How popular is the baby name Christopher 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 Christopher.
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The unlikely name Notorious debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1995, dropped off in 1996, then returned in 1997:
1997: 9 baby boys named Notorious
1995: 9 baby boys named Notorious [debut]
Notorious has re-appeared in the data several times since, but, so far, 9 babies in a single year represents peak usage.
So, what turned this vocabulary word — a synonym of “infamous” — into a personal name?
New York City rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls), born Christopher Wallace in 1972.
His 1994 debut album, Ready to Die, featured the singles “One More Chance” (which peaked at #2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart), “Big Poppa” (#6), and “Juicy” (#27).
“Big Poppa” was also nominated for the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance of 1995. Here’s the music video:
In March of 1997 — two weeks before the release of his second album, Life After Death — Biggie was murdered in a drive-by shooting while visiting Los Angeles.
[M]any rap fans suspect the shooting is connected to the East Coast-West Coast feud that has become prevalent in the hip-hop community over the last several years. Smalls and the label he’s on, Bad Boy Entertainment, had been in a fierce rivalry with Tupac Shakur and the Los Angeles-based gangsta rap label Death Row Records, and Shakur had accused Smalls of involvement in a 1994 robbery in which Shakur was shot.
Shakur had been murdered less than a year earlier (also in a drive-by shooting).
Biggie’s second album included the singles “Hypnotize” (which peaked at #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart), “Mo Money Mo Problems” (#1), and “Sky’s the Limit” (#26).
What are your thoughts on the name Notorious?
P.S. The word may have a negative connotation nowadays, but the original meaning of notorious was simply “publicly known and spoken of” (via the Medieval Latin word notorius, meaning “well-known”).
Looking for baby names that feature the appealing letter-pair PH?
I’ve collected a hundreds of options for you in this post!
Before we get to the names, though, let’s get one big question out of the way…
Why does PH sound like “F”?
In English, PH is a digraph, which means that it’s a pair of letters that make a single sound. (It’s interesting that the word “digraph” contains a digraph, isn’t it?)
Most of the English words that have PH were derived from Greek — specifically, from Greek words that included the Greek letter phi:
In ancient times, the Greek letter phi made an aspirated p-sound. (The unaspirated p-sound, on the other hand, was made by the Greek letter pi.)
When Greek was transliterated into Latin, the letter phi was written as “ph” to denote this aspiration — that is, to signal that the letter “p” was accompanied by a brief puff of air.
So, what happened?
In the first several centuries A.D., the pronunciation of the Greek letter phi changed. It slowly evolved from an aspirated p-sound into an f-sound.
As a result, the letter-pair “ph” underwent a corresponding (though somewhat illogical) pronunciation change. It, too, came to represent an f-sound — and still does to this day.
Now, back to the names!
Top baby names with PH
Let’s begin with the most popular names with PH (including a few names that start with PH):
Top girl names with PH
Top boy names with PH
Sophia Josephine Sophie Phoebe Daphne Phoenix Ophelia Stephanie Murphy Persephone
Joseph Christopher Phoenix Memphis Philip Phillip Raphael Kristopher Ephraim Murphy
Now here are the same names again, but this time around I’ve added some details (including definitions, rankings, and popularity graphs).
Christopher + Kristopher
The name Christopher was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: christos, meaning “Christ” or “anointed one,” and phoros, meaning “bearing” — hence, “Christ-bearing.”
Kristopher is a slightly simplified form of Christopher (perhaps influenced by the Scandinavian spelling, Kristoffer).
Christopher is currently the 52nd most popular boy name in the nation, and Kristopher ranks 936th.
Other forms of the name include Christoph (German) and Christophe (French).
The name Daphne was derived from the ancient Greek word daphne, meaning “laurel.”
In Greek myth, Daphne was a naiad who was saved from the advances of the god Apollo by being transformed into a laurel tree.
Daphne is currently the 288th most popular girl name in the U.S.
One variant form of the name is Daphna. The name is also sometimes spelled Daphnie, Daphney, or Daphni.
The name Ephraim is the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “fruitful.” It’s pronounced a variety of ways: EHF-rum, EEF-rum, EHF-fray-um, etc.
Ephraim is currently the 978th most popular boy name in the nation.
The name is also sometimes spelled Ephram or Ephrem.
Joseph + Josephine
The name Joseph is based on Ioseph, the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “he adds.”
Josephine comes from Joséphine, the French feminine form of Joseph.
Joseph is currently the 28th most popular boy name in the U.S., whereas Josephine ranks 72nd for girls.
The Dutch form of Joseph is Josephus. Other feminine forms include Josepha (German) and Josephina.
Memphis was the Greek form of the ancient Egyptian city-name Men-nefer, which meant “his beauty.” (The nefer element is also evident in the Egyptian name Nefertiti.)
The Egyptian city is long gone, but a city in Tennessee was named Memphis in the 1820s.
Memphis is currently the 404th most popular boy name in the nation.
The Irish surname Murphy was derived from a medieval Irish given name comprised of the elements muir, meaning “sea,” and cath, meaning “battle.”
Murphy is currently the 716th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It’s also sitting just outside the top 1,000 for boys.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Murphie, Murphee, or Murphey.
The name Ophelia was derived from the ancient Greek word opheleia, meaning “aid, help, succor.”
It’s not a name found in Greek myth, but William Shakespeare used it for a character in his play Hamlet around the year 1600. And, much more recently, the Lumineers featured the name in their 2016 song “Ophelia” [vid].
Ophelia is currently the 321st most popular girl name in the nation.
The French form of the name is Ophélie.
The etymology of the Greek name Persephone (pronounced per-SEH-fuh-nee) isn’t known for certain, but one modern theory suggests that it means “she who threshes ears of corn.”
In Greek myth, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (the goddess of agriculture) and Zeus.
Persephone is currently the 778th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It entered the top 1,000 for the first time in 2019.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Persephonie or Persephony.
Philip + Phillip
The name Philip was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: philos, meaning “beloved, loving,” and hippos, meaning “horse” — hence, “lover of horses.”
Phillip-with-two-L’s is a common variant of Philip.
Philip is currently the 451th most popular boy name in the nation, and Phillip (two L’s) ranks 523rd.
Other forms of the name include Philipp (German) and Philippe (French). Feminine forms include Philippa and Phillipa.
The name Phoebe was derived from the ancient Greek word phoibos, meaning “pure, bright, radiant.”
Many characters in Greek myth had this name, including a Titaness who was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. This particular Phoebe was the grandmother of the sun god Apollo and the moon goddess Artemis.
Phoebe is currently the 247th most popular girl name in the U.S.
The spelling Phebe (used in certain translations of the Bible) was more prevalent in previous generations. Among the babies born in the city of Providence in 1868, for instance, we find four girls named Phebe, but none named Phoebe.
The name Phoenix was derived from the ancient Greek word phoinix, meaning “crimson” or “purple.
In Greek and Egyptian myth, the phoenix was a bird that periodically self-immolated and then rose again from its own ashes.
In fact, the capital of Arizona was named “Phoenix” because early settlers, in the 1860s, noticed archaeological evidence of the previous Native American inhabitants and recognized that “the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.”
Which of the PH names above to do you like most? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the more common names in this post, just check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will take a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current and historical U.S. usage.
It was very strange, I went to school, and I remember that you had to do these tests to find out what set you’re in — how clever you are. I put down “Kit Harington,” and they looked at me like I was completely stupid, and they said, “No, you’re Christopher Harington, I’m afraid.” It was only then I learnt my actual name. That was kind of a bizarre existential crisis for an 11-year-old to have, but in the end I always stuck with Kit, because I felt that’s who I was. I’m not really a “Chris.”
Movie stars seem to have an impact on naming conventions too. The median [age of women named] Raveena, Karishma, Twinkle and Kajol are between 20 and 23 today, which, given the two movie stars’ debuts in the early 90s, makes sense. The median Aishwarya is 21, which is roughly how many years ago Ms. Rai Bachchan won the Miss World title.
Among men, there has been a sharp rise in the popularity of Shahrukh and Sachin, both peaks coinciding with their debuts on film screens and the cricket field respectively. Amitabh is declining in popularity after hitting a peak among those who were born in the mid 70s.
In a recent study, we turned name analytics toward one of Ireland’s big historical questions: why were the Irish so reluctant to follow couples elsewhere in reducing the size of their families?
We found something surprising. Many of our prior expectations were confirmed: professionals had fewer children than laborers, families were smaller in cities, and Catholics had more children than Protestants. The single strongest indicator that a couple had a large family, however, was whether or not they picked traditional and common names for their children. When parents chose names like Patrick, Mary and John, they typically had more children. Parents with fewer children relied more on uncommon names like Eric, Sam, Hazel and Irene. Irrespective of religion, naming was linked to family size and the pattern even held for the Irish in America.
Irish couples were particularly likely to buck trends as they were exposed to cities. Urban couples were not only the first to sharply curtail childbearing, but were also more likely to experiment with new and unusual names. This was a sharp departure from large rural Irish families, where successive generations were named after parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Actor Josh Brolin’s explanation of his daughter’s name, Chapel Grace (b. 2020):
Everywhere we have traveled the one place Kathryn and I always found a great solace in were chapels. Not being particularly religious, but a God feeling heavily inundating our lives, chapels have always been the sanctuaries where we felt most connectedly free to give thanks. Chapel Grace is, to us, a manifestation of that celestial feeling that was always felt as we meandered and knelt.
Finally, two unrelated quotes from a 2008 Mental Floss article about undesirable names. Here’s the first:
In June 2001, a total solar eclipse was about to cross southern Africa. To prepare, the Zimbabwean and Zambian media began a massive astronomy education campaign focused on warning people not to stare at the Sun. Apparently, the campaign worked. The locals took a real liking to the vocabulary, and today, the birth registries are filled with names like Eclipse Glasses Banda, Totality Zhou, and Annular Mchombo.
And here’s the second:
When Napoleon seized the Netherlands in 1810, he demanded that all Dutchmen take last names, just as the French had done decades prior. Problem was, the Dutch had lived full and happy lives with single names, so they took absurd surnames in a show of spirited defiance. These included Naaktgeboren (born naked), Spring int Veld (jump in the field), and Piest (pisses). Sadly for their descendants, Napoleon’s last-name trend stuck, and all of these remain perfectly normal Dutch names today.