How popular is the baby name Christiaan in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Christiaan.

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Popularity of the baby name Christiaan

Posts that mention the name Christiaan

Popular baby names on Nantucket, 2023

Flag of Massachusetts
Flag of Massachusetts

The Massachusetts island of Nantucket, which sits about 30 miles off the coast Cape Cod, is home to over 14,000 year-round residents (though the population “swells to around 80,000 or more” during July and August).

According to the Nantucket Town Clerk’s office, a total of 158 babies were born on the island in 2023. But we only have access to the names of 108 of these babies. Why?

[B]ecause of a Massachusetts law that separates birth certificates based on the parent’s marital status. If the parents were not married at the time of the birth or the father is not named on the record, the birth certificate is considered a restricted record and is not public.

So, out of the 108 known names, which were the most popular? For girls it was a tie between Leah and Sarah (given to two babies each), and for boys it was a tie between Grayson and Lucas (also given to two babies each).

The 100 other babies were given 100 single-use names:

Archibald, Abigail, Abraham, Alejandro, Alister, Alyssa, Alvaro, Amina, Andrew, Asher, Aurora, Bayard, Beckett, Benjaminas, Brenda, Callan, Carter, Catherine, Cameron, Charlotte, Christiaan, Colin, Cole, Cooper, Curren, Damien, Daniel, Debora, Eden, Edwin, Edward, Emilia, Emma, Enzo, Evelyn, Ezra, Fabian, Fae, Fiona, Gaby, Gabriella, Greydon, Griffyn, Harbor, Henry, Israel, Jacob, Jaden, James, Jantyah, Jefferson, Joshua, Julie, Justina, Kairi, Kiara, Lakelyn, La’Klia, Larkin, Latifa, Leon, Liv, Luna, Lydia, Mabel, Madison, Marianne, Marlow, Matheus, Maverick, Max, Mia, Mila, Milo, Miles, Mukhammadyusuf, Nia, Penelope, Quinn, River, Robin, Roman, Samir, Scarlett, Sergio, Shay, Shepard, Silverio, Skye, Stephanie, Sullivan, Theodore, Therdore, Tiller, Timothy, Wilder, William, Yasna, Yvonne, Zaniyah

Tiller caught my eye — it may have come from the English surname (which originally referred to someone who tilled the soil), but, given the location, I’m hoping it was inspired by the tiller of a boat. Maybe Tiller will become the boaters’ version of Taylor/Tyler? :)

Olivia and Liam — the top names in Boston last year — are nowhere to be found on Nantucket’s list, interestingly.


Image: Adapted from Flag of Massachusetts (public domain)

Where did the baby name Cavett come from in 1973?

Talk show host Dick Cavett (in 1971)
Dick Cavett

The surname Cavett made its first and only appearance in the U.S. baby name data in the early 1970s:

  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: unlisted
  • 1973: 5 baby boys named Cavett [debut]
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

What put it there?

My guess is Dick Cavett, host of The Dick Cavett Show.

Different versions of Cavett’s Emmy-winning talk show were broadcast on television from the late ’60s to the early 2000s, but the most popular incarnation aired late-night on ABC — opposite Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on NBC — from 1969 to 1974.

What differentiated Cavett from Carson? Cavett had a more intellectual approach to comedy, and also interviewed a wider range of guests — not just movie stars and musicians, but also filmmakers, athletes, authors, journalists, politicians, activists, scientists, artists, and so forth. Cavett’s guests included Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur C. Clarke, Bobby Fischer, Christiaan Barnard, Harland Sanders, Hugh Hefner, Jackie Robinson, Jacques Cousteau, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon (and Yoko Ono), Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dalí.

Cavett’s Scottish surname was derived from a similar French surname, Cavet, which originally referred to either someone who worked with a cavet (a type of hoe) or someone who lived near or in a cave.

What are your thoughts on Cavett as a first name?


Image: Screenshot of The Dick Cavett Show

What gave the baby name Christiaan a boost in 1968?

South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard (1922-2001)
Dr. Christiaan Barnard

The baby name Christiaan (pronounced KRIS-tee-ahn) — the Dutch and Afrikaans form of Christian — saw peak usage in the U.S. in two different years: 1968 and 1970.

  • 1972: 22 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1971: 30 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1970: 43 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1969: 24 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1968: 43 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1967: 8 baby boys named Christiaan
  • 1966: unlisted

The name’s 1968 upswing represents the second-steepest rise among baby boy names that year (after Dustin).

Here’s the graph:

Graph of the usage of the first name Christiaan in the U.S. since 1880.
Usage of the first name Christiaan

What was calling attention to the name Christiaan in the late ’60s and early ’70s?

South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who made headlines worldwide after performing the first human heart transplant on December 3, 1967, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

Dr. Barnard led a team of 20 surgeons as they transplanted a heart from the body of donor Denise Darvall (a 25-year-old woman who’d been fatally injured in a car accident) into the body of recipient Louis Washkansky (a 55-year-old man terminally ill with heart disease).

The operation was considered a success, even though Washkansky died of pneumonia 18 days later.

The transplant attracted unprecedented media coverage, turning Dr. Barnard into an overnight celebrity:

Charismatic and photogenic, he appeared on magazine covers, met dignitaries and film stars, drawing crowds and photographers wherever he went.

Dr. Barnard performed a second human heart transplant on January 2, 1968 — just one month after the first. The second recipient, 59-year-old Philip Blaiberg, not only survived the operation, but lived for another 19 months and 15 days before dying of organ rejection in August of 1969.

The success of this second operation “secured the future of heart transplants.” It also likely caused the usage of Christiaan to peak again in 1970.

(That said, news about Dr. Barnard’s personal life may have also been a factor. He divorced his wife of twenty years, Aletta, in mid-1969 and married a 19-year-old Johannesburg socialite named Barbara Zoellner in early 1970.)

I’m not sure how many of the baby boys named Christiaan during the late ’60s and early ’70s were taught to pronounce their names KRIS-tee-ahn, as I couldn’t find any clips of U.S. newscasters using the Afrikaans pronunciation. Even talk show host Dick Cavett defaulted to the American pronunciation, KRIS-chen, when Dr. Christiaan Barnard appeared on The Dick Cavett Show [vid] in May of 1970.

What are your thoughts on the name Christiaan?


Image: Adapted from Professor Barnard photo by Jac. de Nijs via Nationaal Archief under CC0.