How popular is the baby name Jim 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 Jim.

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Popularity of the baby name Jim


Posts that mention the name Jim

What gave the baby name Tal a boost in 1963?

The character Tal Garrett from the TV series "Empire" (1962-1963).
Tal Garrett from “Empire

According to the U.S. baby name data, the simple name Tal saw peak usage in 1963:

  • 1965: 28 baby boys named Tal
  • 1964: 48 baby boys named Tal
  • 1963: 87 baby boys named Tal [rank: 817th]
  • 1962: 12 baby boys named Tal
  • 1961: 7 baby boys named Tal

That year, Tal was one of the fastest-rising boy names in the country, and it managed to reach the top 1,000 for the first and only time.

What was influencing it?

The single-season TV western Empire (1962-63), which featured a character named Tal.

Empire was set on a modern-day ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The main character was ranch foreman Jim Redigo (played by Richard Egan), but one of the other important characters was Tal Garrett (played by Ryan O’Neal), the adult son of the owner of the ranch.

I don’t know if Tal’s name was short for something more formal, like Talmadge or Talbot, but it rhymed with similarly spelled names, such as Cal and Hal.

Ryan O’Neal’s recurring role on Empire also gave a nudge to the baby name Ryan in 1963:

  • 1964: 515 baby boys named Ryan
  • 1963: 647 baby boys named Ryan
  • 1962: 397 baby boys named Ryan

What are your thoughts on the name Tal? Would you use it as-is, or only as a nickname?

Sources: Empire (1962 TV series) – Wikipedia, SSA

Image: Screenshot of Empire

Over 100 baby names for 100 years of the Walt Disney Company

The characters Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse in the animated short film "Plane Crazy" (1928)
Minnie and Mickey in “Plane Crazy

Did you know that The Walt Disney Company has a birthday coming up?

On October 16, 2023, Disney will mark its 100th anniversary. (I learned this while working on last month’s post about Davy Crockett.)

Let’s celebrate the upcoming centennial with more than 100 Walt Disney-inspired baby names. Just to make things interesting, all of the names below refer to Disney-related people, places, things, and events from the pre-television era.


Walter, Walt, and Elias
Walter, Walt, and Elias for animator and businessman Walter Elias “Walt” Disney, who was born in 1901. His middle name was passed down from his father, Elias C. Disney. Here are the popularity graphs for Walt, Walter, and Elias.

Kaycee
Kaycee for Kaycee Studio, Walt’s first animation studio. It was named after its location, Kansas City — “K.C” for short. Here’s the popularity graph for Kaycee.

Newman
Newman for the Newman Laugh-o-Grams, Walt’s first animated films, which aired exclusively at the Newman Theater in Kansas City starting in early 1921. Here’s the popularity graph for Newman.

Jack
Jack for the Laugh-o-Gram shorts Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer, both from 1922. Here’s the popularity graph for Jack.

Goldie
Goldie for the Laugh-o-Gram short Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, also from 1922. The name Goldie was used again (for an elf) in the future Disney short The Golden Touch (1935). Here’s the popularity graph for Goldie.

Alice
Alice for the Alice Comedies, a series of short films in which a live-action girl named Alice interacts with cartoon characters in an animated landscape. The first short, the unfinished Alice’s Wonderland, was created in Kansas City. Here’s the popularity graph for Alice.

The real-life character Alice in the animated short film "Alice's Wild West Show" (1924)
Alice in “Alice’s Wild West Show

In the summer of 1923, after Walt’s second studio (Laugh-o-Gram) went bankrupt, Walt moved to Los Angeles, California.

Margaret
Margaret for businesswoman Margaret J. Winkler, who agreed to distribute Walt’s proposed Alice Comedies series. The contract was signed on October 16, 1923. Here’s the popularity graph for Margaret.

Roy
Roy for Roy O. Disney, who, with Walt, co-founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (later The Walt Disney Company) upon the finalization of the distribution deal. Here’s the popularity graph for Roy.

Virginia
Virginia for child actress Virginia Davis, who originated the role of Alice. Her family relocated to California so that she could appear in 14 more films. Here’s the popularity graph for Virginia.

Margie and Lois
Margie and Lois for child actresses Margie Gay and Lois Hardwick, who played Alice in later films. Here are the popularity graphs for Margie and Lois.

Julius
Julius for Julius the Cat, a recurring character in the Alice Comedies. Here’s the popularity graph for Julius.

Pete
Pete for Peg Leg Pete, a villain who first appeared in Alice Solves the Puzzle (1925). He has since become Disney’s oldest recurring character. Here’s the popularity graph for Pete.

Kathleen
Kathleen for artist Kathleen Dollard, the studio’s first hire. Here’s the popularity graph for Kathleen.

Oswald
Oswald for character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, who was created in 1927 (by Universal Pictures) to star in a new series of animated films, the first 26 of which were animated by Walt’s company. Here’s the popularity graph for Oswald.

The character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in the animated short film "Rival Romeos" (1928)
Oswald in “Rival Romeos

In 1928, the businessman who owned the rights to Oswald decided to create his own animation studio and produce the Oswald cartoons himself. He even hired away several of Walt’s animators.

It was a major setback, as Walt’s studio had already created more than two dozen successful Oswald films. But Walt refused to give up. Soon enough, he came up with an idea for a new character — a mouse!

Mickey and Minnie
Mickey and Minnie for characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. They technically first appeared in the short Plane Crazy (May 1928), but their first wide-release appearance was in Steamboat Willie. Here are the popularity graphs for Mickey and Minnie

Willie
Willie for the short Steamboat Willie (Nov. 1928). One of the first cartoons to synchronize sound and animation, it was an immediate hit. The name Willie was used again in the future Disney short Willie the Operatic Whale (1946). Here’s the popularity graph for Willie.

Charlotte
Charlotte for seamstress Charlotte Clark, who designed and sold the first Disney-approved Mickey Mouse dolls. Here’s the popularity graph for Charlotte.

Charlotte Clark label on a Mickey Mouse doll (1930s)
Charlotte Clark doll label

Walt’s studio not only continued making Mickey Mouse films, but also began another series of films, Silly Symphonies, which introduced a slew of new characters.

Horace
Horace for character Horace Horsecollar, who first appeared in the short The Plowboy (1929). Here’s the popularity graph for Horace.

Adeline
Adeline for “Sweet Adeline,” the song that Mickey (and a pair of alley cats) performed for Minnie in the short The Karnival Kid (1929). Mickey Mouse spoke his first words in this cartoon. Here’s the popularity graph for Adeline.

Clarabelle
Clarabelle for Horace’s love interest, Clarabelle Cow, who first appeared in the short The Shindig (1930). Here’s the popularity graph for Clarabelle.

Pluto
Pluto for Mickey Mouse’s dog, Pluto the Pup, who first appeared in the short The Chain Gang (1930). His name, inspired by the recently discovered planet Pluto, was first used in The Moose Hunt (1931). Here’s the popularity graph for Pluto.

Vance
Vance for actor Vance “Pinto” Colvig, the original voice of both Pluto and Goofy. Here’s the popularity graph for Vance.

Fifi
Fifi for Pluto’s love interest, Fifi the Pekingese, who first appeared in the short Puppy Love (1933). Here’s the popularity graph for Fifi.

Donald
Donald for character Donald Duck, who first appeared in the short The Wise Little Hen (1934). Here’s the popularity graph for Donald.

Clarence
Clarence for actor Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck. Here’s the popularity graph for Clarence.

Morty and Ferdie
Morty and Ferdie for Mickey Mouse’s nephews, Morty and Ferdie Fieldmouse, from the short Mickey’s Steam Roller (1934). Here are the popularity graphs for Morty and Ferdie.

Clara
Clara for character Clara Cluck, the operatic chicken who first appeared in the short Orphan’s Benefit (1934). Here’s the popularity graph for Clara.

Peter and Polly
Peter and Polly for characters Peter and Polly Penguin from the short Peculiar Penguins (1934). The name Peter was used again in the future Disney short Peter and the Wolf (1946). Here are the popularity graphs for Peter and Polly.

Bianca
Bianca for artist Bianca Majolie, the studio’s first female employee in the Story department (as opposed to the Ink and Paint department). Here’s the popularity graph for Bianca.

Max and Toby
Max and Toby for characters Max Hare and Toby Tortoise, rivals first featured in the Oscar-winning short The Tortoise and the Hare (1935). Here are the popularity graphs for Max and Toby.

Ambrose (or Butch)
Ambrose (or Butch) for the kitten named Ambrose (who aspired to be a bandit called “Butch”) in the short The Robber Kitten (1935). Here are the popularity graphs for Ambrose and Butch.

Jenny
Jenny for Donald Duck’s burro, Jenny, who first appeared in the short Mickey’s Polo Team (1936). The name Jenny had also been used in the unrelated 1935 short Who Killed Cock Robin? Here’s the popularity graph for Jenny.

Elmer and Tillie
Elmer and Tillie for characters Elmer Elephant and Tillie Tiger from the short Elmer Elephant (1936). The name Elmer had also been used in the unrelated 1934 short Mickey Plays Papa. Here are the popularity graphs for Elmer and Tillie.

Mortimer
Mortimer for character Mortimer Mouse from the 1936 short Mickey’s Rival. (Did you know that Walt’s original name for Mickey Mouse was “Mortimer Mouse”? His wife Lillian convinced him to use the name Mickey instead.) Here’s the popularity graph for Mortimer.

Monty and Abner
Monty and Abner for characters Monty Citymouse and Abner Countrymouse from the Oscar-winning short The Country Cousin (1936). Here are the popularity graphs for Monty and Abner.

Donna
Donna for Donald Duck’s first girlfriend, Donna Duck, from the short Don Donald (1937). Here’s the popularity graph for Donna.

Hortense
Hortense for the insatiable ostrich Hortense in the short Donald’s Ostrich (1937). Here’s the popularity graph for Hortense.

Snow
Snow for Snow White, the lead character from the studio’s first feature-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). This was the first animated feature in history “to receive a wide, Hollywood-style release.” Here’s the popularity graph for Snow.

Seven
Seven for the seven dwarfs from Snow White. Here’s the popularity graph for Seven.

Marge
Marge for dancer Marge Champion, the real-life model for Snow White. She was also the model for other Disney characters, including the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio. Here’s the popularity graph for Marge.

Adriana
Adriana for actress and singer Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White. Here’s the popularity graph for Adriana.

Lucille
Lucille for actress Lucille La Verne, the voice of the Evil Queen from Snow White. Here’s the popularity graph for Lucille.

Moroni
Moroni for actor Moroni Olsen, the voice of the Magic Mirror from Snow White. Here’s the popularity graph for Moroni.

Larry and Frank
Larry and Frank for songwriters Larry Morey and Frank Churchill, who created the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” for Snow White. Here are the popularity graphs for Larry and Frank.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie
Huey, Dewey, and Louie for Donald Duck’s nephews, who first appeared in the short Donald’s Nephews (1938). Here are the popularity graphs for Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

Tailor
Tailor for the Mickey Mouse short Brave Little Tailor (1938). Here’s the popularity graph for Tailor.

Ferdinand
Ferdinand for the pacifist bull Ferdinand from the Oscar-winning short Ferdinand the Bull (1938). Here’s the popularity graph for Ferdinand.

Wilbur
Wilbur for Goofy’s pet grasshopper, Wilbur, from the short Goofy and Wilbur (1939). Here’s the popularity graph for Wilbur.

Gus
Gus for the gluttonous goose Gus in the short Donald’s Cousin Gus (1939). The name Gus was used again (for a mouse) in the future Disney movie Cinderella. Here’s the popularity graph for Gus.

Dickie
Dickie for child actor Richard “Dickie” Jones, the voice of the lead character from the studio’s second feature-length film, Pinocchio (1940). Here’s the popularity graph for Dickie.

Blue
Blue for the Blue Fairy, the character who brought Geppetto’s puppet to life in Pinocchio. Here’s the popularity graph for Blue.

Evelyn
Evelyn for actress Evelyn Venable, the voice of the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. Here’s the popularity graph for Evelyn.

Cleo
Cleo for Geppetto’s pet goldfish, Cleo, from Pinocchio. Here’s the popularity graph for Cleo.

Leigh and Ned
Leigh and Ned for songwriters Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, who created the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” for Pinocchio. Here are the popularity graphs for Leigh and Ned.

Cliff
Cliff for actor and singer Clifton “Cliff” Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. Here’s the popularity graph for Cliff.

Daisy
Daisy for Donald Duck’s second girlfriend, Daisy Duck, who first appeared in the short Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940). Here’s the popularity graph for Daisy.

Fantasia
Fantasia for the studio’s third feature-length film, Fantasia (1940). The movie’s title comes from the musical term fantasia, which refers to a musical composition without a traditional or fixed form. Here’s the popularity graph for Fantasia.

Fred
Fred for animator Fred Moore, who redesigned Mickey Mouse for the character’s feature-length film debut in Fantasia. Here’s the popularity graph for Fred.

Leopold
Leopold for conductor Leopold Stokowski, who conducted the classical music in Fantasia. Here’s the popularity graph for Leopold.

Giles
Giles for character Sir Giles, the elderly knight from the studio’s fourth feature-length film, The Reluctant Dragon (1941). Here’s the popularity graph for Giles.

Timothy
Timothy for the character Timothy Q. Mouse from the studio’s fifth feature-length film, Dumbo (1941). Here’s the popularity graph for Timothy.

Bambi and Faline
Bambi and Faline for characters Bambi and Faline from the studio’s sixth feature-length film, Bambi (1942). Here are the popularity graphs for Bambi and Faline.

Tyrus
Tyrus for Chinese-American animator Tyrus Wong, whose sketches inspired the impressionistic style of Bambi. Here’s the popularity graph for Tyrus.

Retta
Retta for animator Retta Scott, the first female animator to receive screen credit on a Disney animated feature (Bambi). Here’s the popularity graph for Retta.

José
José for character José Carioca, the dapper parrot who first appeared in the studio’s seventh feature-length film, Saludos Amigos (1943). Here’s the popularity graph for José.

Pedro
Pedro for character Pedro, the anthropomorphic mail plane from Saludos Amigos. Here’s the popularity graph for Pedro.

Chip and Dale
Chip and Dale for characters Chip and Dale, the mischievous chipmunks who first appeared in the short Private Pluto (1943). Here are the popularity graphs for Chip and Dale.

Pablo
Pablo for character Pablo, the warmth-seeking penguin from the studio’s ninth feature-length film, The Three Caballeros (1945). Here’s the popularity graph for Pablo.

Pauline
Pauline for character Pauline from the short Duck Pimples (1945). Here’s the popularity graph for Pauline.

Cedric and Esmeralda
Cedric and Esmeralda for characters Cedric and Esmeralda from the short A Knight for a Day (1946). Here are the popularity graphs for Cedric and Esmeralda.

Henry and Grace
Henry and Grace for characters Henry and Grace, the feuding newlyweds from the studio’s 10th feature-length film, Make Mine Music (1946). Here are the popularity graphs for Henry and Grace.

Lulubelle
Lulubelle for character Lulubelle from the studio’s 12th feature-length film, Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Here’s the popularity graph for Lulubelle.

Anita
Anita for singer Anita Gordon, the voice of the Golden Harp in Fun and Fancy Free. Here’s the popularity graph for Anita.

Alfred and Elma
Alfred and Elma for husband-and-wife wildlife filmmakers Alfred and Elma Milotte, who created Disney’s True-Life Adventures documentary series, starting with the Oscar-winning On Seal Island (1948). Here are the popularity graphs for Alfred and Elma.

Jeremiah
Jeremiah for character Jeremiah Kincaid from the studio’s 14th feature-length film, So Dear to My Heart (1949). Here’s the popularity graph for Jeremiah.

Danny
Danny for Jeremiah’s pet lamb, Danny, from So Dear to My Heart (1949). The lamb was named after champion racehorse Dan Patch. Here’s the popularity graph for Danny.

Bobby
Bobby for child actor Robert “Bobby” Driscoll, who played Jeremiah in So Dear to My Heart. Bobby also played the part of Jim in Treasure Island. Here’s the popularity graph for Bobby.

Luana
Luana for child actress Luana Patten, who played Tildy in So Dear to My Heart. Here’s the popularity graph for Luana.

Marceline
Marceline for the town of Marceline, Missouri. Though set in Indiana, So Dear to My Heart was strongly influenced by Walt’s childhood experiences in Marceline. Here’s the popularity graph for Marceline.

Melody
Melody for the studio’s 13th feature-length film, Melody Time (1948). Here’s the popularity graph for Melody.

Bill and Sue
Bill and Sue for characters Pecos Bill and Slue-Foot Sue from Melody Time. Here are the popularity graphs for Bill and Sue.

Angus and Thaddeus
Angus and Thaddeus for characters Angus MacBadger and J. Thaddeus Toad from the studio’s 15th feature-length film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Here are the popularity graphs for Angus and Thaddeus.

Brom and Katrina
Brom and Katrina for characters Brom Bones and Katrina Van Tassel, also from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Here are the popularity graphs for Brom and Katrina.

Cinderella
Cinderella for the lead character from the studio’s 16th feature-length film, Cinderella (1950). Here’s the popularity graph for Cinderella.

Ilene
Ilene for actress and singer Jacqueline Ruth “Ilene” Woods, the voice of Cinderella. Here’s the popularity graph for Ilene.

Verna
Verna for actress Verna Felton, the voice of the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. Here’s the popularity graph for Verna.

Treasure
Treasure for the studio’s 17th feature-length film, Treasure Island (1950). This was Disney’s first entirely live-action movie. Here’s the popularity graph for Treasure.

Jim
Jim for character Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island. Here’s the popularity graph for Jim.

Humphrey
Humphrey for character Humphrey the Bear, who first appeared in the short Hold That Pose (1950). Here’s the popularity graph for Humphrey.


Disney’s pre-television era ended in December of 1950, when NBC aired Walt Disney’s first TV production — a Christmas special called One Hour in Wonderland, hosted by Walt himself.

Which of the names above do you like best?

P.S. Today happens to be the 68th anniversary of Disneyland, which opened in 1955 on July 17.

Sources:

Images:

[Similar post: Over 100 baby names for 100 years of the U.S. National Park Service]

Where did the baby name Gotham come from in 2015?

Title of the TV series "Gotham" (2014-2019)
“Gotham”

The name Gotham first emerged in the U.S. baby name data in 2015:

  • 2017: 37 baby boys named Gotham
  • 2016: 50 baby boys named Gotham
  • 2015: 46 baby boys named Gotham [debut]
  • 2014: unlisted
  • 2013: unlisted

It was the most impressive boy-name debut of the year, in fact.

Where did it come from?

The Batman-based TV series Gotham (2014-2019), which was set during Bruce Wayne’s teenage years.

The main protagonist wasn’t Bruce Wayne, though — it was Gotham City police detective (and future commissioner) James Gordon. In the very first episode, Jim met 12-year-old Bruce soon after Bruce’s parents had been murdered.

So…why is Batman set in a place called Gotham City?

“Gotham City” was first identified as Batman’s place of residence in the comic book Batman #4 (Winter 1940), which was actually published in January of 1941. Here’s how Batman co-creator Bill Finger chose the name:

Originally I was going to call Gotham City, Civic City. Then I tried Capital City, then Coast City. Then, I flipped through the phone book and spotted the name Gotham Jewelers and said, ‘that’s it,’ Gotham City. We didn’t call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it. Of course, Gotham is another name for New York.

Why is Gotham another name for New York City?

It’s a tradition that was kicked off by writer Washington Irving, who referred to the city as Gotham in an 1807 issue of Salmagundi — a short-lived satirical magazine that lampooned NYC culture and politics.

He choose that name because of the medieval folktales about the English village of Gotham, the residents of which had a reputation for idiocy. (According to the tales, though, they were simply feigning madness in order to thwart King John.)

The name of the village (which is located in Nottinghamshire) is pronounced GOAT-um, and is derived from the Old English words gat, meaning “goat,” and ham, meaning “home.”

Getting back to the TV show, though…

The character Azrael from the TV series "Gotham" (2014-2019)
Azrael from “Gotham

Toward the end of season 2, corrupt mayor Theo Galavan — who’d been killed mid-season by Jim Gordon — was resurrected as “Azrael” by mad scientist Hugo Strange.

Azrael was only featured in two mid-2016 episodes of Gotham, but he is likely the reason why the rising usage of the baby name Azrael accelerated that particular year:

  • 2018: 150 baby boys named Azrael
  • 2017: 132 baby boys named Azrael
  • 2016: 113 baby boys named Azrael
  • 2015: 64 baby boys named Azrael
  • 2014: 56 baby boys named Azrael

Azrael, the name of the angel of death in both Islamic and Judeo-Christian tradition, is derived from the ancient Hebrew words ‘azar, meaning “to help,” and ‘el, meaning “God.”

Which name do you think is cooler: Gotham or Azrael?

Sources:

P.S. Ever wonder how Bruce Wayne was named? Here’s Bill Finger’s explanation: “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock…then, I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.”

Quotes about the names of musicians

Singer Madonna in the music video for "Like a Prayer" (1989)
Madonna

From a 1991 Vanity Fair interview with Madonna:

“I sometimes think I was born to live up to my name,” continues Madonna, who was named after her mother. “How could I be anything else but what I am having been named Madonna? I would either have ended up a nun or this.”

(Madonna, born Madonna Ciccone, went by the nickname “Little Nonni” as a child.)

From Wired‘s 2016 “Google Autocomplete Interview” with rapper Ice Cube [vid] (born O’Shea Jackson):

My brother, he’s about nine years older than me, so, he used to have all kind of women calling the house. I would try to get at them. He got mad at that, he said he was going to slam me in the freezer one day, turn me into an ice cube. So I was like, “You know what? That’s a badge of honor.” When I walked out the house that day, I told him, “Don’t call me O’Shea no more, you know, I found my nickname, it’s gonna be Cube, it’s gonna be Ice Cube.”

From a 2002 interview with musician Elton John on Larry King Live:

Well, I was making a record, and I had to choose a name, because they said, you know, you can’t make a record under the name of Reg Dwight, because it’s never going to — you know, it’s not attractive enough. And I agreed with that, and I couldn’t wait to change my name anyway, because I’m not too fond of the name of Reginald. It’s a very kind of ’50s English name.

So I picked Elton because there wasn’t — nobody seemed to have the name Elton. And I picked John to go with it. And it was — it was done on a bus going from London Heathrow back into the city. And it was done very quickly. So I said, oh, Elton John. That’s fine.

Two back-to-back quotes from the 2009 collection “Sting: What I’ve Learned” in Esquire:

Your parents name you, but they haven’t a clue who you are. Your friends nickname you because they know exactly who you are.

You can be born Elvis Presley. But Reg Dwight is not going to make it unless he has this ritual where he becomes Elton John.

(Sting was born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in England in 1951.)

From the bio of the band Needtobreathe at NPR:

Named after acclaimed University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, brothers Bear and Bryant “Bo” Rinehart were born and raised in rural Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, where their pastor father ran a church camp.

From an MTV interview with Bruno Mars, birth name Peter Gene Hernandez:

MTV: Bruno Mars is a world away from your name, so where did that come from?

Bruno Mars: My father and my mother. There was a wrestler in their day called Bruno San Martino and he was a very heavy-set wrestler and I guess when I was a kid I was a real chubby, chunky kid. Everyone calls me Bruno; they don’t ever call me Peter, that was just my government name.

From the book All Music Guide to Hip-Hop (2003):

Ginuwine was born in Washington, D.C., on October 15, 1975, with the unlikely name of Elgin Baylor Lumpkin (after D.C.-born Basketball Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor).

(Elgin Baylor, born in 1934, was named after the Elgin National Watch Company.)

From a 2015 interview with musician Zella Day at Huffington Post:

What’s the inside story behind your name?

ZD: Zella is from the 1840s. My parents got married in Jerome, Arizona. And when they were getting married, they were looking for baby names. And there was a book of the town’s history in Jerome, and they were scouting locations for the wedding. And they just walked into a museum and they were looking through this book. And one of the main coal miner’s wives was named Zella — 1842. There’s actually a song on the record called “Jerome.” That’s about the ghostly woman behind my name.

From a 2015 article about late Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla in the San Antonio Current:

Selena continues to have influence over other known and up-and-coming performers. Born in 1992 near Dallas, Disney bopper Selena Gomez, now a pop star of her own, was named after the queen of Tejano (during Selena’s 1991-1995 reign, her name skyrocketed from 780 to 91 in the rankings of most popular baby names in America).

From a blog post about electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire at Open Culture:

With her buttoned-up style, work with the UN, and name like a plucky character in a certain English wizard series, Delia Derbyshire may not seem a likely pioneer of experimental electronic music.

From an NPR interview with B. B. King, who explained why he started naming his guitars Lucille:

I used to play a place in Arkansas called Twist, Ark., and they used to have a little nightclub there that we played quite often. […] Well, it used to get quite cold in Twist, and they used to take something look like a big garbage pail and set it in the middle of the floor, half-fill it with kerosene. They would light that fuel, and that’s what we used for heat. And generally, the people would dance around it, you know, never disturb this container. But this particular night [in the winter of 1949], two guys started to fight and then one of them knocked the other one over on this container, and when they did, it spilled on the floor. Now it was already burning, so when it spilled, it looked like a river of fire, and everybody ran for the front door, including yours truly. But when I got on the outside, then I realized that I’d left my guitar inside. I went back for it. The building was a wooden building, and it was burning so fast when I got my guitar, it started to collapse around me. So I almost lost my life trying to save the guitar. But the next morning, we found that these two guys who was fighting was fighting about a lady. I never did meet the lady, but I learned that her name was Lucille. So I named my guitar Lucille and reminded me not to do a thing like that again.

(B. B. King was born Riley B. King in Mississippi in 1925. The “B. B.” in his stage name stands for “Blues Boy.”)

From a 2001 Guardian interview with singer Dido (born Florian Cloud De Bounevialle Armstrong):

To be called one thing and christened another is actually very confusing and annoying. It’s one of the most irritating things that my parents did to me. I’m still irritated by it. Florian is a German man’s name. That’s just mean. To give your child a whole lot of odd names. They were all so embarrassing.

From a 2013 People interview during which Dido mentioned the origin of her nickname:

I was named after a crazy queen who threw herself on a fire.

(The ancient Dido was the legendary founder of Carthage.)

From the 1975 obituary of jazz drummer Zutty Singleton in the New York Times:

Mr. Singleton, who was born in Bunkie, La., on May 14, 1898, was named Arthur James. He acquired the nickname Zutty (Zoot-ee), a Creole patois word, for “cute,” when he was an infant.

From a 1949 article about songwriters Harry and Albert Von Tilzer in Billboard magazine:

After a season of tanbark and tinsel, Harry caught on with a traveling repertoire company, playing juvenile roles, singing songs of his own composing, and abandoning the family name of Gumm for a more glamorous and professional moniker. He took his mother’s maiden name of Tilzer and added “Von” for a touch of class. This switch in nomenclature proved to be the keystone of a songwriting dynasty which was destined to make history in Tin Pan Alley with the turn of the century.

(The family’s surname was originally Gumbinsky. The phrase “tanbark and tinsel” refers to the circus; Harry was part of a traveling circus for a time as a teenager.)

From a 2009 OK! Magazine interview with pop star Taylor Dayne (born Leslie Wunderman):

Taylor Dayne had a major influence on pop culture when she hit the big time in 1987 with a string of hits that included Tell It To My Heart, Prove Your Love, I’ll Always Love You, Don’t Rush Me, With Every Beat of My Heart, Love Will Lead You Back and I’ll Be Your Shelter.

By 1993, the name Taylor hit its peak in popularity of baby names.

“You wonder where they generated from, right?” she yuks. “It was a very uncommon name in 1987, that’s for sure, but it’s a compliment.”

Perhaps she even inspired the name of country’s latest sensation, Taylor Swift, who was born in 1989. She laughs off the suggestion. “I would say that her mother was a fan.”

(The name Taylor had been rising steadily on the girls’ list throughout the ’80s, but Taylor Dayne helped kick the name into the top 10 in 1993. It stayed there for nearly a decade. According to records, some Taylors from this era did indeed get the middle name Dayne.)

From a 2015 interview with James Taylor at Stereogum:

Stereogum: Speaking of another powerful woman, Taylor Swift is probably the biggest pop star in the world right now, and she’s named after you! How do you feel about being connected to her in that way?

Taylor: It’s hugely flattering and was a delightful surprise when she told me that. We did a benefit together, I think it was focused on teenage pregnancy, before Taylor really took off. But she was playing guitar and singing her songs and I knew how remarkable she was. She told me that her mom and dad had been really, deeply into my music and I got a real kick out of the fact that she’d been named after me. Obviously it wasn’t her choice, it was her mom and dad, but nonetheless a great connection I think.

From a 2016 article in People about singer Ciara, who explained how she got her name:

My mom was trying to figure out my name when my dad bought her a fragrance called Ciara by Revlon. That’s where my name came from!

(Ciara pronounces her name see-AIR-ah. The name of the perfume, according to television commercials, was pronounced see-AHR-ah.)

From the book Jazz And Its Discontents (2004) by Francis Davis, a passage about jazz singer Abbey Lincoln (born Anna Marie Wooldridge) :

When the singer Abbey Lincoln gives her autograph, she appends the name Aminata Moseka. During her pilgrimage to Africa in 1975, the president of Guinea christened her “Aminata” in recognition of her inner strength and determination, and Zaire’s minister of education likened her to “Moseka,” the god of love in female form. “I love Aminata Moseka. I’ve added her to myself. But I can’t say that’s my one and only name,” says Lincoln […] “It’s more like a title — something to live up to. That’s why I recorded Stevie Wonder’s ‘Golden Lady.’ It gave me the opportunity to sing to a female god. But I’m still Abbey Lincoln — I still like to wear makeup and glittering dresses and look attractive for an audience. And in many ways, I’m still Anna Marie.”

Rami Malek, after winning the Oscar for Best Actor [vid] in early 2019:

I grew up in a world where I never thought I was gonna play the lead on Mr. Robot because I never saw anyone in a lead role that looked like me. I never thought that I could possibly play Freddie Mercury until I realized his name was Farrokh Bulsara. […] That was the motivation that allowed me to say, “Oh, I can do this.”

A quote about jazz musician Red Norvo from the book American Musicians II: Seventy-One Portraits in Jazz (1986) by Whitney Balliett:

Norvo isn’t my real name. I was born Kenneth Norville, in Beardstown, Illinois, in three thirty-one oh-eight. […] I got the name Norvo from Paul Ash, in vaudeville. He could never remember my name when he announced me. It would come out Norvin or Norvox or Norvick, and one night it was Norvo. Variety picked it up and it stuck, so I kept it.

(Red also had a strong opinion about the name of his instrument: “Please don’t call it a vibraphone. I play the vibraharp, a name coined by the Deagan Company, which invented the instrument in 1927 and still supplies me with mine.”)

From a 1995 Spin interview with R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe, whose paternal grandfather was a Methodist minister:

Well, Methodism was started by John Wesley, who was, in his way, a really radical guy who believed in a lot of individual responsibility. It’s not the kind of religion that’s right around your throat. Actually, I was named after him, John Michael Stipe.

From a 2018 Insider write-up on rapper Post Malone (born Austin Richard Post):

“I was like 14, and I had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name, you know, for my s—- mixtape,” he told Jimmy Fallon. “So I ran [my real name] through a random rap name generator… now I’m stuck with it.”

…And, from the same Insider article, a paragraph about rapper Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover):

“We were all hanging out, chilling and drinking and then we were like, ‘Oh, Wu-Tang name generator, let’s put our name in,'” he revealed on The Tonight Show back in 2011. “And we’re putting them all in, and they’re all funny and stuff, and then mine came up and I was like, ‘you guys, it’s not funny anymore. This is something big.’ I just really liked it.”

From a 2012 Rolling Stone article about Monkees singer Davy Jones:

Davy became so famous that another David Jones – a struggling singer-songwriter at the Monkees’ peak – had to change his last name to Bowie.

From the book Strange Fascination (2012) by David Buckley, the story of how singer David Bowie (formerly David Jones) chose his stage name:

‘Bowie’, pronounced by the man himself and all his ‘die-hard’ fans to rhyme with ‘slowie’, as opposed to ‘wowie!’ as used by most ‘casual fans’ and chat-show presenters, was chosen for its connection with the Bowie knife. Jim Bowie (pronounced to rhyme with ‘phooey’) was a Texan adventurer who died at the Alamo in 1836, and carried a single-bladed hunting knife. Bowie’s description of why he chose the name is typically highly ambiguous. In the 70s, Bowie proclaimed that the knife signalled a desire to cut through lies to reveal hidden truths (a highly ironic comment, [given] Bowie’s capacity for deceit), while in a recent Radio 1 interview he said that he liked the connotations of a blade being sharpened from both sides, a signifier for all sorts of ambiguities. In fact, the Bowie knife has only one cutting edge, and is not double-bladed. This mistaken belief was held not just by Bowie, but by William Burroughs too. The choice of stage name nevertheless indicated a sense of being able to cut both ways, perfect for the pluralistic 60s. The name also derived, despite its association with Americana (a connection the English David was obviously happy about, his whole career musically being an English take on a largely American form), from a Scottish heritage, and Bowie quite liked that regional distinctiveness, too.

From a 2015 Fader article about rapper Fonzworth Bentley (born Derek Watkins):

His moniker was inspired in part by Bootney Lee Farnsworth, the underdog boxer from the 1975 Sidney Poitier-directed movie Let’s Do It Again.

From a 2017 BBC interview with Billie Eilish:

BBC: Hello Billie Eilish… Have I pronounced that right?

Billie: Yes! It’s eye-lish, like eyelash with a lish.

BBC: Your family name is O’Connell, though, so is that a stage name?

Billie: It is my middle name. So I’m Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell.

BBC: Pirate! That’s an amazing name.

Billie: Pretty weird, right? Pirate was going to be my middle name but then my uncle had a problem with it because pirates are bad. Then Baird is my mother’s name.

From a 1991 article about musician Gurf Morlix in The Buffalo News:

It’s a name that makes you wonder. Run into Gurf Morlix in album credits for Peter Case or in a concert review of Warren Zevon, and you imagine one of two things. Either he’s a refugee from some republic trying to secede from the Soviet Union, or else he’s hopelessly addicted to science fiction novels.

In truth, he’s an emigrant from one of Buffalo’s ostensibly normal suburbs — Hamburg — and, if anything, he looks a bit English as he talks over a plate of pasta fazool in his favorite hometown restaurant.

“A friend of mine changed it for me,” he responds in answer to the name question. “It was kind of a stupid thing. I dreamed this name when I was 13 years old and I told my friend about it and he said, ‘Well, I’ll never call you anything else.’ And then everybody did.”

From a 1984 episode of the New Zealand TV show Radio with Pictures, hosted by Karyn Hay, an interview with singer Billy Idol [vid] (born William Broad):

Q: Why did you choose the name Billy Idol, especially in a time when [there’s] Johnny Rotten, Rat Scabies, you know?

A: Exactly, I mean that’s the point. That’s exactly the point. […] I thought, first of all, of course, of I-D-L-E, you know, idle. Cause this chemistry teacher when I was at school — I got 8 out of 100 for chemistry, I hated chemistry — so he wrote, “William is idle,” right? And I thought that was great to get 8 out of 10 [sic] for chemistry, cause I hated the hell out of it. So I thought that was respectable, so I thought it was worthwhile being called I-D-O-L, idol. Also, it’s good fun making fun of show business. I’m not into show business, I’m into rock ‘n’ roll.

From a 2019 New Yorker article about musician Beck:

He was born on July 8, 1970, as Bek David Campbell. He and his brother later took their mother’s maiden name, Hansen, and Beck added the “c” to his first name, with the hope that it might help people pronounce it properly. “I still got Brock, Breck, Beak,” he said. “I remember leaving a meeting with some record executives, and one said, ‘Very nice to meet you, Bic.'”

From a 2020 interview with Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson — who is the youngest of seven siblings — on the podcast In My Heart with Heather Thomson:

A lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name. It’s my maiden name. My name was Celestine Beyoncé, which, at that time, was not a cool thing, to have that weird name.

[…]

But, all of us have a different spelling. I think me and my brother, Skip, were the only two that had B-E-Y-O-N-C-E.

And, it’s interesting — and it shows you the times — because we asked my mother when I was grown, I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E?’

[…]

[M]y mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’

So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’

She said, ‘I did one time, the first time, and I was told: ‘Be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate.” Because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates. They didn’t even have a birth certificate. Because it meant that you really didn’t exist, you know, you weren’t important. It was that subliminal message.

And so I understood that that must have been horrible for her, not to even be able to have her children’s names spelled correctly.

So it was an odd name, it was a weird name, and they were like, ‘How dare you have a French name.’ Like, ‘We’re gonna screw this up real good for you.’ And that’s what they did. So we all have different spellings.

From a 2014 interview with Skid Row bass player Rachel Bolan (born James Richard Southworth):

DC9 at Night: How did you get the name Rachel?

Bolan: It’s not my real first name. When I was first getting into bands, I wanted a cool stage name. I wanted to be like Alice Cooper. Eventually, when I was old enough, I legally changed my name to Rachel. It’s always raised a few eyebrows. It’s funny to hear people pronounce it when I give them a credit card or something. It’s funny to this day. They ask me if I gave them the wrong ID or if I gave them some chick’s credit card.

(According to Wikipedia, he created “Rachel” by combining the names of his brother Richard and his grandfather Manuel.)

DRAM's EP "That's a Girl's Name" (2018)
DRAM EP

From a 2018 Uproxx article about rapper DRAM:

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.”)

From a 2004 interview with Bob Dylan, as recorded in the 2018 book Dylan on Dylan by Jeff Burger:

Bradley: So you didn’t see yourself as Robert Zimmerman?

Dylan: No, for some reason I never did.

Bradley: Even before you started performing?

Dylan: Nah, even then. Some people get born with the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens.

Bradley: Tell me how you decided on Bob Dylan?

Dylan: You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.

From an interview with Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie, née Perfect, in The Guardian:

Hi, Christine. What was it like growing up with the surname Perfect?

It was difficult. Teachers would say: “I hope you live up to your name, Christine.” So, yes, it was tough. I used to joke that I was perfect until I married John.

From the book Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (2009) by Leigh H. Edwards:

In [the autobiography] Cash, he explicitly addresses how he represents his identity differently in different contexts, noting how he uses different names for the different “Cashes” he played in different social settings, stating that he “operate[s] at various levels.” He stages a struggle between “Johnny Cash” the hell-rais[ing], hotel-trashing, pill-popping worldwide star and “John R. Cash,” a more subdued, adult persona.

From a 2014 Reddit AMA (“ask me anything”) with rapper Macklemore (born Benjamin Hammond Haggerty):

Mack-La-More is how it’s pronounced

Should have picked an easier name to say

From a 2021 interview with rapper Lil Nas X [vid] (born Montero Hill) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:

Jimmy: So, where does Montero come from?

Lil Nas X: Ok, it’s slightly embarrassing, but not embarrassing. So my mom wanted the car, the Montero, you know? And she never got one…

Jimmy: What’s a Montero?

Lil Nas X: It’s a Mitsubishi. So, yeah, I’m named after a car.

From the 2022 obituary of singer (and early ’60s teen idol) Bobby Rydell in the New York Daily News:

He was so popular and tied to teen culture that Rydell High School in the stage and screen musical “Grease” was named for him.

“It was so nice to know that the high school was named after me,” he told the Allentown Morning Call in 2014. “And I said, ‘Why me?’ It could have been Anka High, Presley High, Everly High, Fabian High, Avalon High. And they came up with Rydell High, and, once again, total honor.”

(Dozens of baby boys were named after Rydell as well.)

From a 2013 article about Kendrick Lamar in hip-hop magazine XXL:

Amongst the many topics discussed when Kendrick Lamar strolled through Arsenio Hall‘s reinvented television series, the Compton rapper revealed that he’s named after one of the members of the iconic Motown group, the Temptations. While gushing over old school music, K Dot unveiled that his mother named him after Eddie Kendricks, the group’s distinctive falsetto singer.

From a Marshall Tucker Band Instagram post addressing the death of the band’s namesake, Marshall Tucker:

Our band’s namesake, Mr. Marshall Tucker, passed away peacefully yesterday morning at the age of 99. Though he was never a member of our band, we wouldn’t be here today without his historic name. In the early days when we were rehearsing in an old warehouse in Spartanburg, we found a keychain inscribed with his name. We needed a name asap… and the rest is history! Marshall was blind since birth but amazingly could play the heck out of the piano. He always said his talent was simply God-given. He tuned pianos in South Carolina for decades.

(The story behind Super Mario’s name, in Name quotes #111, also happens to involve a warehouse.)

From the 2017 obituary of Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart in pop culture magazine The Quietus:

I was born Grantzberg Vernon Hart, you know? This whole crazy ride was never going to be a bore.

From a 2009 NPR interview with jazz singer and pianist Blossom Dearie:

It is my real name, and everybody asks me that, but I don’t mind answering that question. […] I was born in the springtime, and my father gave me the name Blossom cause I was born in April and my bothers brought blossoms in the house.

(TV character Blossom Russo was named after Blossom Dearie.)

From a 2016 Boston Magazine article about Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA, who was born in 1969 and named Robert Fitzgerald Diggs after the Kennedy brothers Robert and John Fitzgerald:

The Kennedy brothers really had a big effect on my mother. She loved what they stood for, that’s why she named her son after them. I think the ideas that they possessed and tried to put into our country, whether it’s the idea of man achieving the high glory of reaching the moon or the glory of trying to help spread civil liberties to the people, fulfill the promise of our Constitution. Those type of things, I think, are always admirable. My mother was really touched by that and she named me after them.

From the Allmusic.com profile of Blues/R&B pianist Ivory Joe Hunter:

An accomplished tunesmith, he played around the Gulf Coast region, hosting his own radio program for a time in Beaumont before migrating to California in 1942. It was a wise move since Hunter — whose real name was Ivory Joe, incidentally (perhaps his folks were psychic!) — found plenty of work pounding out blues and ballads in wartime California.

For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.

Image: Screenshot of the music video for “Like a Prayer.”

[Latest update: Mar. 2024]