How popular is the baby name Gary 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 Gary.
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From an early 2023 Anaheim Ducks video in which former football player Troy Aikman addresses his namesake, hockey player Troy Terry (b. 1997):
How cool are we to have the name Troy, first of all. Now I know why your parents named you Troy, so it makes me feel really proud. But what makes me feel even prouder is the fact that the Ducks organization has given me the honor to let you know that, for the second consecutive year, you my friend are an NHL All-Star.
If you really, really know me, and you want to get under my skin a little bit, you go with Wardell. So there’s three options there. There’s Stephen, which is — I kind of know what the relationship is. If you go Wardell, that means we go way back.
The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on” […] “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”
It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was named, in part, after Ronald Reagan, president of the United States at the time of his birth [in 1985] and his father’s favorite actor. “My parents named me after him because they both liked this name and thought it sounded strong,” he tells me. “I know that my father admired him.”
“My pop [Len] was a DJ while he was in the military and they called him DJ Frost because they said he was cold on the spins. [They called him] Frost, Frostee all that. No matter what he named me they were going to call me Little Frost anyway, so they named me Frostee.”
What was it like growing up named Frostee?
“It sucked growing up really because kids at Christmas time and teachers, and me being African American, it just didn’t all come together but about [the] time I came to high school it became a household name in Orange County (Calif.).
“It’s just benefited [me] from then. It’s always caught peoples’ eye in the paper and they wanted to know more. So I don’t know if I’ll name my kid that if I ever have one but at the same time being unique isn’t bad either.”
“We’re always going to be compared, but we’re the Black sisters not the Williams sisters,” [mom Gayal Black] said.
“Alicia got her name ‘Tornado’ when she was 3 and playing out of her mind,” she said. “We couldn’t believe how amazing she was and we knew then we had a champion. When the next one was born, we knew she could do it, too, and so her [legal] name is Tyra Hurricane.”
But raising champions was only a part of the strategy.
“I have a marketing degree . . . and I knew I needed to do something for them to stand out, and we thought it was cute,” Gayal said. “[Tornado didn’t like her name] a few years ago. Kids tease you. But now they understand it’s marketing and it’s very big to say a storm blew through the US Open.
From a 2022 article in Sporting News about young Czech hockey player Ivan Ivan:
Ivan Ivan, a Czechia forward who has the same first and last name, took the hockey world by storm last December when he was on the team’s roster at the canceled World Juniors. While a graphic from December stating that his name was Ivan Ivan Ivan caused a stir, it’s unfortunately just Ivan Ivan.
From the 2015 essay “Why I converted to Islam” by basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (born Ferdinand Lewis “Lew” Alcindor):
The transition from Lew to Kareem was not merely a change in celebrity brand name — like Sean Combs to Puff Daddy to Diddy to P. Diddy — but a transformation of heart, mind and soul. I used to be Lew Alcindor, the pale reflection of what white America expected of me. Now I’m Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the manifestation of my African history, culture and beliefs.
The adoption of a new name was an extension of my rejection of all things in my life that related to the enslavement of my family and people. Alcindor was a French planter in the West Indies who owned my ancestors. My forebears were Yoruba people, from present day Nigeria. Keeping the name of my family’s slave master seemed somehow to dishonor them. His name felt like a branded scar of shame.
Some fans still call me Lew, then seem annoyed when I ignore them. They don’t understand that their lack of respect for my spiritual choice is insulting. It’s as if they see me as a toy action figure, existing solely to decorate their world as they see fit, rather than as an individual with his own life.
From a 2014 11 Freunde tweet about World Cup-winning German soccer player Mario Götze:
Dieser Moment, in dem du dachtest: Wenn er den macht, nenne ich meinen Sohn Mario.
This moment, in which you thought: If he makes it, I call my son Mario.
You’re not a real Mets fan unless you name your kid Shea.
Over the weekend, David Wright and his wife, Molly, had a baby girl. Her name: Olivia Shea Wright. Clearly, Wright has a fondness for the stadium where his Mets career began. So much so that he made his daughter part of a decades-old trend that seems to ebb and flow along with the success of the team.
(Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets from 1964 to 2008.)
Some other things we noticed: 10 percent of the list falls into the “Tech & Geek” category, which includes names inspired by Computing (“Paige Not Found,” “Syntax Terror,” “Ctrl Alt Defeat”) fonts (“Crimes New Roman,” “Give ‘Em Hell Vetica”); Chemistry (“Carmen Die Oxide,” “ChLauraform”); and Philosophy (“Blockem’s Razor”).
There seemed to be a bit of destiny attached. Her middle name, Ka-polioka’ehukai, means Heart of the Sea.
“Most Hawaiian grandparents name you before you’re born,” she says. “They have a dream or something that tells them what the name will be.” Hawaiians also have a knack for giving people rhythmic, dead-on nicknames, and for young Rell they had a beauty: Rella Propella.
“My godmother called me that because I was always moving so fast,” says Rell. “To this day, people think my real name is Rella. Actually I was born Roella, a combination of my parents’ names: Roen and Elbert. But I hated it, and no one used it, so I changed it to Rell.”
From a 2017 interview [vid] with professional basketball player Isaiah Thomas (who was, at that time, a star player for the Boston Celtics):
My dad is from Los Angeles, California. He’s a big Laker fan. And he made a wager that if the Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers [in the 1989 Finals] he’d name his son Isiah Thomas. […] My mom, she grew up in church, and she liked the name but she wanted it spelled the biblical way, that’s why my name is spelled slightly different than the older Isiah Thomas.
(Thomas was born in February, but the Finals weren’t until June. Sports Illustratedclarifies that the bet was made before the birth — and well before the Finals — but that, by the time the baby arrived, Thomas’ father had “had warmed to the idea of his very own Isiah.”)
From the same interview [vid], former Detroit Pistons player Isiah Thomas getting a kick out hearing his own name being chanted at the Boston Garden:
It’s so beautiful [laughs]. I love it. I love it that, you know, and even though they’re not chanting my name, to hear them chant “MVP” and they’re talking about Isaiah Thomas in the Boston Garden — it’s just awesome.
From a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal about rookie football player Isaiah Thomas:
Thomas, 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, was named after the Hall of Fame basketball player Isiah Thomas. The Detroit Pistons star was his father’s favorite player and his mother loved the name because of what it represents in the Bible.
His dad wanted Thomas to be a basketball player, and Thomas said he won two state championships at Memorial High School in Tulsa. But there was never any debate over which sport Thomas would play.
With a first name as iconic as Kobe Bryant’s, who needs a middle name with an interesting story? Well, Kobe Bryant does. His middle name — Bean — is a touching tribute to his father, Joe Bryant. Because of his high energy and ability to jump (guess Kobe must have inherited that particular skill), his father was nicknamed “Jellybean.” Luckily, Kobe’s parents didn’t go for the full candy-coated name and instead just dubbed him Kobe Bean Bryant.
From a late 2021 article about college football by AP journalist Stephen Hawkins:
Cincinnati cornerback Coby Bryant […] changed his number for the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Cotton Bowl against No. 1 Alabama on Friday.
Yes, Bryant is named after the late NBA great, even with the different spelling of the first name.
For the playoff game, Bryant switched from the No. 7 he had worn throughout his Cincinnati career to No. 8, one of the two numbers the basketball Hall of Fame player wore while winning five NBA titles over his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“My parents loved Kobe Bryant and my brother does too,” the Bearcats cornerback said. “So I was named for Kobe Bryant. It’s just spelled differently”
From an article about the name of Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones:
“Leisel was a very rare name when I was born in 1985… When I was born actually, my doctor said to my mum ‘you cannot call her Leisel because that’s not a name… You’re going to regret that one day,'” the Olympic swimmer said.
“And they absolutely did.”
The 32-year-old also went on to say having a unique name isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when no one can spell it right.
“The only problem with my name is it’s spelt L-E-I-S-E-L — and everyone spells it wrong. Everyone spells it as L-I-E-S-E-L,” she said.
“So that is a bit painful, it’s a bit annoying. But I do love my name and I love that it’s different.”
Preparing for the fall season, the offensive coordinator for University of Washington’s football team realized his team had a small problem. It went by the name Jacob.
The Pac-12 Huskies had four quarterbacks named Jacob or Jake (plus a linebacker named Jake and a tight end named Jacob).
From a 2015 article about British professional boxer Tyson Fury in The Guardian:
Yep, he is named after Mike Tyson, and yep, Tyson Fury is a perfect name for a boxer. Fury was born prematurely and only weighed one pound. “The doctors told me there was not much chance of him living,” said his father, John Fury. “I had lost two daughters in the same way who had been born prematurely. They told me there was not much hope for him. It was 1988, Mike Tyson was in his pomp as world heavyweight champion, and so I said, ‘Let’s call him Tyson’. The doctors just looked at me and smiled.”
By the turn of the century, the Bob-to-Rob transition had been essentially complete. No Major Leaguer has gone by Bob since journeyman reliever Bob Howry retired in 2010. There are dozens of Robs, Robbys and Bobbys currently in the Minors working their way up the ladder, but no Bobs to be found.
With a name like Ryder, practicing golf at a young is no accident. Ryan Carlson says, yes, his son’s name is inspired by the Ryder Cup, but he didn’t expect he’d be such a natural. Shortly after he began to walk, Ryder began swinging a plastic golf club, quickly learning how to hit balls.
From the book Becoming Something: The Story of Canada Lee (2004) by Mona Z. Smith:
Canada Lee was born in New York City on March 3, 1907, and christened with the mellifluous if somewhat daunting name of Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata.
The first time the leather-lunged [fight announcer Joe] Humphries got ready to introduce Lee, he looked down at his notes and saw a peculiar name: “Canegata, Lee.” Flummoxed by those alien syllables, Humphries tossed away the card with a snort and introduced the young fighter as “Canada Lee.”
Everybody liked the transmogrification, including Lee, and it stuck.
If you do a Google search for the name Bruno Banani, you will get the German underwear company of that name. But it’s also the name of the first Winter Olympian from Tonga. Born Fuahea Semi, the Tongan rugby player and luger went by Bruno Banani to court sponsorship from the company. It was part of a deal endorsed by the Tongan royal family to enable the athlete to afford training in Germany with the world’s best lugers. The company insinuated that the name was just a coincidence that led to the sponsorship, but that story unraveled quickly. It wasn’t “just” a hoax; Semi legally changed his name to Bruno Banani. The International Olympic Committee decided that even though using a sponsor’s name is in bad taste, Banani is the name on his passport, so he will be the lone athlete representing Tonga at Sochi in the luge event.
From a 2018 interview with basketball player LeBron James [vid]:
I still regret giving my 14-year-old my name […] When I was younger, obviously, I didn’t have a dad. So, my whole thing was, like, whenever I have a kid, not only is he gonna be a junior, but I’m gonna do everything that this man didn’t do. They’re gonna experience things that I didn’t experience, and the only thing I can do is give them the blueprint, and it’s up to them to take their own course.
(LeBron, Jr., is nicknamed “Bronny” — no doubt to differentiate son from father, but perhaps also to take some of the pressure off. Here’s a post about how LeBron James has affected baby names over the years.)
From a 1987 Sports Illustrated interview with basketball player Fennis Dembo:
With apologies to World B. Free, Shaquille O’Neal and, yes, even God Shammgod, when it comes to staking a claim to basketball’s alltime name, Fennis Dembo enjoys Jordanlike distance from the pretenders. “I’m always a bit stunned that people still remember me,” says Fennis, whose mother, Clarissa, selected his name, along with that of his twin sister, Fenise, as a declaration that after 11 children, her childbearing days were finis. “I tried to set up an E-mail account, but two other guys–basketball fans, I guess–were already using my name in their address.”
Maternity hospitals reported another 30 new-born babies named Diego Armando, raising the count to 140 so far.
(Maradona died in November of 2020. Soon after, the Naples city council unanimously voted to change the name of the city’s stadium from “Stadio San Paolo” to “Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.” (CBS Sports))
When St. Louisans Alyssa and Dan Hoven call out the name of their 3-year-old son in public, the heads around them instinctively turn.
“Oh my God yeah, so many times,” Alyssa said. “If we’re out to eat, we’ll be like, ‘Vladi’ or ‘Vlad,’ and people are like, ‘Did you name him after Vladimir Tarasenko?’ It starts a ton of conversations, and when we tell them ‘Yes, we did,’ they get all excited and scream, ‘Let’s go Blues!'”
From a 2016 article about babies being named after Maple Leafs players in the Toronto Sun:
Leaf great Ron Ellis still exchanges Christmas cards with a man who was named Ron Ellis Lucas in his honour for his play during the 1960s.
From an interview with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask at Rivals.com:
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask returns Saturday to his home state of Texas, where he will play on the field he was named after.
His parents both went to Texas A&M, so he grew up an Aggies fan.
His father, Michael Trask, and mother, Melissa Charba, both attended the school in the late 1980’s. When they welcomed their second son on March 6, 1998, his first name came from A&M’s football stadium.
“My mom and dad were Aggies, so they named me after Kyle Field,” Trask revealed Monday. “My whole family is full of Aggies.”
From a 2014 article about high school basketball player Terance Mann in the Boston Globe:
The inevitable question that the Tilton School’s 6-foot-5-inch, 190-pound shooting guard has heard countless times before: Are you named after that Terence Mann?
“Most people think it’s from the movie ‘Field of Dreams,'” which featured a character portrayed by actor James Earl Jones, explained the junior, who, when not attending the boarding school in New Hampshire, lives in Lowell with his mother, Daynia La-Force, and 15-year-old brother, Martin. “But my grandma’s name is Terancia, and they named me after her.”
From an article about professional baseball player Nick Solak in the Dallas News:
Nick Solak is named after a sports bar.
Back in the 1980s, Nick’s Sports Page sat on the triangular plot of land where Chicago Road and Lincoln Avenue intersected in Dolton, Ill., one of those working-class suburbs on the South Side of Chicago. The exterior featured shaker shingles, chocolate-stained diagonal sheathing and baseball bats for door handles. On Feb. 5, 1985, it hosted Carlton Fisk Night, where patrons could meet the White Sox catcher, whose work ethic screamed South Sider, even if he actually grew up in New England.
Nobody recalls if South Siders Mark Solak or Roseann, née Pawlak, took home Fisk’s autograph, but they did take home each other’s phone numbers. Four years later, they were married. And when they were about to start a family in 1995, Nick — OK, officially, Nicholas — was the clear choice for a boy. They both liked the name. Plus, it had sentimental value as a nod to their South Side roots.
From an interview with Brazilian soccer player Oleúde José Ribeiro (translated from Portuguese):
Q: But, after all, is your name, Oleúde, inspired by Hollywood or not?
A: No, no, it was just a brilliant idea from my parents (laughs). Like it or not, this story always helped me, it drew the attention of reporters… the late Luciano do Valle always asked listeners to guess my name, saying that it was the capital of cinema, it had a lot of impact at the time. This Hollywood thing has become a legend, but it has nothing to do with it.
From an October 2022 episode of the Merloni, Fauria & Mego podcast, Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (born in 1999) answering a question about whether or not his mom had a crush on Bailey Salinger from Party of Five when she chose to name him after the character:
Her and my dad I guess were together, so I can’t — I don’t think she’ll publicly say she had a crush on him. … I think she said that she liked that he was the main character, I guess she was pregnant with me at the time, so … I guess that’s how I got the name.
From a post about distance swimmer Diana Nyad at the blog Having a Word:
On August 31 2013, record-breaking long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, aged 64, became the first person ever to swim the 110 miles of open water from Havana, Cuba, to Florida. She swam this distance in 53 hours and without the aid of a shark cage.
While this is a truly impressive feat of endurance and determination (this was her fifth attempt), what struck me was that with a name like Nyad she couldn’t have done anything else.
Nyad sounds like naiad – naiads in Greek mythology were water nymphs or spirits. That’s cute, I thought. Then I noticed that naiad is an anagram of her first name – Diana. Cue dramatic chords So, could this just be coincidence or is something else in play?
So the man named after Derek Jeter by his baseball-crazed mother — even though his father is a Red Sox fan — had never actually met Derek Jeter?
It finally happened last week in a random encounter on a road in South Florida — sort of.
“This last week, I was driving, me and my brother were driving to go to [the] train,” said Downs. “We’re in traffic. My brother sees this Range Rover pulling up. He was like, ‘Oh my God, is that Jeter?’ He honks and I wave at him.
“I’m doing training with Raul Ibanez, [Jeter’s former teammate]. I called Raul and said, ‘Tell [Derek] Jeter that the kid he was waving at was Jeter [Downs].’ So then he told him that and it was pretty cool that I met him that way.”
From a recent Miami Herald article about high school football player Rowdy Beers:
There’s buzz about Beers at FIU [Florida International University].
The buzz started when Panthers coach Mike MacIntyre announced on Dec. 21 that FIU had signed the player with “the best name in college football.”
That would be 6-5, 225-pound tight end and Colorado native Rowdy Beers, who is from Littleton, which is nine miles south. of downtown Denver.
“As a kid,” Beers said, “any time I told my name to a new authority figure, they thought I was being disrespectful.”
Beers, who was named after three-time Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines, had right shoulder surgery on Dec. 29 but is expected to be ready by mid-May.
(Rowdy Beers also has three R-named siblings: Rocky, Raegan, and Rylie. Rowdy Gaines, however, is only nicknamed “Rowdy.” He was born Ambrose Gaines IV in 1959 — the year the baby name Rowdy debuted in the U.S. baby name data thanks to Rawhide.)
Cale was named after Cale Hulse, who played for the Calgary Flames when [their father] Gary was doing some business with the team. Taylor is named after Colonel George Taylor of the Planet of the Apes movies, a take charge guy, portrayed by Charlton Heston, who was thrust into a leadership role. (Just for the record, Heston’s politics and ardent support of the National Rifle Association are not shared by the Makar family. “Oh my god, that’s the opposite of us,” Gary said.)
[Another source clarifies that Cale’s first name is short for Caleb. Cale noted in this interview [vid] that he was nearly named “Kurt Russell Makar, after the actor. […] I dodged a bullet there, I think.”]
From the book Why Soccer Matters (2015) by late soccer legend Pelé (born Edson Arantes do Nascimento):
When Dondinho met my mother, Celeste, he was still performing his mandatory military service. She was in school at the time. They married when she was just fifteen; by sixteen she was pregnant with me. They gave me the name “Edson” — after Thomas Edison, because when I was born in 1940, the electric lightbulb had only recently come to their town. They were so impressed that they wanted to pay homage to its inventor. It turned out they missed a letter — but I’ve always loved the name anyway.
(“Dondinho” was the nickname of Pelé’s father, João Ramos do Nascimento.)
…and, regarding the nickname Pelé:
Growing up, I hated that damn nickname. After all, it was a garbage word that meant nothing. Plus, I was really proud of the name Edson, believing it was an honor to be named after such an important inventor.
(The nickname did come in handy, though. He “started thinking of “Pelé” almost as a separate identity” in order to cope with his sudden celebrity. “Having Pelé around helped keep Edson sane,” he said.)
From an interview with Australian surfer Kyuss King in Stab Magazine:
Yeah, music is definitely a massive part of my life, from listening to it to playing it! And metal is 100% at the top of my genre — there’s nothing like headbanging to some chunky riffs. Yeah, I was named after the band Kyuss. It was my dad’s favorite band through the ’90s. Funny story, my dad actually had the song Green Machine blasting in the hospital while my mum was in labor with me haha. I guess I kinda came into the world to that kind of music.
Zebulon Vermillion, as he has to explain to just about everyone he meets, was born in Vail, Colo., not too far from the Rocky Mountains and a summit known as Pikes Peak. His parents, the outdoorsy type, read that the apex was named after Zebulon Pike, and it stuck with them.
Vermillion’s last name is Nordic and middle name — Cassis — French, after a fishing port in Southern France. His mother, who is trilingual, loves the city.
From an article about Dutch soccer player Denzel Dumfries, who helped the Netherlands knock the U.S. out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament:
[Denzel Dumfries] was named after none other than no-nonsense movie icon Denzel Washington, star of films such as “Remember The Titans,” “Training Day” and “Courage Under Fire.”
“I don’t have [any] connection with the United States, but, yes, I was named after Denzel Washington,” Dumfries said. “My parents gave me that name. I am incredibly proud of it, because Denzel Washington is a really strong personality who voices his views on certain issues, and I am incredibly proud to be named after someone like that.”
And finally, a bevy of B-names from basketball player Bradley Beal’s “About Brad” page:
Born on June 28, 1993, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, by Bobby and Besta Beal, there was little doubt that Brad would eventually be an athlete. Both parents played sports for Kentucky State — Bobby was a football player, Besta a basketball player.
There were four other people in Brad’s family who were instrumental in his development as an athlete, and ultimately, as a young man. His two older brothers, Bruce and Brandon, and his younger brothers, the twins Byron and Bryon.
For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.
Earlier this year, the BBC presenter formerly known as Ben Bland changed his surname to Boulos to celebrate his maternal Sudanese-Egyptian heritage.
The Bland name had masked important aspects of his identity that he had downplayed as a child, not wanting to be seen as in any way “different”, including his Coptic faith, Boulos said. “Every name tells a story – and I want mine to give a more complete picture of who I am.”
Boulos’s grandparents, who came to Britain in the 1920s, had chosen the surname Bland because they feared using the Jewish-Germanic family name “Blumenthal”. “They decided on the blandest name possible — literally — to ensure their survival,” he wrote.
From the book I Speak of the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (2015) by Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo:
Babies were baptized with new and strange names, particularly in the 1920s, names taken from the titles of various socialist experiments (for instance, in Tabasco with Garrido Canaval, who established socialist baptisms), and as a result of the emergence of the radio and the indigenist turn of the city’s language. Masiosare became a boy’s name (derived from a stanza of the national anthem: “Mas si osare un extraño enemigo…”), but also Alcazelser (after the popularity of Alka-Seltzer), Xochitl, Tenoch, Cuauhtémoc, Tonatihu (the biblically named Lázaro Cárdenas named his son Cuauhtémoc).
From the book Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood (2004) by Robert S. Birchard:
DeMille interviewed Gloria Stuart for the part of the high school girl [in This Day and Age], Gay Merrick, and said she was “extremely enthusiastic,” and he also considered Paramount contract player Grace Bradley, but ultimately he selected a former model who called herself Mari Colman. In April 1933 Colman won a Paramount screen test in a New York beauty competition, and DeMille was apparently delighted by the innocent image she projected.
In a comic sequence in David O. Selznick’s 1937 production of A Star Is Born, the studio’s latest discovery, Esther Blodgett, is given a new name more in keeping with her status as a movie starlet. As This Day and Age was getting ready to roll, Mari Colman was subjected to the same treatment as DeMille and Paramount tested long lists of potential screen names. Among the suggestions were Betty Barnes, Doris Bruce, Alice Harper, Grace Gardner, Chloris Deane, and Marie Blaire. Colman herself suggested Pamela Drake or Erin Drake. On May 15, Jack Cooper wrote DeMille that he had tried several names on seventeen people. Eleven voted for the name Doris Manning; the other six held out for Doris Drake. Somehow, the name ultimately bestowed upon her was Judith Allen. DeMille and Paramount had high hopes for Allen, and she was even seen around town in the company of Gary Cooper, one of the studio’s biggest stars.
[T]he spread of the Christian faith in the nineteenth century resulted in people increasingly giving names from the Bible to their children. These biblical names were often modified to follow the phonological and morphological rules of the Malagasy language (e.g., John becomes Jaonina or Jaona), and often the honorific particle Ra-, the word andriana (lord), or both were added to them (e.g., Rajaonina and Randrianarijaona)
Names were reduced in length when French colonization began in 1896 — the shortest names today include Rakotoarisoa, Rakotonirina, Andrianjafy or Andrianirina, and tend to have around 12 characters minimum.
In this article, we revisit three names which are often listed as coinages of Shakespeare’s and show that this received wisdom, though oft-repeated, is in fact incorrect. The three names are Imogen, the heroine of Cymbeline; and Olivia and Viola, the heroines of Twelfth Night. All three of these names pre-date Shakespeare’s use. Further, we show in two of the three cases that it is plausible that Shakespeare was familiar with this earlier usage.
For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.
From the 2000 book Oscar Wilde: A Certain Genius by Barbara Belford:
“How ridiculous of you to suppose that anyone, least of all my dear mother, would christen me ‘plain Oscar,'” Wilde later said. “When one is unknown, a number of Christian names are useful, perhaps needful. As one becomes famous, one sheds some of them…I started as Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. All but two of the five names have already been thrown overboard. Soon I shall discard another and be known simply as ‘The Wilde’ or ‘The Oscar.'”
[F]or the record Ta-Nehisi (pronounced Tah-Nuh-Hah-See) is an Egyptian name for ancient Nubia. I came up in a time when African/Arabic names were just becoming popular among black parents. I had a lot of buddies named Kwame, Kofi, Malik (actually have a brother with that name), Akilah and Aisha. My Dad had to be different, though. Couldn’t just give me a run of the mill African name. I had to be a nation.
From a 2019 article about names by journalist Josanne Cassar in Malta Today:
In my case it can be mildly tiring because I am constantly having to explain that there is no “i” in Josanne, (simply because the most common spelling and pronunciation is Josianne) – one person had even asked me if I was sure I was spelling it right and asked me to check my own ID card. True story.
So when I signed up for my son’s preschool, I told them my name was Penelope Trunk. My husband had a fit. He told me I was starting our new life in Madison as an insane person and I cannot change my name now.
But I explained to him that it would be insane not to change my name now. I am way better known as Penelope than Adrienne. And my career is so closely tied with the brand Penelope Trunk, that I actually became the brand. So calling myself Penelope Trunk instead of Adrienne Greenheart is actually a way to match my personal life with my professional life and to make things more sane.
At first it was a little weird. For example, we were driving in the car one day and my son said, “Mom, who’s Penelope Trunk?”
But now it feels good to be Penelope Trunk. No more having to figure out what name to give where. No more pretending to be someone, sometimes. No more long explanations and short memories of who calls me what.
My first photograph…or the first photograph of me…was taken, by my father, when I was 36 hours old. My name was different then. They had named me Sena, for my Norwegian grandmother, and that was my name until she was notified; then she sent a telegram insisting that they give me an American name, and so I was renamed Lois Ann for my father’s two sisters.
From the book Maya Angelou (2009) by Harold Bloom:
From that local bar she moves on to the Purple Onion, one of the most popular nightclubs on the entire West Coast. It is here that she is encouraged to replace the “s” in her last name with a “u”. She will now also need an exotic first name. This is when she remembered, “My brother has always called me Maya. For ‘Marguerite.’ He used to call me ‘My sister,’ then he called me ‘My,’ and finally, ‘Maya’.” Marguerite Johnson Angelos becomes Maya Angelou, and shortly thereafter she has more job offers than she is able to accommodate.
My name is Tsh Oxenreider, and no, my name is not a typo (one of the first things people ask). It’s pronounced “Tish.” No reason, really, except that my parents were experimental with their names choices in the 70s. Until my younger brother was born in the 80s, whom they named Josh, quite possibly one of the most common names for people his age. Who knows what they were thinking, really.
I can only hope all the real Robert Galbraiths out there will be as forgiving as the real Harry Potters have been. I must say, I don’t think their plight is quite as embarrassing.
I chose Robert because it is one of my favourite men’s names, because Robert F Kennedy is my hero and because, mercifully, I hadn’t used it for any of the characters in the Potter series or ‘The Casual Vacancy’.
Galbraith came about for a slightly odd reason. When I was a child, I really wanted to be called ‘Ella Galbraith’, and I’ve no idea why. I don’t even know how I knew that the surname existed, because I can’t remember ever meeting anyone with it. Be that as it may, the name had a fascination for me. I actually considered calling myself L A Galbraith for the Strike series, but for fairly obvious reasons decided that initials were a bad idea.
Odder still, there was a well-known economist called J K Galbraith, something I only remembered by the time it was far too late. I was completely paranoid that people might take this as a clue and land at my real identity, but thankfully nobody was looking that deeply at the author’s name.
From an 2009 New York Times article about Lara Prescott, author of The Secrets We Kept, a fictional account of the dangers of publishing Doctor Zhivago in the 1950s:
You could say she was born to write this historical novel: Prescott’s mother named her after the doomed heroine from her favorite movie, the 1965 adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s epic.
(The movie made the baby name Lara quite trendy during the second half of the 1960s, in fact.)
JG: In the new book, you explain that all Bengalis have private pet names and public “good names.” But the main character in “The Namesake” is given only one name: Gogol, after the Russian writer.
JL: That happened to me. My name, Jhumpa, which is my only name now, was supposed to be my pet name. My parents tried to enroll me in school under my good name, but the teacher asked if they had anything shorter. Even now, people in India ask why I’m publishing under my pet name instead of a real name.
JG: What does Jhumpa mean?
JL: Jhumpa has no meaning. It always upset me. It’s like jhuma, which refers to the sound of a child’s rattle, but with a “p.” In this country, you’d never name your child Rattle. I actually have two good names, Nilanjana and Sudeshna. My mother couldn’t decide. All three are on the birth certificate. I never knew how to write my name.
From a 2020 lecture on creative writing given by author Brandon Sanderson [vid], an aside about the name Brandon:
When I grew up in Nebraska, I was the only Brandon, like, in my school. It was a really original, interesting name. I’m like, ‘My parents came up with this great, original, interesting name.’ And then I moved to Utah to go to BYU and there were five in my freshman dorm. And then I realized: It’s a Mormon name! Who would have thought? It’s not in any of the scriptures but it totally is a Mormon name. There’s a ton. Brandon Flowers, right? Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson. There’s a lot of Brandons out there with an LDS background. Who knew?
(Brandon Flowers is the lead singer of The Killers, while Brandon Mull — like Sanderson — writes fantasy. Brandon Sanderson is behind the debuts of the baby names Kaladin and Sylphrena, btw.)
From the book A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis (2013) by Devin Brown:
Although born and baptized as Clive [Staples Lewis], Lewis soon took a disliking to the name his parents had given him. Sometime around the age of four, he marched up to his mother and, pointing at himself, declared that he was now to be known as “Jacksie.” This name, later shortened to Jacks and then to just Jack, became the only name he would answer to. In his book Jack’s Life, Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, provides the following background on why Lewis chose this name: ‘It was actually because of a small dog that he was fond of that he picked the name Jacksie, which was what the dog was called. It was run over (probably by a horse and cart as there were almost no cars in the time and place where he was a child), and Jack, as he later became known just took the name for himself.’
From a 2014 article by journalist Kerry Parnell in The Daily Telegraph:
[W]hen I was born and my parents proudly announced my name to the family, my great-grandma was disgusted and informed them Kerry was a dog’s name.
She never wavered from this conviction until one day, when I was about five, we visited her to see her new poodle puppy.
“What’s his name?” I asked. “Kerry,” she replied, stony faced. There was a long, awkward silence and no one ever mentioned it again.
Ironically, great-grandma went by the name of “Pete”, which, unless I am very much mistaken, is a man’s name.
One day, I vow, I will get a dog just so I can call it Pete, for revenge.
From the book Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew (1997) by Christine Wallace:
In the autumn of 1938 came the first conception. Peggy’s pregnancy was easy, with little more than queasiness. But the labor was long and difficult. The baby, a girl, was bruised around the head from the traumatic delivery and arrived in floods of blood as Peggy hemorrhaged from a retained placenta. The baby was named Germaine, with no middle initial to interrupt the elegant alliteration with Greer. According to Peggy, it was the name of a minor British actress she found in an English magazine Reg had brought home from work. In Germaine’s version, her mother was reading George Sand’s The Countess of Rudolstadt when she fell pregnant, and drew the name from one of its characters, the Comte de Saint-Germain — ‘because she liked the sound of it, I reckon.’ It was the height of the last Australian summer before the war: 29 January 1939.
From the book Here at The New Yorker (1975) by Brendan Gill:
Indeed, there are writers remembered not for their novels but for their names: Mazo de la Roche, Ouida, Warwick Deeping.
There is hardly an account of Greenwich Village in the ’20s in which she does not prominently figure. Yet her roots in the neighborhood preceded even her fame. The poet’s unusual middle name came from St. Vincent’s Hospital on 12th St. Millay’s uncle was nursed back to health there after a sailing accident, and her mother wished to show her gratitude by naming her first-born child after the place.
And another about Millay from What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay (2001) by Daniel Mark Epstein:
She preferred the triumphant-sounding title to plain “Edna” (Hebrew for “rejuvenation”) and asked to be called “Vincent,” which somehow rubbed the school principal, Frank Wilbur, the wrong way. He made sport of calling her by any woman’s name beginning with a V: Vanessa, Viola, Vivian, anything but Vincent. “Yes, yes, Mr. Wilbur,” she would answer, with weary patience, “but my name is Vincent.”
From Duncan McLaren’s Evelyn Waugh website, an interesting fact about the English writer and his first wife, also named Evelyn:
Although I call the couple he- and she-Evelyn in my book, Alexander [Evelyn Waugh’s grandson] has mentioned that at the time [late 1920s] they were called Hevelyn and Shevelyn.
(Evelyn Waugh’s first name was pronounced EEV-lyn, so “Hevelyn” and “Shevelyn” would have been HEEV-lyn and SHEEV-lyn.)
From Nina Sankovitch’s memoir Tolstoy and the Purple Chair (2011):
For my father, the consequences of war brought him far from home, and eventually across an ocean, to start over in a new world. My parents tell me I was named after the members of the corps de ballet of the Bolshoi, most of whom were named Nina. They went to see a performance of the Bolshoi just days before I was born. But I also know that my name is another ripple effect of the war, coming from my father’s sister Antonina, who was murdered that night in 1943.
(Three of her Belarusian father’s siblings — Sergei, Antonina, and Boris — were killed one night during WWII.)
From a 2012 interview with Somali British poet Warsan Shire:
Warsan means “good news” and Shire means “to gather in one place”. My parents named me after my father’s mother, my grandmother. Growing up, I absolutely wanted a name that was easier to pronounce, more common, prettier. But then I grew up and understood the power of a name, the beauty that comes in understanding how your name has affected who you are. My name is indigenous to my country, it is not easy to pronounce, it takes effort to say correctly and I am absolutely in love with the sound of it and its meaning. Also, it’s not the kind of name you baby, slip into sweet talk mid sentence, late night phone conversation, whisper into the receiver kind of name, so, of that I am glad.
From a 2012 New York Magazine article about author Toni Morrison, born Chloe Wofford, who “deeply regrets” not putting her birth name on her books:
“Wasn’t that stupid?” she says. “I feel ruined!” Here she is, fount of indelible names (Sula, Beloved, Pilate, Milkman, First Corinthians, and the star of her new novel, the Korean War veteran Frank Money), and she can’t own hers. “Oh God! It sounds like some teenager–what is that?” She wheeze-laughs, theatrically sucks her teeth. “But Chloe.” She grows expansive. “That’s a Greek name. People who call me Chloe are the people who know me best,” she says. “Chloe writes the books.” Toni Morrison does the tours, the interviews, the “legacy and all of that.”
Caitlin isn’t really her name. She was christened ‘Catherine.’ But she saw ‘Caitlin’ in a Jilly Cooper novel when she was thirteen and thought it looked exciting. That’s why she pronounces it incorrectly: ‘Catlin.’ It causes trouble for everyone.
From Little Failure: A Memoir (1996) by Gary Shteyngart (born Igor Steinhorn):
I have clearly spent thirty-nine years unaware that my real destiny was to go through life as a Bavarian porn star, but some further questions present themselves: If neither Gary nor Shteyngart is truly my name, then what the hell am I doing calling myself Gary Shteyngart? Is every single cell in my body a historical lie?
From a 2020 article about baby names by journalist Dilvin Yasa in the Sydney Morning Herald:
When you have a name like Dilvin, you spend an awful amount of time thinking about baby names and the role our monikers play in our lives. Will little Exoduss ever spearhead a Fortune 500 company? Can Bambi push through our collective prejudice and go on to become a respected neurosurgeon? Had my parents named me Deborah, Sally or Carolyn, would I really be a CEO by now instead of a writer, as a famous LinkedIn survey suggests?
He adored Melville, Mozart, and Mickey Mouse (and would have noted the alliteration with pleasure — he wrote in different places about the mysterious significance he attached to the letter M, his own first initial and that of many of his characters, beginning with Max of Where the Wild Things Are).
From The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography (2012) by Lois Potte:
Though contemporary sonneteers populated their world with lovers called Astrophil, Parthenophil, Stella, Delia, and Idea, the only names that appear in Shakespeare’s sonnets are Adonis, Helen, Mars, Saturn, Philomel, Eve, Cupid, Diana, and Time — and the one non-mythological figure, the author, “Will.”
From a 1911 newspaper article about writers such as Georgia writer Corra Mae Harris (1869-1935):
Mrs. Harris finds much trouble in impressing the fact that her name is “Corra” and not “Cora” — the word being a family name.
(I quoted the same source in this post about author Zane Grey.)
For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.