The baby name Clarissa had already been on the rise for several decades when, in 1992, usage increased more sharply than usual. Several years later, the name reached peak popularity:
- 1997: 1,091 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 266th]
- 1996: 1,157 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 241st]
- 1995: 1,201 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 239th] – peak usage
- 1994: 1,185 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 237th] – peak ranking
- 1993: 1,074 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 258th]
- 1992: 1,141 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 244th]
- 1991: 909 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 305th]
- 1990: 853 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 322nd]
- 1989: 759 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 335th]
Here’s a visual:
What accounts for this?
My guess is the TV series Clarissa Explains it All, which aired on Nickelodeon from early 1991 to late 1994.
The show’s main character was witty teenager Clarissa Darling (played by Melissa Joan Hart), who frequently broke the fourth wall — speaking directly to viewers about the things that were going on in her life and how she felt about them.
Two other memorable characters were Clarissa’s obnoxious younger brother Ferguson (who was a Republican, just like Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties) and her best friend Sam (who always climbed a ladder up to Clarissa’s second-story bedroom window).
Interestingly, Clarissa introduces herself in the very first episode of the series with some commentary about her name:
Hi, I’m Clarissa. Clarissa Darling. Ok, I didn’t choose the name. I wanted Jade. But by that time, it was too late already.
Anything without a last name would be better, like, Martika. Or Madonna would have been great. But no one asked me.
The name Clarissa is based on the name Clara, which is derived from the Latin word clarus, meaning “bright, clear.”
What are your thoughts on Clarissa?
(And, if we pretend for a second that the sitcom never happened, do you think the usage of Clarissa would have kept rising past the mid-1990s? If so, how high do you think the name could have climbed in the rankings?)
Sources: Clarissa Explains It All – Wikipedia, Clara – Wiktionary, SSA
P.S. Another early ’90s prime-time TV show that featured a quirky teenage girl (with an equally quirky sense of fashion) was Blossom.
3 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Clarissa a boost in the early 1990s?”
Too frilly for me — I feel the same about Alyssa, Larissa, Marissa, and Melissa. I don’t remember ever having met a Clarissa. I knew a Clarinda once, but she was my mom’s age (born in the 1950s). If I had to choose a Melissa Joan Hart character name, it would definitely be Sabrina.
Clarissa sound like a name for a pious catholic girl because I associate the nun order “Poor Clares” aka “Clarisses” aka “Clarissines” with that name.
I know this shows my age, but the first time I ever encountered the name Clarissa was when I read Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in the mid-1980’s. Clarissa sounded so… chic back then.
In the Netherlands Clarissa has never been that popular to begin with, but the name “peaked” in the early 1980’s, so before the show even aired.