Where did the baby name Orchid come from in 1926?

The character Orchid (played by Gloria Swanson) in the movie "Fine Manners" (1926).
Orchid from “Fine Manners

The flower name Orchid first appeared in the U.S. baby name the data in the mid-1920s:

  • 1928: 6 baby girls named Orchid
  • 1927: 7 baby girls named Orchid
  • 1926: 12 baby girls named Orchid [debut]
  • 1925: unlisted
  • 1924: unlisted

One dozen baby girls remained Orchid’s peak usage for nearly a century (until the record was tied in 2017, then topped in 2020).

Here’s data from the Social Security Death Index for the same span of time:

  • 1928: 1 person with the first name Orchid
  • 1927: 2 people with the first name Orchid (and 1 with Orchid as a middle)
  • 1926: 9 people with the first name Orchid (and 1 with Orchid as a middle)
  • 1925: 2 people with the first name Orchid
  • 1924: 4 people with the first name Orchid

Why were a handful of expectant parents suddenly interested in the name Orchid in 1926?

Because of a silent film called Fine Manners, which was released in August of that year.

Dialogue intertitle featuring the name Orchid from the silent film "Fine Manners" (1926).
Dialogue intertitle from “Fine Manners

It starred Gloria Swanson as a vivacious-yet-unrefined New York chorus girl named Orchid Murphy. Orchid falls in love with a millionaire named Brian Alden, but, right after Brian asks Orchid to marry him, he learns that he will be traveling abroad on business. During the months of his absence, his Aunt Agatha teaches Orchid about social etiquette (e.g., “a lady never makes a vulgar display of her emotions”).

The consequence is that Brian is deeply disappointed when he returns to find a blasé little Orchid. He scolds his Aunt for having robbed the girl of her vivacity and spark.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Orchid? Would you use it?

P.S. Gloria Swanson’s The Love of Sunya — released less than a year after Fine Manners — also had an influence on U.S. baby names…


[Latest update: April 2023]

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