Where did the baby name Cherrill come from in 1931?

Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill in the movie "City Lights" (1931).
Charlie Chaplin & Virginia Cherrill in “City Lights

I had to follow yesterday’s post about Nydia with a post about Cherrill. Why? Because both names were inspired by fictional blind girls selling flowers. How random is that?

While Nydia came from a 19th-century book, Cherrill comes from a 20th-century film. But not just any film — one of the best romantic comedies of all time, according to those in the know.

The baby name Cherrill popped up in the SSA’s baby name data for the very first time in 1931. (This was more than a decade before the similar-sounding name Cheryl started becoming popular.)

  • 1933: 8 baby girls named Cherrill
  • 1932: 6 baby girls named Cherrill
  • 1931: 9 baby girls named Cherrill [debut]
  • 1930: unlisted
  • 1929: unlisted

The reason? Charlie Chaplin’s silent film City Lights, which was released in early 1931 and featured Hollywood newcomer Virginia Cherrill as a blind flower-seller (the romantic interest of Chaplin’s famous “Little Tramp” character).

Chaplin had auditioned many young actresses before he noticed twenty-year-old Virginia Cherrill when they both sat ringside at a boxing match at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Although a beautiful blonde, it was the manner in which she coped with her near-sightedness that earned her the role.

Despite the fact that talkies had largely replaced silent films by 1931, City Lights did extremely well at the box office.

And the film has stood the test of time. In 1991, the Library of Congress inducted City Lights into the National Film Registry. In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked City Lights the #1 romantic comedy of all time.

Virginia Cherrill, who was born in Illinois in 1908, never aspired to be a film star. (She was only visiting California when she was spotted by Chaplin.) She appeared in several more films after City Lights, but stopped acting after marrying actor Cary Grant in 1934. (They divorced the next year. Grant went on to marry Barbara Hutton and become a father figure to Barbara’s son Lance.)

What do you think of the baby name Cherrill?


5 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Cherrill come from in 1931?

  1. That’s an interesting case! The spelling is close to Cherrill, but date makes me think it was more likely part the Cheryl-trend of the ’40s, which was kicked off circa 1943 by Cheryl Walker, who starred in the wartime hit Stage Door Canteen. Maybe the parents were influenced by both actresses…?

  2. Thanks for this insight into the various spellings of Cheryl. I’ve known Cheryls, Sheryls, Sherrills (also from a surname), one Scherryl, but no Cherrills.

  3. You’re welcome — I just finished a post with more info about Cheryl (and variants), I’ll move it up so that it publishes tomorrow.

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