How popular is the baby name Madonna 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 Madonna.

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Popularity of the baby name Madonna

Posts that mention the name Madonna

What gave the baby name Madonna a boost in the mid-1980s?

Madonna's album "Like a Virgin" (1984)
Madonna album

From the early 1900s to the late 1960s, Madonna was one of the top 1,000 girl names in the United States. In terms of rankings, it was most popular in the 1930s; in terms of raw numbers of births, it was most popular in the ’50s and ’60s.

The name has been in decline ever since, but it did see a sudden spike in usage in 1985:

  • 1987: 61 baby girls named Madonna
  • 1986: 70 baby girls named Madonna
  • 1985: 146 baby girls named Madonna
  • 1984: 63 baby girls named Madonna
  • 1983: 23 baby girls named Madonna

In fact, it almost landed back inside the top 1,000 that year. (It ranked 1,033rd, just seven babies shy of 1,000th place.)

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Madonna in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Madonna

What gave it a boost?

Mononymous pop superstar Madonna (birth name: Madonna Louise Ciccone).

The singer was born into a Catholic family in Michigan in 1958. She was named after her mother. (Her five siblings are named Anthony, Martin, Paula, Christopher, and Melanie.)

Madonna rose to fame in the mid-1980s with a string of catchy hits:

  • “Holiday,” which peaked at #16 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in January of 1984
  • “Borderline,” which peaked at #10 in June of 1984
  • “Lucky Star,” which peaked at #4 in October of 1984
  • “Like a Virgin,” which peaked at #1 for six weeks starting in December of 1984
  • “Material Girl,” which peaked at #2 in March of 1985
  • “Crazy for You,” which peaked at #1 in May of 1985
    • It was written for the movie Vision Quest, in which Madonna had a cameo.
  • “Angel,” which peaked at #5 in June of 1985
  • “Into the Groove,” which was never technically released as a single
    • It was featured in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna had a leading role.
  • “Dress You Up,” which peaked at #5 in October of 1985

She also got a lot of exposure on MTV. One of her most memorable MTV moments was the suggestive “Like a Virgin” performance at the very first Video Music Awards (in September of 1984):

In 1991, during a Vanity Fair interview, Madonna posed the question: “How could I be anything else but what I am having been named Madonna?”

Her name is based on the word madonna (which meant “my lady” in Old Italian). Today it’s associated with the Virgin Mary — hence its usage as a given name in Catholic families — but, centuries ago, it was simply a polite form of address similar to madame or milady. (Madonna’s first child, a daughter born in 1996, was also given a Virgin Mary-associated name: Lourdes.)

What are your thoughts on the name Madonna? Would you use it?


P.S. Coincidentally, the primary male characters in two of Madonna’s early movies — Vision Quest and Who’s That Girl — had nearly the same (rather uncommon) first name: Louden/Loudon.

Where did the baby name Louden come from in 1986?

The character Louden Swain from the movie "Vision Quest" (1985)
Louden Swain from “Vision Quest

The name Louden first appeared in the U.S. baby name data the mid-1980s:

  • 1988: unlisted
  • 1987: 9 baby boys named Louden
  • 1986: 8 baby boys named Louden [debut]
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: unlisted

What put it there?

The coming-of-age movie Vision Quest (1985), which told the story of amateur wrestler Louden Swain.

Louden Swain (played by actor Matthew Modine) was a high school senior in Spokane. He had two goals: to quickly lose 23 pounds so that he could wrestle undefeated Washington state champion Brian Shute (played by Frank Jasper), and to win the affections of an older woman named Carla (played by Linda Fiorentino).

The title of the film is a reference to the Native American “vision quest” — a rite of passage undertaken by adolescent boys that involved (among other things) a period of fasting.

The movie was based on the 1979 novel of the same name by author Terry Davis.

What are your thoughts on the name Louden?

P.S. Did you know that pop singer Madonna made her first movie appearance in Vision Quest? She played a singer at a local bar. The music video for her song “Crazy for You” [vid] features clips of the film.


Image: Screenshot of Vision Quest

Where did the baby name Siedah come from in the 1980s?

American singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett
Siedah Garrett

The name Siedah was in the U.S. baby name data for a 10-year stretch, from 1984 to 1993, and saw peak usage in 1988:

  • 1989: 47 baby girls named Siedah
  • 1988: 70 baby girls named Siedah [peak]
  • 1987: 14 baby girls named Siedah
  • 1986: 10 baby girls named Siedah
  • 1985: 19 baby girls named Siedah
  • 1984: 7 baby girls named Siedah [debut]
  • unlisted

Where did it come from? And what caused that spike?

The influence was singer/songwriter Siedah (pronounced sie-ee-dah) Garrett, a protégé of hitmaker Quincy Jones.

She wrote/co-wrote hundreds of songs — including, most famously, Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” — and sang background vocals for a number of other artists (such as Madonna, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer, Wang Chung, Barbra Streisand, Peter Cetera, and Tamia).

Expectant parents wouldn’t have been aware of Siedah’s behind-the-scenes work, but they certainly would have been influenced by the hit songs that Siedah was featured on.

For instance, the name’s debut was likely due to Siedah’s 1984 duet “Don’t Look Any Further” [vid] with Dennis Edwards (formerly of The Temptations). The song reached #72 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in May.

And peak usage was no doubt fueled by an even bigger duet — this one with Michael Jackson himself. Their 1987 song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” the lead single from the album Bad, reached #1 on the Hot 100 in September.

Siedah’s solo work may have also contributed to the name’s peak usage. Her own songs didn’t tend to perform well on the charts, but her most successful single, “K.I.S.S.I.N.G.” (1988), did manage to reach #97 on the Hot 100.

Siedah Garrett was born in Los Angeles in 1960 as Deborah Christine Garrett. She wasn’t a fan of her birth name:

It’s a pretty name but nobody called me Deborah. It was always abbreviated to Deb, Debbie, or DeeDee. I hated it.

At the age of thirteen, she adopted the name Siedah, which she defined as “shining and star-like.” (So far, I haven’t been able to verify this. The closest name I can find is the Arabic Sa’ida, which is the feminine form of Sa’id, meaning “happy, lucky.”)

What are your thoughts on the name Siedah?


Image: Screenshot of Siedah Garrett from the music video for “K.I.S.S.I.N.G.”

What gave the baby name Clarissa a boost in the early 1990s?

The character Clarissa Darling from the TV series "Clarissa Explains It All" (1991-1994)
Clarissa Darling from “Clarissa Explains It All

The baby name Clarissa had already been on the rise for several decades when, in 1992, usage increased more sharply than usual. Several years later, the name reached peak popularity:

  • 1997: 1,091 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 266th]
  • 1996: 1,157 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 241st]
  • 1995: 1,201 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 239th] – peak usage
  • 1994: 1,185 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 237th] – peak ranking
  • 1993: 1,074 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 258th]
  • 1992: 1,141 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 244th]
  • 1991: 909 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 305th]
  • 1990: 853 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 322nd]
  • 1989: 759 baby girls named Clarissa [rank: 335th]

Here’s a visual:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Clarissa in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Clarissa

What accounts for this?

My guess is the TV series Clarissa Explains it All, which aired on Nickelodeon from early 1991 to late 1994.

The show’s main character was witty teenager Clarissa Darling (played by Melissa Joan Hart), who frequently broke the fourth wall — speaking directly to viewers about the things that were going on in her life and how she felt about them.

Two other memorable characters were Clarissa’s obnoxious younger brother Ferguson (who was a Republican, just like Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties) and her best friend Sam (who always climbed a ladder up to Clarissa’s second-story bedroom window).

Interestingly, Clarissa introduces herself in the very first episode of the series with some commentary about her name:

Hi, I’m Clarissa. Clarissa Darling. Ok, I didn’t choose the name. I wanted Jade. But by that time, it was too late already.

Anything without a last name would be better, like, Martika. Or Madonna would have been great. But no one asked me.

The name Clarissa is based on the name Clara, which is derived from the Latin word clarus, meaning “bright, clear.”

What are your thoughts on Clarissa?

(And, if we pretend for a second that the sitcom never happened, do you think the usage of Clarissa would have kept rising past the mid-1990s? If so, how high do you think the name could have climbed in the rankings?)

Sources: Clarissa Explains It All – Wikipedia, Clara – Wiktionary, SSA

P.S. Another early ’90s prime-time TV show that featured a quirky teenage girl (with an equally quirky sense of fashion) was Blossom.