Which single-syllable names were the most popular in 2021?
I scanned the 2021 rankings for one-syllable names and found these:
Grace (ranked 34th overall)
(A little lower down were Sage, Ruth, and Blake.)
James (ranked 5th overall)
(A little lower down were George, Rhett, and Jude.)
These lists include the same names that appeared on the 2020 lists, but in both cases the names are in a slightly different order.
And, of course, here’s the usual disclaimer: I left out the borderline boy names (Owen, Wyatt, Charles, Miles/Myles, Ryan, Ian, Rowan, Gael) that can be pronounced with either one or two syllables, depending upon the accent of the speaker. Notably, all nine of these names ranked higher than both Chase and Cole.
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!
A quick look at the top 5 girl names and boy names in Providence in 1868:
Top baby girl names
Top 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
Mary, 149 baby girls
Clara & Martha, 11 each (tie)
Hannah & Lucy, 10 each (tie)
Bridget, Grace, Jennie, Julia & Maria, 9 each (5-way tie)
Annie, Florence, Jane, Minnie & Susan, 8 each (5-way tie)
Agnes, Caroline, Cora, Ella & Harriet, 7 each (5-way tie)
Back when sea voyages were the only way to reach distant lands, many babies ended up being born aboard ships. And many of these ship-born babies were given names that reflected the circumstances of their birth. A good portion of them, for instance, were named after the ships upon which they were born.
I’ve gathered hundreds of these ship-inspired baby names over the years, and I think it’s finally time to post what I’ve found…
Emma Abergeldie Walsh, born in 1884
Eva Abernyte Congdon, born in 1875
Herbert Bealie Abington Tait, born in 1884
Abyssinia Louise Juhansen, born in 1870
Abyssinia Elfkin, born in 1872
Louise Abyssinia Bellanger, born in 1874
John Achilles Denchey, born in 1871
U. Actoea Jones, born in 1868
John Adriatic Gateley Collins, born in 1879
Adriatic O’Loghlin Gould, born in 1880
Agnes Adriatic Cook, born in 1880
Frederick Agamemnon Dingly, born in 1876
Mary Alaska Magee, born in 1884
Gertrude Alcester Dart, born in 1884
Mary Duncan Alcinosa Greenwood, born in 1887
Aldergrove Andrew Fullarton Feathers, born in 1875
Ethel Aldergrove Winning, born in 1883
Rosalia Aleppo Rosenthal, born in 1866
Aleppo Atalanta Boardsen, born in 1883
Caroline Alexandrina Phillips, born in 1873
Mary Alexandrina Hedges, born in 1874
Alexandrina Horsnell, born in 1874
Louis Algeria Noizet, born in 1872
Edward Aliquin Poley, born in 1860
Joseph Allanshaw Moss, born in 1883
Frederick Allanshaw Shields, born in 1883
Almora May Leech, born in 1856
Emily Almora Hamper, born in 1883
Joseph Henry Almora Alford, born in 1883
Mary Almora Clothier, born in 1887
Almora Merten, born in 1887
William Alnwick Bull, born in 1861
Mary Alpheta Stone, born in 1877
Alsatia Campbell Carnalian, born in 1877
Eliza Altmore Harris, born in 1883
Alumbagh Eleanor Bright, born in 1868
Sarah Louise Alumbagh Hancock, born in 1868
Alvington Oak Silvester, born in 1879
William Amoor Walker, born in 1864
Anchoria Adelaide Williams, born in 1890
Mary Angerona Harwood, born in 1875
Clara Anglesey Oakley, born in 1859
Emma Jane Anglesey Conbrough, born in 1874
James Craig Anglia Watt, born in 1871
Emma Anglia Hewitt, born in 1873
Margaret Anglia Smith Mulholland, born in 1874
Mary Saxon Copeland, born in 1860
Lilias Antiope Carrick, born in 1884
Arthur Aorangi Burrow, born in 1884
Aorangi Millar, born in 1885
Ellen Corbet Aorangi Browne, born in 1891
Aorangi Townsend, born in 1934
Isabella Arabic East, born in 1887
Arcadia Herbert, born in 1877
Archer Grainger Bryans, born in 1883
Beatrice Archer Shambers, born in 1885
Sigri Argo Larsen, born in 1877
Aricania Pereg, born in 1883
Helen Arizona Erickson, born in 1881
Sarah Arizona Duggan, born in 1881
Ole Arizona Melting, born in 1881
Agnes Arizona Kane, born in 1884
Elenor Arizona Poulteny, born in 1884
Elizabeth Arizona Harvey, born in 1887
Marie Arizona Malm, born in 1887
Arundal Sheal Davis, born in 1870
Leopold Arundel Hofmeyer, born in 1876
George Arundel Baylis, born in 1876
Charles Arundel Holden, born in 1876
Herbert John Arvon Hughes, born in 1881
James Alfred George Henry Ashmore Curtis, born in 1882
He in turn gave his name to Medford, Minnesota, in the 1850s. His father, Englishman William K. Colling, was an early Minnesota settler who “said that he had a son who was born on board the ship Medford, and was named Medford, in honor of the ship, and proposed that the town should be named Medford in honor of the boy.”
The United Drug Company — a cooperative of dozens of independently-owned drugstores — was founded by businessman Louis K. Liggett in Boston in 1902.
The affiliated drug stores soon began selling medicines and other products under the brand name Rexall. (Eventually, “Rexall” became the name of thousands of drug stores across the U.S. and Canada.)
Rexall products included perfumed toiletries — talcum power, complexion powder, cold cream, vanishing cream, toilet soap, toilet water, etc. — plus the perfumes themselves. And, interestingly, some of the fragrance names had a small influence on U.S. baby names.
I don’t know precisely when each fragrance was put on the market, so I’ll just list them alphabetically…
This is a fun one to start with because the fragrance name actually refers to a name.
United Drug’s Cara Nome fragrance was introduced around 1918 and saw its best sales in the 1920s. The Italian name, which translates to “dearest name,” was apparently inspired by an aria called “Caro nome che il mio cor” from the Verdi opera Rigoletto. (In case you’re wondering, the “caro nome” being referred to in the song is Gualtier.)
I found several people in the records named Cara Nome or Caranome:
Betty Cara Nome Patesel, b. 1923 in Indiana
Cara Nome Schemun, b. circa 1926 in North Dakota
Cara Nome Grable, b. 1929 in Michigan
Caranome Haag, b. circa 1931 in Wisconsin
Caranome Vollman, b. circa 1932 in Nebraska
Caranome Stiffey, b. circa 1933 in Pennsylvania
Caranome Fox, b. circa 1936 in Oklahoma
Caranome Cody, b. 1936 in Tennessee
In Italian, nome is pronounced noh-may (2 syllables). I don’t know how any of the people above pronounced their names, though.
Bouquet Jeanice, introduced around 1913, was one of United Drug’s earliest fragrances. It wasn’t on the market under the name “Bouquet Jeanice” very long, though, because the name was changed to “Bouquet Laurèce” (see below) in late 1915 due to a trademark dispute.
Still, the baby name Jeanice managed to debut in the U.S. baby name data during that short span of time, in 1915:
1917: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1916: 11 baby girls named Jeanice
1915: 7 baby girls named Jeanice [debut]
A lot of Jean-names had appeared in the data up to this point, but none of them ended with an “-s” sound.
United Drug introduced Jonteel products in late 1917 and marketed them heavily with full-page color advertisements in major women’s magazines (like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal).
French names (or French sounding names) were all the rage for cosmetics at the time, and the name Jonteel — presumably based on the French word gentil, meaning “kind, courteous” — fit the trendy perfectly. (In fact, the name that was originally proposed “by a copywriter working for United Drug’s advertising manager” was Caresse-Jonteel, but the “Caresse” part was ultimately dropped.)
I found several people in the records with the name Jonteel:
The name Juneve also appeared a single time in the U.S. baby name data, the year after the scent was introduced:
1924: 5 baby girls named Juneve [debut]
Bouquet Laurèce was the new name for Bouquet Jeanice (see above). Advertisements for Bouquet Laurèce started appearing in the papers in late 1915, but I could find no mention of the scent after 1917, so apparently it was only on the market for a couple of years. But that was enough for the name Laurece to become a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:
1917: 6 baby girls named Laurece [debut]
United Drug introduced a scent called Shari in early 1926 with ads featuring copy like this:
Shari is something new in toilet goods. Shari appeals to most every woman and tends to add to personal loveliness. The distinctive fragrance of Shari perfume incorporated in the following beauty aids (now on sale at all our stores) will be the cause of their use on thousands of dressing tables during 1926.
Shari products proved popular, and the scent was on the market all the way until the early 1940s.
The baby name Shari debuted in the SSA data in 1927 and — like the Shari products themselves — gained momentum over the years that followed.
1929: 10 baby girls named Shari
1928: 8 baby girls named Shari
1927: 9 baby girls named Shari [debut]
(Similar names like Sharon and Sherry were also slowly picking up steam in the 1920s. All three names would go on to see peak usage in the middle decades of the 20th century.)
United Drug’s Violet Dulce fragrance was introduced in the early 1910s — even earlier than Bouquet Jeanice. The name Violet was already relatively popular for newborns at that time, but I did find a single example of a newborn with the first-middle combo “Violet Dulce”:
Violet Dulce Starr, b. 1913 in Washington state
Finally, I’ll mention that the baby name Rexall has popped up in the data a handful of times (1910s-1950s), though the usage doesn’t seem to follow any patterns.
How was the word coined? Here’s the story:
[Liggett] asked Walter Jones Willson, his office boy and an amateur linguist, to invent the brand name. It had to be short, distinctive, original, and easy to pronounce; it also had to look good in type and meet the legal requirements for a trademark. Willson submitted a long list of coined words, including “Rexal,” to Liggett, who added another “l.” Since “rex” was the Latin word for king, the new name supposedly meant “king of all.” (According to another explanation, “Rexall” stood for “RX for all.”)
Before settling upon “Rexall,” Liggett had considered using “Saxona” as the name of the brand.
Do you like any of the perfume names above? Would you give any of them to a modern-day baby?
Funderburg, Anne Cooper. Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 2002.
And here are the late bloomers — names that were part of the 2019 game, but didn’t rise/debut until 2020.
Donna increased by 20%.
Nipsey debuted with 7 baby boys.
Luce returned to the data with 7 baby girls.
Maleficent returned to the data with 5 baby girls.
Miren returned to the data with 5 baby girls.
Finally, regarding our theories about how Covid might have affected 2020’s names…I didn’t notice anything definitive. For instance, both Gheba and Skizzo mentioned “prestige” names (e.g., King, Legend, Major, Messiah and Royal). What I found was that some went up, some went down. Same with the modern virtue names (e.g., Courage, Honor, Brave, Bravery, Freedom).
What are your thoughts on these results? Which name surprised you the most?
[Disclaimer: Some of the names above were already moving in the direction indicated. Others were influenced by more than a single pop culture person/event. In all cases, I leave it up to you to judge the degree/nature of pop culture influence.]