How popular is the baby name Virginia 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 Virginia.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Virginia


Posts that Mention the Name Virginia

Baby born on Bermuda, named Bermuda

English settler John Rolf (1585-1622) and Pocahontas depicted in a 19th-century painting.
John Rolfe (and Pocahontas)

Englishman John Rolfe (1585-1622) was an early North American settler who helped turn tobacco into a profitable export crop for the Colony of Virginia.

He and his first wife, Sarah, arrived in the New World in the summer of 1609 aboard the Sea Venture, which ended up running aground off the coast of Bermuda thanks to a hurricane.

The colonists stayed in Bermuda, which they found “to be a hospitable place with sufficient food,” for 10 months. While there, they built two smaller ships upon which they could continue their journey to Virginia.

Also while there, Sarah gave birth “to a daughter who was christened Bermuda” after her birthplace (just like Virginia Dare was). Sadly, baby Bermuda Rolfe died before the colonists set sail for the mainland.

John Rolfe went on to have two more wives and two more children. With his second wife, Pocahontas, he had a son named Thomas (who “was presumably named after the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale”). With his third wife, Jane, he had a daughter named Elizabeth.

Sources: John Rolfe – Wikipedia, John Rolfe – Historic Jamestowne – NPS, Thomas Rolfe – Historic Jamestowne – NPS

Name Quotes #104: Che, Shanaya, Bluzette

quotation marks

Time for the latest batch of name quotes!

From an interview with Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che:

I was named after Che Guevara. My name is Michael Che Campbell. My dad is a huge history buff, and he named me after Che Guevara cause he loved Che Guevera for whatever reason. Which is a very polarizing figure, because when I tell people I was named after Che, they’re either like, “Oh, wow that’s cool,” or they’re like, “You know, Che killed people.” I’m like, I didn’t pick my name.

From Sanjana Ramachandran’s recent essay “The Namesakes“:

Shanaya Patel’s story, in more ways than one, encapsulated an India opening up to the world. In March 2000, Shanaya’s parents were at a café in Vadodara, Gujarat, when some Shania Twain tunes came on: she was also the artist who had been playing when her father saw her mother for the first time, “during their whole arranged-marriage-thing.” Finally, after eight months of “baby” and “munna,” Shanaya’s parents had found a name for her.

But “to make it different,” Shanaya’s parents changed the spelling of her name slightly. “Before me, all my cousins were named from this or that religious book,” she said. “When my parents didn’t want to go down that road, the elders were all ‘How can you do this!’—but my parents fought for it. There was a small controversy in the family.”

(Her essay also inspired me to write this post about the name Sanjana!)

About the “naming” of a Native American man who was discovered in California in 1911, from a 1996 UC Berkeley news release:

Under pressure from reporters who wanted to know the stranger’s name, [anthropologist] Alfred Kroeber called him “Ishi,” which means “man” in Yana. Ishi never uttered his real name.

“A California Indian almost never speaks his own name,” wrote Kroeber’s wife, “using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question.”

About street names in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, from the book Names of New York (2021) by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro:

Clymer, Ellery, Hart; Harrison, Hooper, Heyward, Hewes; Ross, Rush, Rutledge, Penn — they’re all names belonging to one or another of those fifty-six men who scrawled their letters at the Declaration [of Independence]’s base. So are Taylor and Thornton, Wythe and Whipple.

[…]

[Keap Street’s] name does not match that of one of the Declaration’s signers, but it tries to: “Keap” is apparently a misrendering of the surname of the last man to leave his mark on it: Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania, whose name’s illegibility was perhaps due to his having rather less space to scrawl it by the time the document reached him than John Hancock did.

From a 2008 CNN article about the pros and cons of unusual names:

“At times, for the sake of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation or throwing someone off guard, I answer to the names of ‘Mary’ or ‘Kelly’,” says Bluzette Martin of West Allis, Wisconsin. At restaurants, “the thought of putting an employee through the pain of guessing how to spell and pronounce ‘Bluzette’ just isn’t worth it to me.”

Martin was named after “Bluzette,” an up-tempo jazz waltz written by Jean “Toots” Thielemans. Despite her daily problems with this name, it certainly has its perks, like when she met Thielemans in 1987 at a club in Los Angeles. “When I met [him], he thanked my mother,” she says.

(Here’s “Bluesette” (vid) by Thielemans, who was Belgian.)

From a 1942 item in Time magazine about ‘Roberto’ being used as a fascist greeting:

Last week the authorities ordered 18 Italian-Americans excluded from the San Francisco military area as dangerous to security — the first such action against white citizens. The wonder was that it was not done earlier: everybody heard about the goings on in the North Beach Italian colony. Fascists there used to say RoBerTo as a greeting — Ro for Rome, Ber for Berlin, To for Tokyo. Italy sent teachers, books and medals for the Italian schools. Mussolini won a popularity contest hands down over Franklin Roosevelt.

From a news release about the 2021 baby names at St. Luke’s in Duluth, Minnesota:

Parents also got creative with their children’s names, naming tiny new Apollos, Elfriedas, Tillmans and Winnifreds. Other great names included everything from Atlas to Ziibi and some precious little gems like Amethyst and Ruby.

From a 2014 article in Vogue about 1950s fashion model Dovima:

Dovima, born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, would have been 87 today. She hailed from Jackson Heights, Queens, and was purportedly discovered in 1949 when she strolled out of an Automat near the Vogue offices. The name Dovima wasn’t thought up by a canny publicist, if was concocted by Dorothy herself, invented for an imaginary playmate during a lonely childhood when she was bedridden with rheumatic fever.

(Dovima was the first single-name fashion model. She did legally change her name from Dorothy to Dovima at some point, according to the records, and a handful of baby girls born in the late ’50s were named after her, e.g., Dovima Marie Ayers, b. 1959, VT.)

P.S. “Louvima” is another three-in-one name I’ve blogged about…

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.

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.

What turned Sway into a baby name?

sway, gone in 60 seconds, movie, character
Angelina Jolie as Sara “Sway” Wayland

The word Sway popped up for the first time in the U.S. baby name data in 2001:

  • 2003: 14 baby girls and 5 baby boys named Sway
  • 2002: 12 baby girls named Sway
  • 2001: 8 baby girls named Sway [debut]
  • 2000: unlisted
  • 1999: unlisted

For a long time I assumed the main influence was MTV personality Sway Calloway. But, while I still think Sway had an influence on male usage, I’ve since discovered a much better explanation for the 2001 debut as a female name.

One of the main characters in the 2000 car heist film Gone in 60 Seconds was mechanic-slash-bartender Sara “Sway” Wayland (played by Angelina Jolie). She was the love interest of protagonist Randall “Memphis” Raines (played by Nicolas Cage), who was tasked with stealing 50 specific, expensive cars inside of 72 hours.

The film didn’t get great reviews, but I do remember appreciating the fact that each of the 50 cars was assigned a feminine code-name:

Mary, Barbara, Lindsey, Laura, Alma, Madeline, Patricia, Carol, Daniela, Stefanie, Erin, Pamela, Olga, Anne, Kate, Vanessa, Denise, Diane, Lisa, Nadine, Angelina, Rose, Susan, Tracey, Rachel, Bernadene, Deborah, Stacey, Josephine, Hillary, Kimberley, Renee, Dorothy, Donna, Samantha, Ellen, Gabriela, Shannon, Jessica, Sharon, Tina, Marsha, Natalie, Virginia, Tanya, Grace, Ashley, Cathy, Lynn, Eleanor

So, how do you feel about the name Sway? If you were having a baby girl, would you be more likely to name her something modern, like Sway, or something traditional, like Sara or Susan?

Sources: Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia, Talk:Gone in 60 Seconds (2000 film) – Wikipedia