I love that the Social Security Administration releases so much baby name data to the public. But I’ve always had mixed feelings about that 5-baby threshold for inclusion. (Due to privacy concerns, the government doesn’t release names given to fewer than 5 babies per gender, per year.)
Part of me appreciates the threshold. For instance, I like that it adds significance to the pop culture debut names I’m always posting about, as these names had to hit a certain minimum level of usage in order to register in the data.
But the other part of me? The other part just really, really wants to see those rare/crazy names at the bottom of the list.
So I get excited when I find U.S. data from an official source that does go down to single-instance usage. Up until recently, I only knew about Sonoma County and Los Angeles County, but recently I discovered that Iowa (an entire state!) also releases down-to-1 baby name data. Yay!
But before we get to the rare names, let’s look at the state of Iowa’s top baby names of 2016:
If you decide to dig through the data, leave a comment and let me know what you spot!
And if you’re friends with any expectant parents in Iowa, tell those lucky ducks that they have access to full sets of baby name rankings for their state. Either send them a link to this post or to one of the pages below…
Nature is waking up again! Let’s celebrate by checking out which nature names are the most popular for baby girls right now. Ironically the top 50 list below includes all the seasons except for “Spring,” but it does feature lots of springtime things: flowers, birds, trees…
For this list I stuck to names that are also correctly spelled English words. This means that I skipped names that are non-English words (like Stella and Luna) and alternative spellings of words (like Brooke and Briar). I should also mention that several of the above (including Rowan, Robin, and Clementine) do have more than one etymology to choose from.
Spring is here! Let’s celebrate with some flower names.
But let’s do something a little different. Instead of the same old suggestions, like Lily and Rose, let’s check out some relatively modern flower names that ultimately come from Latinized surnames (via genus names).
Here’s a list of 20. Most of these are rarely used for humans, so if you’re looking for an unexpected nature name for a baby girl, this is a good place to start.
Abelia flowers are white or pink, and usually scented. The genus Abelia is part of the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).
Abelia was named for British surgeon and naturalist Clarke Abel (1780-1826). Clarke’s version of the surname Abel is likely based on the Hebrew name Abel, meaning “breath.” An identical German surname is based on a pet form of Albrecht, made up of elements meaning “noble” and “bright.”
Camellia flowers are white, pink, red, and sometimes yellow. The genus Camellia is part of the Theaceae family. Leaves of the species Camellia sinensis are used to produce tea.
Camellia was named for Czech Jesuit missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706). The surname Kamel is derived from a word meaning “camel.” Camels are not endemic to Europe, but they were commonly used on house signs in central Europe during the later Middle Ages.
The baby name Camellia is currently ranked 2,597th.
Cattleya flowers come in a range of colors: purple, orange, white, yellow, etc. The genus Cattleya is part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae).
Cattleya was named for English merchant and horticulturist William Cattley (1788-1835). The first element of the English surname Cattley is based on either Catta, a personal name, or a word meaning “(wild) cat.” The second comes from the Old English word leah, meaning “woodland; clearing.”
The baby name Cattleya is currently ranked 1,684th. It was very rare until a character named Cataleya was featured in the 2011 movie Columbiana. The character’s name was based on the genus name.
Clintonia flowers are white, red, or green-yellow. The genus Clintonia is part of the lily family (Liliaceae).
Clintonia was named for U.S. politician and botanist De Witt Clinton (1769-1828). The English surname Clinton is based on one of two different place names. One place name was derived from Old English words meaning “enclosure, fence” + “settlement,” while the other means “Glyme (river)” + “settlement.”
Pronunciation: DAL-yah (first syllable can rhyme with “gal”, “doll,” or “dale”)
Dahlia flowers come in a wide range of colors. The genus Dahlia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae).
Dahlia was named for Swedish botanist Anders Dahl (1751-1789). The Swedish surname Dahl is based on the Old Norse word dalr, meaning “dale, valley.”
The baby name Dahlia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 719th.
Pronunciation: for-SĬTH-ee-ah or for-SĪTH-ee-ah (chiefly British English)
Forsythia flowers are bright yellow. The genus Forsythia is part of the olive family (Oleaceae).
Forsythia was named for Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737-1804). The surname Forsyth is based on Fearsithe, a Gaelic personal name made up of the Gaelic words fear, meaning “man,” and sith, meaning “peace.”
Gardenia flowers are white or pale yellow and strongly scented. The genus Gardenia is part of the coffee family (Rubiaceae).
Gardenia was named for Scottish-born American naturalist Alexander Garden (1730-1791). The English surname Garden is based on an occupational name for a gardener. It ultimately comes from the Old Norman French word gardin, meaning “garden.”
Kerria flowers are bright yellow. The genus Kerria is part of the rose family (Rosaceae).
Kerria was named for Scottish gardener and plant hunter William Kerr (d. 1814). The Scottish surname Kerr is a topographic name referring to a patch of wet ground overgrown with brushwood. It ultimately comes from the Old Norse word kjarr, meaning “copsewood, brushwood, thicket.”
Magnolia flowers are fragrant and come in white, pink, red, purple or yellow. Because they predate bees and butterflies, they’re typically pollinated by beetles.
The genus Magnolia was named for French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715). The French surname Magnol may be based on either the Latin word magnus, meaning “great,” or on a French place name of uncertain derivation.
The baby name Magnolia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 831st.
Monarda flowers are various shades of red, pink, and purple, and highly scented. The genus Monarda is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae).
Monarda was named for Spanish physician and botanist Nicolás Monardes (1493-1588).
Plumeria flowers (also known as frangipani) are very fragrant and come in several colors. The genus Plumeria is part of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), like Allamanda.
Plumeria was named for French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-1704). The French surname Plumier is based on an occupational name for either a feather dresser or a plumber. The former occupational name ultimately comes from the Latin word plumarius, meaning “embroidered with feathers,” while the latter comes from the Latin word plumbum, meaning “lead.”
Zinnia flowers come in a wide range of colors (red, purple, orange, buff, yellow, etc.) and shapes. The genus Zinnia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae), like Dahlia and Gazania.
Zinnia was named for German anatomist and botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759). The German/Jewish surname Zinn is based on an occupational name for a pewter worker or tinsmith. It ultimately comes from the Germanic word zin, meaning “tin, pewter.”
A reader named Ayelet is expecting twins. She and her husband won’t be finding out the babies’ genders ahead of time, so they’d like to be prepared with two boy names and two girl names.
So far they’ve got August and Dominic for the boy names and Celia for one of the girl names. Once they select a second girl name they’ll be all set.
They’d like something that isn’t common (i.e. outside of the top 500). They’re considering Aliyah, Angelie, Aurelia, Eva, Isla, Juliet and Valentina, but Aliena is the current favorite:
The name we love is Aliena. She is a character in Ken Follett’s novel “The Pillars of the Earth,” which is set in twelfth-century England. But we can’t get past the “alien” in the name. I have an Alienor in my family tree, so I thought about going the Eleanor route, but I don’t like that spelling; I think I’m in love with that “Ali” sequence.
The baby’s surname will start and end with the letter n, like Nelson.
First, about Aliena. It’s a pretty name, but I’d also be worried about that “alien” association. I don’t know if I’d risk it as a first name, but it might work well as a middle.
The only alternative I can come up with is Eliana, which is an (unrelated) anagram of Aliena. But it’s ranked 193rd and climbing, so it might be a bit too popular.
Here are some other possibilities. None of these are currently in the top 500, and the ones with asterisks have a-l-i sequences.
Don’t get too excited — these aren’t the top names for 2009. (If only!)
Why am I posting old news? Because I recently found a more complete version of the 2008 list that goes all the way down to baby names used in England and Wales just three times. So, the top-ranked names may be old news, but the rest are new. (New to me, anyway.) Here goes:
And now, just for fun, let’s compare usage in England to usage in America:
# UK* Boys
# UK Girls
# U.S. Boys
# U.S. Girls
*By UK, I mean England and Wales. Not an accurate substitution, I know. But “England and Wales” is just way too long for that spot.
**The 1,000th name on the U.S. top 1,000 was used for 192 baby boys. So the question marks represent some number between 0 and 192.
***Update: Kelly has astutely pointed out that raw numbers can be misleading. I’m not going to change the chart — I’m just too lazy — but I’ve thrown in some rough totals, for context.