How popular is the baby name Pharrell 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 Pharrell.
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Mononymous singer-songwriter Kelis (pronounced kuh-LEESE).
Her first album, Kaleidoscope, was released in late 1999. The album’s most successful single, “Caught Out There,” reached Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart (peaking at #54 in early 2000).
Perhaps more importantly, though, Kelis’ vocals were featured in the song “Got Your Money” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who, like Raekwon, was a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan). She sang that memorable hook: “Hey, Dirty / Baby, I got your money / Don’t you worry, I said hey / Baby, I got your money.”
Here’s Kelis in the “Got Your Money” music video (which borrows heavily from the movie Dolemite, incidentally):
The name saw spikes in usage in both 2004 and 2007. (It reached the girls’ top 1,000 for the first and only time in 2007, in fact.) These high points line up with notable moments in Kelis’ career:
Her biggest single, “Milkshake” (2003) reached #3 on the Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy. (It was written and produced by The Neptunes, one-half of which is Pharrell Williams.)
Her second-biggest single, “Bossy” (2006), reached #16 on the Hot 100. It was the lead single from the album Kelis Was Here (2006), which earned her a second Grammy nomination.
The singer’s full name is Kelis Rogers. Her parents, Kenneth and Eveliss, created her first name by combining their own names.
Looking for baby names that feature the appealing letter-pair PH?
I’ve collected a hundreds of options for you in this post!
Before we get to the names, though, let’s get one big question out of the way…
Why does PH sound like “F”?
In English, PH is a digraph, which means that it’s a pair of letters that make a single sound. (It’s interesting that the word “digraph” contains a digraph, isn’t it?)
Most of the English words that have PH were derived from Greek — specifically, from Greek words that included the Greek letter phi:
In ancient times, the Greek letter phi made an aspirated p-sound. (The unaspirated p-sound, on the other hand, was made by the Greek letter pi.)
When Greek was transliterated into Latin, the letter phi was written as “ph” to denote this aspiration — that is, to signal that the letter “p” was accompanied by a brief puff of air.
So, what happened?
In the first several centuries A.D., the pronunciation of the Greek letter phi changed. It slowly evolved from an aspirated p-sound into an f-sound.
As a result, the letter-pair “ph” underwent a corresponding (though somewhat illogical) pronunciation change. It, too, came to represent an f-sound — and still does to this day.
Now, back to the names!
Top baby names with PH
Let’s begin with the most popular names with PH (including a few names that start with PH):
Top girl names with PH
Top boy names with PH
Sophia Josephine Sophie Phoebe Daphne Phoenix Ophelia Stephanie Murphy Persephone
Joseph Christopher Phoenix Memphis Philip Phillip Raphael Kristopher Ephraim Murphy
Now here are the same names again, but this time around I’ve added some details (including definitions, rankings, and popularity graphs).
Christopher + Kristopher
The name Christopher was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: christos, meaning “Christ” or “anointed one,” and phoros, meaning “bearing” — hence, “Christ-bearing.”
Kristopher is a slightly simplified form of Christopher (perhaps influenced by the Scandinavian spelling, Kristoffer).
Christopher is currently the 52nd most popular boy name in the nation, and Kristopher ranks 936th.
Other forms of the name include Christoph (German) and Christophe (French).
The name Daphne was derived from the ancient Greek word daphne, meaning “laurel.”
In Greek myth, Daphne was a naiad who was saved from the advances of the god Apollo by being transformed into a laurel tree.
Daphne is currently the 288th most popular girl name in the U.S.
One variant form of the name is Daphna. The name is also sometimes spelled Daphnie, Daphney, or Daphni.
The name Ephraim is the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “fruitful.” It’s pronounced a variety of ways: EHF-rum, EEF-rum, EHF-fray-um, etc.
Ephraim is currently the 978th most popular boy name in the nation.
The name is also sometimes spelled Ephram or Ephrem.
Joseph + Josephine
The name Joseph is based on Ioseph, the Biblical Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning “he adds.”
Josephine comes from Joséphine, the French feminine form of Joseph.
Joseph is currently the 28th most popular boy name in the U.S., whereas Josephine ranks 72nd for girls.
The Dutch form of Joseph is Josephus. Other feminine forms include Josepha (German) and Josephina.
Memphis was the Greek form of the ancient Egyptian city-name Men-nefer, which meant “his beauty.” (The nefer element is also evident in the Egyptian name Nefertiti.)
The Egyptian city is long gone, but a city in Tennessee was named Memphis in the 1820s.
Memphis is currently the 404th most popular boy name in the nation.
The Irish surname Murphy was derived from a medieval Irish given name comprised of the elements muir, meaning “sea,” and cath, meaning “battle.”
Murphy is currently the 716th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It’s also sitting just outside the top 1,000 for boys.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Murphie, Murphee, or Murphey.
The name Ophelia was derived from the ancient Greek word opheleia, meaning “aid, help, succor.”
It’s not a name found in Greek myth, but William Shakespeare used it for a character in his play Hamlet around the year 1600. And, much more recently, the Lumineers featured the name in their 2016 song “Ophelia.”
Ophelia is currently the 321st most popular girl name in the nation.
The French form of the name is Ophélie.
The etymology of the Greek name Persephone (pronounced per-SEH-fuh-nee) isn’t known for certain, but one modern theory suggests that it means “she who threshes ears of corn.”
In Greek myth, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter (the goddess of agriculture) and Zeus.
Persephone is currently the 778th most popular girl name in the U.S. (It entered the top 1,000 for the first time in 2019.)
The name is also sometimes spelled Persephonie or Persephony.
Philip + Phillip
The name Philip was derived from a pair of ancient Greek words: philos, meaning “beloved, loving,” and hippos, meaning “horse” — hence, “lover of horses.”
Phillip-with-two-L’s is a common variant of Philip.
Philip is currently the 451th most popular boy name in the nation, and Phillip (two L’s) ranks 523rd.
Other forms of the name include Philipp (German) and Philippe (French). Feminine forms include Philippa and Phillipa.
The name Phoebe was derived from the ancient Greek word phoibos, meaning “pure, bright, radiant.”
Many characters in Greek myth had this name, including a Titaness who was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia. This particular Phoebe was the grandmother of the sun god Apollo and the moon goddess Artemis.
Phoebe is currently the 247th most popular girl name in the U.S.
The spelling Phebe (used in certain translations of the Bible) was more prevalent in previous generations. Among the babies born in the city of Providence in 1868, for instance, we find four girls named Phebe, but none named Phoebe.
The name Phoenix was derived from the ancient Greek word phoinix, meaning “crimson” or “purple.”
In Greek and Egyptian myth, the phoenix was a bird that periodically self-immolated and then rose again from its own ashes.
In fact, the capital of Arizona was named “Phoenix” because early settlers, in the 1860s, noticed archaeological evidence of the previous Native American inhabitants and recognized that “the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization.”
Which of the PH names above to do you like most? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you’d like to see popularity graphs for any of the more common names in this post, just check below for the long list of tags. Each tag is a name, so find the name you’re interested in and click through. The graph will take a moment to load — it’s grabbing a lot of data — but it will allow you to see at a glance the name’s current and historical U.S. usage.
…but I do have to wonder about the influence of the slang term “bae” here.
After all, 2012 was the year the Bae Caught Me Slippin’ meme took off. And 2014 was the year “bae” went mainstream with a Pharrell song (“Come Get It Bae”) and several high-profile articles (in TIME, Esquire, and The Atlantic).
What do you think — is Bae simply a variant of Bay, or could it be a baby name inspired by internet slang (à la Ily)? Or is it a bit of both?
I’m particularly surprised that Lupita Nyong’o has had no effect on the usage of her name so far.
P.S. Some of the names from the 2013 game that have started/continued to do well: Cressida (re-entered list in 2014), Finnick, Llewyn (the top debut name of 2014), Neymar, Nori, Primrose, Sochi (debuted in 2014), Tessanne (debuted in 2014) and Zoella.