Mystery baby name: Deneen (Solved!)

Graph of the usage of the baby name Deneen in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Deneen

Deneen is the million-dollar baby name mystery. It saw a massive spike in usage in 1964, and I had no idea why for years. Only recently have I stumbled upon a plausible explanation.

But first let’s check out the numbers. Here’s how many U.S. baby girls were named Deneen (or a variant) from 1963 to 1966, sorted by 1964 levels of usage:

Dinene 7†

(Deeneen, Deneena, Dennen, Deaneen, and Deneem were one-hit wonders.)

According to the state-by-state data, Deneen usage tended to be highest in the most populous states. This isn’t much of a clue, but it does tell us that the influence was national (e.g., movie, music) and not regional (e.g., college sports, local politician).

For a long time my only guess on Deneen was the same guess Hilary Parker made in her poisoned baby names post: musical duo August & Deneen. But their hit single “We Go Together” came out in 1968 — long after the 1964 baby name spike. So August & Deneen clearly isn’t the answer.

About a month ago I tried another Deneen search. This time around I found a recent thread on Deneen at the Baby Name Wizard forum. According to intel gathered by forum members, Deneen could have been popularized by a ’60s commercial for Ivory dishwashing liquid.

At first I wasn’t so sure. The only vintage Ivory commercials I could find online were for Ivory Snow laundry detergent and, while many of these did feature names (e.g., Allison, Betsy, Bonnie, Debbie, Esther, Joy, Kerry, Kimberly, Michelle, Terry) the names were never on-screen. You don’t get a spelling-specific name spike if the influence is audio-only.

Then I noticed, lower down in the thread, that someone included a link to a single Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial from 1962. The spot featured a mother-daughter pair, “Mrs. Bernard Pugar and Dana,” and their names were indeed shown on-screen for several seconds. Now this looked promising.

I’ve since tracked down a similar Ivory commercial featuring “Mrs. Blake Clark” and her daughter Nicky, though Nicky’s name was never shown on-screen. No luck finding a Deneen version yet.

So I’ll just sit tight and hope that, one day, someone uploads the commercial in question and puts this whole Deneen baby name mystery to rest. :)

In the meanwhile, some questions:

  • If you were watching TV in the ’60s, do you happen recall an Ivory dishwashing liquid commercial featuring the name Deneen? (Long shot, I know.)
  • What do you think of the name Deneen? Which spelling do you like best?

P.S. Djuna popped up on the baby name charts in 1964 as well. I’m declaring 1964 the year of the mysteriously trendy D-names.

57 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Deneen (Solved!)

  1. Super-flattering to be mentioned, as you are my name-mystery-solving idol! (Your work with Cassarah/etc was really inspired.)

    I too am greatly hoping that someone unearths THE Deneen video. What is it with the Ivory Snow commercials being archived with such completist zeal when the Ivory Liquid commercials get nothing?

  2. @Elizabeth – For some parents it certainly could be.

    @lucubratrix – Thanks! :)

    “What is it with the Ivory Snow commercials being archived with such completist zeal when the Ivory Liquid commercials get nothing?”


    Ivory Snow has some mad fans out there, it seems…

  3. We have some more supporting data from the thread, including a regular poster reporting that a D’Neen she knows is indeed named after a girl in an Ivory commercial. I think it’s officially confirmed!

  4. Even though our Dutch dishwashing liquid brands are Dreft and Dubro – not much chance of girls named something that masculine-sounding – I love reading these name-mystery-solving posts ((c) lucubratrix)

  5. My name is Denean. I was born in 1964. My mom was looking for a name to go with hers and my sisters. Deanie and Deanna.
    My name was from one of her bank customers who’s sir name was DeNean. Several years back a Co worker that was from Northern USA was telling me her mom’s friend named her daughter Denean after a dish soap. Seeing this I assume she was talking about the commercial and not the actual name of the dish soap.

  6. My middle name is Denean. I was indeed named after the daughter Denean in some dish washing liquid commercial from the 60’s. I was born in 1964. My Mom said something to the fact of the Mom introduced her daughter as Denean Cincotta. So, I just started looking today because a coworker found the story amusing.

  7. @Karen Denean – Thanks for that surname!

    I feel like we’re getting closer and closer…but I wish someone would just upload the commercial already.

  8. I contacted P&G about Ivory a few days ago. This morning I got the response:

    Thank you for contacting Ivory, Nancy.

    I’m very sorry to disappoint you. Unfortunately, we do not have information on any ads from 1964. I’m sorry we could not be of more help.

    Thank you,

    Lee Ann
    Ivory Team

  9. My name is Deneen, and I just met another lady with the same spelling. I met someone last summer that told me this same story because his wife had the same name, and we were about the same age. I was born in ’66 and I had no idea where my mom got the name but it was certainly uncommon to hear over the years.

  10. I was born in 1964. My father was the one who named me. He always said it was from an Ivory commercial, though he believes it was the laundry detergent. I’ve met a few other people with my name, all different spellings but all 3 were born in 1964.
    I would love to see this commercial!

  11. My name is also Deneen and i was born in May 1965. I asked my mom when i was around 14 where she got my name and she replyed “from a soap commercial”. She could not remember the soap brand or much about it just that when she heard the name she liked it because it was different. I would also love to see the commercial.

  12. Hello, my name is Deneen and my mother said she first heard the name from an Ivory Soap commercial. I recently met a woman who was born in 1964 as well with my name (and same spelling). She indicated that her mother heard the name on the commercial as well.
    I would love to see it!

  13. Hi,
    I am the Deneen in the Ivory Liquid commercial you are all talking about. I would like to see it again too.
    It was my mother who made up my name. She said that when she was in high school, she had a crush on this boy who’s last name was Deneen. I guess she must have made up her mind to remember it until I was born in 1944
    It was Compton Advertising in New York that contacted an agent in Boston, MA looking for mother and daughter look-a-likes. This agent had been my mother’s agent when she was in show business and sometimes booked me when the opportunity arose (I am a singer). He immediately contacted us and we went in to audition at the Midway Hotel in Boston. They liked us and the rest is history.
    I don’t know if Compton Advertising still exists, but they might be of some help to you.
    Oh, by the way, my mother’s name was Elves.

  14. Well it’s so nice to finally meet my namesake! Thank you so much for sharing your story here.

  15. Thanks Denine. The way you spell your name is the way everybody wants to spell mine whenever they ask me how to spell it. For some reason, they get hung up with the “een” that comes after the Den. They keep wanting to spell it like yours. I’m wondering if you ever have that problem. A lot if times I’ll just tell them my name is Ron (my husbands name).
    Oh, I almost forgot. I am also the Deneen of August & Deneen mentioned above. My husband is Ron August (stage name) and I was Deneen Carroll. Finally we just shortened it to August & Deneen. It was easier to remember. I am in the process now of putting together our website. I’m not a techy, so it’s taking a while, but we recorded another song for ABC Paramount that was actually supposed to be the “A” side to We Go Together. It’s a long story and it will be on the website. That song was called “I’d Rather Be Home With You”. It was really beautiful, so I have put the “site” together so that people can hear it.

  16. The problem with my spelling is people see Denise. I was called that in my youth more times then I care to remember! I never bother to leave my name (for reservations etc) because it gets butchered every time! Many people have asked if they can call me Dee, my response is always, not if you want me to answer. :)
    I will have to Google you now Deneen, and check out your website once it’s up!
    And I really hope to one day actually see the commercial that started this all!

  17. Whoa, this is kind of amazing. I never expected the original Deneen to get in touch! So cool. Thanks for stopping by and telling us your story, Deneen!

    (And please let me know when your site is up — I’ll go back and add the URL to your comments.)

  18. Will do. I’m waiting on all the licenses we need to put our own songs on our own website. It’s a crazy business, but we will prevail!

  19. My name is also De Nean. I was born in 1962. My parents said my name came from a movie they had seen where it was the last name of a horse rancher. It was spelled differently than mine though. My parents put in the space and the capital N so imitate my fathers middle name of De Vere. I’ve met one other Denean but that’s it. I have also met a man with the last name of Denine. I’ve always been fascinated by the name. Hello to the other Deneans’ out there however it’s spelled.

  20. My name is spelled differently than any of the ones that are listed. My name is spelled Deanean. My mom picked name from the ivory hands commercial also. It is cool to know there are so many of us out there. I would love to find the commercial.

  21. I too am an Ivory soap commercial Denine. My dad heard it from the commercial. My family and I spent a day searching for the commercial on the internet with no luck. Hopefully soon we can all see it!

  22. My mother told me she got my name from an Ivory Snow commercial with a woman and her twins Deneen & Janine. She said their names were on their t-shirts. I asked her why didn’t she choose Janine… I’m glad she didn’t!!! I was born in February 1964.

  23. Hi Everyone, this is so cool, my mom passed away when i was 11 but my older sister told me i was named after a Deneen on an Ivory Soap commercial. I also discovered that Deneen is an Irish surname, which is pretty cool as well. I was born in March 1964, and i gave my daughter the middle name “Deneen” to pass it along…i love my name…albeit you all are correct, it’s so simple people try to spell “Deneen” in a myriad of ways…I’ve even seen many put a French accent on it to help others phonetically. I’ve managed to meet several Deneen’s in my life time 75% of whom spell it…”Deneen”…thanks Deneen C. of August and Deneen….for helping us solve this great mystery:)!

  24. Hello to all the Deneen’s out there. I am also a Danene. I was born May 1965.
    (My dad spelled it this way. His name was Dan ????) my mom confirmed that they saw the soap commercial as well. I am always amazed when I meet another Deneen and ask if they were born in the 60’s. The answer is always yes. It is cool to know where it came from and that there are quite a few of us.

  25. My mother told me it came from the movie “Splendor in the Grass,” with Natalie Wood. Wood played Wilma Dean and her nickname was “Deanie.” The movie came out in 1961, I was born in 1969. Is that plausible for anyone else?

  26. My Papa was from Italy and my Mom was from New Jersey. They fought over what to name me, my Mother wanted to name me Patricia, my Papa, wanted to name me Deneen. My Papa won! He’s no longer with us, well neither of them are, but I remember that he told me that he had heard my name on a commercial about laundry detergent. So, you are right spot on!! Too bad we can’t locate it.

  27. I am Daneen and telling to soap commercial story during a mammogram this morning lol. Born 1964.

  28. My name is Deneen and I was born in December of 1964. When I asked my mom where she got my name, she told me that she got it from an ivory soap commercial and that name was written across the screen and spelled that way. I have been searching for that commercial and would love to find it.
    Also I had an interview with The Dial Corporation after college. They were the number one competitor of Ivory which is owned by Proctor and Gamble. I told them my name came from their competitors’ commercial and got the job as a sales rep.

  29. My name is Deneen. I was born in September 1964. My mom said she got my name from a TV commercial where a mother and daughter compared their hands. The daughter’s name Deneen was on the screen. I’m pretty sure it was for Ivory dishwashing liquid. She liked the name because it was different.

  30. Hi, I as well name is Deneen born in 1967 and was told I was name after my aunt never got the opportunity to ask were the name was from, but my mom who was born in 1942 said a soap commercial so we may have to look a little farther in time

  31. My mom seen the same ivory link commercial i kicked when it was playing so i pick my own name
    Born in October

  32. Hi, I am one of the few Deniene’s. I was born in 1968. My dad named me but he got the name from some friends whose last name was Dineen. He decided to get creative with the spelling. I have met a few Denine, Deneen, Daneen’s even a Doenene, but never actually met anyone with my spelling, though I know there are a few out there. The the thing that is the most difficult with my name is trying to give out my email address for work, I have to spell it two or three times, and people still get it wrong….I think maybe for work I should have used my middle name!

  33. After some years of being an only child and begging my parents for a sister, I was given the privilege of picking her name on August 11,1964. I remember clearly choosing it from the Ivory Soap commercial. I was 10 and a half at the time I thought it was very unique. I also picked my name for her middle name. LOL She’s known mostly as “Neen”.

  34. My name is Denenne and I was born in 1965. My mom always told be that she got my name from an Ivory soap commercial with an actress and her daughter Denenne. I have never met anyone with the same spelling as mine. I was told that she got the spelling from an older French teacher. I later found out that it’s an old French name, I guess that explains my spelling. So cool to see so many others

  35. I too am a Deneen, from Canada. I was named after the girl in a soap commercial, according to my mom. Again I too was born in 1964. I have never met another Deneen in my entire life and I don’t ever want to (no offense ladies) makes me feel very unique.

  36. It’s amazing to see how many others are out there! I’m Deneen, born in March of 1965 in Hilo, Hawaii. Both of my parents had different versions of the story but the one common thing about each is that my name came from a tv commercial. Thanks to all of you, I’m gonna assume it’s Ivory. I’ve tried searching for it but no luck.
    It was nice to hear from the original “Deneen”!

  37. My name is Robin Deneene, born in December 1964. My mother passed, but I was told my name was from a Luxe liquid soap commercial with Mother and Daughter, where the Mother says, “now Denine, which is how my middle name is spelled on my birth certificate, but I changed it. My daughter’s middle name is Deneene as well and so is my first born granddaughter’s middle name. I wish I could see that commercial. Thanks everyone for your sweet stories of where OUR name came from. :)

  38. I don’t know if the universe just knows that I’ve been reading a lot of this blog lately, but I had jury duty with a Deneen yesterday!

  39. Ok, I am Deneen also born July 1964. My mom said she got the name from and Ivory soap commercial. Was so glad to see the post from the actual Deneen in the commercial. I also work with another Denene. It is crazy how many of us there are. I think we should plan a big get together somewhere. All the Deneen’s together. I noticed one post said that she went by “Neen” So did I my whole life. I joke and tell people you can tell how long someone has known me because it starts out Sherry – (because no lone can remember Deneen) – then eventually becomes Deneen and if around a lot — it becomes Neen.

  40. I am Deneen Hedge, I was born in 1964. I’m thrilled to find my sister Deneen’s and where my name originated. I was always told a much different story.

  41. My name is Denine Manspeaker I was born in 1959 in Buffalo Ny. Dr. Bachstahler was our family doctor at the time and he suggested it to my mother.It went well with Dirk and Don my older brothers. I have been called denise, de9, deanne, I was Denise on my high school graduation program and got tired of repeating and spelling my name so I just told everyone I was Dee. My mother would get so mad! I didn’t name you that! Years later she sent me a card from florida. She said she spelled my name wrong! Thanks Mom! Love Dineen

  42. I too was born in 1964 & my mother told me the Ivory dish soap story. There is actually a Facebook group for Deneen’s. Most of the people on it tell the same commercial story. I have met 3 people in the town I live in. 2 were born in 1964 the other one was a few years younger.
    It still feels like a special name even knowing others though are named it.

  43. My name is also Deneen and I was born in September 1964. My mom and dad said they heard my name used in a commercial for dish soap with a mother and daughter. They actually contacted Proctor & Gamble to obtain the proper spelling.

  44. This is great that Deneen from the Ivory soap commercial replied and gave us all her story. Mystery solved! I was on the Deneen Facebook group until I was hacked 2 years ago by some jerk asking for money. I tried to resolve this through FB, but had no luck. One day I may try my luck again at FB. The Deneen group was pretty cool to be in, so join the group if you are on FB. I actually went to grade/middle school with a Deneen in Detroit and her mom named her from the commercial also. Have a great day Deneen’s!

  45. Hello there ladies my beloved aunt named me Deneen from a Ivory soap commercial as well our names were very popular back then people I come across never heard of the name Deneen I feel so special I tell how I got my name they don’t even know who Ivory Snow is so funny .

  46. I am a Daneen from Nevada. My mother heard it on that commercial in 1964. A variant in spelling is also an Italian surname. Mom spelled it phonetically and i like my variant. It would be a kick to view the commercial but i’ve never had luck finding it. Cheers!

  47. My name is Deneen, I was born in 1964, my mother told me it was from a commercial, like mother, like daughter and th daughter’s name is Deneen. Of course I am partial to the way I spell it :o)

  48. Funny story, I was in the grocery store with my family one Sunday morning, and we stopped to get donuts. While there, another family was busy picking out their donuts before us. So while standing there, talking to my son about what he wanted, I heard someone say, “Ok, Deneen, what kind of donut do you want?” I looked around to see who was talking, and realized it was the mom in front of me. I said “excuse me, did you say Deneen?” She looked at me and said, “yes, that is my daughter’s name” Lo and behold, before me stood Danine, and we marveled over having the same first name, although she was probably born in the 1990’s.
    I was born in 1966, and my mom had always told me that my name was French but I really think it was the Ivory Snow commercial because she watched the soaps back in the day.
    Nicknames: Deanie, Deeno, Chili Bean, Neeners, Dee, and Doneen

  49. Since the Deneen boom was in 1964, I wanted to mention that was the year my brother was born, so my mom had to remember that name for her next daughter, which is me, born in 1966. It’s so funny to put this together now, just wish I could have asked my mom but she passed before I heard about this Ivory Snow commercial.
    Curious as to middle names: mine is Leann

  50. @Deneen G – How interesting that you happened to meet a Danine from the ’90s! And that your mom hung on to the name for two years — it must have really made an impression on her.

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