How popular is the baby name Angelina in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Angelina.
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According to the Statistical Committee of Armenia, the most popular baby names in the country last year were (again) Nare and Davit.
Here are Armenia’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2020:
Nare, 745 baby girls
Davit, 1,346 baby boys
Alex, 377 (tie)
Alen, 377 (tie)
In the girls’ top 10, Anna and Ani replaced Anahit and Ellen, and Angelina continued to rise.
(Anahit is the Armenian form of Anahita, which means “pure” — literally, “not” + “unclean” — in Avestan. Anahita was a Persian goddess associated with water, and, thereby, with fertility, healing and wisdom.)
In the boys’ top 10, Monte and Areg replaced Artur and Gor.
The relatively rare name Aissa started appearing in the U.S. data in the early 1960s:
1962: 5 baby girls named Aissa
1961: 6 baby girls named Aissa [debut]
Looks to be John Wayne’s daughter Aissa (pronounced ie-EES-ah), who was born in 1956 had a short acting career in the early 1960s. Her first and most notable role was that of Lisa Angelina Dickinson in the movie The Alamo (1960).
Photographs of Aissa also occasionally appeared in the newspapers. Perhaps the most prominent photo of her was the one on cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in March of 1961. It was their “diamond jubilee issue” (marking their 75th year in print) and, according to the caption, Aissa was “wearing $850,000 in Cartier diamonds.”
Aissa’s mother was John Wayne’s third wife, Pilar, and her two full siblings were named John Ethan and Marisa.
I know the story behind John Ethan’s middle name — it came from the character John Wayne played in The Searchers (the movie that launched Pippa) — but I don’t know the story behind “Aissa.” Perhaps the Waynes found it in the 1951 movie Outcast of the Islands, which featured an exotic character named Aissa (played by French actress Kerima)…?
In terms of etymology, “Aissa” comes from the French name Aïssa, which is based on the Arabic name Isa, a form of Jesus.
The name saw peak usage in the U.S. in the early 1990s:
1994: 10 baby girls named Aissa
1993: 20 baby girls named Aissa
1992: 58 baby girls named Aissa [peak]
1991: 20 baby girls named Aissa
1990: 11 baby girls named Aissa
Aissa Wayne’s name was in the news a lot during 1992 due to legal troubles. In April, she testified in court against her ex-husband (a physician who had hired two assailants to attack her in 1988 amid their child custody battle). The ex-husband was convicted in May and sentenced in July. In December, Aissa won full custody of their 5-year-old daughter, Anastasia Pilar.
What are your thoughts on the name Aissa/Aïssa?
Coburn, Marcia Froelke. “Legend’s Child.” Chicago Tribune 23 Feb. 1992.
Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:
You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:
Here’s the data, side-by-side:
Laura usage (rank)
Lara usage (rank)
18,743 baby girls (11th)
1,295 baby girls (227th)
15,817 baby girls (15th)
945 baby girls (277th)
15,549 baby girls (19th)
236 baby girls (618th)
16,213 baby girls (18th)
65 baby girls (1,376th)
18,974 baby girls (14th)
57 baby girls (1,512th)
So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?
The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.
Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.
But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:
Lara, my own, think of me now and then Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again
Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.
Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.
The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder nameZhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”
Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)
A few weeks ago, I watched the Khmer-language film First They Killed My Father (2017), which essentially portrays the horrors of life under the Khmer Rouge through the eyes of a 5-year-old girl.
The movie was based on a memoir of the same name by Loung Ung. It was directed and co-produced by Angelina Jolie, and one of the executive producers was her son Maddox (who was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002).
Late in the movie, a scene set at a refugee camp showed a woman giving birth, then (a few moments later) holding a newborn. As I watched, I didn’t necessarily think the actress was pregnant in real life…but then I saw this in the credits:
This implies (to me, at least) that Cambodian actress Thanet(h) Thorn was indeed pregnant during filming, and that she named her baby “Jolie.”
I’m a little confused about the baby’s full name, though. “Jolie” is in the spot where the surname should be, but I don’t think it’s the surname in this case. Then again, “Thaneth” is also an odd choice for a surname — not because first names aren’t passed down as surnames in Cambodia (they are), but because typically it’s the father’s first name that gets passed down.
If anyone out there happens to know more about this mysterious Cambodian baby named Jolie, please comment and let us know!
In the meanwhile, here’s a photo of Thanet and Angie from a few years ago (posted to Twitter by another of the film’s co-producers, Rithy Panh).