One of the most impressive baby name debuts of the late 19th century was Corbett, from 1892.
Corbett was the highest debut on the SSA’s list until 1898 rolled around with the names Manilla, Hobson, and Admiral (all inspired by the Spanish-American War).
According to the U.S. baby name data, at least 23 baby boys were named Corbett in 1892:
- 1894: 20 baby boys named Corbett
- 1893: 15 baby boys named Corbett
- 1892: 23 baby boys named Corbett [debut]
- 1891: unlisted
- 1890: unlisted
But the actual number was much higher. The Social Security Death Index indicates that at least 59 people named Corbett were born in 1892:
- 1894: 67 people named Corbett
- 1893: 49 people named Corbett
- 1892: 59 people named Corbett
- 1891: 5 people named Corbett
- 1890: 3 people named Corbett
What gave Corbett a boost that year?
In September of 1892, boxer James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett defeated John L. Sullivan to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Even if he hadn’t won, the press leading up to the match would have popularized the name enough for it to make a splash. More than half of those baby Corbetts — 31 out of 59 — were born before the match even took place.
(That said, many babies born in those days were not named immediately after birth. So no doubt a portion of the early Corbetts were actually nameless until the day of the event.)
Usage of the name increased again in 1894, which is the year Corbett defended his title against boxer Charley Mitchell.
Jim Corbett ultimately lost the title in 1897, to Bob Fitzsimmons.
(Sullivan, Corbett and Fitzsimmons are the first three middle names of the girl with 25 heavyweight boxing champion-inspired middle names.)
So what does the English surname Corbett mean? It can be traced back to a Norman French nickname meaning “little crow” or “raven.” The nickname was likely given to a person with a dark complexion or dark hair.
Do you like the name Corbett?
- James J. Corbett – Wikipedia
- Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Image of James J. Corbett from LOC