A while back, I stumbled upon a register of people associated with Oxford University in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The most interesting part? The author of the register included a chapter dedicated to first names and surnames, and that chapter featured a table of male forenames ranked by frequency of occurrence from 1560 to 1621.
The author claimed that, for several reasons, these rankings were “probably…more representative of English names than any list yet published” for that span of time. One reason was that the names represented men from “different grades of English society” — including peers, scholars, tradesmen, and servants.
Ready for the list?
John, 3,826 individuals
Ralph (sometimes confused with Raphael/Randall in the records), 182
Matthew (sometimes confused with Matthias), 116
Alexander, 98 (tie)
Arthur, 98 (tie)
Simon (sometimes confused with Simeon), 83
Joseph, 78 (tie)
Lewis, 78 (tie)
Roland (also Rowland), 65
Griffith (also Griffin), 60
Abraham, 54 (tie)
Leonard, 54 (tie)
Morris (sometimes confused with Maurice), 51
Bartholomew, 46 (3-way tie)
Oliver, 46 (3-way tie)
Timothy, 46 (3-way tie)
Martin, 44 (tie)
Rice (sometimes confused with Richard), 44 (tie)
Jeffrey (also Geoffrey; sometimes confused with Godfrey), 38
Toby (also Tobias), 34
Bernard, 28 (3-way tie)
Gregory (sometimes confused with George), 28 (3-way tie)
Isaac, 28 (3-way tie)
Jasper (also Gaspar), 26
Randall (also Randle, Randolph; sometimes confused with Ralph), 26 (tie)
Did the relative popularity of any of these names surprise you?
Entries lower down on the list included Lancelot (23), Jarvis (22) Theophilus (19), Marmaduke (18), Fulke (17), and Cadwalader (9).
The author also included every other Oxford-associated name from that general time period, so here’s a sampling of the rare names that popped up in the register just once:
“140” boy names: Dontavious, Markanthony, Fitzwilliam, Prometheus
5 via 149
The boy name Montavious adds up to 149, which reduces to five (1+4+9=14; 1+4=5).
What Does “5” Mean?
First, we’ll look at the significance assigned to “5” by two different numerological sources. Second, and more importantly, ask yourself if “5” or any of the intermediate numbers above have any special significance to you.
“5” (the pentad) according to the Pythagoreans:
“They called the pentad ‘lack of strife,’ not only because aether, the fifth element, which is set apart on its own, remains unchanging, while there is strife and change among the things under it, from the moon to the Earth, but also because the primary two different and dissimilar kinds of number, even and odd, are as it were reconciled and knitted together by the pentad”
“The pentad is the first number to encompass the specific identity of all number[s], since it encompasses 2, the first even number, and 3, the first odd number. Hence it is called ‘marriage,’ since it is formed of male and female.”
“The pentad is highly expressive of justice, and justice comprehends all the other virtues […] it is a kind of justice, on the analogy of a weighing instrument.” (i.e., It is the central number in the row of numbers from 1 to 9.)
“Because it levels out inequality, they call it ‘Providence’ and ‘justice’ (division, as it were) […] Likewise, it is called ‘nuptial’ and ‘androgyny’ and ‘demigod’ – the latter not only because it is half of ten, which is divine, but also because in its special diagram it is assigned the central place. And it is called ‘twin’ because it divides in two the decad, which is otherwise indivisible […] and ‘heart-like’ because of the analogy of the heart being assigned the center in living creatures.”
“Nature separated each of the extremities of our bodily part (I mean, the extremities of our feet and hands) in a five-fold way, into fingers and toes.”
“5” according to Edgar Cayce:
“Five – a change imminent, ever, in the activities of whatever influence with which it may be associated” (reading 261-14).
“Five – as seen, a change” (reading 5751-1).
“Five always active – and double the two, and one – or three and two, which it is the sum of. Hence, as is questioned here, no factor is more active than would be that of a five…in any activity. Five being the active number” (reading 137-119).
Does “5” — or do any of the other numbers above (e.g., 23, 50, 77, 131) — have any special significance to you?
Think about your own preferences and personal experiences: lucky numbers, birth dates, music, sports, and so on. Maybe you like how “23” reminds you of chromosomes and genetics, for example.
Also think about associations you may have picked up from your culture, your religion, or society in general.
If you have any interesting insights about the number 5, or any of the other numbers above, please leave a comment!
Source: Theologumena Arithmeticae, attributed to Iamblichus (c.250-c.330).
People who grew up in the ’90s know exactly why the place-name Topanga started popping up in the baby name data that decade:
1999: 44 baby girls named Topanga
1998: 48 baby girls named Topanga [peak]
1997: 33 baby girls named Topanga
1996: 11 baby girls named Topanga
1995: 10 baby girls named Topanga
1994: 5 baby girls named Topanga [debut]
Topanga was the name of a character on the coming-of-age sitcom Boy Meets World, which premiered in September of 1993. The “Boy” at the center of the show was Cory Matthews, his love interest throughout the series was Topanga Lawrence (played by Danielle Fishel).
According to Fishel, show producer Michael Jacobs was the one who came up with her character’s name. He was driving down a highway in California when he got a phone call about naming the character. At that moment, he happened to be driving past the Topanga Canyon exit, so he said “Topanga” and it stuck.
The canyon’s modern name comes from the Gabrielino (or Tongva) word topa’nga. The “-nga” suffix indicates that it’s a place name, but the meaning of topa remains unknown.
Another name that may have gotten a boost from Boy Meets World is Morgan, the name of Cory’s little sister. It was already on the rise at that time, but from 1993 to 1994 the increase was higher than expected.
…And I’ll just randomly throw in one more name that was inspired by a geological feature: Cohutta, a 2014 debut inspired by MTV reality star Cohutta Lee Grindstaff, who was born in Georgia and named after the Cohutta Mountains. The place name Cohutta, originally Gahût?, comes from the Cherokee word gahûtâ’y?, meaning “a shed roof supported on poles.”
Which place name works better as a baby name, do you think: Topanga or Cohutta?
Which girl names increased the most in popularity from 2016 to 2017? And which ones decreased the most?
There are a few different ways to answer this question. The SSA, for instance, likes to look at ranking differences within the top 1,000. And I like to augment their list by looking at raw number differences across all the data.