Two years after the premiere of the sitcom Bewitched, which featured a character named Samantha, the Samantha-like name Tamantha appeared in the U.S. baby name data:
1968: 16 baby girls named Tamantha
1967: 17 baby girls named Tamantha
1966: 16 baby girls named Tamantha [debut]
Bewitched could be a secondary influence here, but I think the main influence was another TV sitcom: The Tammy Grimes Show. This long-forgotten series was cancelled after just four episodes (all of which aired in September of 1966) but the main character, played by Broadway actress Tammy Grimes, was a young heiress named Tamantha “Tammy” Ward.
Even more impressive, though, is the upsurge in usage of the similar name Tamatha the same year:
1968: 381 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 381st]
1967: 313 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 532nd]
1966: 222 baby girls named Tamatha [rank: 646th]
For this one, I think it’s the other way around: Bewitched was the primary influence, and Tammy Grimes was secondary.
Newspaper articles about The Tammy Grimes Show did indeed misspell the character’s name “Tamatha” occasionally, but that’s not enough to catapult a name into the top 1,000. It’s far more likely that this was one of the variant names that emerged in the shadow of Tabatha, which saw a dramatic rise in usage in 1966 thanks to the newborn baby Tabatha on Bewitched.
Do you like the names Tamantha and Tamatha? Do you like them more or less than the traditional names Samantha and Tabitha?
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…
Bewitched, the sitcom about a witch who marries a mere mortal, premiered on ABC in September of 1964 and ran all the way until 1972. Like many popular TV shows, it had a noticeable influence on U.S. baby names. For instance…
The name Samantha, which had ranked far outside the top 1,000 for most of the 20th century, skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-1960s thanks to main character (and witch!) Samantha Stephens, played by Elizabeth Montgomery.
1968: 2,339 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 136th]
1967: 1,806 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 176th]
1966: 1,794 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 182nd]
1965: 1,963 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 179th]
1964: 421 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 473rd]
1963: 73 baby girls named Samantha
The name reached and maintained top-5 status during most of the 1990s (with a lot of help from another fictional Samantha: Samantha Micelli from ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss?).
Montgomery also played the part of Samantha’s cousin Serena, who was a recurring character during later seasons of the show. The name Serena saw higher usage in the late ’60s and early ’70s as a result.
The name Darrin was boosted up to its highest-ever usage in 1965 thanks to Samantha’s husband Darrin Stephens, originally played by Dick York.
1968: 2,078 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 138th]
1967: 2,029 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 141st]
1966: 2,568 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 119th]
1965: 3,257 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 102nd] <- peak usage
1964: 801 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 272nd]
1963: 310 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 450th]
In fact, all the spelling variants of Darrin saw peak usage in 1965. The most common spelling of the name, Darren, reached 52nd place in the rankings that year. Also in the top 1,000 were Darin (123th), Daren (271st), Darron (408th), Daron (494th) Daryn (717th), and Darryn (818th).
The rare name Endora debuted in 1965, thanks to Samantha’s flamboyant and moderately villainous witch-mother Endora, played by Agnes Moorehead (who, several years earlier, played another TV witch).
1968: 7 baby girls named Endora
1967: 17 baby girls named Endora
1966: 19 baby girls named Endora
1965: 28 baby girls named Endora [debut]
Endora was so dismissive of Darrin that she nearly never bothered to say his name correctly, calling him things like Derwood, Dagwood, Darwick, Dumpkin, and so forth.
Endora’s own name was inspired by the biblical Witch of Endor; “Endor” was an ancient Canaanite city.
Tabatha & Tabitha
The names Tabatha and Tabitha were both featured on Bewitched, confusingly.
Samantha and Darrin’s first child was a baby girl born in January of 1966. They named her Tabitha, a name first strongly suggested in the storyline by Endora (“Whatever you call her, I shall call her Tabitha”).
Behind the scenes, it was Elizabeth Montgomery who suggested the character name Tabitha — spelled the traditional way, with an i.
But, for some unknown reason, the name was spelled Tabatha — with an a — on the credit role. Montgomery was later quoted as saying: “Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It’s like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves.” The spelling wasn’t corrected until season 5 (1968-1969).
Accordingly, the usage of both baby names rose during the ’60s, with Tabatha ranking higher than Tabitha for a three-year stretch before the spelling mistake in the credits was corrected:
947 [rank: 295th]
543 [rank: 398th]
1,050 [rank: 279th]
585 [rank: 401st]
944 [rank: 297th]
658 [rank: 355th]
549 [rank: 391st]
701 [rank: 328th]
444 [rank: 451st]
581 [rank: 378th]
327 [rank: 524th]
500 [rank: 419th]
The name Adam more than doubled in usage over a two-year stretch thanks to Samantha and Darrin’s second child, Adam, who was born in October of 1969.
1972: 5,748 baby boys named Adam [rank: 51st]
1971: 5,855 baby boys named Adam [rank: 57th]
1970: 4,320 baby boys named Adam [rank: 71st]
1969: 2,869 baby boys named Adam [rank: 113th]
1968: 2,546 baby boys named Adam [rank: 119th]
1967: 2,528 baby boys named Adam [rank: 118th]
The name reached and maintained top-20 status for several years during the early 1980s.
…So are you a fan of Bewitched? Which names from the show do you like the best?
Tabatha, a 25-year-old from Queensland, Australia, likes that her name is “not easy to forget.”
But she doesn’t care for the nickname Tabby Cat. Or the fact that “everyone automatically thinks of Bewitched” when they hear her name.
It isn’t surprising that so many people associate the name with Bewitched, as many baby girls were named Tabatha and Tabitha after the birth of TV baby Tabatha Stephens during the second season (which aired from 1965 to 1966).
In fact, that’s exactly how Tabatha herself came to be named:
My sister named me after the TV show Bewitched.
(Interesting random fact: Bewitched also put the name Endora on the map.)
Would Tabatha recommend that kids today be given her name?
It is a very old name but it may just be confusing to people these days. Bewitched isn’t really around much. I work in childcare & all the kids find my name hard to learn & weird.