How popular is the baby name William in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to William and check out all the blog posts that mention the name William.
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.
We’re well into November, and while I don’t typically experience “November Rain” — usually just November snow — now’s a good time to talk about Axl, the name of the guy who sang “November Rain.”
Axl debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1988:
1992: 29 baby boys named Axl
1991: 23 baby boys named Axl
1990: 25 baby boys named Axl
1989: 21 baby boys named Axl
1988: 9 baby boys named Axl [debut]
The next year, the names Axle and Aksel both debuted, while the already-in-use name Axel (which can be traced back to the biblical name Absalom) more than doubled in usage.
The influence? Axl Rose, lead singer of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.
The band’s debut album Appetite for Destruction was released in July of 1987. It became a commercial success the next year, after the band started touring and releasing singles such as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (peaked at #1 in Sept. 1988), “Welcome to the Jungle” (#7 in Dec. ’88), and “Paradise City” (#5 in Mar. ’89).
Axl Rose grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, with the name William “Bill” Bailey. As a teen, he discovered that his surname at birth had been Rose, so he started using it. Not long after that, he adopted the first name Axl:
One of the short-lived local bands he’d sung with was called AXL, which then became his moniker. When the band broke up, he kept using the name, and styled himself “W. Axl Rose.”
And in early 1986, right before signing with Geffen Records, he legally changed his name to “W. Axl Rose.”
Unexpectedly, the name is more popular today than ever before:
2017: 335 baby boys named Axl [rank: 716th]
2016: 305 baby boys named Axl [rank: 778th]
2015: 313 baby boys named Axl [rank: 760th]
2014: 266 baby boys named Axl [rank: 842nd]
2013: 111 baby boys named Axl
2012: 102 baby boys named Axl
This is probably thanks to another singer, Fergie, who welcomed a baby boy in August of 2013 and named him Axl after Axl Rose. (Some ’80s trivia for you: Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was on Kids Incorporated with Marta “Martika” Marrero.)
What are your thoughts on the baby name Axl? Would you use it?
Davis, Stephen. Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses. New York: Gotham Books, 2008.
Spitz, Marc. “Just a Little Patience.” Spin Jul. 1999: 80-93.
P.S. How did the band name “Guns N’ Roses” come to be? It was created from the surnames of two of the founding members, Axl Rose and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Richard Irving Ulrich), essentially. More precisely, it came from the merger of the bands they were in at the time: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns.
I got curious about “Hopalong” after writing the Topper post, which mentions famous fictional cowboy Hopalong Cassidy.
Hopalong Cassidy, always portrayed by actor William Boyd, appeared in 66 low-budget movies in the ’30s and ’40s. (In fact, Boyd is in The Guinness Book of World Records for making the most film performances in the same role.)
But the character was most popular during the 1950s, after Boyd bought the television rights to Hopalong and the movies began airing on TV (the first in mid-1949). This made Hopalong Cassidy the very first TV cowboy. In 1950, Life magazine detailed the financial success of the character/brand: “Hopalong has become an economic colossus, born of television’s desperate need for ready-made programs.”
So far, I’ve tracked down three real people with the name Hopalong. The earliest was born in Texas in 1943. The next was born in Micronesia in 1959. And the most recent, for whom “Hopalong” was a middle name, was born in Texas in 1979. (The name was also used for the puppet “Hop Along Wong” in the 1950s kid’s TV show Time for Beany.)
The character William “Hopalong” Cassidy originated in stories written in the early 1900s by Clarence E. Mulford. Originally Hopalong was a much rougher man, and he had limp — hence the nickname.