How popular is the baby name Ray 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 Ray.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Ray


Posts that Mention the Name Ray

Where did the baby name Wrayanne come from in 1948?

Bathing beauty Wrayanne Teeple in 1948.
Wrayanne Teeple

The baby name Wrayanne was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in the late 1940s:

  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted
  • 1948: 5 baby girls named Wrayanne [debut]
  • 1947: unlisted
  • 1946: unlisted

What was the source?

A girl in a bathing suit!

A photo of 17-year-old Wrayanne Teeple ran in newspapers nationwide in September of 1948. The caption revealed that Wrayanne would be one of about 50 girls posing for amateur photographers at the sixth annual Beach Girl-Amateur Photographer Contest in Long Beach, California. (She didn’t end up winning.)

Her name (sometimes misspelled Rayanne) was also mentioned in local California papers later that year, when she was selected as the “princess” of the Long Beach float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, which was held on the first day of 1949.

Wrayanne’s name was likely coined as a combination of her parents’ names, Ray and Georgiana.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Wrayanne?

Sources:

Where did the baby name Kanye come from?

Kanye West
Kanye West

The name Kanye debuted in the SSA’s baby name data in 2002. It saw peak usage just two years later, in 2004:

  • 2007: 53 boys named Kanye
  • 2006: 101 boys named Kanye
  • 2005: 202 boys (and 5 girls) named Kanye [rank: 893rd]
  • 2004: 509 boys (and 19 girls) named Kanye [rank: 486th]
  • 2003: 87 boys named Kanye
  • 2002: 5 boys named Kanye
  • 2001: unlisted

Also in 2004, the similar names Kanyae, Jakanye and Dekanye debuted, and the name Kanya popped up for the first time as a boy name.

The influence, of course, was rapper/producer Kanye (pronounced kahn-yay) West.

His successful debut album, The College Dropout (2004), is what boosted the name to peak usage. Even before that, though, he was becoming famous as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella Records. He worked on Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint, for instance.

How did he come to have the name “Kanye”? Here’s what his late mother Donda West wrote in her 2007 book Raising Kanye:

Only one thing was missing — the perfect name for the perfect baby. With all of the excitement around the pregnancy, we’d never picked out names. So my mother and I began thumbing through this book of African names I’d bought. I was very Afrocentric and so was Ray. We wanted our child to have a name that represented his culture and stood for something. We wanted him to have a strong name.

Mother and I found the name “Kanye” in this book. It was an Ethiopian name that meant “the only one.” I knew he would be our only child, set apart, and special.

My mother found his middle name in the Os. She chose “Omari,” which means “wise man.” Kanye Omari West. Mother pointed out that his initials would be K.O. She liked that it stood for knockout. We asked Ray about the names and he was cool with both Kanye for the first name and Omari as the middle name. So we made it official.

(I haven’t been able to confirm this particular origin/meaning of Kanye — or even figure out which name-book Donda was using — but I can tell you that there’s a village in Botswana called Kanye, which is interesting.)

What are your thoughts on the name Kanye? Would you considering using it?

Sources:

  • Kanye West – Wikipedia
  • West, Donda, Karen Hunter, Kanye West. Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar. New York: Pocket Books, 2007.

P.S. Yeezy has never been in the data, but Ye has.

Where did the baby name Narada come from?

narada, baby name, 1970s, 1980s, music

The Hindu name Narada first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in the late ’70s:

  • 1983: 19 baby boys named Narada
  • 1982: 18 baby boys named Narada
  • 1981: 29 baby boys named Narada
  • 1980: 48 baby boys and 7 baby girls named Narada
  • 1979: 19 baby boys named Narada [debut]
  • 1978: unlisted
  • 1977: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Musician and producer Narada Michael Walden, whose songs “I Don’t Want Nobody Else (To Dance with You)” and “I Shoulda Loved Ya” both reached the top 10 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1979.

He went on to have a successful career, being nominated for a total of eight Grammys and winning three (two in the ’80s, one in the ’90s). He produced music for people like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Gladys Knight, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, etc.

He was born Michael Walden in Michigan in 1952. In the early ’70s, he became a devotee of Indian guru Sri Chinmoy. Chinmoy gave him the spiritual name Narada, and Walden chose to use Narada as part of his stage name. (Carlos Santana, another follower, went by “Devadip Carlos Santana” for a time.)

In Hindu tradition, the character Narada is a sage and musician. He is portrayed “as both wise and mischievous, creating some of Vedic literature’s more humorous tales.”

Do you like Narada as a baby name? Would you use it?

Sources: Narada Michael Walden – Wikipedia, Narada Michael Walden Chart History – Billboard, Arunachal butterfly named after Narada

What popularized the baby name Lara?

Yesterday we looked at the baby name Laura, which saw a curious dip in usage from 1965 to 1967:

You know what was happening at the very same time? A drastic increase in the usage of the very similar name Lara, which suddenly jumped into the top 1,000 in 1966:

Here’s the data, side-by-side:

Laura usage (rank)Lara usage (rank)
196818,743 baby girls (11th)1,295 baby girls (227th)
196715,817 baby girls (15th)945 baby girls (277th)
196615,549 baby girls (19th)236 baby girls (618th)
196516,213 baby girls (18th)65 baby girls (1,376th)
196418,974 baby girls (14th)57 baby girls (1,512th)

So…what caused Lara to suddenly skyrocket (and thereby steal some of Laura’s thunder)?

Doctor Zhivago movie poster

The film Doctor Zhivago, which was released at the very end of 1965 and which, accounting for inflation, currently ranks as the eighth highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.

Doctor Zhivago, based on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, was a drama set in Russia during the early 1900s — primarily around the time of WWI and the Russian Revolution. The main character was married physician/poet Yuri Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif), who was having an affair with Larisa “Lara” Antipova (played by Julie Christie), the wife of a political activist.

But it was more than just the character — we can’t ignore the influence of the film’s leitmotif “Lara’s Theme.” After Doctor Zhivago came out, it was turned into a Grammy-winning pop song, “Somewhere, My Love,” that name-checked the character in the lyrics:

Lara, my own, think of me now and then
Godspeed, my love, till you are mine again

Renditions of both versions of the song ended up peaking on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” list during the summer of 1966: Ray Conniff’s “Somewhere, My Love” at #9, and Roger Williams’ “Lara’s Theme” at #65.

Ironically, the names Lara and Laura are not related. Laura comes from the Latin name Laurus, meaning “laurel,” whereas the Russian name Lara is a short form of the Greek myth name Larisa, which may have been inspired by the ancient city of Larisa.

The movie also seems to have given a boost to the name Yuri (which had debuted a few years earlier thanks to cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin). And it must be connected somehow to the 1980 debut of the one-hit wonder name Zhivago. (Perhaps it was airing on TV around that time?) “Zhivago” isn’t a Russian surname, incidentally — it’s a Church Slavonic word meaning “the living.”

Getting back to Lara…the name’s popularity declined after the 1960’s, but, so far, it has never dropped out of the top 1,000. (The uptick in usage in 2001-2002 corresponds to the release of the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which starred Angelina Jolie.)

Which name do you prefer, Lara or Laura? Why?

Sources: Doctor Zhivago (film) – Wikipedia, Doctor Zhivago – Orthodox England, Lara’s Theme – Wikipedia, Top 10 Highest-Grossing Films of All Time in the US, Ray Conniff – Billboard, Roger Williams – Billboard, Ray Conniff – Grammy.com, Laura – Behind the Name, Lara – Behind the Name

P.S. A woman named Lara after the Zhivago character was mentioned in Name Quotes #78.

What popularized the baby name Laura?

Laura movie poster, 1940s

In the early 1880s, Laura was a top-20 name in the United States. From the mid-1880s onward, though, the name slowly sank in popularity. It even slipped out of the top 100 for a decade. But then, in 1945, Laura suddenly changed directions and started rising:

  • 1947: 5,051 baby girls named Laura [rank: 74th]
  • 1946: 4,478 baby girls named Laura [rank: 75th]
  • 1945: 3,589 baby girls named Laura [rank: 77th]
  • 1944: 2,243 baby girls named Laura [rank: 119th]
  • 1943: 2,391 baby girls named Laura [rank: 117th]

What happened in the mid-1940s to change the fate of Laura?

The one-two punch of the 1944 film noir Laura and — probably more importantly — the 1945 hit song “Laura,” which was created from the film’s theme song.

The movie starred Gene Tierney as the title character, Laura Hunt, who was believed to have been murdered for most of the film. The police detective looking into the murder, Mark McPherson (played by Dana Andrews), slowly became obsessed with Laura over the course of the investigation.

The film’s theme song, composed by David Raksin, lent “a haunted, nostalgic, regretful cast to everything it play[ed] under,” according to Roger Ebert. Here’s what it sounds like:

After the film was released, lyricist Johnny Mercer was asked to add words to the tune. His lyrics described Laura “through a series of elusive attributes: a face in the misty light, footsteps down the hall, a floating laugh, and as a woman on a passing train.”

Once there were words, various singers began recording and releasing their own versions of “Laura.” Five of these renditions reached top-10 status on the pop charts during 1945; the one sung by Woodrow “Woody” Herman (below) ended up selling more than a million copies.

The song has since become a jazz standard.

Fifteen years later, in the summer of 1960, the teenage tragedy song “Tell Laura I Love Her” by Ray Peterson reached #7 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. This second Laura-song gave the name an extra boost from 1959 to 1960.

And did you notice that intriguing dip in usage from 1965 to 1967? There’s a reason for that, too, but I’ll save the explanation for tomorrow’s post

Sources: Laura (1944) – TCM.com, Laura (1945) – Jazz Standards, Laura (1945 song) – Wikipedia, Laura movie review – Roger Ebert, Tell Laura I Love Her – Songfacts.com