How popular is the baby name Michael 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 Michael.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Michael


Posts that Mention the Name Michael

Popular Baby Names in Providence, RI, 1868

19th-century Providence, Rhode Island
19th-century Providence

Years ago, I discovered three documents with relatively complete lists of births for the city of Providence, Rhode Island, for the years 1866, 1867, and 1868. I’ve already created Providence’s baby name rankings for 1866 and 1867 using the first two documents, and today (finally!) I’ve got the third set of rankings for you.

Let’s start with some stats:

  • 1,762 babies were born in Providence in 1868, by my count. According to the introduction of the document I’m using a source, however, the total number is 1,866. I don’t know how to account for this discrepancy.
  • 1,617 of these babies (791 girls and 826 boys) had names that were known at the time of publication. The other 145 babies got blank spaces. Either their names hadn’t been registered yet, or they hadn’t been named yet, or perhaps these babies died young and never received a name.
  • 284 unique names (143 girl names and 141 boy names) were shared among these 1,617 babies.

And now, on to the names!

Top 5

A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:

Top baby girl namesTop baby boy names
1. Mary
2. Catherine
3. Sarah
4. Ellen
5. Margaret
1. John
2. William
3. James
4. Charles
5. George

All Girl Names

  1. Mary, 149 baby girls
  2. Catherine, 39
  3. Sarah, 38
  4. Ellen, 31
  5. Margaret, 28
  6. Elizabeth, 25
  7. Alice, 24
  8. Anna, 20
  9. Ann, 16
  10. Emma, 14
  11. Eliza, 13
  12. Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
  13. Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
  14. Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
  15. Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
  16. Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
  17. Anne, Carrie, Hattie, Ida, Mabel & Nellie, 6 each (6-way tie)
  18. Eva, Joanna, Lydia & Rosanna, 5 each (4-way tie)
  19. Abby, Charlotte, Emily, Jessie, Josephine, Lillian, Lizzie, Louisa, Louise, Marion, Phebe, Rosella & Theresa, 4 each (13-way tie)
  20. Anastasia, Bertha, Edith, Gertrude, Isabella, Nettie, Pearl, Rebecca & Susanna, 3 each (9-way tie)
  21. Ada, Almira, Edna, Fannie, Flora, Frances, Helen, Henrietta, Inez, Laura, Lelia, Lillie, Lottie, Maud, Priscilla & Virginia, 2 each (16-way tie)
  22. Addie, Adelaide, Adelicia, Adeline, Agatha, Allene, Amanda, Amy, Angelica, Antoinette, Arabella, Augusta, Aurelia, B.*, Belle, Bessie, Betsey, Catharine, Celia, Claudia, Della, Eleanor, Eleanora, Estella, Estelle, Esther, Eudavelia, Eulalie, Evelyn, Francenia, Genevieve, Georgia, Honora, Imogene, Jesse, Juliette, Kate, Leonora, Lilla, Lillias, Lorena, Luella, Luetta, Magdalena, Marian, Marietta, Matilda, Mercy, Minerva, Miriam, Myra, Myrtis, Nanoan, Nora, Pauline, Reberta, Rhoda, Roberta, Rosa, Rose, Ruth, Sabrina, Sophia, Stella & Winifred, 1 each (65-way tie)

*What do you think the “B.” might have stood for?

All Boy Names

  1. John, 112 baby boys
  2. William, 68
  3. James, 64
  4. Charles, 52
  5. George, 45
  6. Thomas, 37
  7. Frederick, 25
  8. Henry, 23
  9. Joseph, 22
  10. Edward, 19
  11. Daniel & Patrick, 18 each (tie)
  12. Robert, 17
  13. Frank, 16
  14. Francis, 15
  15. Walter, 13
  16. Michael, 11
  17. Albert, 10
  18. Arthur, 9
  19. Benjamin, Peter & Samuel, 7 each (3-way tie)
  20. Freddie, Harry, Herbert & Stephen, 6 each (4-way tie)
  21. Edwin, Lawrence, Lewis, Martin & Timothy, 5 each (5-way tie)
  22. Bernard, Edmund, Eugene, Louis, Philip & Richard, 4 each (6-way tie)
  23. Alfred, Augustus, Christopher, Eben, Horace, Howard, Hugh, Jeremiah, Matthew & Willard, 3 each (10-way tie)
  24. Abel, Barney, Byron, Dennis, Edgar, Ferdinand, Gilbert, Luke, Max, Nathaniel, Owen, Roger, Solomon & Victor, 2 each (14-way tie)
  25. Alden, Alexis, Allen, Alrick, Amos, Andrew, Ansel, Anson, Archibald, Asa, Ashby, Bartholomew, Calvin, Carlos, Clarence, Clark, Clarke, Clement, Clifford, Collyer, Crolander, Darius, David, Earl, Elisha, Ellis, Eri, Ernest, Erwin, Eusebe, Everett, Felix, Forrest, Foster, Franklin, Fred, Gardner, Jacob, Jason, Jerome, Jireh, Joaneto, Josiah, Jubal, Justin, Lawson, Lodovic, Louis, Lucien, Lyman, Major, Malachi, Manuel, Melbourne, Monroe, Morey, Morris, Myron, Nelson, Nicholas, Olney, Orville, Oscar, Pendleton, Ralph, Reuben, Rolfe, Rowland, Rufus, Simeon, Simon, Steven, Stewart, Theodore, Ulysses*, Volney, Warren, Whiting, Willie & Winchester, 1 each (80-way tie)

*Ulysses was likely named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, who was elected president in 1868.

Twins

Finally, nineteen sets of twins were born in Providence in 1868. (All of these twin names are accounted for in the rankings above.)

Girl-girl twinsGirl-boy twinsBoy-boy twins
Caroline & Harriet
Lucy & Lydia
Mary & Rosanna
Margaret & Mary
Lizzie & Martha
(blank) & (blank)
Anne & Thomas
Emma & Charles
Florence & William
Hannah & Josiah
Ida & John
Isabella & John
Jennie & Horace
Charles & William
Francis & Robert
George & John
James & John
James & Stephen
(blank) & (blank)

Have any thoughts about these rankings, or any of the specific names above?

Source: Snow, Edwin M. Alphabetical Lists of the Names of Persons Deceased, Born and Married in the City of Providence. Number three. Providence: Millard & Harker, 1870.

Name Change: Michael to Martin Luther

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr., was not born with the name “Martin”?

Martin Luther King, Sr., was originally named Michael King. When he welcomed his second child (and first son) in early 1929, the baby was named Michael as well.

Several years later, in 1934, Rev. Michael King — a pastor in Atlanta — traveled overseas to attend the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Berlin. While there, he “witnessed the beginnings of Nazi Germany” under Germany’s new chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

King toured much of Germany, the country that is the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which led to a split with the Catholic Church.

When he returned to Atlanta, the senior King decided to change his name and his son’s from Michael to Martin Luther, after the German Protestant leader.

The name on MLK Jr.’s birth certificate wasn’t officially changed from “Michael” to “Martin Luther” until 1957, when he was 28.

Source: Clanton, Nancy. “Why Martin Luther King Jr.’s father changed their names.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 15 Jan. 2021.

Popular Baby Names in New York City, 2020

New York City

According to New York City’s Department of Health, the most popular baby names in the city in 2020 were Emma and Liam.

Here are New York City’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2020:

Girl Names

  1. Emma (442 baby girls)
  2. Sophia
  3. Mia
  4. Olivia
  5. Isabella
  6. Ava
  7. Leah
  8. Sarah
  9. Chloe
  10. Amelia

Boy Names

  1. Liam (682 baby boys)
  2. Noah
  3. Jacob
  4. Ethan
  5. Lucas
  6. Joseph
  7. David
  8. Aiden
  9. Alexander
  10. Daniel

In the girls’ top 10, Sarah replaced Charlotte.

In the boys’ top 10, Joseph and Alexander replaced Michael and Matthew.

In 2019, the top two names were also Emma and Liam.

Source: Emma and Liam Remain the Most Popular Baby Names in NYC – NYC Health

What gave the baby name Danielle a boost in 1987?

The character Danielle/Danny from the Diet Pepsi commercial "Apt. 10-G" (1987).
“Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

If the Pepsi commercial in yesterday’s post on the baby name Sanjana seemed familiar to you, there’s a reason: That commercial was a scene-for-scene remake of an award-winning Diet Pepsi commercial that premiered in the U.S. six years earlier.

The spot, called “Apartment 10-G,” first aired in 1987 — either during the Super Bowl or the Grammy Awards (my sources don’t agree). It starred Michael J. Fox as the “urban knight satisfying the thirst of [the] damsel-next-door.”

Below is the one-minute version of the commercial:

Here’s a description, in case you don’t want to watch:

A young man is alone in his apartment when there’s a knock at the door. He opens the door to find a pretty young woman, who enters and says, “Hi, I just moved in next door. Could I borrow a Diet Pepsi?” He responds, “Sure, come in” (even though she’s already in). As he heads for the kitchen, he shows his excitement with a jump and a quiet “Yes!” She is idly looking around his apartment when he reaches the fridge…only to discover an empty bottle of Diet Pepsi. He calls out, “How about something else?” She responds, “Listen, if you don’t have a Diet Pepsi…” He already has one leg out the kitchen window as he calls back, “No, I got it.” He goes out onto the fire escape — the window slams shut behind him — and jumps down to street level. It’s raining outside. He spots a vending machine selling Diet Pepsi across the street. He tries to cross, but nearly gets hit by a car, so instead he jumps roof-to-roof over the traffic to reach the vending machine. He has a can of Diet Pepsi in his hand as he climbs up the fire escape ladder. He finds the window locked. Just as the woman starts walking toward the kitchen (calling, “You okay in there?”) there’s the sound of glass shattering. The man comes out of the kitchen — soaking wet, out of breath — and hands her the can, saying, “Here’s your diet Pepsi.” Then there’s another knock at the door. The woman says, “That must be my roommate, Danny.” “Danny?” the man repeats, with a worried look on his face. A second woman suddenly comes into view behind them. She leans seductively against the wall and says, “Hi, I’m Danielle. You got another Diet Pepsi?”

(The minute-and-a-half version included a run-in with a motorcycle gang.)

So now, the big question: Did this Pepsi commercial give a boost to the baby name Danielle the same way the Lehar Pepsi commercial gave a boost to the baby name Sanjana?

It’s very possible!

The name Danielle was already well within the U.S. top-20 at that time, but it saw a conspicuous increase in usage in 1987:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Danielle.
Danielle saw peak usage in 1987
  • 1989: 15,366 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1988: 16,253 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 17th]
  • 1987: 17,007 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 14th] (peak usage)
  • 1986: 14,943 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 16th]
  • 1985: 15,411 baby girls named Danielle [rank: 18th]

So far, I haven’t been able to find an explanation better than the commercial.

My next-best-guess would be actress Danielle von Zerneck, who played Donna in the 1987 movie La Bamba (with Esai Morales).

There was also a young character named Danielle on the soap opera As The World Turns at that time. I don’t think she caused the 1987 peak, but — because she was born in the storyline in October of 1983 — I do think she’s behind that steep increase in usage in 1984. (Interesting fact: Her mother, Betsy, was played by future movie star Meg Ryan.)

But, getting back to the Pepsi commercial…do you remember seeing it on television in the late ’80s? If so, do you recall whether or not it drew your attention to the name Danielle?

Sources:

Name Quotes #99: Silbestre, Iris, Kin

Silbestre Esquivel’s inscription (via Petrified Forest NP’s IG)

About the historical “Silbestre Esquivel” inscription inside Petrified Forest National Park:

Who was Silbestre Esquivel? In 1811, he inscribed his name in what would become Petrified Forest National Park. Was he passing through? Was he a lonely cowboy or shepherd? Even the history of discovery of the inscription is mysterious. Two different articles in a magazine and a newspaper in 1943 and 1945 claim to discover the name. The earlier one found it by directions from a business woman in the area—wouldn’t she be the one to have discovered it? A professional photographer, Michael Bend, did find out that the man was part of a party traveling from Santa Fe to Utah lead by José Rafaél Sarracino to trade with the Ute people. Such fascinating secrets!

(The name Silbestre — like the related name Sylvester — can be traced back to the Latin word silva, meaning “forest.”)

From Blake Lively’s WIRED Autocomplete Interview [vid] with Anna Kendrick:

Anna: How did Blake Lively…get her name?
Blake: My grandmother’s brother was named Blake.
A: Oh!
B: But he was murdered. So thanks for asking, Google.
A: She’s so dark.

(Blake Lively was also featured in Name Quotes #51.)

From a Louder interview with John Rzeznik about the Goo Goo Dolls’ hit song “Iris”:

By the time Rzeznik had ironed out some of the “ugly chord sequences”, he had a swooning future classic on his hands. Only the name was required. “I’m horrible at naming songs,” he says, “so it’s the last thing I do. I was looking through a magazine called LA Weekly and saw that a great singer-songwriter called Iris DeMent was playing in town. I was, like: ‘Wow! What a beautiful name.’

(The song doesn’t actually include the name Iris in the lyrics, and yet the usage of the baby name Iris does seem to rise at a faster rate in 1998 and 1999, so…did the song influence the name? Wdyt?)

From the book Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State (2016) by James E. St. Clair:

Amid much publicity in the early 1950s, [Herb Shriner and his wife] had given their children names that reflected his Hoosier heritage: They had a daughter named Indiana (known as “Indy”) and a son, Kin, named in honor of Abe Martin creator Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard. Kin Shriner became a soap opera actor; his twin brother, Wil (named for Will Rogers, but with one l), became a comedian, television, director, and talk show host with a laid-back style reminiscent of his father.

From an essay about names in The Arizona Republic by Karina Bland:

When Jim and I were choosing a name for our son, we turned to the dictionary.

Sawyer has three half-siblings — Sonnet, Sky and Savannah. Each name is an actual word, not a name like Sam or Sarah. We wanted to do the same for this baby.

Our list is still there in my Random House College Dictionary with the red cover — 22 possibilities neatly printed in purple pencil on the back of a sheet of paper shaped like a cluster of grapes: Street, South, Story, Satchel, Sage, Saracen.

We had narrowed it down to a handful — Storm, Sawyer, Story, Scout, Scarlet — when we saw him on an ultrasound for the first time. A boy. And he was instantly Sawyer, one fist raised above his head, all boyhood and adventure.

From an essay on baby names in The Guardian by Ed Cumming:

The one truly radical act for a British parent is to pluck a name from further down the class ladder. Yet it might not be the worst idea for the downwardly mobile upper-middle classes, whose jobs in accounting and law are about to be replaced by Elon’s robots. They continue to worry that Liam or Wayne wouldn’t fit in at Eton, little realising that will be the least of their concerns. Cressida and Monty will have a much harder time fitting in at the robot repair shop.