How popular is the baby name Long 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 Long.
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In 1987, Mai Van Cán and his wife, Do Thi Vân — a couple from Quang Nam province in central Vietnam — welcomed their fifth child.
Several years earlier, Vietnam had put a two-child policy in place.
So, soon after the newborn arrived, the family was fined 6,500 dong (Vietnamese currency) by the government.
Mai was upset about this — his wife’s pregnancy had been unplanned, and he had to borrow money to pay the fine. In a fit of resentment, he named the baby boy Mai Phat Sáu Nghìn Ruoi, which loosely translates to “fined six thousand five hundred” (or, more precisely, “fine of six thousand and a half”).
Here are the definitions of each component of the given name:
Chinese New Year is coming up! We will soon be transitioning out of the Year of the Tiger and into the Year of the Rabbit.
And, while I don’t have anything to say about tigers or rabbits, I do I have something to say about dragons.
I wrote about Dragon year baby names (like Long and Ryu) a few years ago. Since then, though, I’ve discovered a whole new set of dragon-names that I missed the first time around — probably because I was too focused on data from the second half of the 20th century.
These new-to-me names all feature the element tatsu, which, like ryu, is a Japanese word for “dragon.” Interestingly, both of these words are represented by the same kanji:
Ryu is the on’yomi (Sino-Japanese) reading of the ideogram, while tatsu is the kun’yomi (native Japanese) reading.
Turns out that, during the Dragon years of the early 20th century, names with the element tatsu saw higher-than-expected usage in places with large numbers of Japanese-Americans, particularly the territory of Hawaii:
Population of Hawaii
Japanese population of Hawaii
So, what names are we talking about?
The tatsu-name that emerged first in the U.S. baby name data — and the one that was the most popular overall — was the male name Tatsuo, which saw discernible spikes in usage during the Dragon years of 1916, 1928, and 1940:
Here’s the data on Tatsuo for those specific years:
Many of the babies named Tatsuko (which was one of the top debut names of 1916) and Tatsumi were born in Hawaii. This is probably true for Tatsue and Tatsuro as well, but their usage was too low to register in the SSA’s state-by-state data.
Tatsuro was a one-hit wonder, but the other three were back in the data in 1928:
Other tatsu-names were also being bestowed during these years. In the Social Security Death Index, for instance, I found dozens of people — many born in either 1916 or 1928 — with names like Tatsuharu, Tatsuhiko, Tatsuichi, Tatsuji, Tatsukichi, Tatsunobu, Tatsunori, Tatsushi, Tatsuwo, and Tatsuyuki.
For the next three Dragon years (1952, 1964, and 1976), tatsu-names were absent from the data.
Mid-century anti-Japanese sentiment following the late 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor may have had something to do with this. It’s likely that, during this period, many Japanese-Americans did not give their babies conspicuously Japanese first names — reasoning that this would help their children assimilate and/or reduce the risk of discrimination.
Tatsuya, Tatsu, Tatsuki
Starting in the late 1980s, we see three new tatsu-names emerge in the U.S. baby name data. Each one debuted during a Dragon year:
My husband and I visited Las Vegas recently, and the casinos were all decked out for Chinese New Year (which falls on February 12th this year). Decorations included lanterns, firecrackers, Chinese coins, red envelopes, oranges*, and dragons — so many dragons that I initially thought we must be coming up on the Year of the Dragon.
Turns out I was wrong — it’ll be the Year of the Ox — but I didn’t realize this until my husband consulted the internet. Which I’m glad he did, because he ended up spotting this intriguing paragraph:
There are typically marked spikes in the birth rates of countries that use the Chinese zodiac or places with substantial Overseas Chinese populations during the year of the Dragon, because such “Dragon babies” are considered to be lucky and have desirable characteristics that supposedly lead to better life outcomes. The relatively recent phenomenon of planning a child’s birth in the Dragon year has led to hospital overcapacity issues and even an uptick in infant mortality rates toward the end of these years due to strained neonatal resources.
So, if Dragon years are influencing babies, could they also be influencing baby names…?
To answer this question, we need to know two things: which years are Dragon years, and which baby names are likely to be more popular during Dragon years.
Recent Dragon years have coincided (for the most part) with the following calendar years:
(The start date varies, but always falls between January 21 and February 20, on the day of the new moon.)
As for names, the most obvious choice to me was, of course, the English word Dragon. But that’s because I don’t speak any Asian languages (beyond a few words of Cambodian, thanks to my husband’s family).
So I looked up the Chinese word for “dragon.” The correct transliteration is lóng — the ó has a rising tone — but the word is more likely to be rendered “long” or “lung” in Latin script.
Here’s what I found for Dragon, Long and Lung in the U.S. baby name data…
The baby name Dragon debuted in 1988 (a Dragon year), saw a spike in usage in 2000 (the next Dragon year), and an even larger spike in 2012 (the most recent Dragon year).
In 1988, 8 U.S. baby boys were named Dragon.
5 [63%] were born in California.
In 2000, 22 U.S. baby boys were named Dragon.
6 [27%] were born in California, 5 in Texas.
In 2012, 24 U.S. baby boys were named Dragon.
5 [21%] were born in California.
I think the state data is notable here because California has a significant Asian American population.
Long & Lung
The baby name Long debuted in 1975, likely because of Vietnamese immigration, and saw a general increase in usage during the late ’70s and early ’80s. It saw an initial spike in 1976 (a Dragon year), which was followed by three more distinct spikes in 1988, 2000, and 2012 (the three most recent Dragon years).
In 1976, 47 U.S. baby boys were named Long.
13 [28%] were born in California, 5 in Texas.
In 1988, 133 U.S. baby boys were named Long.
Long ranked 822nd nationally.
53 [40%] were born in California, 20 in Texas, 5 in Oklahoma, 5 in Massachusetts.
In 2000, 101 U.S. baby boys were named Long.
30 [30%] were born in California, 14 in Texas, 8 in Virginia, 7 in Washington, 6 in Massachusetts, 6 in Pennsylvania.
19 [23%] were born in California, 11 in Texas, 5 in Oregon.
The baby name Lung — a homograph of the English word for the internal organ, unfortunately — was a one-hit wonder in the Dragon year 1988.
While looking at the data for Long, I spotted the name Thienlong — a one-hit wonder in the Dragon year 2012. The Vietnamese name Thienlong, or “thiên long,” means something along the lines of “sky dragon” or “heavenly dragon.”
Seeing the crossover into Vietnamese names, I tried looking for other Asian words for “dragon” in the U.S. baby name data.
I didn’t have much luck until I tried one of the Japanese words for “dragon,” ryu (which should have a macron above the u, marking it as long). The word is typically rendered “ryu,” “ryo,” or “ryuu” in Latin script. (It can also have meanings other than “dragon” — just depends upon the kanji.)
Here’s what I found…
Ryu, Ryuu, Ryo
The baby name Ryu debuted in 1985, dropped out of the data, and returned in 1988 (a Dragon year). It saw a small spike in usage in 2000 (the next Dragon year), then a larger spike in 2012 (the most recent Dragon year).
In 1988, 7 baby boys were named Ryu.
In 2000, 35 baby boys were named Ryu.
12 [34%] were born in California.
In 2012, 129 baby boys were named Ryu.
34 [26%] were born in California, 14 in Texas, 9 in New York.
The baby names Ryuu and Ryo both saw peak usage in the Dragon year 2012.
Ryunosuke, Ryuki, Ryujin, etc.
While looking at the data for Ryu, I found several Ryu-based names with usage patterns that seem to correlate to Dragon years:
And here’s an interesting fact: Japan’s most famous short story writer, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “was named Ryunosuke, “dragon-son,” because he was born in the hour of the dragon, in the month of the dragon, in the year of the dragon.” (His birth-date was March 1, 1892.)
And, finally, one more…
After looking up “dragon” in many different languages, I decided to check the Latin version, Draco — yes, as in Harry Potter character Draco Malfoy — just in case.
The name did see usage increases in the Dragon years 2000 and 2012, but these increases don’t seem impressive next to the steep rise of the last couple of years (which could be due to the 2017 song “Draco” by Future…?).
The next Year of the Dragon will start in early 2024. Do you think dragon-related names will get another boost that year? If so, which ones?
And, do you know of any other dragon-related names that we should be keeping an eye on?
*Why oranges? Because the Cantonese word for mandarin orange, kam, sounds a lot like the Cantonese word for gold. (Another interesting fact: the word kumquat comes from the Cantonese words kam, “gold” or “golden,” and kwat, “orange.”)
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot more accurate starting in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…