What gave the baby name Charmaine a boost (twice)?

The characters Sgt. Quirt, Charmaine, and Capt. Flagg from the silent film "What Price Glory?" (1926)
Sgt. Quirt, Charmaine, & Capt. Flagg from “What Price Glory?

The name Charmaine reminds me of the name Cheryl — both are relatively recent inventions with hazy origins, both saw increased usage thanks to popular culture, and both sound a bit dated these days.

Charmaine never became as popular as Cheryl did, but, interestingly, the two main pop culture boosts that it got — in 1928 and in 1952 — were caused by the very same thing.

The silent film What Price Glory? (1926) was a comedy/drama set in France during World War I. The film followed two U.S. Marines, Capt. Flagg and Sgt. Quirt, as they fought for the affections of Charmaine (played by Dolores del Rio), the local innkeeper’s daughter.

The movie’s theme song, “Charmaine,” was used as a leitmotif throughout the film. It went on to become a huge hit in the late 1920s. The best-selling recording, by Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1927.

In response to the popular song, hundreds of American baby girls were named Charmaine:

  • 1929: 113 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 655th)
  • 1928: 265 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 419th)
  • 1927: 74 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 856th)
  • 1926: 8 baby girls named Charmaine
  • 1925: 10 baby girls named Charmaine

A generation later, in 1952, the film was remade — this time with sound and color. (In this version, Charmaine was played by Corinne Calvet.)

The song “Charmaine” again became a hit. Multiple versions landed on the U.S. Billboard charts, including an instrumental version by the Mantovani Orchestra that peaked at #10 in 1951 and a version by the Billy May Orchestra that reached #17 in 1952.

This time around, usage of the baby name Charmaine more than tripled:

  • 1954: 351 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 475th)
  • 1953: 430 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 416th)
  • 1952: 619 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 331st) [peak usage]
  • 1951: 192 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 623rd)
  • 1950: 152 baby girls named Charmaine (rank: 698th)

Usage has been decreasing ever since, though. In 2014, just 18 baby girls were named Charmaine.

So where does the name Charmaine come from?

Sources suggest that it’s based on either the English word “charm” or the name Charmian. Charmian is a variant of Charmion, based on the ancient Greek word kharma, meaning “delight.” (One of Cleopatra’s servants was named Charmion.) The second syllable may have been influenced by the name Lorraine, which was fashionable in the early 1900s.

Which name do you like more, Charmaine or Cheryl?


  • Charmaine (song) – Wikipedia
  • Melnick, Ross. American Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

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