How popular is the baby name Yul in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Yul and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Yul.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Yul

Number of Babies Named Yul

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Yul

The Rise of Deborah

deborah kerr, 1947, magazine
Deborah Kerr, cover of Time, early 1947

Right on the heels of Cheryl, the baby name Deborah skyrocketed in usage during the late ’40s and early ’50s:

  • 1952: 49,808 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
  • 1951: 42,060 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 4th]
  • 1950: 29,067 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 7th]
  • 1949: 19,208 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 15th]
  • 1948: 11,245 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 30th]
  • 1947: 5,838 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 62nd]
  • 1946: 2,470 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 119th]
  • 1945: 1,464 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 161st]
  • 1944: 1,293 baby girls named Deborah [rank: 168th]

It peaked at 2nd place (behind Mary) in 1955.

Deborah, based on the ancient Hebrew word for “bee,” had already been on a slow and steady rise. So what fueled the explosion?

I’d say the one-two punch of actresses Deborah Kerr and Debra Paget.

Scottish-born Deborah Kerr, who had been in films since the early 1940s, didn’t became one of the biggest names in Hollywood until later in the decade. (Her surname rhymes with car; MGM cleverly came up with the line, “Kerr rhymes with star.”)

Kerr ended up in some of the most financially successful movies of the era, such as King Solomon’s Mines (1950), Quo Vadis (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), and The King and I (1956) with Yul Brynner.

Denver-born* Debra Paget, a starlet of the 1950s, also appeared in some big films such as the top-grossing movie of the decade, The Ten Commandments (1956). The same year she appeared opposite Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender (1956).

Though many variants of Deborah were being used around that time, Debra saw particular success, thanks to Paget. In fact, Debra surpassed Deborah in usage for five years in a row:

Year Debra usage Deborah usage
1961 22,153 [rank: 13th] 24,095 [rank: 10th]
1960 26,737 [rank: 8th] 25,265 [rank: 10th]
1959 31,371 [rank: 7th] 19,553 [rank: 9th]
1958 35,520 [rank: 6th] 32,940 [rank: 7th]
1957 42,734 [rank: 4th] 40,062 [rank: 6th]
1956 48,299 [rank: 2nd] 47,830 [rank: 4th]
1955 50,541 [rank: 4th] 52,314 [rank: 2nd]
1954 45,894 [rank: 6th] 54,685 [rank: 3rd]
1953 36,856 [rank: 7th] 52,188 [rank: 3rd]
1952 26,832 [rank: 9th] 49,808 [rank: 4th]
1951 17,074 [rank: 18th] 42,060 [rank: 4th]

(Interesting fact: One of the babies named for Debra Paget was future actress Debra Winger, born in 1955.)

The occupational surname Paget, a diminutive form of the word page (a “youth employed as a personal attendant to a person of rank”), was also appearing in the SSA’s data as a girl around this time. It debuted in 1948, the year Debra Paget appeared in her first film, Cry of the City.

Which spelling do you prefer, the traditional Deborah or the streamlined Debra?

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Sources: Deborah Kerr – Wikipedia, Debra Paget – Wikipedia, Page – Online Etymology Dictionary

*These Rams were installed in Denver three years after Debra was born.

The Baby Name Yul

Yul Brynner, actor
Yul Brynner

The birth name of Russian-born actor Yul Brynner has been transcribed various ways: Yuli, Yuly, Yuliy. He was named after his Swiss-German grandfather Julius (pronounced yoo-lee-us). He started going by “Yul” after immigrating to the U.S. as young man in 1940:

[H]e initially spelled his named “Youl Bryner,” but a New York theatrical agent told him that “Youl” sounded too much like “you-all” and “Bryner” as though he was soaked in brine and pickled. To clarify the pronunciation, the actor respelled his name as Yul Brynner, pronounced “Yool Brinner.”

He didn’t see much acting success during the ’40s. (He had more luck working as a TV director during this time.) But everything changed in the early ’50s after he landed the lead role in the hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I” (1951-1954). The Broadway production earned multiple Tony Awards in early 1952, including one for Brynner.

Mainstream audiences were introduced to Yul in 1956, the year he starred in three big films: The King and I (released in June), The Ten Commandments (October), and Anastasia (December).

In 1957, Yul not only won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in (the film version of) The King and I, but his distinctive first name appeared in the U.S. baby name data for the first time:

  • 1961: 29 baby boys named Yul
  • 1960: 32 baby boys named Yul [peak usage]
  • 1959: 24 baby boys named Yul
  • 1958: 24 baby boys named Yul
  • 1957: 31 baby boys named Yul [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

Yul was the second most popular debut name for baby boys that year, just barely losing to Maverick.

Since then, the trajectories of the two names have been very different. Trendy Maverick is now given to thousands of baby boys per year, whereas unusual Yul is given to fewer than a dozen per year. Which name do you prefer, Yul or Maverick?

Sources: