead by José Rafaél Sarracino to trade with the Ute people. Such fascinating secrets!

(The name Silbestre — like the related name Sylvester — can be traced back to the Latin word silva, meaning “forest.”)

From Blake Lively’s WIRED Autocomplete Interview [vid] with Anna Kendrick:

Anna: How did Blake Lively…get her name?
Blake: My grandmother’s brother was named Blake.
A: Oh!
B: But he was murdered. So thanks for asking, Google.
A: She’s so dark.

(Blake Lively was also featured in Name Quotes #51.)

From a Louder interview with John Rzeznik about the Goo Goo Dolls’ hit song “Iris”:

By the time Rzeznik had ironed out some of the “ugly chord sequences”, he had a swooning future classic on his hands. Only the name was required. “I’m horrible at naming songs,” he says, “so it’s the last thing I do. I was looking through a magazine called LA Weekly and saw that a great singer-songwriter called Iris DeMent was playing in town. I was, like: ‘Wow! What a beautiful name.’

(The song doesn’t actually include the name Iris in the lyrics, and yet the usage of the baby name Iris does seem to rise at a faster rate in 1998 and 1999, so…did the song influence the name? Wdyt?)

From the book Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State (2016) by James E. St. Clair:

Amid much publicity in the early 1950s, [Herb Shriner and his wife] had given their children names that reflected his Hoosier heritage: They had a daughter named Indiana (known as “Indy”) and a son, Kin, named in honor of Abe Martin creator Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard. Kin Shriner became a soap opera actor; his twin brother, Wil (named for Will Rogers, but with one l), became a comedian, television, director, and talk show host with a laid-back style reminiscent of his father.

From an essay about names in The Arizona Republic by Karina Bland:

When Jim and I were choosing a name for our son, we turned to the dictionary.

Sawyer has three half-siblings — Sonnet, Sky and Savannah. Each name is an actual word, not a name like Sam or Sarah. We wanted to do the same for this baby.

Our list is still there in my Random House College Dictionary with the red cover — 22 possibilities neatly printed in purple pencil on the back of a sheet of paper shaped like a cluster of grapes: Street, South, Story, Satchel, Sage, Saracen.

We had narrowed it down to a handful — Storm, Sawyer, Story, Scout, Scarlet — when we saw him on an ultrasound for the first time. A boy. And he was instantly Sawyer, one fist raised above his head, all boyhood and adventure.

From an essay on baby names in The Guardian by Ed Cumming:

The one truly radical act for a British parent is to pluck a name from further down the class ladder. Yet it might not be the worst idea for the downwardly mobile upper-middle classes, whose jobs in accounting and law are about to be replaced by Elon’s robots. They continue to worry that Liam or Wayne wouldn’t fit in at Eton, little realising that will be the least of their concerns. Cressida and Monty will have a much harder time fitting in at the robot repair shop.

How did “The Real World” influence baby names?

“This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a loft…and have their lives taped…”

Several months ago, the cast of the inaugural season of MTV’s The Real World held a 6-day reunion in the very same NYC loft they shared back in 1992. The reunion — which was filmed, of course — is now airing as a series on the Paramount+ platform. (Here’s the trailer.)

When I was a teenager, I loved watching The Real World. (And I appreciated that the names of the cast members were always prominently displayed in the opening credits!) So I think now would be a great time to go back and see if any Real World cast member names had an influence on U.S. baby names.

First, let’s start with a comprehensive list of all the cast member names from each of RW‘s 33 (!) seasons…

  1. The Real World: New York (1992): Andre, Becky, Eric, Heather, Julie, Kevin, Norman
  2. The Real World: California (1993): Aaron, Beth (x2), David, Dominic, Glen, Irene, Jon, Tami
  3. The Real World: San Francisco (1994): Cory, Jo, Judd, Mohammed, Pam, Pedro, Puck, Rachel
  4. The Real World: London (1995): Jacinda, Jay, Kat, Lars, Mike, Neil, Sharon
  5. The Real World: Miami (1996): Cynthia, Dan, Flora, Joe, Melissa, Mike, Sarah
  6. The Real World: Boston (1997): Elka, Genesis, Jason, Kameelah, Montana, Sean, Syrus
  7. The Real World: Seattle (1998): David, Irene, Janet, Lindsay, Nathan, Rebecca, Stephen
  8. The Real World: Hawaii (1999): Amaya, Colin, Justin, Kaia, Matt, Ruthie, Teck
  9. The Real World: New Orleans (2000): Danny, David, Jamie, Julie, Kelley, Matt, Melissa
  10. The Real World: Back to New York (2001): Coral, Kevin, Lori, Malik, Mike, Nicole, Rachel
  11. The Real World: Chicago (2002): Aneesa, Cara, Chris, Keri, Kyle, Theo, Tonya
  12. The Real World: Las Vegas (2002-2003): Alton, Arissa, Brynn, Frank, Irulan, Steven, Trishelle
  13. The Real World: Paris (2003): Ace, Adam, Chris, Christina, Leah, Mallory, Simon
  14. The Real World: San Diego (2004): Brad, Cameran, Charlie, Frankie, Jacquese, Jamie, Randy, Robin
  15. The Real World: Philadelphia (2004-2005): Karamo, Landon, Melanie, M.J., Sarah, Shavonda, Willie
  16. The Real World: Austin (2005): Danny, Johanna, Lacey, Melinda, Nehemiah, Rachel, Wes
  17. The Real World: Key West (2006): Janelle, John, Jose, Paula, Svetlana, Tyler, Zach
  18. The Real World: Denver (2006-2007): Alex, Brooke, Colie, Davis, Jenn, Stephen, Tyrie
  19. The Real World: Sydney (2007-2008): Ashli, Cohutta, Dunbar, Isaac, KellyAnne, Parisa, Shauvon, Trisha
  20. The Real World: Hollywood (2008): Brianna, Brittini, Dave, Greg, Joey, Kimberly, Nick, Sarah, Will
  21. The Real World: Brooklyn (2009): Baya, Chet, Devyn, J.D., Katelynn, Ryan, Sarah, Scott
  22. The Real World: Cancun (2009): Ayiiia, Bronne, CJ, Derek, Emilee, Jasmine, Joey, Jonna
  23. The Real World: D.C. (2009-2010): Andrew, Ashley, Callie, Emily, Erika, Josh, Mike, Ty
  24. The Real World: New Orleans (2010): Ashlee, Eric, Jemmye, McKenzie, Preston, Ryan (x2), Sahar
  25. The Real World: Las Vegas (2011): Adam, Dustin, Heather (x2), Leroy, Michael, Nany, Naomi
  26. The Real World: San Diego (2011): Alexandra, Ashley, Frank, Nate, Priscilla, Sam, Zach
  27. The Real World: St. Thomas (2012): Brandon (x2), LaToya, Laura, Marie, Robb, Trey
  28. The Real World: Portland (2013): Anastasia, Averey, Jessica, Johnny, Joi, Jordan, Marlon, Nia
  29. Real World: Ex-Plosion (2014): Arielle, Ashley (x2), Brian, Cory, Hailey, Jamie, Jay, Jenna, Jenny, Lauren, Thomas
  30. Real World: Skeletons (2014-2015): Bruno, Jason, Madison, Nicole, Sylvia, Tony, Violetta
  31. Real World: Go Big or Go Home (2016): CeeJai, Chris, Dean, Dione, Dylan, Jenna, Kailah, Sabrina
  32. Real World Seattle: Bad Blood (2016-2017): Anika, Anna, Jennifer, Jordan, Kassius, Katrina, Kimberly, Mike, Orlana, Peter, Robbie, Theo, Tyara, Will
  33. The Real World: Atlanta (2019): Arely, Clint, Dondre, Justin, Meagan, Tovah, Yasmin

The names in boldface line up with a discernible increase in baby name usage. (Other Real World names may have affected baby names as well, but it can be hard to tell when, say, a name is already common, or already on the rise.)

Here are details on all the boldfaced names, plus two more influential RW names (from seasons 6 and 18) that didn’t even belong to primary cast members.

  • The name Jacinda (from season 4; 1995) saw peak usage in 1996.
  • The name Flora (5; 1996) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Kameelah (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Syrus (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Jason (6; 1997) was probably not affected, but the name of Jason’s girlfriend, Timber, saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Amaya (8; 1999) saw sharply increased usage in 1999 and 2000.
  • The name Kaia (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Ruthie (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Aneesa (11; 2002) saw peak usage in 2002.
  • The name Arissa (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2003.
  • The name Brynn (12; 2002-3) saw sharply increased usage in 2003.
  • The name Irulan (12; 2002-3) debuted in the data in 2003.
    • It looks like she was named after the fictional character Princess Irulan from Frank Herbert’s Dune books…?
  • The name Trishelle (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Mallory (13; 2003) saw increased usage in 2003 and 2004.
  • The name Cameran (14; 2004) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Jacquese (14; 2004) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Johanna (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005.
  • The name Nehemiah (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005 and 2006.
  • The name Janelle (17; 2006) saw increased usage in 2006.
  • The name Svetlana (17; 2006) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Colie (18; 2006-7) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Tyrie (18; 2006-7) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name of Tyrie’s girlfriend, Jazalle, debuted in 2007 and is a one-hit wonder so far.
  • The name Kellyanne (19; 2007-8) returned to the data in 2008.
  • The name Baya (21; 2009) saw sharply increased usage in 2009. In fact, Baya was one of the fastest-rising baby names of 2009.
  • The name Averey (28; 2013) saw peak usage in 2013.
  • The name Kassius (32; 2016-17) saw increased usage in 2017.

Of all the names above, which one(s) do you like most?

And, for all the Real World fans out there: which season(s) do you like most? :)

Source: The Real World (TV series) – Wikipedia

Popular Baby Names in the Netherlands, 2020

According to the Netherlands’ Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), the most popular baby names in the country in 2020 were (again) Emma and Noah.

Here are the Netherlands’ top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2020:

Girl Names (Meisjesnamen)

  1. Emma, 685 baby girls
  2. Julia, 665 (tie)
  3. Mila, 665 (tie)
  4. Tess, 660
  5. Sophie, 647
  6. Zoë, 622
  7. Sara, 571
  8. Nora, 561
  9. Yara, 531
  10. Eva, 510

Boy Names (Jongensnamen)

  1. Noah, 825 baby boys
  2. Sem, 645
  3. Sam, 638
  4. Liam, 617 (tie)
  5. Lucas, 617 (tie)
  6. Daan, 614
  7. Finn, 597
  8. Levi, 582
  9. Luuk, 579
  10. Mees, 578

In the girls’ top 10, Nora, Yara, and Eva replaced Anna, Evi, and Saar.

In the boys’ top 10, Sam and Mees replaced James and Milan.

Sources: The Netherlands’ most popular baby names in 2020, De populairste namen | Kindernamen | SVB

Name Quotes #91: Wendy, Elliot, Thorlogh

From the 2010 book Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision by Louis P. Masur:

Peter Knobler, a writer for Crawdaddy, got an early listen [to “Born to Run”] in Springsteen’s Long Branch house. The place was cluttered with motorcycle magazines and old 45s. Over Bruce’s bed, according to Knobler, was a poster of Peter Pan leading Wendy out the window. The detail is suggestive: “Wendy let me in, I wanna be your friend/I want to guard your dreams and visions.”

From an article called “Khmer Legends” in The Cambodia Daily:

[T]he municipality has recently erected a statue of the fabled Yeay Penh, the woman who is credited with giving Phnom Penh its landmark hill.

As the story goes, in the 1370s, Yeay Penh asked her neighbors to raise the mound in front of her home so as to build on top of it a sanctuary to house the four statues of Buddha she had found inside a floating tree trunk. That mound, or phnom, is credited with giving Phnom Penh its name.

[…]

“The problem is we have no proof,” said Ros Chantrabot, a Cambodian historian and vice president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

“In all likelihood she did exist or, at the very least, the tale is based on an actual person, since Penh’s hill, or Phnom Penh, is there for all to see,” he said.

[“Yeah Penh” is the equivalent of “Grandmother Penh.” The word yeay in Cambodian is a title used to refer to and/or address an older female.]

From a recent Instagram post by actor Elliot Page (formerly called Ellen Page):

Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.

From the essay “On Naming Women and Mountains” by Lucy Bryan Green:

My own name scratches and constricts like an ill-fitting sweater. It comforts me to be [at Yosemite National Park] with wild things that do not speak it. As I walk among Steller’s jays and Brewer’s lupine and Douglas firs, I think, you, too, wear someone else’s name. This is also true of mountains, valleys, rivers, and lakes—names within names. I wonder about the people and the motivations behind these names, which I feel hesitant to say aloud.

From a post about Protestant and Puritan names in Ireland vs. England at the DMNES blog:

Tait says one might expect the saint names, pushed by the Catholic church during the Reformation, and English names, handed down to descendants of settlers, to overtake and eradicate the use of Gaelic names as it did in England (315). She found this was not the case. Irish natives and settlers each retained their own naming systems, preserving them both. In the 1660s, she finds the top 6 names used by native Irish families remained largely Gaelic– Patrick, Bryan, Hugh, Owen, Thorlogh, and Shane, while the top names used by the descendants of settlers remained largely English– John, Thomas, William, Robert, James, and Richard (316).

From the 2015 essay “The Name on My Coffee Cup” by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh:

As a frequent consumer of Starbucks…the most contentious aspect for me when ordering coffee—until now, anyway—has been the perpetual misspelling of my name on the side of the cup. The mutations have been many, and they have often been egregious—“Zal,” “Sowl,” “Sagi,” “Shi”—and then once, incredibly, three years ago, at a branch in the financial district, “Saïd,” diaeresis added, prompting me to seek out the barista, whose hand I grasped with deep feeling but who, frankly, seemed perplexed that anyone would have difficulty spelling my name. He was Latino, I think, and he told me that he had a best friend named Saïd, spelled identically, which would explain his astuteness. Never mind the backstory, I was delighted by the outcome. I photographed the cup for posterity, and then, for good measure, tweeted it for the world to see.

Other tweeted misspellings include Saíd, Syeed, Sai, Saii, Sahi, Sie, Säd, Sia, and Sam.

Name Quotes #89: Shelley, Kelly, Bill

Dram EP

From an Uproxx article about DRAM’s most recent EP:

Virginian rap crooner DRAM returned last night with the release of his new, three-song EP, That’s A Girl’s Name. Produced and co-written by Josh Abraham and Oligee, the EP’s title refers to DRAM’S real name, Shelley Massenburg-Smith, which means “that’s a girl’s name” is probably a phrase he heard quite a bit growing up.

(“DRAM” is an acronym for “Does Real Ass Music.” DRAM’s goldendoodle also has an interesting name: Idnit [vid] — “as in, idnit so cute.”)

DRAM with his dog, Idnit

From an Us Magazine article about Matthew McConaughey’s new book Greenlights:

The Texas native also revealed that when he was born his father wasn’t there. Instead, he explained that James “called my mom and said, ‘Only thing I have to say is if it’s a boy, don’t name him Kelly.’”

From a New York Times article about the marriage of Sugar Good, a Dunkin’ Donuts manager, to one of her drive-through customers:

A year would go by before she gathered the courage to pass him her sprinkle-bedecked business card with his breakfast in September 2018. But when she did, it came as a relief to both. The man, John Thompson, a recently retired Marine working as a car salesman in Oklahoma City, had been wondering how he was going to figure out what her real name was.

“When I started going through the drive-through, I noticed she would smile with her eyes, and I thought, maybe if I read the receipt I can see what her name is,” he said. “But it said ‘Sugar No. 7.'” He figured Sugar must have been a reference to how he likes his coffee. With the card, which listed her cellphone number at the bottom, she cleared up the mystery — as well as her own case of the blues.

(I discovered this one via Nancy Friedman — thank you!)

From a Harper’s Bazaar article about genderless beauty brands:

“As a culture, we are realizing that gender is no longer a fixed concept,” says Sam Cheow, senior vice president of corporate innovation and product development at the Estée Lauder Companies, which owns brands like M.A.C, Tom Ford Beauty, Le Labo, and Frédéric Malle . . . Cheow points to evidence that the needle is moving forward: the growing backlash surrounding gender-reveal parties; a rise in gender-neutral baby names (for example, in 2018, 51 percent of “Charlies” were female); and the arrival of Q, the world’s first genderless voice assistant.

From a Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources blog post entitled “The Tiffany Problem“:

Wait, what? No way there’s a Tiffany in this book! Not when there are other women running around with convincing names like Blanchefleur, Isolde, and Ermentrude.

[…]

[T]he Tiffany Problem describes the tension between historical fact and the average, everyday person’s idea of history. So even though authors may research carefully and want to include historically accurate information in their book—like a medieval character named Tiffany—a popular audience likely won’t buy it.

From a piece in Blue Ridge Outdoors about not wanting a trail name:

I remember a guy named Bill. His view on trail names mirrored mine. He didn’t have one, didn’t want one. He was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, not seeking a new identity. As he walked the white-blazed path, he simply introduced himself as “Bill”.

The most-often stated reply to him was, “What’s your trail name?”

His standard answer, “I don’t have a trail name. My name is just Bill.”

He became “Just Bill.”

From a Pitchfork interview with The Good Place actress D’Arcy Carden:

I put an apostrophe in my name that wasn’t there before, like Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, because of how influential this band was to me. D’Arcy was just the epitome of cool to me. In 1993, I was really into alternative and grunge music, and whereas the Nirvanas and the Pearl Jams felt so masculine, there was something sweeter and lighter about Smashing Pumpkins. The fact that they had a girl in their band was huge for me and my friends. I learned the guitar part to “Today,” and it made me feel like such a badass. It was like, “Wow, I can play guitar!” But, of course, anybody can play the beginning of “Today.”

(Name Quotes #73 mentioned another Good Place actress…)

From an amNewYork article about Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh (born Terri Sue Feldshuh in 1952):

What ever happened to Terri Sue Feldshuh?

“I fell in love with a Christian boy, Michael Fairchild, who didn’t want to kiss a Terri Sue. He said: ‘Terri Sue doesn’t fit you at all. What’s that other name of yours? Tovah? Now that’s a name!'”

(Her stage name was initially “Terri Fairchild,” according to Wikipedia.)