How popular is the baby name Donna 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 Donna.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Donna


Posts that Mention the Name Donna

What gave the baby name Danielle a boost in 1987?

The character Danielle/Danny from the Diet Pepsi commercial "Apt. 10-G" (1987).
“Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

If the Pepsi commercial in yesterday’s post on the baby name Sanjana seemed familiar to you, there’s a reason: That commercial was a scene-for-scene remake of an award-winning Diet Pepsi commercial that premiered in the U.S. six years earlier.

The spot, called “Apartment 10-G,” first aired in 1987 — either during the Super Bowl or the Grammy Awards (my sources don’t agree). It starred Michael J. Fox as the “urban knight satisfying the thirst of [the] damsel-next-door.”

Below is the one-minute version of the commercial:

Here’s a description, in case you don’t want to watch:

A young man is alone in his apartment when there’s a knock at the door. He opens the door to find a pretty young woman, who enters and says, “Hi, I just moved in next door. Could I borrow a Diet Pepsi?” He responds, “Sure, come in” (even though she’s already in). As he heads for the kitchen, he shows his excitement with a jump and a quiet “Yes!” She is idly looking around his apartment when he reaches the fridge…only to discover an empty bottle of Diet Pepsi. He calls out, “How about something else?” She responds, “Listen, if you don’t have a Diet Pepsi…” He already has one leg out the kitchen window as he calls back, “No, I got it.” He goes out onto the fire escape — the window slams shut behind him — and jumps down to street level. It’s raining outside. He spots a vending machine selling Diet Pepsi across the street. He tries to cross, but nearly gets hit by a car, so instead he jumps roof-to-roof over the traffic to reach the vending machine. He has a can of Diet Pepsi in his hand as he climbs up the fire escape ladder. He finds the window locked. Just as the woman starts walking toward the kitchen (calling, “You okay in there?”) there’s the sound of glass shattering. The man comes out of the kitchen — soaking wet, out of breath — and hands her the can, saying, “Here’s your diet Pepsi.” Then there’s another knock at the door. The woman says, “That must be my roommate, Danny.” “Danny?” the man repeats, with a worried look on his face. A second woman suddenly comes into view behind them. She leans seductively against the wall and says, “Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

(The minute-and-a-half version included a run-in with a motorcycle gang.)

So now, the big question: Did this Pepsi commercial give a boost to the baby name Danielle the same way the Lehar Pepsi commercial gave a boost to the baby name Sanjana?

It’s very possible!

The name Danielle was already well within the U.S. top-20 at that time, but it saw a conspicuous increase in usage in 1987:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Danielle.
Danielle saw peak usage in 1987
  • 1989: 15,366 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1988: 16,253 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1987: 17,007 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 14th] (peak usage)
  • 1986: 14,943 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 16th]
  • 1985: 15,411 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 18th]

So far, I haven’t been able to find an explanation better than the commercial.

My next-best-guess would be actress Danielle von Zerneck, who played Donna in the 1987 movie La Bamba (with Esai Morales).

There was also a young character named Danielle on the soap opera As The World Turns at that time. I don’t think she caused the 1987 peak, but — because she was born in the storyline in October of 1983 — I do think she’s behind that steep increase in usage in 1984. (Interesting fact: Her mother, Betsy, was played by future movie star Meg Ryan.)

But, getting back to the Pepsi commercial…do you remember seeing it on television in the late ’80s? If so, do you recall whether or not it drew your attention to the name Danielle?

Sources:

Where did the baby name Esai come from?

Esai Morales as Bob Morales in La Bamba (1987)
Esai Morales as Bob Morales in “La Bamba”

The uncommon name Esai debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1987:

  • 1990: 22 baby boys named Esai
  • 1989: 34 baby boys named Esai
  • 1988: 33 baby boys named Esai
  • 1987: 14 baby boys named Esai [debut]
  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Actor Esai (pronounced ee-sie) Morales, who was one of the stars of the 1987 movie La Bamba.

The movie was a biopic of rock and roll pioneer Richard Valenzuela, popularly known as Ritchie Valens (played by Lou Diamond Phillips). Esai played Ritchie’s brash older brother, Bob Morales. (The characters had different fathers, which accounts for the different surnames.)

Esai Morales, born in New York and of Puerto Rican descent, inherited his first name from his own father. The name is thought to be based on Esaias, which is a form of the Biblical name Isaiah (meaning “Yahweh is salvation” in Hebrew).

Interestingly, the character’s surname being “Morales” like his own was a factor in Esai’s decision to take the part. At the time, he was trying to choose between the role in La Bamba and a role in the Steven Spielberg movie Batteries Not Included, which he assumed would be an “instant hit.”

And I just thought to myself, there’s the commercial-looking success thing, but then there’s this thing that tugs at my heart. It made me cry. I read the story and, like, I had tears streaming down my face. […] And I saw a character with my name on it. Literally, it had my name on it. You don’t see great roles oftentime with Latino names, much less your own. You know, so I was like, you know, I’m gonna roll the dice with this one. And I think I made the right decision.

What do you think of the name Esai?

Sources: Esai Morales – Wikipedia, Esai Morales on his decades-long career in Hollywood – BEONDTV

P.S. Despite having a very short recording career, Ritchie Valens scored several hit singles, including “Donna.”

Where did the baby name Deshannon come from?

Jackie DeShannon album "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" (1969).
Jackie DeShannon album

Right around the time the name Shannon was seeing a steep rise in usage, the name Deshannon debuted in the U.S. baby name data:

YearBaby girls named ShannonBaby girls named Deshannon
197210,965 [rank: 22nd]14
197112,651 [rank: 21st]12
197013,548 [rank: 22nd]13
196910,448 [rank: 31st]12 [debut]
19686,402 [rank: 53rd].
19673,446 [rank: 101st].
19662,992 [rank: 120th].

The influence? Singer Jackie DeShannon, whose biggest hit, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” peaked at #4 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart in the summer of 1969.

But this wasn’t DeShannon’s first hit. She’d already seen success with the Burt Bacharach song “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which had peaked at #7 in the summer of 1965.

So it seems that sudden trendiness of “Shannon” was the x-factor that prepared expectant parents to see more name-potential in “DeShannon” the second time around.

The singer’s birth name was Sharon Lee Myers. She went through various stage names before settling on “Jackie DeShannon.” “Jackie” was chosen because it was gender-neutral, while “DeShannon” was created out of two earlier ideas: “Dee,” which, by itself, made the full name too close to ones already in use (like Sandra Dee and Brenda Lee), and “de Shannon,” which was often written incorrectly.

DeShannon also had a successful career as a songwriter, working with performers like Jimmy Page and Marianne Faithfull. In 1982, she received the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “Bette Davis Eyes,” which she had co-written with Donna Weiss. (The song was a 1981 hit for singer Kim Carnes.)

How do you like DeShannon as a baby name?

Sources: What The World Needs Now Is Jackie DeShannon, Jackie DeShannon – Wikipedia

Pop Culture Baby Name Game Results, 2020

Which of the names in the 2020 pop culture baby name game saw higher usage last year?

The following names increased in usage from 2019 to 2020. They’re ordered by relative size of increase.

NameActionIncrease’19 to ’20 usageSugg. by
Dalettdebuted2,250%, at least? to 94 baby girlsalex
Ehlaniincreased2,100%5 to 110 baby girlsalex
Alessiincreased418%11 to 57 baby girlsLeah
Gianninaincreased400%5 to 25 baby girlsalex
Breonnaincreased211%9 to 28 baby girls
Kobeincreased199%502 to 1,500 baby boys
Aalamre-emerged175%, at least? to 11 baby boys
Raddixdebuted150%, at least? to 10 baby boys
Azulaincreased142%26 to 63 baby girls
Avaniincreased133%101 to 235 baby girlsalex
Giannaincreased129%3,412 to 7,826 baby girls
Ahmaudincreased100%12 to 24 baby boys
Catoriincreased85%13 to 24 baby girlsalex
Doveincreased70%30 to 51 baby girlsKM & Leah
Rueincreased68%41 to 69 baby girls
Zaiaincreased60%35 to 56 baby girlsalex
Mykaincreased57%53 to 83 baby girlsalex
Kataraincreased54%41 to 63 baby girls
Chadwickincreased50%20 to 30
Rellre-emerged50%, at least? to 6 baby girlsLeah
Zukoincreased47%15 to 22 baby boys
Bryantincreased46%271 to 395 baby boys
Tenilleincreased40%5 to 7 baby girlsEmily A
Nayaincreased39%256 to 356 baby girlsalex
Kamalaincreased38%13 to 18 baby girls
Onyxincreased38%321 to 442 baby boys
Steelincreased31%35 to 46 baby boysalex
Joseyincreased31%16 to 21 baby boysalex
Duaincreased29%72 to 93 baby girls
Radleyincreased28%53 to 68 baby boysalex
Charliincreased24%594 to 735 baby girls
Lyraincreased24%431 to 534 baby girls
Kamiyahincreased23%333 to 409 baby girls
Sovereignincreased23%13 to 16 baby girlsalex
Shaiincreased22%98 to 120 baby boysLeah
Yaraincreased21%362 to 439 baby girls
Dorotheaincreased21%47 to 57 baby girlsRandi & KM
Bettyincreased20%161 to 194 baby girlsRandi
Riverincreased17%2,361 to 2,771 baby boys
Estyincreased16%58 to 67 baby girls
Sakaiincreased14%21 to 24 baby boysalex
Creedincreased12%257 to 288 baby boysalex & Leah
Lovellaincreased11%18 to 20 baby girls
Huxleyincreased10%469 to 518 baby boysalex
Daisyincreased9%1,729 to 1,877 baby girls
Isaiasincreased8%580 to 625 baby boys
Adonisincreased8%1,539 to 1,663 baby boysalex
Amalaincreased5%20 to 21 baby girls
Ivyincreased3%3,675 to 3,794 baby girlsRandi
Zealandincreased3%30 to 31 baby boysalex
Milanincreased3%
13%
662 to 683 baby boys
397 to 449 baby girls
alex
Marjorieincreased2%203 to 208 baby girlsRandi
Augustincreased1%2,376 to 2,403 baby boysEmily A

The following names did not increase in usage from 2019 to 2020. These names saw equal usage, less usage, or weren’t in the data at all.

Ammika, Anaia, Casme, Corona, Crozier, Desz, Divinity, Doja, Domhnall, Estee, George, Gervonta, Giveon, Greta, Hamilton, Ice, Jack, James, Kaori, King, Kraken, Larriah, Laura, Lenin, Liberty, Lynika, McGivney, Nakova, Neowise, Raditz, Rayshard, Robinette, Rona, Rumble, Ruth, Saphir, Slash, Tacoda, Tchalla, Theodosia, Tianwen, Wednesday, Wenliang, Willa, Willow, Win, Zaya

And here are the late bloomers — names that were part of the 2019 game, but didn’t rise/debut until 2020.

  • Donna increased by 20%.
  • Nipsey debuted with 7 baby boys.
  • Luce returned to the data with 7 baby girls.
  • Maleficent returned to the data with 5 baby girls.
  • Miren returned to the data with 5 baby girls.

Finally, regarding our theories about how Covid might have affected 2020’s names…I didn’t notice anything definitive. For instance, both Gheba and Skizzo mentioned “prestige” names (e.g., King, Legend, Major, Messiah and Royal). What I found was that some went up, some went down. Same with the modern virtue names (e.g., Courage, Honor, Brave, Bravery, Freedom).

What are your thoughts on these results? Which name surprised you the most?

[Disclaimer: Some of the names above were already moving in the direction indicated. Others were influenced by more than a single pop culture person/event. In all cases, I leave it up to you to judge the degree/nature of pop culture influence.]

What popularized the baby name Donna?

Donna, Ritchie Valens, 1958, Del-Fi

From 1955 to 1965, Donna was a top-ten baby name in the United States. But, in 1959, it saw a steep rise in usage that boosted it all the way up to 5th place:

  • 1961: 28,668 baby girls named Donna [ranked 7th]
  • 1960: 34,132 baby girls named Donna [ranked 5th]
  • 1959: 36,465 baby girls named Donna [ranked 5th] – peak usage
  • 1958: 26,949 baby girls named Donna [ranked 10th]
  • 1957: 28,039 baby girls named Donna [ranked 10th]

Why the rise?

I think the primary reason was the song “Donna” by California teenager Ritchie Valens. It was released in December of 1958 and became Valens’ highest-charting single, reaching #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in February of 1959.

Sadly, Valens died in the same plane crash that killed The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly (“Peggy Sue“) several weeks before “Donna” reached peak popularity.

Valens was born Richard Steven Valenzuela in Pacoima, California, in 1941. He’d written “Donna” as a tribute to his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. (They’d stopped dating about year before the song was released.)

Donna Reed show

A secondary influence on the name Donna might have been The Donna Reed Show, which began airing in September of 1958 — though the show didn’t achieve peak popularity until the early 1960s. It featured already-famous actress Donna Reed as fictional middle-class housewife Donna Stone.

Do you like the name Donna? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

Source: Ritchie Valens – Billboard, Ritchie Valens – Wikipedia