How popular is the baby name Jelani 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 Jelani.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Jelani


Posts that Mention the Name Jelani

African Names in the Newspapers

In 1971, a list of African names published in Jet magazine had an impact on U.S. baby names.

In 1977, a list of African names published in Ebony magazine had a similar impact on U.S. baby names.

And in between, in 1973, a list of African names was published in an interesting place: U.S. newspapers nationwide. That is, not in a magazine written for an African-American audience specifically.

African names, newspaper article, 1973, baby names
African names in U.S. newspapers, Aug. 1973

So…did this newspaper-based list have an impact as well?

Yes, turns out it had roughly the same impact as the other two lists.

The opening line of the article was: “Here’s help for young black couples wanting to give their infants African names.” Toward the end, the article featured a list of 23 names. Most of these names ended up seeing movement in the data, including 10 (!) debuts.

  1. Abeni – debuted in 1974
  2. Avodele – never in the data
  3. Dalila – increased in usage ’73
  4. Fatima – increased in usage ’73/’74
  5. Habibah – debuted in 1974
  6. Halima – increased in usage ’74
  7. Hasina – debuted in 1974
  8. Kamilah – increased in usage ’73/’74
  9. Salama – debuted in 1974
  10. Shani – increased in usage ’74
  11. Yaminah – debuted in 1973
  12. Zahra – debuted in 1973
  13. Abdu – debuted in 1973
  14. Ali – no movement in the data
  15. Bakari – debuted in 1973
  16. Hasani – debuted in 1973
  17. Jabari – increased in usage ’73/’74
  18. Jelani – debuted in 1973
  19. Muhammad – no movement in the data
  20. Rudo – never in the data
  21. Sadiki – not in data yet
  22. Zikomo – not in data yet
  23. Zuberi – not in data yet

The article cited as its source The Book of African Names (1970) by Chief Osuntoki. As it turns out, though, the Chief wasn’t a real person. He was a fictional character invented by the publisher, Drum and Spear Press. Here’s a quote from the book’s introduction, purportedly written by the Chief:

It is strange, indeed, it hurts my heart, that brothers from afar often come to greet me bearing such names as “Willie”, “Juan” and “François”. But we can not be hard against them, for they have been misled.

Of the 23 names listed above, the one that debuted most impressively was Jelani. In fact, Jelani ended up tied for 43rd on the list of the top boy-name debuts of all time.

  • 1976: 55 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1975: 46 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Jelani [debut as a girl name]
  • 1974: 53 baby boys named Jelani
  • 1973: 36 baby boys named Jelani [overall debut]
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: unlisted

Which of those 23 names do you like best?

Sources:

  • “African chief explains symbolism of names.” San Bernardino County Sun 15 Aug. 1973: B-4.
  • Markle, Seth M. A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power, and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2017.

Mystery Baby Names: Open Cases

I’m a baby name blogger, but sometimes I feel more like a baby name detective. Because so much of my blogging time is spent doing detective work: trying to figure out where a particular baby name comes from, or why a name saw a sudden jump (or drop) in usage during a particular year.

If a name itself doesn’t make the answer obvious (e.g., Lindbergh) and a simple Google search hasn’t helped, my first bit of detective work involves scanning the baby name charts. I’ve learned that many search-resistant baby names (like Deatra) are merely alternative spellings of more common names (Deirdre).

If that doesn’t do it, I go back to Google for some advanced-level ninja searching, to help me zero in on specific types of historical or pop culture events. This is how I traced Irmalee back to a character in a short story in a very old issue of the once-popular McCall’s Magazine.

But if I haven’t gotten anywhere after a few rounds of ninja searching, I officially give up and turn the mystery baby name over to you guys. Together we’ve cracked a couple of cases (yay!) but, unfortunately, most of the mystery baby names I’ve blogged about are still big fat mysteries.

Here’s the current list of open cases:

  • Wanza, girl name, debuted in 1915.
  • Nerine, girl name, debuted in 1917.
  • Laquita, girl name, debuted in 1930.
  • Norita, girl name, spiked (for the 2nd time) in 1937.
  • Delphine, girl name, spiked in 1958.
  • Leshia, girl name, debuted in 1960.
  • Lavoris, girl name, debuted in 1961.
  • Djuna, girl name, debuted in 1964.
  • Latrenda, girl name, debuted in 1965.
  • Ondina, girl name, debuted in 1968.
  • Khari, boy name, debuted in 1971.
  • Jelani, boy name, debuted in 1973.
  • Toshiba, girl name, debuted in 1974.
  • Brieanna, girl name, debuted in 1979.
  • Sumiko, girl name, spiked in 1980.
  • Tou, boy name, debuted in 1980.
  • Marquita, girl name, spiked in 1983.
  • Caelan, boy name, debuted in 1992.
  • Deyonta, boy name, debuted in 1993.
  • Trayvond, boy name, debuted in 1994.
  • Zeandre, boy name, debuted in 1997.
  • Yatzari, girl name, debuted in 2000.
  • Itzae, boy name, debuted in 2011.

If you enjoy sleuthing, please give some of the above a shot! I’d love to knock one or two off the list before I start adding more mystery names in the coming weeks…

Update, 7/13/16: More still-open cases from the Mystery Monday series last summer: Theta, Memory, Treasure, Clione, Trenace, Bisceglia, Genghis and Temujin.

Biggest baby name debuts of all time: Boys, 50 to 41

blue bow

This week let’s finish checking out the top baby name debuts of all time.

I’ll be counting down the 50 most popular boy name debuts in five posts, from today until Friday. (I did the top girl name debuts a couple of weeks ago.) I didn’t break any ties, so this “top 50” list actually has 93 names.

I came up with explanations for as many names as I could, but I’m still stumped on a few of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

Here’s 50 to 41:

Ajee, Baylee, Itzae & Kwamaine, 4-way tie for #50

  • Ajee debuted with 29 baby boys in 1994.
    Inspired by the Revlon perfume Ajee.
  • Baylee debuted with 29 baby boys in 1995.
    Inspired by baby Baylee Almon, victim of the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Itzae debuted with 29 baby boys in 2011.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.
  • Kwamaine debuted with 29 baby boys in 1989.
    Inspired by rapper Kwame Holland.

Alize, Broderick, Diamante, Hoby, Jevante, Kwamane, Larenz & Savalas, 8-way tie for #49

  • Alize debuted with 30 baby boys in 1995.
    Inspired by the liqueur Alize.
  • Broderick debuted with 30 baby boys in 1950.
    Inspired by Broderick Crawford, an actor in the movie All the King’s Men.
  • Diamante debuted with 30 baby boys in 1991.
    Inspired by the Mitsubishi Diamante (car).
  • Hoby debuted with 30 baby boys in 1958.
    Inspired by Hoby Gilman, a character on the TV western Trackdown.
  • Jevante debuted with 30 baby boys in 1992.
    Inspired by DeVante Swing, a member of Jodeci.
  • Kwamane debuted with 30 baby boys in 1989.
    Inspired by Kwame Holland as well.
  • Larenz debuted with 30 baby boys in 1994.
    Inspired by Larenz Tate, an actor in the movie Menace II Society.
  • Savalas debuted with 30 baby boys in 1974.
    Inspired by Telly Savalas, an actor on the TV show Kojak.

Cully, Omarian & Yul, 3-way tie for #48

  • Cully debuted with 31 baby boys in 1960.
    Inspired (in part) by Cully Wilson, a character on the TV show Lassie.
  • Omarian debuted with 31 baby boys in 2002.
    Inspired by singer Omarion.
  • Yul debuted with 31 baby boys in 1957.
    Inspired by Yul Brenner, an actor in the movie The Ten Commandments.

Cauy, Kesan, Khari, Kinta, Maverick, Roemello & Shaquel, 7-way tie for #47

  • Cauy debuted with 32 baby boys in 1999.
    Inspired by professional bull rider Cauy Hudson.
  • Kesan debuted with 32 baby boys in 2008.
    Inspired by Kesan, a contestant on the reality TV show From G’s to Gents.
  • Khari debuted with 32 baby boys in 1971.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.
  • Kinta debuted with 32 baby boys in 1977.
    Inspired by Kunta Kinte, a character on the TV miniseries Roots.
  • Maverick debuted with 32 baby boys in 1957.
    Inspired by Bret Maverick, a character on the TV western Maverick.
  • Roemello debuted with 32 baby boys in 1994.
    Inspired by Roemello Skuggs, a character in the movie Sugar Hill.
  • Shaquel debuted with 32 baby boys in 1993.
    Inspired by basketball player Shaquille O’Neal.

Tou, #46

  • Tou debuted with 33 baby boys in 1980.
    I’m not sure what inspired it. Inspired by Hmong immigration. (Thanks, Christina!)

Yuvin, #45

  • Yuvin debuted with 34 baby boys in 2016.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.

Caelan, Caillou, Daren, Illya, Kiefer & Quamaine, 6-way tie for #44

  • Caelan debuted with 35 baby boys in 1992.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.
  • Caillou debuted with 35 baby boys in 2001.
    Inspired by Caillou, a character on the children’s TV show Caillou.
  • Daren debuted with 35 baby boys in 1922.
    Inspired by Daren Lane, a character in the Zane Grey book The Day of the Beast.
  • Illya debuted with 35 baby boys in 1965.
    Inspired by Illya Kuryakin, a character on the TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
  • Kiefer debuted with 35 baby boys in 1988.
    Inspired by Kiefer Sutherland, an actor in the movie Young Guns.
  • Quamaine debuted with 35 baby boys in 1989.
    Inspired by Kwame Holland as well.

Argenis, Corderro, Jelani, Kareen & Livan, 5-way tie for #43

  • Argenis debuted with 36 baby boys in 1981.
    I’m not sure what inspired it. Inspired by either singer Argenis Carruyo or actor Argenis Chirivela, not sure yet…
  • Corderro debuted with 36 baby boys in 1986.
    Inspired by Cordero Roberts, a character on the soap opera One Life to Live.
  • Jelani debuted with 36 baby boys in 1973.
    I’m not sure what inspired it. Inspired by a list of African names in the newspapers.
  • Kareen debuted with 36 baby boys in 1972.
    Inspired by basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
  • Livan debuted with 36 baby boys in 1997.
    Inspired by baseball player Livan Hernandez.

Deyonta, Tahj & Zeandre, 3-way tie for #42

  • Deyonta debuted with 37 baby boys in 1993.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.
  • Tahj debuted with 37 baby boys in 1989.
    Inspired by singer Tajh Abdulsamad, a member of The Boys.
  • Zeandre debuted with 37 baby boys in 1997.
    I’m not sure what inspired it.

Hobson & Llewyn, 2-way tie for #41

  • Hobson debuted with 38 baby boys in 1898.
    Inspired by Spanish-American War POW Richmond Hobson.
  • Llewyn debuted with 38 baby boys in 2014.
    Inspired by the movie Inside Llewyn Davis.

Do you have any ideas about where Zeandre, Deyonta, Jelani, Caelan, Yuvin, Tou, Khari, or Itzae might have come from?

The Top 50 Baby Name Debuts for Boys: 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1

[Latest update: 7/2021]

First and last names that start with the same letter

Yesterday I read an article about this year’s college football prospects. Three of the top ten have first and last names that start with the same letter: Bryce Brown (#1), Rueben Randle (#2) and Jelani Jenkins (#10).

That seemed like a rather high concentration…so I checked out the entire top 100 for similar names. I found six more: Janzen Jackson (#17), Garrett Gilbert (#18), Shayne Skov (#45), Morgan Moses (#49), Patrick Patterson (#50) and Jarvis Jones (#72).

Nine out of 100…nearly 10%. (Could this be representative of the entire population?) At this point I was curious enough to scan all of the archived rankings:

  • 8 in ’08: Julio Jones, Armond Armstead, Janoris Jenkins, Garrett Goebel, Joshua Jarboe, Brendan Beal, Brice Butler, Brandon Beachum
  • 6 in ’07: Terrance Toliver, Chris Culliver, Tyrod Taylor, Armando Allen, Bryan Bulaga, Gary Gray
  • 6 in ’06: Mitch Mustain, Robert Rose, Tim Tebow, Stephen Schilling, Michael Morgan, Dorin Dickerson
  • 7 in ’05: Ryan Reynolds, Dan Doering, Mohamed Massaquoi, Mario Manningham, Curtis Crouch, Avery Atkins, Terrance Taylor
  • 9 in ’04: Willie Williams, Cameron Colvin, Lance Leggett, Brandon Barrett, Brandon Braxton, Josh Johnson, Brian Brohm, Tony Temple (maybe), Doug Dutch
  • 6 in ’03: Steve Smith, Dennis Dixon, Mike Mason, Donovan Davis, Jason Jack, Craig Chambers
  • 2 in ’02: Julian Jenkins, Doug Datish

So it seems there are more of these names than normal this year. Still, though, I’m curious to know just how many people in the U.S. have first names that start with the same letters as their surnames. (I also wonder whether the Name-Letter Effect has skewed the number upward at all.)

One-hit wonder baby names (in the top 1,000)

Not one-hit wonder pop songs, but one-hit wonder baby names!

Many baby names have only managed to rank among the most popular in the U.S. a single time.

Here are all the one-hit wonders of the top 1,000 so far (1880-2005), grouped by decade. If I’ve written an explanatory post about the name, I’ve added a link to the post.

(Please note that the rankings from earliest decades are based on data that isn’t very reliable. So, most of those names didn’t make the top 1,000 for any particular reason — they’re mostly just statistical anomalies.)

1880s

Girl Names, 1880-89 Boy Names, 1880-89
Adina, Almyra, Chanie, Chrissie, Clemie, Cordella, Dayse, Delina, Delle, Elmire, Elzada, Estie, Fronnie, Lovisa, Lucina, Manerva, Manervia, Minervia, Neppie, Nolie, Orilla, Rillie, Sybilla, Tella, Thursa, Achsah, Ala, Alabama, Amey, Chestina, Chloie, Crissie, Daisye, Dema, Dollye, Eithel, Mila, Senora, Siddie, Sylvania, Tiney, Zilpah, Affie, Arah, Artelia, Birdella, Cathern, Cilla, Elizbeth, Fannye, Francina, Genevra, Iza, Jerusha, Loda, Lucetta, Lucindy, Luda, Mahalie, Modena, Nanna, Nelie, Olena, Sinda, Vicy, Almina, Argie, Beatrix, Cappie, Caro, Cloe, Deetta, Dorathea, Ermine, Felicie, Icey, Junia, Lovey, Marianita, Mattye, Pearla, Simona, Alzina, Annice, Georganna, Leala, Lurana, Milly, Nealy, Olivine, Oney, Savilla, Sussie, Theodocia, Violetta, Aurilla, Dosia, Emmy, Essa, Ica, Ilma, Lolla, Medora, Octa, Alwilda, Angele, Betha, Clytie, Ermina, Hilah, Louisiana, Metha, Oline, Pricilla, Alwine, Anice, Clemma, Eppie, Gustie, Octavie, Orelia Francies, Margretta, Orra, Pairlee, Pallie, Chessie, Erla, Herma, Lulah, Noemie Agustus, Baldwin, Candido, Ceylon, Clemente, Firman, Friend, Hays, Hence, Hunt, Isam, Jabez, Obed, Rafe, Redden, Salomon, Sannie, Tilden, Ambers, Cas, Casimiro, Dixon, Elonzo, Emry, Erving, Esequiel, Manly, Marius, Marrion, Mercer, Obe, Philo, Primus, Prosper, Pryor, Roll, Wiliam, Wing, York, Alanzo, Alby, Alcee, Auguste, Caswell, Clabe, Ell, Greene, Hansford, Lone, Marsh, Pearley, Wenzel, Blanchard, Bose, Charle, Emett, Grove, Hanson, Jep, Jeptha, Linzy, Lute, Milas, Thurlow, Blain, Bowman, Bunk, Donaciano, Ebenezer, Ignatz, Odin, Oley, Osborn, Shep, Vollie, Drury, Elon, Fielding, Fleet, Fount, Lark, Lim, Nim, North, Orvis, Reason, Virge, Worley, Zenas, Acey, Algernon, Amasa, Amil, Calhoun, Colbert, Elby, Fuller, Ham, Lilburn, Lovett, Pratt, Ruffin, Bliss, Dorr, Ethelbert, Gilford, Gilman, Graves, Hillery, Shepherd, Benjman, Celestino, Hart, Hilmer, Le, Liston, Lott, Nils, Vere, Abie, Alver, Anatole, Boone, Branch, Bush, Claiborne, Edw, Fed, Governor, Hjalmar, Levin, Redmond

1890s

Girl Names, 1890-99 Boy Names, 1890-99
Ethie, Fleeta, Jessye, Jetta, Sibbie, Idabelle, Lulla, Olar, Sylva, Versa, Allena, Cannie, Cliffie, Clotilda, Elmyra, Josefita, Lurena, Elfreda, Adel, Alleen, Trilby, Zela, Zeta, Manilla, Vara, Irva Almus, Conard, Guilford, Neely, Polk, Rance, Red, Algot, Alphons, Barnard, Burk, Berkley, Iverson, Job, Powell, Vick, Burleigh, Con, Ebert, Murdock, Nolen, Willaim, Aubra, Avon, Bolden, Link, Thorwald, Alston, Audy, Donat, Emmons, Erby, Esley, Hebert, Hezzie, Hughey, Oddie, Vinton, Zed, Alwin, Evander, Gaither, Grafton, Guthrie, Ovila, Acy, Aloys, Arthor, Boysie, Cam, Hale, Lisle, Offie, Silver, Virgel, Willy, Dabney, Adams, Arba, Collie, Ewart, Gladstone, Schley, Shafter, Baker, Bynum, Colvin, Elizah, Griffith

1900s

Girl Names, 1900-09 Boy Names, 1900-09
Luvinia, Dagny, Ethyle, Augustina, Girtha, Edris, Vernia, Beadie, Ilda, Neola, Orma, Vela, Clydie, Rosabelle, Theta, Arnetta, Clementina, Launa, Azalee, Macel Goebel, Tallie, Ancil, Buren, Erland, Esco, Mathews, Pate, Doll, Ivor, Victoriano, Beckham, Lenon, Ozzie, Teddie, Arbie, Council, Duard, Harm, Severo, Tobie, Fredie, Graydon, Jiles, Benard, Harrold, Delmus, Delphin, Gilmer, Ogden, Oland, Samie, Esker, Levie, Robley, Othel

1910s

Girl Names, 1910-19 Boy Names, 1910-19
Arietta, Loree, Blanchie, Felice, Maebell, Orene, Cleone, Lahoma, Rosaria, Idamae, Lavelle, Michelina, Victory, Haruko Amerigo, Gennaro, Hymen, Melbourne, Geno, Gilmore, Saverio, Arvo, Berlin, Gerhardt, Hughes, Tatsuo, Orvin, Foch, Laddie, Metro, Therman

1920s

Girl Names, 1920-29 Boy Names, 1920-29
Arlyne, Venice, Vernelle, Enriqueta, Lorrayne, Ailene, Illa, Kazuko, Felicitas, Joline, Sydell Harden, Shoji, Fidencio

1930s

Girl Names, 1930-39 Boy Names, 1930-39
Charlsie, Belia, Thomasina, Monna, Nira, Marcelina, Darlyne, Shirleyann, Vernetta, Larae, Jonell, Noreta, Noretta, Shelvie, Helaine, Dotty, Karel Derl, Darl, Orlin, Marland, Darwyn, Delwin, Harlon, Ronal

1940s

Girl Names, 1940-49 Boy Names, 1940-49
Phyliss, Jerrilyn, Carlyn, Rozanne, Michaele, Lyndia, Regena, Shirleen Wendel, Wilkie, Eusebio, Lucky, Cornel

1950s

Girl Names, 1950-59 Boy Names, 1950-59
Rhona, Sharleen, Debera, Ellyn, Jacqulyn, Pandora, Doretta, Denese, Valinda, Debroah, Jeryl, Melodee, Sheilah, Sheryll, Gaylene, Kathey, Nilda, Lanita, Perri, Tambra, Tari Danniel, Deryl, Erasmo, Mikeal, Kennard, Rahn, Ricci, Kem

1960s

Girl Names, 1960-69 Boy Names, 1960-69
Jeanmarie, Daneen, Denine, Djuana, Djuna, Caprice, Denita, Inger, Sonji, Sunday, Tatia, Wende, Melissia, Cinnamon Dwyane, Tal, Destry, Anthoney, Jemal

1970s

Girl Names, 1970-79 Boy Names, 1970-79
Dyan, Tisa, Treena, Camisha, Keena, Brande, Tamisha, Pepper, Chaka, Shandra, Torie, Corie, Kamilah, Shawnna, Shawnte, Ariane, Kindra, Somer, Sharee Abelardo, Diallo, Jabbar, Mauro, Toma, Kareen, Dimitrios, Hakim, Jerimy, Torry, Amin, Demetric, Kinte, Kunta, Shalon, Hasan

1980s

Girl Names, 1980-89 Boy Names, 1980-89
Renada, Tai, Evita, Joi, Latoyia, Martine, Nereida, Tashina, Cristen, Jenilee, Tenika, Dwan, Grisel, Shenna, Teela, Shira, Violeta, Britta, Cherrelle, Kyrie, Sable, Shardae, Sharde, Sharday, Shatara, Diandra, Grecia, Jalissa, Taja, Alexandr, Audriana, Audrianna, Brittnay, Christin, Elizabet, Katherin, Stephani Horacio, Adalberto, Marchello, Hung, Huy, Trumaine, Tavaris, Cordaro, Joseluis, Brantley, Geraldo, Christop, Alexande

1990s

Girl Names, 1990-99 Boy Names, 1990-99
Alannah, Kanesha, Ieshia, Miesha, Miriah, Shaquana, Tiesha, Brianda, Shaniece, Shawnee, Coraima, Crysta, Deyanira, Jasmyne, Kalene, Kaylene, Shannen, Adilene, Clarisa, Meranda, Nohely, Iridian, Keanna, Daijah, Jaycie, Yamilex, Baylie, Julisa, Micayla, Yulisa, Yulissa, Shae, Kyara, Tatyanna Mykel, Dijon, Keifer, Colter, Davonta, Devaughn, Khari, Shyheim, Tyrin, Damarcus, Dustyn, Rashaan, Keion, Raquan, Coleton, Jajuan, Keandre, Kenan, Christion, Jacquez, Jelani, Miguelangel, Tavian, Tyrik, Arman, Tyreese, Tyreke

2000s (so far)

Girl Names, 2000-05 Boy Names, 2000-05
Dariana, Maiya, Neha, Yamilet, Beyonce, Dafne, Keila, Mikaila, Nallely, Nayely, Taina, Kiya, Rianna, Arly, Karyme, Gwyneth, Heidy, Treasure, Anneliese, Arleth, Jolette, Mikalah, Montserrat Dayne, Daunte, Jaheem, Jaquez, Lisandro, Luc, Osbaldo, Yousef, Ajay, Jahir, Mordechai, Andon, Jayvon, Koda, Trenten, Adin, Damari, Makhi

P.S. Here’s a list of the two-hit wonder names in the top 1,000.