How popular is the baby name Lee 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 Lee.

The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.


Popularity of the Baby Name Lee


Posts that Mention the Name Lee

Where did the baby name Terrea come from?

Terrea Lea album Folk Songs (1956).
Terrea Lea album from 1956

Usage of the unisex name Terry was rising fast for both genders during the ’40s and ’50s, but I think the debuts of Terrea and Terria in the early ’50s had a more specific explanation than the trendiness of Terry.

Terrea usageTerria usage
195610 baby girls [peak]
…9 born in Calif.
18 baby girls
1955.10 baby girls
19549 baby girls15 baby girls
19536 baby girls16 baby girls
1952.17 baby girls [debut]
19516 baby girls.
19505 baby girls [debut]
…all 5 born in Calif.
.
1949..
1948..

I think the influence was Missouri-born folksinger Terrea Lea, who was closely associated with the Southern California folk scene starting in the early ’50s — long before folk music became trendy in the U.S. in the mid-’60s.

Terrea Lea was born Bette June Nutz in Liberty, Missouri, in 1922. I’m not sure how she chose her stage name or when she started using it, but she was being mentioned as “Terrea Lea” in Billboard magazine by mid-1950 and was appearing on television, performing on radio, and putting out singles by 1951. In April of 1951, Billboard described her as “local TV folk chirper billed as the fem[inine] Burl Ives.”

Her own Terrea Lea Show could be heard on the East Coast radio by 1952, but the newspapers often misspelled her name (e.g., “Terria Lea,” “Terrea Lee”) in the broadcast schedules. Typos like these, combined with the fact that the shows were (of course) audio only, probably account for why the name Terria was the top debut name of 1952.

terrea lea, name
Misspelling in Billboard, 1952

In 1956 and 1957, Terrea Lea put out her first two full-length albums. In late 1958, she and some friends opened a coffee house in West Hollywood called The Garret. (The name was inspired by Puccini’s La bohème.) She regularly performed there, and it was frequented by popular folk singers of the day, including Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. The Garret existed until 1971.

There’s a website dedicated to The Garret, and the guest book includes six comments from people named after Terrea Lea. They are: Terra Lea, Terrea Lee, Terrea Lea (b. 1954, Calif.), Terrea Lea (b. 1951, Oregon), and Terria Leigh. Another comment is from someone whose son has the middle name Garret.

What are your thoughts on the name Terrea?

Sources:

Where did the baby name Perette come from?

Perette Dijon, a minor character from the TV series "Route 66" (1960-1964).
Perette Dijon from “Route 66

The name Perette first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1962:

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 16 baby girls named Perette [debut]
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: unlisted

Ultimately, Perette was a one-hit wonder — the top one-hit wonder of the year, in fact.

And where did it come from?

A single-episode character on the popular TV show Route 66. The episode, “Mon Petit Chou,” first aired on November 24, 1961. It was set in Pittsburgh and guest-starred French actress Macha Méril as character Perette Dijon, a chanteuse with a Svengali-like manager named Glenn (played by Lee Marvin).

Macha was born Maria-Magdalena Vladimirovna Gagarina, and is technically a princess. (Her parents were Ukrainian nobility who fled to the south of France during the Russian Revolution.) When she decided to become an actress, she continued to use her nickname Macha, a diminutive of Maria, and added the surname Méril in tribute to jazz singer Helen Merrill (born Jelena Ana Milcetic).

Do you like the name Perette? Do you like it more or less than Macha?

Sources: “Mon Petit Chou,” Route 66, TV Episode 1961 – IMDb, Macha Méril – Wikipedia

Where did the baby name Novalee come from?

rex allen, nova lee, baby name, 1962
Rex Allen singing “(Son) Don’t Go Near The Indians”

The name Novalee saw an uptick in usage following the release of the 2000 movie Where the Heart Is, in which Natalie Portman played teenager Novalee Nation. (Novalee’s daughter Americus also influenced U.S. baby names.)

But the very first time Novalee appeared in the data was way back in 1962:

  • 1966: unlisted
  • 1965: 5 baby girls named Novalee
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: 6 baby girls named Novalee
  • 1962: 7 baby girls named Novalee [debut]
  • 1961: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Country music. Specifically, “(Son) Don’t Go Near The Indians,” which was Rex Allen’s most successful song.

It’s about a man who falls for the Indian maiden Nova Lee only to discover that, not only was he adopted, but Nova Lee is actually his biological sister. (Seems like a weirdly incestuous twist for ’60s country music, doesn’t it?)

Here’s Rex singing the song live:

According to Billboard, the song reached #17 on the Hot 100 chart in October of 1962, and #4 on the Hot Country Singles chart the next month.

The name Nova (without the “lee”) also saw higher usage in the early ’60s thanks to “(Son) Don’t Go Near The Indians,” but that temporary increase was eclipsed fifty years later when Nova suddenly became very trendy. (It entered the top 1,000 in 2011, the top 100 in 2017, and the top 50 just last year.)

Do you like the name Novalee?

Sources: Billboard, Rex Allen – Wikipedia

Where did the baby name Deshannon come from?

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

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

YearGirls Named ShannonGirls Named Deshannon
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
10,965 [rank: 22nd]
12,651 [rank: 21st]
13,548 [rank: 22nd]
10,448 [rank: 31st]
6,402 [rank: 53rd]
3,446 [rank: 101st]
2,992 [rank: 120th]
14
12
13
12 [debut]
.
.
.

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

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

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

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

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

How do you like DeShannon as a baby name?

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

How did “Giant” influence baby names?

Poster for the movie "Giant" (1956)

One of last week’s post featured Glenna Lee McCarthy, whose father was famous Texas oil prospector and entrepreneur Glenn McCarthy (1907-1988).

Writer Edna Ferber fictionalized Glenn’s rags-to-riches life story in her novel Giant (1952) with the character Jett Rink.

The book was later made into a movie, which came out in October of 1956. Jett was played by James Dean, who had died in a car accident a month before the film premiered.

The other two main characters were Jordan “Bick” Benedict (played by Rock Hudson) and his wife Leslie Benedict (Elizabeth Taylor). Secondary characters included the Benedicts’ son Jordan, or “Jordy” (Dennis Hopper) and a neighbor named Vashti (Jane Withers).

The movie did well at the box office and was nominated for various Academy Awards, including a posthumous Best Actor nomination for Dean. It also gave a boost to several baby names:

Name1955195619571958
Leslie
(girl name)
4,401 babies
[rank: 99th]
4,386 babies
[rank: 104th]
6,100 babies
[rank: 77th]
6,008 babies
[rank: 79th]
Jett
(boy name)
5 babies14 babies24 babies17 babies
Jordan
(boy name)
105 babies
[rank: 713th]
101 babies
[rank: 734th]
207 babies
[rank: 540th]
184 babies
[rank: 568th]
Jordy
(boy name)
..5 babies
[debut]
.
Vashti
(girl name)
8 babies7 babies16 babies10 babies

Interestingly, the name Luz — which, like Jordan, was used for two different characters in the movie — saw a slight decline from 1956 to 1957.

Source: Giant (1956) – Wikipedia