Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!
A reader named Virginia is expecting a baby in September. For a boy, she’d selected the name Phineas. She liked “that it was unusual without being bizarre,” and that it started with ph. But now she’s not so sure about the name:
All was fine and dandy until I read an article about violence in the Bible. It vaguely mentioned Phineas as a name from the Bible used as a talisman by white supremacists. What!?!
That was a shock to me too. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Phineas Priesthood is “a violent credo of vengeance that has gained some popularity among white supremacists and other extremists in recent years.” I’d never heard of the Phineas Priesthood before–not even when Julia Roberts named her son Phinnaeus a few years ago.
Virginia doesn’t want to give up her favorite name, but she also “can’t live with such an association,” so she was hoping for some name suggestions. Other names she’s considering include Joel and Samuel (for boys) and Sigrid, Phoebe, Elisabeth, and Anne (for girls). All are family names.
First, a few thoughts:
I doubt many people are aware that white supremacists use Phineas as a code word. It’s an odious association, but maybe it’s also obscure enough that it’s not worth worrying about…?
I really like Sigrid and Phoebe–they’re both significant and unusual. Especially Sigrid. (Phoebe is being used more and more every year, so it might not be unusual for long.)
And now, name suggestions. Here are some unusual-but-not-bizarre boy names that I think Virginia might like:
And some girl names:
What other names would you suggest to Virginia? (And, what’s your take on the Phineas dilemma?)
Update: The baby has arrived! Click here to learn the baby’s name.
Theresa, Joan, Monica, Clare…if you’re thinking about female saint names, these are probably some of the first names that come to mind.
But what if you’re looking for a name that’s a little less ordinary?
Well, things get tricky. Many other female saint names range from unstylish (e.g. Agnes, Gertrude) to basically unusable (e.g. Sexburga, Eustochium).
But some lady-saints do have cool, unusual names. To prove it, I’ve gone through the entire Roman Martyrology (and a few other sources) and collected sixty names that I think might appeal to modern parents. Here they are, ordered by feast day:
St. Geneviève, Frankish, 6th century. Feast day: January 3.
St. Talida, Egyptian, 4th century. Feast day: January 5.
St. Genoveva Torres Morales, Spanish, 20th century. Her name is the Spanish form of Geneviève. Feast day: January 5.
St. Marciana, Roman, 4th century. Feast day: January 9.
St. Savina, Roman, 4th century. Feast day: January 30.
St. Marcella, Roman, 5th century. Feast day: January 31.
St. Viridiana, Italian, 13th century. Feast day: February 1.
St. Cinnia, Irish, 5th century. In Irish, the letter C is always hard (i.e. pronounced like a K). Feast day: February 1.
Sts. Maura, various places and centuries. Feast days include February 13, May 3, and November 30.
St. Belina, French, 12th century. Feast day: February 19.
St. Romana, Roman, 4th century. She may be merely legendary. Feast day: February 23.
Bl. Villana de’Botti, Italian, 14th century. Feast day: February 28.
St. Foila, Irish, 6th century. Also recorded as Faile and Faoile (possibly pronounced FWEE-la), her name may mean seagull in certain dialects. Feast day: March 3.
St. Fina, Italian, 13th century. Her full name may have been Serafina. Feast day: March 12.
St. Maria Gemma Umberta Pia Galgani, Italian, 1878-1903. Feast day: April 11.
St. Vissia, Roman, 3rd century. Feast day: April 12.
St. Domnina, Roman, 1st century. Feast day: April 14.
St. Anthia, Roman, 2nd century. Feast day: April 18.
St. Zita, Italian, 13th century. Patroness of maids and domestic servants. Dante wrote her into his Inferno [Canto XXI, line 38] during the early 1300s. Feast day: April 27.
St. Tertulla, Numidian, 3rd century. Feast day: April 29.
St. Henedina, Roman, 2nd century. Feast day: May 14.
Sts. Basilla, various places and centuries. Feast days include May 17, May 20, and August 29.
St. Emmelia, Anatolian, 4th century. Feast day: May 30.
St. Melosa, Greek, unknown century. Feast day: June 1.
Sts. Melania, both Roman, both 5th century. Melania the Elder is the paternal grandmother of Melania the Younger. Feast days: June 8 and December 31.
Sts. Julitta, both Anatolian, both 4th century. Julitta is a diminutive of Julia. Feast days: June 16 and July 30.
Sts. Marina, various places and centuries. Feast days include June 18, July 17, and July 18.
St. Demetria, Roman, 4th century. Feast day: June 21.
St. Lucina, Roman, 1st century. Feast day: June 30. (Several other saints were also named Lucina.)
Sts. Cyrilla, one Egyptian, 4th century, the other Roman, 3rd century. Feast days: July 5 and October 28.
St. Triphina, Breton, 6th century. Feast day: July 5.
St. Sunniva, Irish (but associated with Norway), 10th century. The name has become moderately popular in Norway within the past decade or so. Feast day: July 8.
St. Severa, Frankish, 7th century. Feast day: July 20. (Several other saints were also named Severa.)
St. Liliosa, Spanish, 9th century. Feast day: July 27.
St. Serapia, Roman, 2nd century. She was a slave belonging to St. Sabina (below). Feast day: July 29.
St. Clelia Barbieri, Italian, 19th century. Feast day: July 13.
Bl. Kateri Tekakwitham, Mohawk, 17th century. Kateri is a Mohawk rendering of the name Catherine. Feast day: July 14.
St. Kinga, Polish, 13th century. Also known as Cunegunda and Kunigunda, she is the patroness of Poland and Lithuania. Feast day: July 24.
Sts. Lucilla, both Roman, both 3th century. Feast days: July 29 and August 25.
St. Seraphina, unknown location, 5th century. Feast day: July 29.
St. Serena, Roman, 3rd century. Likely a legendary saint. Feast day: August 16.
St. Sabina, Roman, 2nd century. One of her slaves was St. Serapia (above). Feast day: August 29.
St. Ammia, Anatolian, 3rd century. Feast day: August 31.
St. Verena, Egyptian (but associated with Switzerland), 3rd century. Feast day: September 1.
St. Rosalia, Italian, 12th century. In Palermo, a festino is held every July 15th in her honor. Feast day: September 4.
St. Melitina, Greek, 2nd century. Feast day: September 15.
Sts. Aurelia, one possibly Italian, unknown century, the other Austrian, 11th century. Feast days: September 25 and October 15.
St. Lioba, English (but associated with Germany), 8th century. Also known as Leoba, Liobgetha, and Leobgytha. Feast day: September 28.
St. Flavia, Roman, unknown century. Feast day: October 5th.
St. Flaviana, possibly Frankish, unknown century. Feast day: October 5.
St. Galla, Roman, 6th century. Her name is likely based on the Latin word gallus, meaning either Gaulish (if capitalized) or rooster (if uncapitalized). Feast day: October 5.
St. Saula, possibly British, possibly 4rd century. Or, she could be legendary. Associated with St. Ursula. Feast day: October 20.
St. Cilinia, Frankish, 5th century. Feast day: October 21.
St. Alodia, Spanish, 9th century. Feast day: October 22.
St. Cyrenia, Anatolian, 4th century. Feast day: November 1.
St. Carina, Anatolian, 4th century. Feast day: November 7.
St. Apphia, Anatolian, 1st century. Feast day: November 22.
St. Attalia, Austrian, 8th century. Feast day: December 3.
St. Asella, Roman, 5th century. Feast day: December 6.
St. Anysia, Greek, 4th century. Feast day: December 30.
Of all the names in the series, only four (Maura, Marina, Serena, and Carina…see any trends?) currently rank among the top 1,000 baby names in the nation. Eleven others ranked in previous years, but not in 2007.
Did you see any names you liked?
More importantly, did I miss any good ones?
Update, 2016: Here are a few more…
St. Hyacintha Mariscotti (Italian: Giacinta), 17th century. Feast day: January 30.
St. Humility, 13th century. Feast: March 22.
St. Maravillas de Jesús, 20th century. (Maravillas means “wonders” in Spanish.) Feast day: December 11.