What popularized the baby name Raven?

The death of character Raven Sherman in the comic strip "Terry and the Pirates" (in 1941)
Raven Sherman in “Terry and the Pirates

The name Raven has been given to babies of both genders for decades, but I find its female usage particularly interesting because girl-name Raven has gotten three distinct boosts from popular culture so far.

The first boost happened in 1941, when Raven debuted as a girl name in the data. (It had already popped up a few times as a boy name.)

Girls named RavenBoys named Raven

In October of that year, in the comic strip Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, a female character named Raven Sherman died in a dramatic and memorable sequence.

Raven, “a WASP clearly modeled on Katharine Hepburn” according to one source, was an American heiress who was working at a camp for war refugees in China. She was pushed off a moving truck, died of her injuries, and was buried on an isolated Chinese hillside. “Caniff was flooded with flower deliveries, mock memorial services, petitions of condolence signed by disparate groups as factory workers and entire colleges, as well as a lot of irate letters.”

(Terry and the Pirates also influenced the names Normandie and Merrily.)

The second pop culture boost happened in the 1970s:

Girls named RavenBoys named Raven
1978342 [rank: 533rd]25
1977299 [rank: 579th]20

In 1976, the soap opera The Edge of Night introduced a female character named Raven Swift (first played by Juanin Clay, then played by Sharon Gabet). She was described as “the show’s delightful young vixen-heroine” in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. The character remained on the show until it was canceled in 1984.

(The soap also influenced the names Teal and Laurieann.)

And the most recent (and biggest) pop culture boost happened in the early 1990s:

Girls named RavenBoys named Raven
19922,016 [rank: 152nd]89
19912,026 [rank: 150th]53
19901,758 [rank: 166th]62
1989476 [rank: 495th]27
1988327 [rank: 612th]19

It went on to peak at 139th in 1993.

The reason? Actress Raven-Symoné, who first found fame as a four year old when she started playing Olivia (Denise’s step-daughter) on the The Cosby Show in 1989. The compound name Ravensymone debuted in the data in 1990, and the spelling variant Ravensimone followed in 1991. (Her Disney Channel show That’s So Raven didn’t come along until much later.)

What are your thoughts on the name Raven? Would you use it?


3 thoughts on “What popularized the baby name Raven?

  1. It’s a cool name. I went to school with a female Raven in the 90s.
    And recently watched a reality show where a male was name it to my surprise.

  2. I’ve used Raven for a male character in one of my stories, “The Raven King.” He is a troubled youth until he makes a friend who is his yin to their yang, and they bond so strongly as they go through this thing called life.
    And I can see it for a girl as well. But for both genders it seems, to me at any rate, work best for a person with lighter skin and black hair or a POC. Similar to Ebony, black hair or POC.
    Seems like a fantastic name for a black haired witch/sorceress/priestess

  3. The name sounds male to me, because in German it is der Rabe. On the other hand, crow sounds feminine because of die Krähe.

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