How popular is the baby name Shirley 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 Shirley.

The graph will take a few moments to load. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take 9 months!) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.

Popularity of the Baby Name Shirley

Posts that Mention the Name Shirley

Why didn’t Cloris Leachman change her name?

Actress Cloris Leachman (1926-2021)
Cloris Leachman

While other mid-20th-century actors and actresses were swapping out their birth names for catchy stage names (like Rory Calhoun, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Piper Laurie, Tab Hunter, and Rock Hudson), Cloris Leachman decided to go against the grain and stick with her legal name (which she’d inherited from her mother).

But she did consider changing her name for a time…thanks largely to Tallulah Bankhead.

In 1949, Cloris was in her early 20s and appearing on stage in Come Back, Little Sheba. Bankhead came to see the production, and, afterwards, when the two women met for the first time, Tallulah implored Cloris to change her name.

On a different occasion, Bankhead brought the topic up again:

“Cloris Leachman,” she crowed, “too long. Too many syllables. Too unknown. Clorox Bleachman would be better. You can’t even fit it on the marquee in front of a theater.”

During that second interaction, Cloris came up with the potential stage name “April Claiborne” by combining her birth month with her youngest sister’s first name. (“Claiborne” was their paternal grandmother’s maiden name.)

She still wasn’t sure about making the change, though.

When I went to the Actors Studio the next day, I talked about Madame Bankhead’s rant. They all agreed with her. “You have to change your name! You have to!,” they cried. It was a unanimous opinion. So right there we got out the New York phone book. It opened it up to the Ls, closed my eyes, and the name under my finger was Leavitt. It was miraculous. That translated to “Leave it!” This is no accident, I thought. The god of monikers is talking, and he says leave it. Okay, I’ll leave it.

When I got to Hollywood, the subject came up again. People said I should not only change my name, I should have my nose shortened. I emphatically didn’t want to do either, and that’s why I’m still Cloris Leachman with a big nose.

Cloris Leachman’s name may not have been as trendy-sounding as “Lana Turner” or “Piper Laurie,” but it certainly wasn’t an impediment to her career, which lasted more than seven decades. She appeared in nearly 100 films (like The Last Picture Show), dozens of TV movies (such as A Girl Named Sooner), and well over 100 TV shows (including Johnny Staccato, Rawhide, Outlaws, Shirley Temple’s Storybook, The Loretta Young Show, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, Route 66, Wagon Train, Stoney Burke, 77 Sunset Strip, A Man Called Shenandoah, The Big Valley, Mannix, and The Virginian).

Her first name, a variant spelling of the ancient Greek name Chloris (meaning “greenish-yellow, pale green”), is closely related to the name Chloe (meaning “green shoot”).

What are your thoughts on the name Cloris?


How did “Room 222” influence baby names?

The Emmy Award-winning television series Room 222 (1969-1974) was set at a racially diverse high school in Los Angeles. Ahead of its time in terms of realism and authenticity, the show frequently dealt with topical issues such as civil rights, women’s rights, drug use, and the Vietnam War.

We don’t hear much about Room 222 these days, but the series did leave a mark on baby names. Here are three Room 222-associated debuts I’ve spotted so far:


Actor Keone Young in the TV show "Room 222" (1969-1974).
Keone Young in “Room 222

The show’s second episode, “Naked Came We Into the World” (Sept. 1969), featured a character named Howie Wong played by actor Keone (pronounced kee-oh-nee) Young. The same year, the name Keone started appearing in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1971: 5 baby boys named Keone
    • all 5 born in Hawaii
  • 1970: 6 baby boys named Keone
  • 1969: 6 baby boys named Keone [debut]
    • 5 born in Hawaii
  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted

Keone Young is a native of Hawaii, and the Hawaiian name Keone means “the sand” or, by extension, “the homeland.”


Actor Ta-Tanisha in the TV show "Room 222" (1969-1974).
Ta-Tanisha in “Room 222

Actress Ta-Tanisha, who played the character Pam Simpson, was featured in dozens of episodes from 1969 to 1972. (She was also on other TV shows — Mod Squad, Mission Impossible, The Partridge Family, Good Times, etc. — during the same time period.) The name Tatanisha started appearing in the data in 1970:

  • 1972: 111 baby girls named Tatanisha [peak usage]
  • 1971: 57 baby girls named Tatanisha
  • 1970: 9 baby girls named Tatanisha [debut]
  • 1969: unlisted
  • 1968: unlisted

Usage of the similar name Tanisha also rose drastically during this time:

  • 1972: 629 baby girls named Tanisha [rank: 352nd]
  • 1971: 374 baby girls named Tanisha [rank: 506th]
  • 1970: 129 baby girls named Tanisha [rank: 978th]
  • 1969: 27 baby girls named Tanisha
  • 1968: 12 baby girls named Tanisha

Ta-Tanisha was born Shirley Cummings; her stage name is based on the Swahili word tatanisha, meaning “perplexing,” “confusing.” (The translation sometimes offered to the press was “the puzzling one.”)


Actor Heshimu in the TV show "Room 222" (1969-1974).
Heshimu in “Room 222

Actor Heshimu, who played the character Jason Allen, was featured in ninety episodes from 1969 to 1974. The name Heshimu started appearing in the data in 1971:

  • 1973: 9 baby boys named Heshimu
  • 1972: 15 baby boys named Heshimu
  • 1971: 6 baby boys named Heshimu [debut]
  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: unlisted

Heshimu’s name is based on the Swahili word heshimu, meaning “respect.”

…Which of these three names do you like best?


P.S. I couldn’t resist scheduling this post for 2/2/2022. ;)

Baby name story: Skye

In March of 2006, a Scottish woman named Shirley Anne Hodge went into labor amid wintry weather that turned the 40-minute drive to Ayrshire Central Hospital into a trek that “took four hours and involved three vehicles, including a helicopter.” (The other two vehicles were an ambulance and a police jeep, both of which got stuck in snow.)

After the airlift, she gave birth to a baby girl at the hospital.

The baby’s name? Skye.

My hunch is that the name was a nod to the helicopter ride, though my source didn’t state that explicitly.

(Another potential influence might be Scotland’s Isle of Skye.)

Source: “Pregnant woman in airlift drama.” BBC 12 Mar. 2006.

Where did the baby name Shirelle come from in 1961?

shirelles, music, girl group, 1960s
The Shirelles

The name Shirelle debuted impressively in the U.S. baby name data 1961:

  • 1963: 25 baby girls named Shirelle
  • 1962: 19 baby girls named Shirelle
  • 1961: 21 baby girls named Shirelle [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

The variant spelling Shirell debuted that year as well.

What influenced both of these names?

The Shirelles, a New Jersey-based girl-group made up teenagers named Shirley, Doris, Addie, and Beverly.

Signed in the late ’50s, the foursome became famous in the early ’60s with a string of hits including “Tonight’s the Night,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in early 1961), and “Mama Said.”

The group’s name was created by combining the “Shir-” of Shirley (the primary lead singer) with a trendy “-elle” ending. The result was reminiscent of the name of the New York fivesome The Chantels.

Which name do you like better, Shirelle or Chantel?