How popular is the baby name Shirley in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Shirley and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Shirley.
The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.
The wildly successful Christmas comedy Home Alone, released at the end of 1990, starred child actor Macaulay Culkin as a little boy (Kevin McCallister) mistakenly left at home by himself for the holidays while his family went on vacation.
Thanks to the movie, Macaulay Culkin became a household name virtually overnight. In fact, he was soon being called “the biggest child star since Shirley Temple.”
Unsurprisingly, the year the movie came out, the unique name Macaulay began appearing in the U.S. baby name data:
Macaulay Culkin was born in 1980 and named for 19th-century English* historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. He was the third of seven children; his siblings are named Shane (m), Dakota (f), Kieran (m), Quinn (f), Christian (m), and Rory (m).
What are your thoughts on the baby name Macaulay? Do you like it better for boys or for girls?
Where did it come from? I haven’t been able to figure that out yet.
The name Shirley, which had been extremely popular in the 1930s, was trending downward by the 1960s. The sound-alike names Sherla or Shirla did not see a uptick in usage in 1961. And the somewhat similar name Shirelle, though it debuted the same year (thanks to girl-group The Shirelles), is probably not the cause.
Vital records indicate that the 1961 Shurlas were born in various places in the U.S., so they weren’t clustered in a specific region. (Here are two of them: one from Missouri, the other from Maryland originally but buried in Kansas.)
Do you have any idea where this one might have come from? (News? Television?)
Nalu was a character played by actress Ramsay Ames in the film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944).
Nan Christy was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in 1894. Nan was also a character name in multiple films, including Nan’s Victory (short, 1914) and Nan of the North (1922).
Nazama was a character played by actress Binnie Barnes in the film The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938).
Alla Nazimova, often credited simply as Nazimova, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in Russia (now Ukraine) in 1879. Her birth name was Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon. Alla was also a character played by actress Sally Crute in the film The Cossack Whip (1916).
Nea was a character played by actress Dona Drake in the film Aloma of the South Seas (1941).
Neleta was a character played by actress Steffi Duna in the film Anthony Adverse (1936).
Nelga Petrona was a character played by actress Julia Swayne Gordon in the short film The Tigress (1915).
Nell Craig was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in New Jersey in 1891. Nell Shipman was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Canada in 1892. Her birth name was Helen Foster-Barham. Nell was also a character name in multiple films, including The Reward of Thrift (short, 1914) and Nell Gwyn (1926).
Nennah was a character played by actress Ynez Seabury in the film The Calgary Stampede (1925).
Neola May was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in California in 1891. Neola was also a character played by actress Betty Schade in the short film Olana of the South Seas (1914).
Netta Westcott was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1940s. She was born in England in 1893. Netta was also a character played by actress Linda Darnell in the film Hangover Square (1945).
Nirvena was a character played by actress Stephanie Bachelor in the film Lady of Burlesque (1943).
Nista was a character played by actress Caroline Frances Cooke in the film The Devil Bear (1929).
Nita Naldi was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in New York in 1894. Her birth name was Mary Nonna Dooley. Nita was also a character name in multiple films, including Jane Goes A’ Wooing (1919) and Two Gun Sheriff (1941).
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled failed to influence the U.S. baby name charts in 2010, but a televised depiction of Rapunzel from decades earlier boosted the baby name Rapunzel onto the charts for the first and only time in 1959:
So what exactly caused this sudden interest in Rapunzel?
The “Rapunzel” episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958-1961). The German folktale first aired in October of 1958 on NBC. It aired again in 1959 when ABC reran the entire first season of the series.
The role of Rapunzel was played by 16-year-old Carol Lynley. The witch was played by Agnes Moorehead, best remembered today as an entirely different witch: red-headed Endora from Bewitched. And Shirley Temple, who was in her early 30’s by this time, served as narrator.
…And how did the long-haired folktale character come to have the name “Rapunzel” in the first place?
It was a pregnancy craving, believe it or not.
The original story began with a pregnant woman who had a craving for rapunzel, which is a leafy green vegetable. Her husband started stealing rapunzel from a nearby garden that belonged to either a fairy (in the Grimm brothers’ original 1812 version of the story) or a sorceress (in their revised 1857 version). The husband got caught and was forced to make a deal: he could take all the rapunzel he wanted, but in exchange he had to give the baby to the fairy/sorceress. And he did. The baby girl was named “Rapunzel” and taken away.