How popular is the baby name Rebecca 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 Rebecca.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Rebecca


Posts that Mention the Name Rebecca

Name Quotes #105: Barra, Dhani, Hellion

quotation marks

From comedian Ali Wong’s 2016 stand-up special Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (vid):

I’m just waiting for the right moment to, like, become a housewife, financially, you know? I want my husband to get us to, like, a certain point financially. I wanna get to the point as a couple where I can comfortably afford sliced mango. Know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about that Whole Foods mango. That $10-a-box Whole Foods mango that was sliced by white people. That’s the kind of income bracket I’m striving for. That’s when you know you’ve made it, when you’re eating mango that was sliced by a dude named Noah. I want Noah mango, Rebecca kiwi, Danielle pineapple.

From an article about how Storm Barra (which hit the UK and Ireland in December of 2021) came to be named after BBC Northern Ireland weatherman Barra Best:

‘What happened was the head of Irish weather service Met Eireann called me in August and asked me where my name was from and I thought it was a bit strange, I didn’t know why she was asking,’ [Barra Best] told the BBC’s Evening Extra programme.

‘It comes from the south-west of Ireland from Finbarr, St Finbarr in Co Cork and it’s derived from that.’

He continued: ‘She said oh that’s fine, that’s fine. I asked why did you want to know and she said oh you’ll find out in about a month.

‘Of course the email came out and the list of names were announced and she had decided to put my name in there.’

On the origin of the name of George Harrison’s son, Dhani, from The Beatles Encyclopedia (2014) by Kenneth Womack:

Born on August 1, 1978, in Windsor, England, Dhani Harrison is the only son of Harrison and his second wife Olivia Trinidad Arias. His unusual name is a composite of the sixth and seventh notes of the Indian music scale — “dha” and “ni.”

From a 2012 interview with actor Crispin Glover, who goes by his full name, Crispin Hellion Glover, as a filmmaker:

SP: When did you begin using ‘Hellion’ as part of your name? Why the addition?

CHG: I began using “Hellion” as my middle name at birth. I was born in New York. Not too long before I was born, my parents went to see an off-Broadway production of Henry V, by Shakespeare and liked the production very much, and liked the name [Crispin, from the St. Crispin’s Day Speech] so [they] gave it to me. My father’s middle name is Herbert. He never liked his middle name Herbert. So as a young struggling actor in New York he would say to himself, “I am Bruce H. Glover, Bruce Hellion Glover. I am a hellion, a troublemaker.” And that would make him feel good. He told my mother this was his real middle name. When they were married she saw him writing on the marriage certificate Bruce Herbert Glover and she thought, “Who am I marrying?” They gave Hellion to me as my real middle name. I had always written and drawn as a child and I would always sign my drawing and writing with my whole name Crispin Hellion Glover. When I started acting professionally at 13, which was something I had decided on my own I could do as a profession at a relatively young age, it became apparent that I had to choose a professional acting name for SAG. I thought my whole name was too long for acting and just used my first and last name. When I started publishing my books I simply continued using the name I had always used for writing and drawing and had put in my books. This is also why I use my whole name for my own films.

On the origin of Harry S. Truman’s given names, from the book Truman (1992) by David McCullough:

In a quandary over a middle name, [parents] Mattie and John were undecided whether to honor her father or his. In the end they compromised with the letter S. It could be taken to stand for Solomon or Shipp, but actually stood for nothing, a practice not unknown among the Scotch-Irish, even for first names. The baby’s first name was Harry, after his Uncle Harrison.

(Ulysses S. Grant likewise had a single-letter middle.)

From an article about the increasing popularity of Maori baby names in New Zealand, published in The Guardian (found via Clare’s tweet):

Damaris Coulter of Ngati Kahu descent and Dale Dice of Ngati Hine, Te Aupouri and Nga Puhi [descent] […] [gave] their one-year-old daughter Hinekorako just one name, as was usual pre-colonisation.

Hinekorako’s name came to Dice as he was navigating a waka, a large traditional Maori sailing vessel, from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands back to Aotearoa. “It was coming up to midnight. We came into a little storm. The temperature had dropped … there was thunder … Once we got through the storm we all turned around and just behind us there was this massive white rainbow … It was a lunar rainbow.”

“I told our navigator about it and he goes’ “oh yeah, that’s a tohu (sign), that’s Hinekorako’.” In myth, Hinekorako is also a taniwha (a water spirit), who lives between the spirit and living worlds. Dice wrote the name in his diary and decided that night, were he to ever have a daughter, she would be named Hinekorako.

(According to Encyclopedia Mythica, Hine-korako is “the personification of the lunar bow or halo.”)

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.

Baby Name Story: Anne

Queen Anne (reigned 1702-1714)
Queen Anne

British nobleman John Poulett, 1st Earl Poulett, and his wife Bridget had eight children in the early 1700s:

  1. Bridget (born in 1702)
  2. Catherine (b. 1706)
  3. John (b. 1708)
  4. Peregrine (b. 1708)
  5. Vere (b. 1710)
  6. Anne (b. 1711)
  7. Susannah (b. 1714)
  8. Rebecca (b. 1716)

Looks like five girls and three boys, right?

Except…Anne was a boy. (In fact, he was a member of the all-male House of Commons during the last sixteen years of his life.)

So, why did Anne have a feminine first name?

Because Queen Anne, who reigned from 1702 to 1714, just happened to be his baptismal sponsor.

(In contrast, American author Anne Rice was born with the name Howard…)

Sources: Anne Poulett – Wikipedia, John Poulett, 1st Earl Poulett – Wikipedia, John Poulett – Find A Grave

How did “The Real World” influence baby names?

“This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a loft…and have their lives taped…”

Several months ago, the cast of the inaugural season of MTV’s The Real World held a 6-day reunion in the very same NYC loft they shared back in 1992. The reunion — which was filmed, of course — is now airing as a series on the Paramount+ platform. (Here’s the trailer.)

When I was a teenager, I loved watching The Real World. (And I appreciated that the names of the cast members were always prominently displayed in the opening credits!) So I think now would be a great time to go back and see if any Real World cast member names had an influence on U.S. baby names.

First, let’s start with a comprehensive list of all the cast member names from each of RW‘s 33 (!) seasons…

  1. The Real World: New York (1992): Andre, Becky, Eric, Heather, Julie, Kevin, Norman
  2. The Real World: California (1993): Aaron, Beth (x2), David, Dominic, Glen, Irene, Jon, Tami
  3. The Real World: San Francisco (1994): Cory, Jo, Judd, Mohammed, Pam, Pedro, Puck, Rachel
  4. The Real World: London (1995): Jacinda, Jay, Kat, Lars, Mike, Neil, Sharon
  5. The Real World: Miami (1996): Cynthia, Dan, Flora, Joe, Melissa, Mike, Sarah
  6. The Real World: Boston (1997): Elka, Genesis, Jason, Kameelah, Montana, Sean, Syrus
  7. The Real World: Seattle (1998): David, Irene, Janet, Lindsay, Nathan, Rebecca, Stephen
  8. The Real World: Hawaii (1999): Amaya, Colin, Justin, Kaia, Matt, Ruthie, Teck
  9. The Real World: New Orleans (2000): Danny, David, Jamie, Julie, Kelley, Matt, Melissa
  10. The Real World: Back to New York (2001): Coral, Kevin, Lori, Malik, Mike, Nicole, Rachel
  11. The Real World: Chicago (2002): Aneesa, Cara, Chris, Keri, Kyle, Theo, Tonya
  12. The Real World: Las Vegas (2002-2003): Alton, Arissa, Brynn, Frank, Irulan, Steven, Trishelle
  13. The Real World: Paris (2003): Ace, Adam, Chris, Christina, Leah, Mallory, Simon
  14. The Real World: San Diego (2004): Brad, Cameran, Charlie, Frankie, Jacquese, Jamie, Randy, Robin
  15. The Real World: Philadelphia (2004-2005): Karamo, Landon, Melanie, M.J., Sarah, Shavonda, Willie
  16. The Real World: Austin (2005): Danny, Johanna, Lacey, Melinda, Nehemiah, Rachel, Wes
  17. The Real World: Key West (2006): Janelle, John, Jose, Paula, Svetlana, Tyler, Zach
  18. The Real World: Denver (2006-2007): Alex, Brooke, Colie, Davis, Jenn, Stephen, Tyrie
  19. The Real World: Sydney (2007-2008): Ashli, Cohutta, Dunbar, Isaac, KellyAnne, Parisa, Shauvon, Trisha
  20. The Real World: Hollywood (2008): Brianna, Brittini, Dave, Greg, Joey, Kimberly, Nick, Sarah, Will
  21. The Real World: Brooklyn (2009): Baya, Chet, Devyn, J.D., Katelynn, Ryan, Sarah, Scott
  22. The Real World: Cancun (2009): Ayiiia, Bronne, CJ, Derek, Emilee, Jasmine, Joey, Jonna
  23. The Real World: D.C. (2009-2010): Andrew, Ashley, Callie, Emily, Erika, Josh, Mike, Ty
  24. The Real World: New Orleans (2010): Ashlee, Eric, Jemmye, McKenzie, Preston, Ryan (x2), Sahar
  25. The Real World: Las Vegas (2011): Adam, Dustin, Heather (x2), Leroy, Michael, Nany, Naomi
  26. The Real World: San Diego (2011): Alexandra, Ashley, Frank, Nate, Priscilla, Sam, Zach
  27. The Real World: St. Thomas (2012): Brandon (x2), LaToya, Laura, Marie, Robb, Trey
  28. The Real World: Portland (2013): Anastasia, Averey, Jessica, Johnny, Joi, Jordan, Marlon, Nia
  29. Real World: Ex-Plosion (2014): Arielle, Ashley (x2), Brian, Cory, Hailey, Jamie, Jay, Jenna, Jenny, Lauren, Thomas
  30. Real World: Skeletons (2014-2015): Bruno, Jason, Madison, Nicole, Sylvia, Tony, Violetta
  31. Real World: Go Big or Go Home (2016): CeeJai, Chris, Dean, Dione, Dylan, Jenna, Kailah, Sabrina
  32. Real World Seattle: Bad Blood (2016-2017): Anika, Anna, Jennifer, Jordan, Kassius, Katrina, Kimberly, Mike, Orlana, Peter, Robbie, Theo, Tyara, Will
  33. The Real World: Atlanta (2019): Arely, Clint, Dondre, Justin, Meagan, Tovah, Yasmin

The names in boldface line up with a discernible increase in baby name usage. (Other Real World names may have affected baby names as well, but it can be hard to tell when, say, a name is already common, or already on the rise.)

Here are details on all the boldfaced names, plus two more influential RW names (from seasons 6 and 18) that didn’t even belong to primary cast members.

  • The name Jacinda (from season 4; 1995) saw peak usage in 1996.
  • The name Flora (5; 1996) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Kameelah (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Syrus (6; 1997) saw increased usage in 1997.
  • The name Jason (6; 1997) was probably not affected, but the name of Jason’s girlfriend, Timber, saw increased usage in 1998.
  • The name Amaya (8; 1999) saw sharply increased usage in 1999 and 2000.
  • The name Kaia (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Ruthie (8; 1999) saw increased usage in 1999.
  • The name Aneesa (11; 2002) saw peak usage in 2002.
  • The name Arissa (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2003.
  • The name Brynn (12; 2002-3) saw sharply increased usage in 2003.
  • The name Irulan (12; 2002-3) debuted in the data in 2003.
    • It looks like she was named after the fictional character Princess Irulan from Frank Herbert’s Dune books…?
  • The name Trishelle (12; 2002-3) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Mallory (13; 2003) saw increased usage in 2003 and 2004.
  • The name Cameran (14; 2004) saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Jacquese (14; 2004) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2004.
  • The name Johanna (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005.
  • The name Nehemiah (16; 2005) saw increased usage in 2005 and 2006.
  • The name Janelle (17; 2006) saw increased usage in 2006.
  • The name Svetlana (17; 2006) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Colie (18; 2006-7) both returned to the data and saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name Tyrie (18; 2006-7) saw peak usage in 2007.
  • The name of Tyrie’s girlfriend, Jazalle, debuted in 2007 and is a one-hit wonder so far.
  • The name Kellyanne (19; 2007-8) returned to the data in 2008.
  • The name Baya (21; 2009) saw sharply increased usage in 2009. In fact, Baya was one of the fastest-rising baby names of 2009.
  • The name Averey (28; 2013) saw peak usage in 2013.
  • The name Kassius (32; 2016-17) saw increased usage in 2017.

Of all the names above, which one(s) do you like most?

And, for all the Real World fans out there: which season(s) do you like most? :)

Source: The Real World (TV series) – Wikipedia

Where did the baby name Pollyanna come from?

pollyanna, book, baby name, 1910s

Has anyone ever called you a “Pollyanna”? That person may have meant it pejoratively, but take it as a compliment! Because, for over a century now, the name has been used as a vocabulary word meaning, “an excessively cheerful or optimistic person.”

So how did this compound name come to have that specific meaning?

It all started with a popular book from the 1910s.

Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor H. Porter was the first in a series of books about Pollyanna Whittier, one of the famous optimistic orphans of literature. (Think Anne of Green Gables, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, etc.) Pollyanna Whittier, though, “a girl who preaches the gospel of Gladness,” was the most optimistic of them all:

After her father’s death, the orphan moves to Beldingsville, Vt. In the next hundred pages, this juvenile social worker persuades the whole town to play the Glad Game. Cranky Mr. Pendleton, the bedridden Mrs. Snow, the dispirited Reverend Ford, the forlorn Dr. Chilton, a loose woman contemplating divorce and (finally) her sclerotic aunt succumb to the power of positive thinking and begin to hunt for and find things to be glad about.

The original Pollyanna book was the 8th-bestselling book of 1913 and the 2nd-bestselling book of 1914. It was so successful that the author turned it into a series, starting with the sequel Pollyanna Grows Up (1915), which ranked 4th on the bestseller list in 1915.

As one critic explained in 1947, “The publication of the story in 1913 was only less influential than the World War. White Mountain cabins, Colorado teahouses, Texas babies, Indiana apartment houses, and a brand of milk were immediately named for the new character.”

The critic mentioned Texas specifically because a Texas baby named for the character (Pollyanna Houston, born in Waco) was in the news in 1915. But babies elsewhere got the name as well. Here’s the SSA data for the usage of Pollyanna during the 1910s:

  • 1919: 15 baby girls named Pollyanna
  • 1918: 13 baby girls named Pollyanna
  • 1917: 21 baby girls named Pollyanna
  • 1916: 20 baby girls named Pollyanna
  • 1915: 12 baby girls named Pollyanna
  • 1914: 6 baby girls named Pollyanna [debut]
  • 1913: unlisted
  • 1912: unlisted

And here’s the SSDI data for the same window of time:

  • 1919: 10 Pollyannas
  • 1918: 9 Pollyannas
  • 1917: 15 Pollyannas
  • 1916: 18 Pollyannas
  • 1915: 11 Pollyannas
  • 1914: 3 Pollyannas
  • 1913: 6 Pollyannas
  • 1912: 2 Pollyannas

The name saw an uptick in usage in 1920, when the book was turned in to a very successful silent film starring Mary Pickford.

Lobby card for the movie "Pollyanna" (1920).
“Pollyanna” (1920) lobby card

Better known to us, though, is Disney’s 1960 movie adaptation of Pollyanna (which explains the peak usage of the baby name Pollyanna during the 1960s)…but we’ll talk more about that (and the name Hayley!) tomorrow.

Until then, why not leave me a comment with your thoughts on the baby name Pollyanna? Do you think it’s usable these days?

Sources: