A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people who were associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Interestingly, the author of the register decided to include a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter included a long list of male forenames and their frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
So, are you ready for the list?
Here’s the top 100:
John, 3,826 individuals
Peter (and Peirs/Pers), 175
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Griffith (and Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (and Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice, 44 (tie)
Toby (and Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory, 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (and Gaspar), 26 (3-way tie)
Josiah (and Josias), 26 (3-way tie)
Randall (and Randolph), 26 (3-way tie)
Austin (and Augustine), 22 (tie)
Jarvis (and Gervase), 22 (tie)
Matthias, 20 (tie)
Reginald (and Reynold), 20 (tie)
Joshua 18 (3-way tie)
Marmaduke, 18 (3-way tie)
Valentine, 18 (3-way tie)
Fulke, 17 (tie)
Sampson (and Samson), 17 (tie)
Clement, 16 (4-way tie)
Ferdinando, 16 (4-way tie)
Herbert, 16 (4-way tie)
Zachary, 16 (4-way tie)
Cuthbert, 15 (3-way tie)
Emanuel, 15 (3-way tie)
Vincent, 15 (3-way tie)
Adrian, 14 (3-way tie)
Elias, 14 (3-way tie)
Jonah (and Jonas), 14 (3-way tie)
Allan, 12 (6-way tie)
Ames, 12 (6-way tie)
Barnaby (and Barnabas), 12 (6-way tie)
Gerard (and Garret), 12 (6-way tie)
Lionel, 12 (6-way tie)
Mark, 12 (6-way tie)
Abel, 11 (3-way tie)
Erasmus, 11 (3-way tie)
Roderic, 11 (3-way tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
The author did note that “the more common names occur more frequently than they ought to…from the tendency to confuse less common names with them.”
For example, a person called ‘Edmund,’ if he is frequently mentioned in the Register, is almost certain to be somewhere quoted as ‘Edward,’ ‘Gregory’ as ‘George,’ ‘Randall’ or ‘Raphael’ as ‘Ralph,’ ‘Gilbert’ as ‘William,’ and so on.
Now here are some of the less-common names, grouped by number of appearances in the register:
Virginian rap crooner DRAM returned last night with the release of his new, three-song EP, That’s A Girl’s Name. Produced and co-written by Josh Abraham and Oligee, the EP’s title refers to DRAM’S real name, Shelley Massenburg-Smith, which means “that’s a girl’s name” is probably a phrase he heard quite a bit growing up.
(“DRAM” is an acronym for “Does Real Ass Music.” DRAM’s goldendoodle also has an interesting name: Idnit [vid] — “as in, idnit so cute.”)
The Texas native also revealed that when he was born his father wasn’t there. Instead, he explained that James “called my mom and said, ‘Only thing I have to say is if it’s a boy, don’t name him Kelly.’”
From a New York Times article about the marriage of Sugar Good, a Dunkin’ Donuts manager, to one of her drive-through customers:
A year would go by before she gathered the courage to pass him her sprinkle-bedecked business card with his breakfast in September 2018. But when she did, it came as a relief to both. The man, John Thompson, a recently retired Marine working as a car salesman in Oklahoma City, had been wondering how he was going to figure out what her real name was.
“When I started going through the drive-through, I noticed she would smile with her eyes, and I thought, maybe if I read the receipt I can see what her name is,” he said. “But it said ‘Sugar No. 7.'” He figured Sugar must have been a reference to how he likes his coffee. With the card, which listed her cellphone number at the bottom, she cleared up the mystery — as well as her own case of the blues.
“As a culture, we are realizing that gender is no longer a fixed concept,” says Sam Cheow, senior vice president of corporate innovation and product development at the Estée Lauder Companies, which owns brands like M.A.C, Tom Ford Beauty, Le Labo, and Frédéric Malle . . . Cheow points to evidence that the needle is moving forward: the growing backlash surrounding gender-reveal parties; a rise in gender-neutral baby names (for example, in 2018, 51 percent of “Charlies” were female); and the arrival of Q, the world’s first genderless voice assistant.
From a Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources blog post entitled “The Tiffany Problem“:
Wait, what? No way there’s a Tiffany in this book! Not when there are other women running around with convincing names like Blanchefleur, Isolde, and Ermentrude.
[T]he Tiffany Problem describes the tension between historical fact and the average, everyday person’s idea of history. So even though authors may research carefully and want to include historically accurate information in their book—like a medieval character named Tiffany—a popular audience likely won’t buy it.
I remember a guy named Bill. His view on trail names mirrored mine. He didn’t have one, didn’t want one. He was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, not seeking a new identity. As he walked the white-blazed path, he simply introduced himself as “Bill”.
The most-often stated reply to him was, “What’s your trail name?”
His standard answer, “I don’t have a trail name. My name is just Bill.”
I put an apostrophe in my name that wasn’t there before, like Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, because of how influential this band was to me. D’Arcy was just the epitome of cool to me. In 1993, I was really into alternative and grunge music, and whereas the Nirvanas and the Pearl Jams felt so masculine, there was something sweeter and lighter about Smashing Pumpkins. The fact that they had a girl in their band was huge for me and my friends. I learned the guitar part to “Today,” and it made me feel like such a badass. It was like, “Wow, I can play guitar!” But, of course, anybody can play the beginning of “Today.”