Back in 1940, the baby name Sierra debuted in the U.S. baby name data rather impressively. It was the top newbie name of the year, in fact.
- 1942: 13 baby girls named Sierra
- 1941: 24 baby girls named Sierra
- 1940: 32 baby girls named Sierra [debut]
- 1939: unlisted
- 1938: unlisted
What was behind the debut?
“Sierra Sue,” a song that was a #1 hit in 1940 for Bing Crosby. A version by The Glenn Miller Orchestra also charted the same year.
The song was actually an updated version of an older song written by Joseph B. Carey (a “blind San Francisco organist”) in 1916. Carey died in 1930, and in 1939 the Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. sheet music company secured the rights to the song from Carey’s widow. The song “was probably revived because of the popularity of other western-style songs in the late ’30s.”
And, yes, a large number of the babies named Sierra in 1940 also had the middle name “Sue.” :) Here’s a Sierra Sue who was born in Kansas in 1940.
The Spanish word sierra, which refers to a mountain range, can be traced back to the Latin word serra, meaning “saw.”
In November of the next year, a movie called Sierra Sue starring Gene Autry was released. Here’s the scene in which Gene sings the title song:
Decades later, in 1985, usage of the name began to rise rapidly thanks to soap opera character Sierra Estaban from As the World Turns. Sierra was a top-100 name from 1993 to 2004, peaking in 1999 at 49th (just below Jordan, just above Sara).
Do you like the name Sierra?
- Popular Baby Names – SSA
- Tyler, Don. Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.
- “Story Behind Hit Songs.” Billboard 28 Sept. 1940: 34.