How popular is the baby name Carolyn 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 Carolyn.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Carolyn


Posts that Mention the Name Carolyn

How did “The Addams Family” influence baby names?

addams family, television, 1960s, baby names
The Addams Family (l-r): Gomez, Wednesday, Uncle Fester, Morticia, Lurch, Grandmama, Pugsley

The characters in The Addams Family originated in single-panel newspaper cartoons drawn by Charles Addams in the late ’30s. They were all nameless until the darkly funny TV sitcom The Addams Family (1964-1966) came along and named them.

And so, thanks to the show, three brand-new baby names debuted in the U.S baby name data in the mid-1960s:

Wednesday

The name Wednesday appeared in 1965:

  • 1968: 14 baby girls named Wednesday
  • 1967: 15 baby girls named Wednesday
  • 1966: 22 baby girls named Wednesday
  • 1965: 15 baby girls named Wednesday [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted

This was inspired by somber 6-year-old Wednesday Addams (played by Lisa Loring). Her name was taken from “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” — a line in the nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child.”

Morticia

The name Morticia also appeared in 1965:

  • 1968: 5 baby girls named Morticia
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: 7 baby girls named Morticia
  • 1965: 9 baby girls named Morticia [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted

The variant Marticia debuted that year as well.

This one was inspired by Addams family matriarch Morticia Addams (played by Carolyn Jones). Her name was clearly based on the Latin word mort, meaning “death,” and closely resembles the modern word mortician.

Addam

A third baby name that appeared in the data in 1965 was Addam:

  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 6 baby boys named Addam [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted

It’s not technically “Addams,” but it’s close enough for us to assume it was inspired by the show. (The standard spelling, Adam, saw a spike in usage in 1964. I’m not sure if this was caused by the show, though.)

So here’s today’s question: which goth-girl name do you like more, Morticia or Maleficent?

Source: The Addams Family (TV series) – Wikipedia

How did Grace Kelly influence baby names?

Actress Grace Kelly (1929-1982)
Grace Kelly

Philadelphia native Grace Kelly appeared in her first movie in 1951. By 1955, she had become one of the biggest box-office draws in the nation. But she gave up her career as an actress to assume the role of a princess in 1956 when she married the ruler of Monaco.

I know of five baby names (so far) that got a boost thanks to Grace Kelly…

Grace

First thing’s first: Grace Kelly’s first name, Grace. It saw a two-year uptick in the mid-’50s:

  • 1959: 1,660 baby girls named Grace [rank: 204th]
  • 1958: 1,708 baby girls named Grace [rank: 198th]
  • 1957: 1,917 baby girls named Grace [rank: 186th]
  • 1956: 1,837 baby girls named Grace [rank: 189th]
  • 1955: 1,390 baby girls named Grace [rank: 216th]
  • 1954: 1,410 baby girls named Grace [rank: 213th]

Decades later, it would peak in the rankings at 13th place for two years in a row (2003 and 2004).

Kelly

The rise of Kelly can’t be attributed to a single factor, as we saw yesterday. That said, I have no doubt that Grace Kelly played a part in feminizing the first name Kelly during the 1950s:

  • 1959: 6,379 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 74th]
  • 1958: 4,471 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 108th]
  • 1957: 1,907 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 187th]
  • 1956: 831 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 310th]
  • 1955: 540 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 380th]
  • 1954: 455 baby girls named Kelly [rank: 406th]

Grace Kelly’s paternal grandparents were Irish immigrants. The Irish surname Kelly can have several possible origins, but a common one is the Ó Ceallaigh, “descendant of Ceallach.” The meaning of the personal name Ceallach isn’t known for certain — some sources say “bright-headed,” others say it comes from a word meaning “war,” or a different word meaning “church.”

In 1968, the name Kelly saw peak usage on the boys’ list (97th) and then-peak usage on the girls’ list (12th). In 1977, thanks to the Charlie’s Angels character, it bounced back to reach an even higher peak for girls (10th).

Lizanne

Grace’s little sister Elizabeth “Lizanne” Kelly married Donald LeVine in Philadelphia in June of 1955. The same year, the baby name Lizanne debuted on the charts:

  • 1959: 32 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 10 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1958: 39 baby girls named Lizanne [peak]
    • 13 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1957: 36 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 10 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1956: 32 baby girls named Lizanne
    • 9 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1955: 15 baby girls named Lizanne [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

Notice how the usage of Lizanne in the late ’50s was particularly high in Pennsylvania. It was the same through most of the ’60s as well.

Rainier

Grace married Rainier III, the Prince of Monaco, in a lavish wedding in Monaco in April of 1956. The same year, the baby name Rainier debuted on the charts:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 7 baby boys named Rainier
  • 1956: 11 baby boys named Rainier [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

The name Rainier is ultimately based on the Germanic words ragin, meaning “advice, decision, counsel,” and hari, meaning “army.”

(The six bridesmaids at the wedding were named Bettina, Carolyn, Judith, Maree, Rita — actress Rita Gam — and Sally.)

Caroline

Grace and Rainier had three children: Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie. The births of the latter two didn’t seem to have an effect on U.S. baby names, but the birth of Caroline in January of 1957 did give Caroline a bump that year:

  • 1959: 1,046 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 273rd]
  • 1958: 990 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 282nd]
  • 1957: 1,135 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 253rd]
  • 1956: 702 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 329th]
  • 1955: 743 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 315th]
  • 1954: 770 baby girls named Caroline [rank: 304th]

Toward the end of 1957, John and Jacqueline Kennedy — who were still several years away from becoming President and First Lady — also welcomed a daughter named Caroline. They didn’t get the idea from Grace Kelly, though. Caroline Kennedy was named after her maternal aunt, Caroline Lee Radziwill.

Sources: Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll – Wikipedia, Rayner – Behind the Name

Where did the baby name Lynley come from?

carol lynley, model, actress
© 1957 LIFE

Precocious teen model-turned-actress Carol Lynley was in the spotlight from the late ’50s onward. In 1957 she was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine, for instance, and in 1958 she played Rapunzel on TV.

But the name-like surname Lynley didn’t pop up in the SSA data until 1962:

  • 1965: 7 baby girls named Lynley
  • 1964: 10 baby girls named Lynley
  • 1963: 12 baby girls named Lynley
  • 1962: 10 baby girls named Lynley [debut]
  • 1961: unlisted

The name Lynlee also debuted that year, and the name Linley starting being used more often for girls.

Carol Lynley is clearly the influence here, but it’s hard to pin down the reason. She appeared in two movies in 1961, and on several TV shows in 1962, but these things aren’t particularly notable — she’d been in movies and on TV before.

My best guess is that the marketing campaign for Return to Peyton Place (1961) drew new attention to her name. Even though the sequel to Peyton Place flopped, Lynley’s starring role ensured that she was featured prominently in advertisements, including TV commercials.

Carol Lynley was born Carole Jones in 1942. (It was the year that Carole Lombard died in a plane crash; lots of parents opted for Carole-with-an-e in 1942.) When Jones started modelling, she chose to go by the name Carolyn Lee. But when she started acting, she altered the name to Carol Lynley because another actress had already claimed “Carolyn Lee.”

Do you like the name Lynley? If you were going to use it, how would you spell it?

Source: “Letters to the Editors.” Life 13 May 1957: 16.

Popular Girl Names: Biblical vs. Non-Biblical

The ratio of Biblical names to non-Biblical names in the girl’s top 20 is about the same today as it was 100 years ago, though the ratio did change a bit mid-century.

(In contrast, there’s been a steady increase in the number of Biblical-origin names among the top boy names.)

Here’s the color-coded table — Biblical names are in the yellow cells, non-Biblical names are in the green cells, and several borderline names (which I counted as non-Biblical) are in the orange cells:

Popular girl names: Biblical vs. non-Biblical, from Nancy's Baby Names.
Popular girl names over time: Biblical (yellow) vs. non-Biblical. Click to enlarge.

  • Biblical names: Abigail, Anna, Betty (via Elizabeth), Chloe, Danielle, Deborah, Debra, Elizabeth, Hannah, Isabella (via Elizabeth), Janet, Jean, Joan, Judith, Judy, Julie, Lillian (via Elizabeth), Lisa (via Elizabeth), Lois, Marie, Marilyn, Mary, Mia (via Maria), Michelle, Nancy (via Anne), Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Sandra (via Alexander), Sarah, Sharon, Stephanie, Susan, Tammy (via Tamar/Tamara)
  • Non-Biblical names: Alexis, Alice, Alyssa, Amanda, Amber, Amelia, Amy, Angela, Ashley, Aubrey, Avery, Barbara, Brenda, Brianna, Brittany, Carol, Carolyn, Catherine, Charlotte, Christina, Christine, Crystal, Cynthia, Diane, Donna, Doris, Dorothy, Edna, Ella, Emily, Emma, Evelyn, Florence, Frances, Gladys, Grace, Harper, Heather, Helen, Irene, Jennifer, Joyce, Karen, Kathleen, Kayla, Kelly, Kimberly, Laura, Lauren, Linda, Lori, Louise, Madison, Margaret, Marjorie, Megan, Melissa, Mildred, Natalie, Nicole, Olivia, Pamela, Patricia, Rose, Shannon, Shirley, Sofia, Sophia, Taylor, Tiffany, Victoria, Virginia
  • Borderline names:
    • Ava (could be based on the Germanic root avi or the Biblical name Eve)
    • Jessica (literary invention, but Shakespeare may have based it on the Biblical name Iscah)
    • Samantha (possibly inspired by the Biblical name Samuel)

Again, feels pretty weird to put overtly Christian names like Christina and Christine in the non-Biblical category, but oh well.

Here are the year-by-year tallies:

Year Top 20 names
given to…
# Biblical # Non-Biblical
1914 31% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1924 31% of baby girls 7 (35%) 13 (65%)
1934 32% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1944 35% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1954 34% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1964 24% of baby girls 9 (45%) 11 (55%)
1974 24% of baby girls 8 (40%) 12 (60%)
1984 26% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
1994 19% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2004 14% of baby girls 6 (30%) 14 (70%)
2014 12% of baby girls 5 (25%) 15 (75%)

Just like with the boy names, though, there’s a big difference between the 1914 and 2014 sample sizes — 31% and 12%. So let’s also look at the 2014 top 100, which covers 31% of female births.

By my count, last year’s top 100 girl names were about a quarter Biblical, three-quarters non-Biblical:

Biblical names (27) Non-Biblical/Borderline names (73)
Isabella (via Elizabeth), Mia (via Maria), Abigail, Elizabeth, Chloe, Addison (via Adam), Lillian (via Elizabeth), Hannah, Anna, Leah, Gabriella, Sadie (via Sarah), Sarah, Annabelle, Madelyn (via Magdalene), Lucy (via Lucius), Alexa (via Alexander), Genesis, Naomi, Eva, Lydia, Julia, Khloe, Madeline (via Magdalene), Alexandra, Gianna (via Joanna), Isabelle (via Elizabeth) Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Emily, Madison, Charlotte, Harper, Sofia, Avery, Amelia, Evelyn, Ella, Victoria, Aubrey, Grace, Zoey, Natalie, Brooklyn, Lily, Layla, Scarlett, Aria, Zoe, Samantha, Audrey, Ariana, Allison, Savannah, Arianna, Camila, Penelope, Claire, Aaliyah, Riley, Skylar, Nora, Hailey, Kaylee, Paisley, Kennedy, Ellie, Peyton, Caroline, Serenity, Aubree, Alexis, Nevaeh, Stella, Violet, Mackenzie, Bella, Autumn, Mila, Kylie, Maya, Piper, Alyssa, Taylor, Eleanor, Melanie, Faith, Katherine, Brianna, Ashley, Ruby, Sophie, London, Lauren, Alice, Vivian, Hadley, Jasmine

Faith, Grace, Angela, Nevaeh, Natalie…all technically non-Biblical.

27%-73% is remarkably similar to both 25%-75% (smaller 2014 sample) and 30%-70% (1914 sample).

So here’s the question of the day: If you had to choose all of your children’s names from either one group or the other — Biblical names or non-Biblical names — which group would you stick to, and why?

Names with the word “car”

If you’re looking for a car name — or you’re a car-lover looking for a baby name — here’s a fun little list for you: names that contain the word “car.” :)

  • Cara, Carra
  • Caramia
  • Cardea
  • Caren, Carin, Caron, Caryn, Karen
  • Carey, Cari, Carie, Carrie, Carrie, Cary
  • Caridad
  • Carina
  • Carissa, Carisa
  • Carl
  • Carla
  • Carleen, Carlene
  • Carlee, Carleigh, Carley, Carli, Carlie, Carly
  • Carlissa, Carlisa
  • Carlisle, Carlyle
  • Carlo
  • Carlos
  • Carlota, Carlotta
  • Carlton, Carleton
  • Carlyn, Carlynn
  • Carmel, Carmela, Carmella, Carmelo, Carmello
  • Carmen
  • Carmine
  • Carol, Carole, Carrol, Carroll, Caryl
  • Carolann
  • Carolee
  • Carolina
  • Caroline, Carolyne
  • Carolyn, Carolynn
  • Carsen, Carson
  • Carsten
  • Carter
  • Carver
  • Charisma, Carisma
  • Encarnacion
  • Giancarlo
  • Karma, Carma
  • Macario, Macarius, Macaria
  • MacArthur
  • Oscar
  • Ricardo, Ricarda
  • Scarlett, Scarlet
  • Toccara

Want to see more names for cars?