How popular is the baby name Stephen 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 Stephen.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Stephen


Posts that Mention the Name Stephen

Name quotes #112: Isaiah, Matisse, Aelfcytel

double quotation mark

Welcome to October! Let’s kick off the month with some quotes…

From a 2008 Jezebel post about about celebrity baby names:

To try to find out if celebrity kids can outrun their ridiculous names, MSNBC turns to Peaches Geldof, the celebutante who, in 2006, claimed, “I hate ridiculous names, My weird name has haunted me all my life.” Apparently, Peaches has made peace with her wacky moniker over the past few years, recently telling a reporter “It haunted me in my youth, but now I like it. I always got teased about it at primary school, being named after a fruit. Now people find it appealing. I like my name. I think it’s sexy and unusual.”

From a recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal about rookie football player Isaiah Thomas:

Thomas, 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, was named after the Hall of Fame basketball player Isiah Thomas. The Detroit Pistons star was his father’s favorite player and his mother loved the name because of what it represents in the Bible.

His dad wanted Thomas to be a basketball player, and Thomas said he won two state championships at Memorial High School in Tulsa. But there was never any debate over which sport Thomas would play.

From the 2004 article “A Real Gem: Pop artist Ruby Mazur leads charmed life in LV” in the Las Vegas Sun:

Classic rock is pouring through Mazur’s spacious home, his 250-pound Newfoundland, Zeus, is circling the commotion and the artist’s 16-year-old twin sons, Cezanne and Miro, visiting from Vienna, are glancing over with a smile.

[…]

Now living in the golfing community of Rhodes Ranch, Mazur can sit back and scan his past and future. Two of his children — 18-year-old son Matisse and his daughter, actress and model Monet Mazur — are grown.

[Mazur, whose children are named after four famous artists — just like the Ninja Turtles, coincidentally — designed the cover art for thousands of albums during the 1970s.]

From a 2015 article about Anglo-Saxon personal names in History Today:

In the century before the Conquest, Scandinavian names had become so common in some areas that, not only had names such as Toki and Gyða been incorporated into the naming stock, but hybrid names had developed, creating truly Anglo-Scandinavian names, like Ælfcytel (combining Old English Ælf-, ‘elf’, and Old Norse -kettill, ‘cauldron’).

[This source also made an appearance in quotes #110.]

A name-change story (contributed by a Texas woman named Melanie) from a recent Washington Post article about changing babies’ names:

We named our second daughter Francisca. We called to tell my parents. My mother, who sounded disappointed, asked, “What was your second choice?” We told her Amelia. Mom told us that Amelia was her mother’s sister’s name. We said that was nice and moved on to calling other relatives. When we called my sister in law and told her we named our daughter Francisca, she said, “That’s funny, I had a dream you named the baby Amelia.” So right then the baby’s name was changed to Amelia.

Basketball star Wardell Stephen Curry II is typically addressed as Stephen (pronounced STEFF-in) or Steph (steff), but…

If you really, really know me, and you want to get under my skin a little bit, you go with Wardell. So there’s three options there. There’s Stephen, which is — I kind of know what the relationship is. If you go Wardell, that means we go way back.

Speaking of Steph Curry’s name…in 2013, the then-up-and-coming the Golden State player signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour instead of Nike in part because of a pair of name-related blunders:

The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on” […] “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

For more quotes about names, check out the name quotes category.

Where did the baby name Carrie Anne come from in 1968?

The Hollies single "Carrie Anne" (1967)
The Hollies single

The song “Carrie Anne” by the British band The Hollies came out in May of 1967. It had been written by band member Graham Nash about singer Marianne Faithfull, but Graham was too shy to use Marianne’s real name in the lyrics, so “Carrie Anne” was substituted. The song peaked at #9 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart a few months later, in August.

The same year, various versions of the name debuted in the U.S. baby name data. It wasn’t until the next year, though, that the spelling Carrie Anne finally showed up:

Name1966196719681969
Carrieann.20*2718
Kariann.171720
Carianne.11*89
Karianne.6*1917
Cariann.5*1316
Carriann.5*8.
Carrianne..10*5
Carrieanne..7*6
Totals:.6410991
*Debut

Here’s the band performing the song in 1969. (Graham Nash had moved on to Crosby, Stills & Nash by this point, so he’s not part of the performance.)

Similar names featuring “Kerry,” like Kerrianne, also saw higher usage in the late ’60s. Three of these Kerry-variants (Kerryanne, Kerianne, & Keriann) debuted in ’68.

One non-U.S baby who was named Carrie Anne in 1967 was Canadian actress Carrie-Anne Moss, who went on to star in The Matrix as Trinity — the character that popularized the baby name Trinity impressively during the early 2000s.

The song was also one of the factors behind the swift rise of the name Carrie during the 1970s:

  • 1972: 5422 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1971: 5976 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1970: 4976 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1969: 3887 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1968: 3978 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1967: 3196 baby girls named Carrie
  • 1966: 2475 baby girls named Carrie

“Carrie Anne” kicked things off, but the rise was later fueled by actress Caroline “Carrie” Snodgress of the film Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970), the Stephen King book Carrie (1974), and the book-based movie Carrie (1976) — which featured Piper Laurie and a young John Travolta.

The baby name Carrie saw peak usage in 1976 and 1977, reaching 28th place in the rankings both years.

Do you like the name Carrie? How about the combo Carrie Anne?

Sources: The Hollies, Carrie-Anne, Chart History | Billboard, Carrie Anne – Wikipedia, Who’s that girl? Meet the muses who inspired some of our most iconic pop songs – Daily Mail

Common Amish names: Jacob, Malinda, Benuel, Naomi

Amish man in a buggy

Which names are the most common among the Amish?

The simplest answer is “Biblical names,” but that’s not the full answer.

Because certain Biblical names are preferred over others, and Biblical names aren’t used exclusively.

Plus, the prevalence of a name could vary depending upon the specific Amish settlement you’re talking about.

I’ve gathered about 100 of the most common Amish names below. Before we get into specifics, though, here’s a bit of background on the Amish…

Who are the Amish?

The Amish are an Anabaptist group that intentionally maintain a degree of separation from the wider world. They wear plain clothing, eschew modern conveniences (like cars), and partake in traditional occupations such as farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, and (for women) homemaking.

The Anabaptist movement began in Europe in the 1520s, at the time of the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists were particularly known for the practice of adult baptism. They were also opposed to war, and they believed in the separation of church and state.

Considered radicals, the Anabaptists were widely persecuted.

In 1693, the Swiss branch of the Anabaptist movement (a.k.a., the Swiss Brethren) experienced a schism. Those who followed reformer Jacob Amman came to be known as the Amish, whereas those who did not came to be known as the Mennonites (after Dutchman Menno Simons, one of the original Anabaptist leaders).

In the early 1700s, many Amish (and Mennonites) immigrated to the New World — specifically to the Province of Pennsylvania, which had been founded upon the principle of religious freedom.

Today, over 367,000 Amish live in the U.S., and roughly two-thirds of them reside in three states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

Amish men and women.

Common Amish names

The most comprehensive source of Amish names I came across was also the oldest, so let’s go through all the sources chronologically.

In 1960, researcher Elmer L. Smith published data on the most common male and female names among the Amish of southeastern Pennsylvania from 1890 to 1956.

The 1,337 Amish males in the study shared a total of just 72 different first names. Over a quarter of the males had one of the top three names (John, Amos, or Jacob), and over 81% had one of the top 20 names.

The 1,356 Amish females in the study shared even fewer first names: only 55. Over a quarter of the females had one of the top three names (Mary, Sarah, or Annie), and over 88% had a top-20 name.

According to Smith’s research, these were the 20 most common names per gender (plus their frequency of usage):

Amish female namesAmish male names
1Mary, 10.0%John, 11.9%
2Sarah, 7.9%Amos, 7.3%
3Annie, 9.1%*Jacob, 6.5%
4Katie, 7.1%David, 6.4%
5Lizzie, 6.4%Samuel, 6.2%
6Rebecca, 6.1%Christian, 6.1%
7Fannie, 5.3%Daniel, 5.5%
8Barbara, 5.1%Benjamin, 3.8%
9Rachel, 5.1%Levi, 3.7%
10Lydia, 4.9%Aaron, 3.1%
11Emma, 3.8%Jonas, 3.0%
12Malinda, 3.5%Elam, 2.8%
13Susie, 3.2%Stephen, 2.8%
14Sadie, 2.5%Isaac, 2.5%
15Leah, 1.9%Henry, 2.4%
16Hannah, 1.5%Jonathan, 1.8%
17Naomi, 1.4%Eli, 1.7%
18Mattie, 1.3%Gideon, 1.6%
19Lavina, 1.1%Moses, 1.5%
20Arie, 1.1%Joseph, 1.1%
*Annie was ranked below Sarah in the research paper, but this seems to be a typo, given the percentages.

Smith also wrote the following:

Other given names for males may reflect the important place the martyred forefathers hold in the minds of the sect members. The given name Menno is frequently found; this honors Menno Simmons [sic] an early leader of the plain sects. Ammon is also quite common, and is traced to Jacob Amman for whom the Amish sect is named; otherwise given names are from the Bible.

(Menno, a form of the Dutch name Meine, can be traced back to the Old High German word magan, meaning “strength.” The occupational surname Amman(n), which was derived from the German word amtmann, originally referred to someone employed as an official or administrator.)

A couple of years after Smith’s study came out, Dr. William Schreiber (a professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio) published a book about the Amish of east-central Ohio. In one paragraph, he mentioned some of the names he’d encountered:

One learns here that the good old biblical names are still common with the Amish but are in competition with modern or more euphonious ones. The names of the children of large families are often a study in contrasts. In one family there are, for example, Benjamin, Samuel, Isaac, Stephen, John, Israel, Christ, Barbara, Mary, Hannah, Annie, Mattie, and Lizzie. Another family has chosen these names for its children: Sarah, Lizzie, Samuel, Benjamin, John, Annie, Marie, Daniel, David, Enos, Sylvia, and Malinda. Then there are three Amish brothers named Isaac, Levi, and Elmer. One wonders how Vesta, Delila, Dena, Saloma, Drusilla, or Verba, or boys’ names like Junie, Venus, or Aquilla came into strict Christian families?

Speaking of east-central Ohio, Barbara Yoder Hall — who was born in 1940 and grew up with ten siblings in the Amish community of Holmes County — recalled in her book Born Amish (1980) the following first names:

First names for girls are usually Cora, Mattie, Annie, Lizzie, Barbara, Fannie, Katie, Mary, Naomi, Emma, Jemima, Ella, Sarah, Levina and Mandy.

First names for boys are John, Mose, Ferdinand, Dannie, Sam, Amos, Albert, Emanual, Levi, Rudy, Enos, Eli, Jacob and Joseph.

Amish men in a wagon.

Now for a pair of sources from the digital age…

The website Amish America, run by Erik Wesner (who is not Amish, but has visited Amish communities in 15 different states), lists the following names as being common among the Amish. He found many of the male names in Raber’s Almanac, which “contains a listing of Amish church ministers,” while many of the female names came from various church directories.

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Elizabeth
Emma
Fannie
Hannah
Katie
Linda
Lizzie
Lovina/Lavina
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Rebecca
Ruby
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Waneta
Abram
Amos
Atlee
Eli
Elmer
Harley
Isaac
Jacob
John
Lavern
Leroy
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Samuel
Vernon
Wayne
Willis

Some of Erik’s commentary…

  • Eli: “You see a lot of Elis among Amish, but not many Elijahs.”
  • Leroy: “Seems to be more common in Midwestern communities.”
  • Lizzie: “Lizzie is a popular form in some Pennsylvania communities.”
  • Naomi: “Amish, at least in Lancaster County, pronounce this ‘Nay-oh-mah.'”
  • Ruby: “Quite a few Rubies in northern Indiana.”
  • Vernon: “[P]retty common in places like northern Indiana and Holmes County, Ohio.”

Finally, according to the blog Amish Heritage, written by a woman named Anna (who grew up Amish in Pennsylvania), common Amish names include…

Common Amish female namesCommon Amish male names
Amanda
Anna/Annie
Barbara
Betty
Clara
Edna
Elizabeth
Esther
Fannie
Hannah
Lavina
Lena
Lydia
Malinda
Martha
Mary
Miriam
Naomi
Priscilla
Rachel
Rebecca
Ruth
Sadie
Sarah
Susie
Aaron
Abner
Abram
Amos
Benuel
Christian/Christ
Daniel
David
Eli
Elmer
Emmanuel
Henry
Isaac
Jacob
John
Jonas
Leroy
Lloyd
Mark
Melvin
Mervin
Moses
Omar
Paul
Samuel
Steven/Stephen
Vernon

Both websites noted that some Amish communities (particularly New Order Amish communities) have recently started giving their children less traditional first names.


So how do these lists square with what we’ve observed in the U.S. baby name data?

It’s hard to tell with historically popular names like Mary and John, but we can see some interesting things when we focus on relatively rare names.

For instance, the names Atlee, Benuel, Delila, Dena, Lavina, Menno, Saloma, and Willis have all been mentioned recently in my posts about names with a high degree of state specificity (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). As you’d expect, they were associated with the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and/or Indiana. (Benuel, in fact, has only ever appeared in the Pennsylvania data — going all the way back to the 1940s.)

Several of the other names — including Amos, Elam, Fannie, Malinda, and Mervin — saw higher usage in Pennsylvania than in any other state in 2021.

I was surprised that none of my sources listed the name Barbie. Most of them mentioned Barbara (one of them was even named Barbara), and all of them included nicknames (like Lizzie). But Barbara’s diminutive form was curiously absent — even though most of its usage occurs in Pennsylvania:

Girls named Barbie, U.S.Girls named Barbie, Penn.
20213722 (59%)
20202617 (65%)
20193320 (61%)
20182113 (62%)
20172916 (55%)
20162814 (50%)

Rhoda and Mahlon are two more names that I somewhat expected to see.

Ammon is a very interesting case, because the name also has significance to an entirely different religious group: the Mormons. (The Book of Mormon features two prominent figures named Ammon.) From the 1910s to the 1960s, the name Ammon — much like Benuel — only appeared in the Pennsylvania data. Since the 1980s, though, the state with the largest number of baby boys named Ammon has been Utah.


What are your thoughts on the first names used by the Amish? Which of the above do you like the most?

And, for anyone out there with close ties to an Amish family/community: What other names would you add to this list?

P.S. This post is dedicated to my delightful commenters alex and Andrea. :)

Sources:

Images by Chris Chow from Unsplash, Amyd from Pixabay, and Clark Young from Unsplash

Popular baby names in Providence, Rhode Island, in 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 about 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.

Name quotes #101: Nick, Nylic, Honeysuckle

Singer/rapper Lil Nas X talking about his birth name [vid], Montero Hill, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in early 2021:

Jimmy: So, where does Montero come from?

Nas: Ok, it’s slightly embarrassing, but not embarrassing. So my mom wanted the car, the Montero, you know? And she never got one…

Jimmy: What’s a Montero?

Nas: It’s a Mitsubishi. So, yeah, I’m named after a car.

From the 2004 book The Agassi Story, in which Andre Agassi‘s father, Emanoul, recounts renting a room on his first night in America (after emigrating from Armenia):

“Name?” asked the clerk.

Names are so important; they have so much to do with an individual’s personality, with what kind of person he or she becomes. Take the name Phil. Have you ever met a Phil who wasn’t easygoing? My oldest son is named Phil, Phillip, and that’s just what he is: Easygoing. Or consider the name Andre. It’s an aggressive name, a flamboyant name, and that’s just how my son Andre turned out to be.

So I thought a moment, and answered “Mike Agassi.” Mike was a simple name and I liked it. It sounded American. Honorable. More importantly, it was a name I could spell.

From an article about professional baseball player Nick Solak in the Dallas News:

Nick Solak is named after a sports bar.

[…]

Back in the 1980s, Nick’s Sports Page sat on the triangular plot of land where Chicago Road and Lincoln Avenue intersected in Dolton, Ill., one of those working-class suburbs on the South Side of Chicago. The exterior featured shaker shingles, chocolate-stained diagonal sheathing and baseball bats for door handles. On Feb. 5, 1985, it hosted Carlton Fisk Night, where patrons could meet the White Sox catcher, whose work ethic screamed South Sider, even if he actually grew up in New England.

Nobody recalls if South Siders Mark Solak or Roseann, née Pawlak, took home Fisk’s autograph, but they did take home each other’s phone numbers. Four years later, they were married. And when they were about to start a family in 1995, Nick — OK, officially, Nicholas — was the clear choice for a boy. They both liked the name. Plus, it had sentimental value as a nod to their South Side roots.

From a 2013 article about actress Honeysuckle Weeks in the Independent:

With the names Honeysuckle Weeks and Charity Wakefield starring in the UK premiere production of These Shining Lives directed by Loveday Ingram, you can only imagine what rehearsals are like. It sounds as if they should all be in a Jilly Cooper novel – not a hard-hitting play about employees’ rights in the workplace.

From the book Strange Fascination (2012) by David Buckley, the story of how singer David Bowie (born David Jones) chose his stage name:

‘Bowie’, pronounced by the man himself and all his ‘die-hard’ fans to rhyme with ‘slowie’, as opposed to ‘wowie!’ as used by most ‘casual fans’ and chat-show presenters, was chosen for its connection with the Bowie knife. Jim Bowie (pronounced to rhyme with ‘phooey’) was a Texan adventurer who died at the Alamo in 1836, and carried a single-bladed hunting knife. Bowie’s description of why he chose the name is typically highly ambiguous. In the 70s, Bowie proclaimed that the knife signalled a desire to cut through lies to reveal hidden truths (a highly ironic comment, [given] Bowie’s capacity for deceit), while in a recent Radio 1 interview he said that he liked the connotations of a blade being sharpened from both sides, a signifier for all sorts of ambiguities. In fact, the Bowie knife has only one cutting edge, and is not double-bladed. This mistaken belief was held not just by Bowie, but by William Burroughs too. The choice of stage name nevertheless indicated a sense of being able to cut both ways, perfect for the pluralistic 60s. The name also derived, despite its association with Americana (a connection the English David was obviously happy about, his whole career musically being an English take on a largely American form), from a Scottish heritage, and Bowie quite liked that regional distinctiveness, too.

From a 2004 article about the usage of brand names as personal names in the Baltimore Sun:

When Virginia Hinton, a professor emeritus at Kennesaw State University, was researching a book on the history of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Milledgeville, Ga., she came across a girl named Nylic who was born around 1900. Nylic’s mother was an organist at the church, and her father was the local representative for the New York Life Insurance Co. — abbreviated NYLIC.