Sunday, September 16, 2007

Family Names and Popularity

I have recently made an alphabetical list of all the names in my family tree (both first and middle but not including passed on surnames). Just over 550 names for each gender (1100 overall), stretching from 1500 to the present day. From that I have worked out what are the most popular names, I now want to see which decade they fit best into.

There were about 10 more girls names, and more variety in the number of names 190 different names compared with the boys 140. From that I got a top 14 of:

1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Ann
4 Sarah
5 Jane
6 Margaret
7 Florence
8 Catherine
9 Emily
10 Ellen
11 Eliza
12 Frances
13 Alice
14 Annie

Mary and Elizabeth are significantly ahead - Mary with approximately 50 ancestors with the name (either first or middle) and Elizabeth with ten less. The rest decrease from 19 ancestors for Ann and Sarah to 8 for Alice. The top half of this compares very favourably with a top 10 I have for 17001:

1 Mary
2 Elizabeth
3 Ann
4 Sarah
5 Jane
6 Margaret
7 Susan
8 Martha
9 Hannah
10 Catherine

The top 6 are exactly the same, though my family lacks a dearth of Susans, Marthas and Hannahs. Florence became much more popular following Florence Nightingale, at the end of the 19th century, so is unlikely to appear here. Emily can appear interchangeably on records as Amelia.

1 John
2 William
3 Charles
4 Thomas
5 James
6 George
7 Alfred
8 Henry
9 Frederick
10 Arthur
11 Edward
12 Harold
13 Peter
14 Francis

This doesn't coorrelate well with any list I have, though there are some similarities to a 1660-9 list2:
1 John
2 William
3 Thomas
4 Robert
5 Richard
6 James
7 George
8 Edward
9 Henry
10 Samuel
11 Joseph
12 Charles
13 Francis

There us no Robert or Richard in my list - mine is rather a mix of 1660s with Victorian revival of Germanic and Arthurian names (Alfred, Arthur, Frederick, Harold). Charles is a strong family name (used father to son on at least two branches of its family), which accounts for its high position. My family has both conformity and quirks.

1 Penguin Dictionary of First Names, Pickering
2 Christian Names in Local and Family History, Redmonds

Monday, August 20, 2007

Names and Fiction

Or more specifically names in a certain series of fiction - the Chalet School. Basically, looking at how realistic the names are in contrast with the time they were written.There are a few problems with the method I am using, that I am going to outline.

1) The early Chalet School books (School at the Chalet through to Exile) take place in Austria, where a lot of local girls attend. The school is much more international during this time, drawing pupils from throughout Europe. This is reflected in the names, and thus skews the data. I am therefore focussing primarily on the names in the later books.

2) The information that I am going to use to compare them with is the US statistics (top 1000) as these are much more accessible than the British data for the period. This is not ideal, but this entry is not expected to be a thesis, just an overview.

3) Elinor Brent-Dyer (EBD) isn't exactly consist in all of her dates (some people age too quickly, others too slowly etc.), I am using the dates on the site I link to in the next paragraph.

Much of the information I am using is, of course, from Elinor M Brent-Dyer's books. They have been usefully collated here.

The late 1920s girls:
In the US, the late 1920s saw the dominance of Mary - almost twice as many Marys were born in 1928 than the #2 name - Betty. It accounted for 5.5% of all names here. With the Chalet School, the popularity is more pronounced - 4 out of the 48 names are Mary - 10%, additionally with the nickname Mollie and alternative form Marie appearing as well.

Margaret was another name peaking in the 1920s, though only accounted for 1.6% of births. With the CS, we have Margaret as well as Meg and Peggy. Additionally, the Daisy of the list, is actually a Margaret. This leaning upon Margaret is well documented throughout the series - the founder of the Chalet School is a Margaret, her mother-in-law is a Margaret, so her sister-in-law has a Margaret (the aforementioned Daisy). Original Margaret (or Madge, as she is more commonly known), is honoured by her twin brother with his first daughter (known as Peggy), and her sister with one of her triplet daughters (known as Margot). Additionally, Madge's ward Juliet, has a Meg.

None of the other members of the US top 5 for this period (Helen, Dorothy and Betty) appear, though there is a Beth, a Lysbet, an Isabel and various attempts to avoid Dorothy (Dorcas, Doreen, Doris, Dorothea). Of the other members of the top 10 - Ruth, Doris, Barbara, Virginia and Shirley, only Doris and Barbara appear.

What else is there? There are three Annes (one Anne, two Nancys), which in the US was experiencing a drop in popularity. Two Franceses (#13 in the period), Roosje sticks out as a reminder of the previous international nature of the school, and Edris (an attempt at Idris?) and Gwensi appear as precursers of what is to come (moving of the school to Wales).

1930-5 girls:
I'll be focussing on 1933 US data for this part. This section of girls is considerably larger - we only started with about 1928 last time. Mary is slightly less popular by this time - down to 5.3% of population, and this is reflected in the CS. Out of 158 girls we have 3 Marys, 2 Mollies, 1 Polly and a Marie - approx. 4.5% - closer to the US than last time. The name that is rising in popularity in the US, Barbara, appears 3 times, though that is roughly the same %ge as last time. This may be marred by the fact that one of the more principal characters in this section of the series is a Barbara. Betty still doesn't appear - we have Bess, Betsy and Elizabeth - but Dorothy (#4) does once on a minor character, Joan (#5) appears twice and Patricia (#6) does in the form of Pat.

Margaret, once again, is very strong. There are 3 Madges (1 from Magdalen), 3 Margarets, 1 Meg and 2 Peggys, only one of home (a Peggy) being easy to link with the school foundress.

There is also a surplus of Anne's which goes against the US's fall - 7 Annes, 1 Anne-Marie, 1 Annis, 1 Nan and 1 Nancy.

Of the 'unusual' names, we have a couple of double occurrences of names that I would consider rare in English - Diana, Joy, La/eila, Lilias, Nina and Nita, Primrose and Primula and Rosalind.

A little thing to point out - the main characters born during this time: Mollie McNab, Peggy Bettany, Nita Eltringham, Bride Bettany, Nancy Chester, Tom (Lucinda Muriel) Gay, Julie Lucy, Flora and Fiona MacDonald, Vanna and Nella Ozanne, Primula Venables, Clem(ency) Barras, Carola Johnstone, Betsy Lucy, Sybil Russell and Blossom Willoughby (some more principal due to family rather than anything they do). Of these 17, 14 have 'individual' names (not worn by another character of this age range, though some eg Nita and Betsy are similar to others).

1935-40 girls:
This age group is roughly the same size as the previous. The top 10 in the US in 1938 was Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Betty, Shirley, Carol, Nancy, Dorothy, Margaret and Joan. A quick skim through this set of CS data shows that Mary and Marie are plentiful, as are Hilda and Iris.

Mary has retained it's strong popularity - we have 3 Marys, 1 Mary-Lou and 1 Mollie, but does appear to be overshadowed by the 3 Maries and 1 Marie-Therese. What this data hides is that fact that the Len, Con and Margot all have Mary as their first names but, as triplets, go by their middle names. A principal character during this stage of the story is Mary-Lou which may explain why Marie has increased as an alternative to Mary. Additionally, with the move of the school to Switzerland, there is an increase in 'international' pupils - Marie being the French form of the name.

Anne is the name that has taken a huge knock during this time: only 2 Annes, but an Anna and an Anneli (both are Swiss) and a Nan (no Nancys so flying in the face of the American popularity). Anne itself was still decreasing during this time.

Margaret also does not appear prominent - there is only one, who appears not to have any link with the school foundress. Margot does (school foundress's niece), and this time there are no Megs but one Peggy (not related). This decrease in Margarets coincides with the school foundress's removal from school life - first to Canada and then Australia. This also neatly coincides with the ascendancy of the name Hilda - only one has been in the data before, but this time there are three. This amount also flies in the face of the American data where Hilda is decreasing. The headmistress at this time is Hilda Annersley, which must have at least kept the name at the forefront of EBD's mind when naming characters.

In terms of unusual names, there is quite a plethora: Amandine, Carmela, Catriona, Chloe, Emerence, Ghislaine, Lesceline, Nesta, Olwyn, Penelope, Richenda, Truda, Ursula, Yseult and Zena spring out.

As for the 'no characters named similarly to main characters' - in this section the main characters are Mary-Lou, Len, Con, Margot, Verity-Anne, Barbara, Vi, Josette, Jo, Ted, Rosamund and Yseult. Of these 12, only Barbara and Rosamund are repeat names, though Josette and Jo are similar in the bank of 'Jo-' names of the time: 2 Joans, Jocelyn and Josefa in addition.

1940+ girls:
This group is larger than the others. We never see these girls 'lead' the school, so that is why I have grouped them together. There is a very international feel here - out of the c.230 names here, I would guess (without checking surnames or nationalities) that 80-100 are not traditional English choices, and are much more international.

Anne has retained its popularity - there are 6 here compared with just one Anna. Annelise, Annette also appear, but just one Anna this time. Mary is still diminishing (just 3) - especially in the face of the 7 Maries and 2 Marias. Jeanne is also performing well with 4 appearances. As a general point of interest, the most popular names in France in the early in1940s were Monique, Nicole, Danielle, Michele and Jacqueline, of which only Michele appears in the Michelle form. EBD's names are much more of the 1910s and 1920s when Jeanne, Marie, Madeleine, Simone, Yvonne, Odette and Denise were all popular.

To view the data I used go here

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Comparing the English-speaking world on names (girls)

Whilst Wikipedia lists that there are 75 countries where English is the official language, I am just going to focus on the few that I can get popularity data for, and the larger countries (apologies to Christmas Island and Tristan da Cunha). The general decision is US, England and Wales, Canada, Australia, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales (separate from England) and Malta, due to information available.

Popularity data used:
England and Wales: National Statistics
Canada: Today's Parent- government does not appear to publish one complete list
Australia: Baby Name Stats - again, only regional - this site shows all regions on one page
Republic of Ireland: Central Statistics Office
New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs
Scotland: General Register Office
Northern Ireland: Statistics and Research Agency (pdf)
Wales: National Statistics (pdf)
Malta: National Statistics Office (pdf)

So...let's start with the USA, and starting simply with the top 10:
Name Frequency % Compared with previous yr
Position Generally
Emily 21118 1.0267 - falling
Emma 18838 0.9159 - falling
Madison 18395 0.8944 - falling
Isabella 17954 0.8729 +2 rising
Ava 16741 0.8139 +4 rising rapidly
Abigail 15429 0.7502 -2 falling slowly
Olivia 15244 0.7412 -2 falling
Hannah 14294 0.6950 -1 falling
Sophia 13313 0.6473 +2 rising quickly
Samantha 12316 0.5988 -2 falling

The 'Generally' results are based upon Name Voyager, the next information is from BNW
Language of origin Additional Information
Emily Latin 3 saints named Emily
Emma German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Madison English Surname of American President, place name
Isabella Hebrew via Italian Frequent name used in royalty
Ava German Ava Gardner
Abigail Hebrew Biblical
Olivia English or Latin Shakespearean
Hannah Hebrew Biblical
Sophia Greek city of Sofia
Samantha Aramaic via English Samantha from Bewitched (TV)

There is a mix here of Biblical (Abigail, Hannah, and possibly Samantha (from Samuel)), cultural (Ava, Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Madison and Samantha) and others - it's difficult for some (Emily, Emma, Sophia, Isabella) to pin down exactly why they are popular. Hebrew and English are the most common origins.

England and Wales

England doesn't provide much past rank - no % or #s of births. However, we do know that in 2006 there were almost 670 000 live births in England and Wales, and that there were 6928 Jacks born in 2006. Assuming that half of all births are male = 335 000 boys born in 2006. 6928 is 2.06% of 335 000, so just over 2% of boys born in 2006 were named Jack. As the American data shows, % for male and female are similar, though female % are slightly less. The British male popularity % goes: 1. 2 .06%, 2. 1.78%, 3. 1.76%, 4. 1.73%, 5. 1.55%, 6. 1.5%, 7. 1.42%, 8. 1.29%, 9. 1.29%, 10. 1.28% - this suggests that 15.7% of boys born in England & Wales in 2006 had a name in the top 10. I would guess that's about 13.5% for girls - divided up this way:

% Rough no. # on last year
Olivia 1.8 6030 +3
Grace 1.75 5863 +5
Jessica 1.75 5862 -2
Ruby 1.5 5025 +11
Emily 1.45 4858 -4
Sophie 1.4 4690 -3
Chloe 1.4 4690 -2
Lucy 1.35 4523 -
Lily 1.35 4522 +7
Ellie 1.3 4355

Olivia and Jessica have swapped the top spot in the last year, so I would guess that there wouldn't be much between Olivia, Jessica and Grace. Ruby jumped in the last year from #15 to #4 so I would guess it is slightly less popular than Ruby. There may be slightly more than half a percent between Chloe (a former #1 name) and Lucy which has stuck at the end of the top 10 since at least 2002.

The England and Wales list shows much more mobility than the US list - there are 3.5 more births in the US than for GB, but the largest change in the US is +4, compared eclipsed by England and Wales's +5, +11, +7 and -4. The changes in 5 years are similar - Ashley, Alexis and Sarah are on the US top 10 in 2002, as is Megan, Charlotte and Hannah - 3 names changed. They have also both had a name 'pop in' in the intervening time - Katie for England, and Elizabeth for USA.

Language of origin Additional information
Olivia English or Latin Shakespearean
Grace Latin Virtue
Jessica Shakespeare (Hebrew?) Shakespearean
Ruby Latin via English Colour, gemstone
Emily Latin 3 saints named Emily
Sophie Greek via French City of Sofia?
Chloe Greek Mythological
Lucy Latin via French and English Saint, Narnia, nickname
Lily English Flower, nickname
Ellie Depends Nickname

One thing that is completely different between the US and England and Wales popularities are the endings of the names. The US is dominated by 'a' - Emma, Isabella, Ava, Olivia, Hannah, Sophia and Samantha. In England and Wales, the sound is 'ee' - Ruby, Emily, Sophie, Chloe, Lucy, Lily and Ellie. 'ee' sounds are much more nicknameish - in the US, Mia is the only possible nickname in the top 20, in the UK there is Lucy, Lily, Ellie, Ella, Katie, Mia, Megan and Millie. Whilst some (Lucy, Lily, Ella, Mia and Megan) can stand quite well alone, there is a certain level of informality in England and Wales, which is not found in the US. The last time a name that I would say cannot stand on its own - has to be a nickname, was found in the US top 50 was way back in 1940 with Betty (I think Sandra, Lisa, Donna, Linda, Amy can stand alone). In the UK this was 2004 with Ellie.

None of the British names are Biblical - Grace is a virtue, but none have a strongly Christian basis like the US names. Whilst 71.6% of British people count themselves as Christian, it has been surveyed that only half that believe there is a god (any god), and this is also on the decline. 76.7% of Americans have cited themselves as Christians and only 14% as atheist/agnostic - this is reflected with Abigail and Hannah. In the UK the first Biblical name (apart from Grace) is Hannah at #15.

The information I am using (from Today's Parent) has the advantage of grouping similar spellings together. One of the big disadvantages of the US and England and Wales's policy of going by spelling instead of sound is that some popular names are disguised. This is most obvious in the US with the popularity of Aidan - its #1 sounded name, despite Aiden, it's most popular form, only being #30. For ease of use, I haven't acknowledged sounded names yet, but for the US the top 10 is: Emily, Madison, Isabella, Emma, Sophia, Hailey, Kaitlyn, Abigail, Ava, Olivia. (or Emily, Mia, Madison if you think Mia and Maya are pronounced the same).

Anyway, Canada. They only release positions, and I can't find anything like the Times article which I used to compile the girls rough #s. Today's Parent say they have compiled their list from: 'provincial resources where available 2004/2005', I'm slightly wary but I do want to see if there are some comparisons between a more recent British colony (achieved dominion status 1867, independence 1931) and a North American country.

Language of Origin Additional info
Emma German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Emily/Emilie Latin 3 saints named Emily
Sarah/Sara Hebrew Biblical
Madison/Madisyn English Surname of American President
Hannah/Hanna Hebrew Biblical
Olivia English or Latin Shakespearean
Hailey/Hayley English Surname
Maya/Mia Hebrew or Italian Nickname, noun name
Kaitlyn/Katelyn Gaelic Somewhat smooshy
Abigail/Abigayle Hebrew Biblical

Interesting to see an American president's surname on the list. The popularity of the name as a name rather than honouring (though to be honest, Madison didn't peak until after 'Splash!' film). Approx. 4.4% of Canadian immigrants in 2001 were from the US. So if they all named their child Madison... Approx. 230 000 immigrants were accepted into Canada in 2004, that's around 10 000 Americans, going by half women that would be 5000 women. If that was the same for the next few years and these 20 000 women all had children at the same, I don't think it's conceivable. Madison is certainly travelling due to sound rather than any ideas of honouring.

This Canadian list is very similar to the US combined spellings list - some of the positions are different, Isabella, Sophia and Ava are not on the Canadian list but the new entries through combined spellings - Hailey, Maya and Kaitlyn are. Isabella and Sophia are in particular Spanish, Italian choices - a product of Mexican and similar immigration to the US, that does not happen to Canada?

There is one more Biblical choice (Sarah) in the Canadian list, 72% of Canadians class themselves as Roman Catholic or Protestant. Canada certainly doesn't share it's Commonwealth cousin Britain's affinity for nicknames - past Mia, there is only one other nickname (Megan) in the top 20, and the first 'too informal to stand alone' nickname is Abby at #72 (ignoring Ella).

Australia doesn't border America, so in theory, it should have less concurrence with the American choices than Canada. It is a former colony of Britain (achieved federation in 1901, legislative independence adoption in 1942), so there may be some similarity there.

Some guesswork has to go into compiling the complete Australian popularity chart. The site I use gives births for all the territories except Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory. This is the compiled list for the rest of Australia:
# of births

Ella 1590
Chloe 1519
Emily 1502
Olivia 1416
Charlotte 1384
Jessica 1226
Isabella 1220
Sophie 1191
Mia 1165
Sienna 837

260 000 babies were born in Australia in 2005 - this was an increase of 5000. Assuming this increased by another 5000 in 2006 that would make 265000 babies and 132 500 girls.
ACT has a population of 333667, Australia's population is approx. 21 000 000. ACT contains 1.59% (1.6%) of Australia's population, so we assume that they had 1.6% of its female births - 2120. Let's say 15% of this 2120 is in the top 10 - so 1.9+1.8+1.7+1.7+1.5+1.5+1.4+1.3+1.2+1 = 15%.
% Rough # of births
Charlotte 1.9 40
Ella 1.8 38
Emily 1.7 36
Sophie 1.7 36
Jessica 1.5 32
Isabella 1.5 32
Chloe 1.4 30
Grace 1.3 28
Hannah 1.2 25
Olivia 1 21

We can do the same with the data for the Northern Territory.
It has a population of 205, 000 - approx. 1% of Australia's population - 1% of female births = 1325. Using the same 15%:
% Rough # of births
Emily 1.9 25
Ella 1.8 24
Georgia 1.7 23
Grace 1.7 23
Chloe 1.5 20
Isabella 1.5 20
Jessica 1.4 19
Lily 1.3 17
Mia 1.2 16
Sarah 1 13

The first popularity list only incorporates the top 10, with this new data for ACT and Northern Territory, plus incorporating the popularity of the names when they didn't feature within the top 10, the rough top 10 for Australia is:

# of births Language of Origin Additional Info
Ella 1652 Depends Nickname
Chloe 1569 Greek Mythological
Emily 1563 German Name of 3 saints
Charlotte 1546 German First Fleet ship
Olivia 1437 English or Latin Shakespearean
Jessica 1277 Shakespeare (Hebrew?) Shakespearean
Isabella 1272 Hebrew via Latin Frequent name used in royalty
Mia 1258 Hebrew or Italian Nickname, noun name
Sophie 1227 Greek via French City of Sofia?
Sienna 1087 Italian City, colour

Some usual sights here - Olivia, Emily, Isabella. The Australians seem, like the British, to favour Sophie over Sophia. Charlotte is also very popular - it was one of the First Fleet ships, but I'm not sure whether that is a good enough reason for its popularity, as Alexander - another First Fleet ship, doesn't seem to be unusually popular. Sienna has caught on in Australia as well - it's only #70 in Britain, #177 in US and #98 in Canada. Australia's Ruby perhaps? Though it has a different American popularity ark to Ruby.

New Zealand:
I'm going onto NZ next, as it seems to fit better with Australia than Ireland does.
NZ don't provide numbers, just names:

Language of Origin Additional Info
Charlotte German First Fleet ship
Ella Depends Nickname
Sophie Greek via French City of Sofia?
Emma German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Olivia English or Latin Shakespearean
Emily German Name of 3 saints
Grace Latin Virtue
Jessica Shakespeare (Hebrew?) Shakespearean
Hannah Hebrew Biblical
Lily English Flower, nickname

The NZ chart is very similar to Australia and England and Wales(it shares 6 of the same names). Sophie is once again preferred over Sophia. Fewer Biblical names. I don't know how much influence the Charlotte/First Fleet would have. This list adds nothing new.

We move now back to Europe and to Ireland, former British colony (until 1921), official languages of Irish and English, which should have an effect. The Irish statistics give both position and # of births.

# of births Language of origin Additional info
Emma 703 German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Sarah 642 Hebrew Biblical
Katie 575 Greek Nickname
Amy 510 French Literature (Little Women)
Aoife 492 Gaelic Mythological
Ciara 384 Gaelic Singer? Traditional Irish
Sophie 451 Greek via French City of Sofia?
Chloe 440 Greek Mythological
Leah 427 Hebrew Biblical
Ella 405 Depends Nickname

Even without the Irish choices, this is still a little different - we have Leah here, and Katie. Sophie is favourite once again over Sophia. We have a fairly even mix between 'ah' and 'ee' (6:4). Aoife and Ciara are particularly interesting as the Irish choices, with the mix of 'Western choices'. Ireland has one of the highest rates of weekly church attendance in the western world - this is reflected by Sarah, Ciara, Leah and Chloe.

Northern Ireland:
Northern and the Republic of Ireland were joined until 1921, and NI stayed a part of the UK. N Ireland do not produce statistics with number of babies born each year.

Language of origin Additional info
Katie Greek Nickname
Grace Latin Virtue
Emma German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Sophie Greek via French City of Sofia?
Ellie Depends Nickname
Lucy Latin via French and English Saint, Narnia, nickname
Sarah Hebrew Biblical
Hannah Hebrew Biblical
Jessica Shakespeare (Hebrew?) Shakespearean
Erin Gaelic via English Poetic name for Ireland

This is very reminiscent of the England and Wales top 10 (5 names shared), Ireland (4 names shared) and NZ (4 names). Erin is new, but there are less Irish names in this top 10. Few Biblical, virtues - same sort of feel as everywhere else.

The Scots provide a whole variety of popularity information -from the simple top 20, to a spreadsheet of all the names given in a year (so you can see that one little girl was lucky enough to be named Abiygayil and another Magic) with numbers of usage.

# of births Language of origin Additional info
Sophie 602 Greek via French City of Sofia?
Emma 452 German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Erin 443 Gaelic via English Poetic name for Ireland
Katie 441 Greek Nickname
Lucy 431 Latin via French and English Saint, Narnia, nickname
Chloe 425 Greek Mythological
Ellie 421 Depends Nickname
Amy 396 French Literature (Little Women)
Olivia 337 English or Latin Shakespearean
Emily 336 German Name of 3 saints

This is similar to N Ireland (6 the same) but lacks any markedly 'Scottish' names, and interestingly has Erin on the list. Scotland shares England and Wales' love of 'ee' names (Sophie, Katie, Lucy, Chloe, Ellie, Amy and Emily) and of nicknames. There is a lack of Biblical or even virtue names in the list - 27.5% of Scots consider themselves to have no religion, around 60% consider themselves Christians.

National Statistics provide additional information for the top names in Wales (but not England). Wales has a whole variety of names, so there should be some impact there, like with Ireland. Wales do not provide numbers of births.

Language of origin Additional info
Megan Greek, Welsh Nickname
Jessica Shakespeare (Hebrew?) Shakespearean
Olivia English or Latin Shakespearean
Ellie Depends Nickname
Emily German Name of 3 saints
Ruby Latin via English Colour, gemstone
Chloe Greek Mythological
Sophie Greek via French City of Sofia?
Grace Latin Virtue
Ffion Welsh Flowers, Ffion Hague?

Two Welsh choices on the list - Megan and Ffion (I don't think Ffion is encountered anywhere else). Ruby is back, as are the ee endings but with less intensity than Scotland.

Malta is the smallest of the places on our list, with only 3885 live births in 2006. 4% of all girls names was Maria and its variants - to get that kind of exposure in the US you have to go back to 1974 and the pinnacle of Jennifer's popularity. Malta was a part of the British empire until 1964, and its official languages are Maltese (similar to Arabic) and English.

# of births Language of origin Additional info
Maria/Mariah 73 perhaps Hebrew Biblical
Maya 53 Greek Mythological
Amy 43 French Literature (Little Women)
Martina 40 Latin Empress, tennis players
Emma 40 German 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Shania 36 Yiddish Shania Twain
Ylenia 35 Italian? Ylenia Carrisi
Michela/Michaela 35 Hebrew via Latin Michael is saints name
Sarah 35 Hebrew Biblical
Elisa/Eliza 33 Hebrew Biblical
Julia 32 Latin Roman
Jasmin 30 Indian/Persian Flower, disney?
Hailey 27 English Surname

The first thing noticed is that there are more than 10 names - with so few births, it has come that some names are used several times. There is a definite 'pop culture' influence here - especially with Shania, possibly Mariah, Ylenia, Jasmin and Hailey. Malta is Mediterranean and there is a definite Italian/Spanish influence with the amount of 'ah' names - only Amy, Jasmin and Hailey don't end with this sound. Additionally, Biblical comes out quite well.

Most Popular
This brings me to the subject of: which name is...probably...the most popular in the English speaking world. I did some calculations (similar to those I set out before) and this is what I found - not conclusive but possible. A rough top twenty, with rough figures of # of births in 2006:

# of births USA England/UK Canada Australia NZ Ireland
Emily 32962 Emily Olivia Emma Ella Charlotte Emma
Emma 27025 Emma Grace Emily Chloe Ella Sarah
Isabella 24974 Madison Jessica Sarah Emily Sophie Katie
Olivia 24686 Isabella Ruby Madison Charlotte Emma Amy
Madison 24604 Ava Emily Hannah Olivia Olivia Aoife
Hannah 23429 Abigail Sophie Olivia Jessica Emily Ciara
Ava 21714 Olivia Chloe Hailey Isabella Grace Sophie
Grace 21617 Hannah Lucy Maya/Mia Mia Jessica Chloe
Abigail 20668 Sophia Lily Kaitlyn Sophie Hannah Leah
Chloe 20286 Samantha Ellie Abigail Sienna Lily Ella
Mia 19853 Elizabeth Ella Grace
Isabella Emily
Sarah 17999 Ashley Charlotte Jessica
Lucy Rachel
Jessica 17782 Mia Katie Megan
Chloe Niamh
Ella 17435 Alexis Mia Julia
Ruby Grace
Sophia 17282 Sarah Hannah Sophia
Georgia Rebecca
Elizabeth 15527 Natalie Amelia Lauren
Paige Hannah
Samantha 14906 Grace Megan Isabella
Amelia Caoimhe
Lily 13706 Chloe Amy Samantha Maia Ava
Ashley 13482 Alyssa Isabella Chloe
Zoe Lauren
Sophie 12381 Brianna Millie Rachel
Madison Jessica

The biggest US movements I can see are Sophie (#125 in US to #20), Lily (#33 to 18) Ella (#21 to 14) and Grace (#17 to 8). I'm focussing on US as that is the place with the most births and thus the place where it was most difficult to shift each name's position - Emily stays #1 though it isn't #1 anywhere else, Charlotte doesn't make it into top 20 despite featuring highly in NZ and Australia (it ended up #24). Grace is one name that does change - through its strong popularity in England. Sophie is another - it's US 2730 births were boasted by almost 10000 through its popularity in England, Australia, NZ and Scotland.

As for 'ee' vs 'ah' - 11 'ah's to 5 'ee's: the US popularity plays a very strong hand here.

I hope this has been fairly informative, apologies for the squishy formatting earlier on. I doubt I'll do such a detailed boys examination - possibly just make up a list.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Some Unusual Mythological Names

Taking a break from the usual programme's very time-consuming. Anyway here is a bunch of completely unusable mythological names with fairly nice connections (then again see Cloacina).

Aegina - one of Saronic islands, from Aegina who was the mother of Aeacus by Zeus
Amalthea - she-goat who nursed infant Zeus
Aphaia - goddess worshipped in Aegina
Callirhoë - lots of characters here - an oceanid, a naiad, daughter of river-god Achelous and river-god Scamander,
Chione - snow-nymph
Cleodora - one of the Danaids, fifty daughters of Danaus who were forced to marry fifty sons of Aegyptus. On their wedding night, 49 of the daughters murdered (on Danaus' orders) their husbands.
Cloacina - Roman goddess presiding over the sewers in Rome
Creusa - several characters - naiad, second wife of Jason (also identified as Glauce), daughter of Priam of Troy, daughter of Erechtheus of Athens
Egeria -Roman goddess connected with Diana, and associated with water. Wife of second king of Rome.
Eileithyia - goddess of childbirth and midwifery
Idaea - nymph, wife of Scamander
Ilia - another name for Rhea Silvia
Issa -daughter of Macareus, beloved by Apollo
Juturna - Roman goddess of fountains, wells and springs
Leucothea - sea deity, the 'white goddess'
Marpessa - daughter of river god Evenus/o
Pasiphaë - daughter of Helios (the Sun) and mother of the Minotaur
Pherusa - nereid
Pomona - Roman goddess of fruit trees, gardens and orchards
Semiramis - Assyrian queen, mythical founder of Nineveh

If you want more information on them then Google or Wikipedia are your friends.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Adelaide, Aeronwy, Graciana, Lucasia and Meiriona


There are 19 women in Norway named Adelaide
There was 1 baby in Scotland named Adelaide in 2006
#921, USA, 2006 - falling in position, rising in births
Adelaide is not an approved name in Portugal

From the Germanic elements adal and heid meaning 'of noble kind'.

Characters and Usage:
There have been several European royals called Adelaide:
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was the consort of William IV and gave her name to the city of Adelaide in Australia.
Adelaide of Holland lived in the 13th century
Princess Adelheid (or Adelaide) of Hohenlohe-Langenburg was the daughter of Feodora, the half sister of Queen Victoria
Adelaide of Maurienne was the 2nd wife of Louis VI of France, and mother of Louis VII
Adelaide of Aquitaine married Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian ruling dynasty of France
Louise Marie Adelaide Eugènie d'Orléans or Madame Adelaide was the sister of Louis-Philippe of France.
Adelaide del Vasto was consort of Sicily and Jerusalem.
St Adelaide of Italy was heir to the throne of Italy, who married Otto the Great, Holy Roman Emperor. She was made a saint on account of her good deeds towards the poor.
There is also St Adelaide, Abbess of Vilich

Adelaide appears in music as:
A song by Beethoven
A concerto for violin and piano by Marius Casadesus, previously attributed to Mozart
Songs by Old 97's, Frank Loesser, Ben Folds, Anberlin
Operas by Nicola Porpora and Antonio Sartorio


Aeronwy is not an approved name in Portugal

Welsh - battle ending. Refers to the river Aeron.

Characters and Usage:
Dylan Thomas's second child is called Aeronwy.


There are 194 Gracianas in Argentina (Buenos Aires).
Graciana is an approved name in Portugal

English via Spanish - grace, or Latin via Spanish - pleasing.

Characters and Usage:
Graciana Chironi is the grandmother of Argentine director Pablo Trapero
Graciano is a Spanish red wine grape


Lucasia is not an approved name in Portugal

A literary name, probably inspired by Latin lux- light

Characters and Usage:
Lucasia was the name given by 17th century poet Katherine Philips to her friend Anne Owen.


Meiriona is not an approved name in Portugal

From Welsh Meirion - from Latin Marianus - of the god Mars.

Characters and Usage:
Meiriona is related to Merionethshire in Wales.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Catalina, Esmée, Hilda, Ismene and Saoirse


There are 56 people in Norway named Catalina
#2 in Chile, 2005
2939 people in Argentina (Buenos Aires) named Catalina
#696 in USA, 2006 (levelling off)
Catalina is an approved name in Portugal

Catalina is the feminine form of Catalin, a masculine Romanian name derived from the Greek Katherine. Katherine from Aikaterine has no certain meaning, but is associated with meaning pure. It could also be related to Hecate or aikia meaning torture.

Characters and Usage:
There are various places named Catalina - in Arizona, Romania and the Dominican Republic. Santa Catalina is the name of an island off California, two municipalities in the Philippines and a mountain range in Arizona.
It is also a type of American salad dressing.

There are 3 or less people in Norway named Esmée
Esmée is not an approved name in Portugal

Esmé the past tense of the Old French verb esmer - to love, to esteem. Esmée is the feminine form of the verb - Esmé being unisex.

Characters and Usage:
There is the Esmée Fairbairn Charitable Trust.

#68 in Sweden, 2006 with 189 births (rising)
There are 1033 people in Norway named Hilda - it was most popular in the 1880-90s.
3266 people in Argentina (Buenos Aires) named Hilda
Last on US top 1000 in 1986, peaked 1899 at #87
Hilda is not an approved name in Portugal

Feminine form of Hild, of Germanic origin meaning battle or war.

Characters and Usage:
Hilda is a large asteroid in the outer main belt between Jupiter and Mars.
Hilda of Whitby was a 7th century British saint who became the founding abbess of Whitby- St Hilda's College at Oxford University, and the College of St Hild and St Bede at Durham University are named after her.
Hurricane Hilda occurred in 1964.
Characters in TV shows named Hilda include Hilda Ogden from Coronation Street and Hilda Suarez, 'ugly' Betty's sister.

There are 3 or less people in Norway named Ismene
Ismene is not an approved name in Portugal

Greek - knowledgeable. Derived from the Greek isme meaning knowledge.

Characters and Usage:
In Greek mythology, Ismene was the daughter of Jocasta and Oedipus, and the sister of Antigone.
Ismene is a large main belt asteroid that may contain water.

There are 3 or less people in Norway named Saoirse
There were 5 girls born in Scotland in 2006 named Saoirse
#36 in Republic of Ireland, 2005
Saoirse is not an approved name in Portugal

Derived from Gaelic vocabulary word meaning freedom

Characters and Usage:
Saoirse is the Sinn Fein party's monthly bulletin/newspaper. It is a name of particular political significance in Ireland.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anais, Christina, Loveday, Parthenope & Scarlett

#24 in Belgium, 2005 (rising)
#13 in France, 2004 (falling)
#25 in Chile, 2005
#869 in USA, 2006 (rising - peaked 1992 at 850)
There are 13 people in Norway named Anais
There were 3 girls named Anais born in Scotland in 2006
Anais is an approved name in Portugal

From Hebrew meaning Grace or Favour, Anais is the Provencal and Catalan form of Anna

Characters and Usage:
Anais is a minor character in the X-Men series.
Anais Nin was a French writer
Anais Croze is a French singer
Anais Martinez won the second season of Puerto Rican reality TV show Objectiva Famo
Noel Gallagher, member of band Oasis, named his daughter Anais

#97 in New Zealand, 2002 (falling)
#18 in Malta, 2005 (falling)
#158 in USA, 2006 (falling - peaked 1975 & 85 at #12)
Krisztina was #16 in Hungary, 2005
Krystyna was #6 in Poland, 2004
Cristina was #24 in Spain, 2005
There are 4090 people in Norway named Christina, including 67 born in 2006
There were 17 girls named Christina born in Scotland in 2006
There were 20 girls named Christina born in BC, Canada in 2005
There are 3889 Cristinas in Argentina (Buenos Aires)
Christina is not an approved name in Portugal

Latin - follower of Christ. Feminine form of Christian via Christiana.

Characters and Usage:
There have been 2 saints named Christina:
St Christina was a Persian Saint, who may or may not have existed
Christina the Astonishing is sometimes considered a saint, when 21 she had a massive seizure and was perceived to have died, however, at her funeral she levitated and declared she had witnessed heaven, hell and purgatory. She continued to behave with strange and erratic behaviour until her death aged 74.
Christina has been a name used in royalty:
Christina of Sweden, was queen regnant of Sweden 1632-54
Princess Christina of the Netherlands, youngest daughter of Queen Juliana
Princess Christina is the sister of the current King of Sweden
In popular culture:
Christina Rossetti was a poet of the Victorian era
Pop stars: Christina Aguilera, Milian, Christian and Aguilar.
Actresses: Christina Ricci and Applegate

There are 3 or less people in Norway named Loveday
Loveday is not an approved name in Portugal

English - love-days - relating to the days on which disputed were traditionally settled. Has been most common (of the extreme rarity of this name) in Cornwall.

Characters and Usage:
Loveday is the surname of the family in a series by Kate Tremayne
Loveday Perowne is a character in Elinor M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series
Loveday Minette is a character in Elizabeth Goudge's 'The Little White Horse'

There are 3 or less people in Norway named Parthenope
Parthenope is not an approved name in Portugal

Greek - maiden face

Characters and Usage:
In Greek mythology the name Parthenope has been used for:
A siren
The daughter of Ancaeus, king of Samos and Samia, daughter of Meander the river god. She was the mother of Lycomedes.
Parthenope was a Greek settlement that is now part of Naples. During the French revolution, the short-lived Parthenopaean republic was established in Naples.
Parthenope is a genus of crabs.
Parthenope is the name of an asteroid.
Florence Nightingale's older sister was named Parthenope, having been born in Naples.

#66 in NSW, Australia, 2006
#46 in England & Wales, 2006 (rising)
#85 in Chile, 2005
#297 in USA, 2006 (rising)
There are 9 people in Norway named Scarlett
There were 26 girls named Scarlett born in Scotland in 2006
There were 17 girls named Scarlett born in BC, Canada in 2005
Scarlett is not an approved name in Portugal

English - scarlet, red colour

Characters and Usage:
Scarlett O'Hara (first name Katie - Scarlett being from her grandmother's maiden name) is the principal character in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind. The role was taken by Vivien Leigh in the 1939 film.
There have been other books with Scarlet(t) in the title:
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley - written as a follow-up to Gone with the Wind
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Scarlett Johansson is an American actress
Scarlett appears as a character name in the GI Joe series, X-Men (the Scarlet Witch), Captain Scarlet and Spiderman (Scarlet Spider).
Miss Scarlet is one of the suspects in the board game Cluedo.
Scarlet fever is a streptococcal infection which produces a characteristic rash.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Orange(ry) Awards

Apparently a certain mobile telephone company have taken the Orange Awards. Anyway, these are the Orangery Awards for real-life uses of good names from Daily Telegraph Birth Announcements Jan-May 07. Or rejoice! Not everyone is calling their child Neveah (yes, eah), and people have found ways for punchy combinations without resorting to using Tiger or Rex.

I find these names elegant, classy and a cut different from the William, Thomas, Alice, Elizabeth, Isabella that seem to haunt the Daily Telegraph. It's also credit to the great style that Daily Telegraph Birth Announcers have, that I had to cut my list back.

Best Cornish:
Our first category comes about due to the not exactly vast, but sizeable numbers of Cornish names I had on my list.

Annabel Morwenna
I frequently refer to Morwenna as a pretty alternative to Morgan, and here it is, complementing the frilly Annabel nicely.

Daisy Charlotte Loveday
Little Loveday is a name that is frequently overlooked, however, it fits nicely into the middle name spot without being too embarrassing.

Winner: Veryan Dorothy
Veryan is a Cornish place name - from St Veryan from St Symphorian. The sheer audacity of using it as a first name, coupled with the lovely, homely Dorothy gives Veryan Dorothy the Orangery Cornish Award.

Twins and More Award
There are only four names in this category - I didn't realise that I was going to create it until I'd finished it, and then it was a bit too late.

Atalanta Constance & Algy Gordon
Atalanta is an empowering name, whilst Algy is softer. Should it be the other way round? Either way, Constance and Gordon as middle names are spot on.

Winner: Annabel Poppy Clementine & Oliver Henry Ptolemy
Yes, Annabel again. Anyway, two middle names may be excessive for some, but it works here. Annabel and Oliver are strong, leaving most of the frilliness to the middle names.

Special Sibling Award:
This a special, sort of lifetime achievement award. Getting one child's name right is great, but getting it right again and again?

Winner: Delphine Octavia
And siblings: Georgina, Christopher, Charlie, Clementina, Gabriella, Montgomery, Cordelia, Angelina, Seraphina and Decima. Phew! Delphine fits in perfectly here, though the middle name is slightly out (I get the feeling that I can be picky about that sort of thing when it can actually apply).

Brave Award:
For names that could have backfired horribly, but in my eyes work well.

Boys winner: Digby Peregrine
My general feeling with Digby is that you need a solid middle name to fall back on, something slightly more normal...Is Peregrine that? Certainly, not normal, but it seems to fit with the quirky Digby.

Girls winner: Circe Mary
Now Circe is a name that could be horrible - sorceress, Odysseus' lover - but Mary gives it elegance, decorum and class.

Simple Award (aka KISS Award):
Keep it simple, stupid seems to be an easy rule to follow. Lots of the announcements however, had five names plus a family surname and it all seemed too much. This award recognises those who showed restraint and kept it stunning.


Lua May:
Very simple, this almost got the girls vote. Lua is Portuguese and means 'moon', it's not a traditional name, but has all the trapping of one. May is a delicately simple middle name choice, and complements Lua superbly.

Hugh Alfred:
Hugh is a name that can feel very young or very old - it's changeable, Alfred however, gives this an immediate feel of wisdom, age, tradition and strength. It's a 'pillar of the community' choice.

Iris Honor:
Iris is your grandmother, or she's this young girl - it's coming back into style. Honor gives this strength, sagacity and serenity. Shame it's not spelt the English way.

Boys winner: Ezra Leo
Ezra Leo is the epitome of restraint, simplicity and is all the better for it.

Girls winner: Anais Clare
Anais is a sweet choice, and Clare fits in the middle. Lovely.

The Orange Award:
No, not the final award but the award to the most orange name. Serious contenders were Clemmy Elizabeth, Clemence Audrey Marie, (attempting to be Clementine but failing), Romilly Saffron (too yellow) and Annabel Poppy Clementine (conflicting colours).

Thus the winner is : Frieda Clementine
The certainly orange Clementine fits well with the less fussy Frieda. A deserving winner.

The Orangery Award:
For the names that just seemlessly fit together.


Jemima Penelope
The very English Jemima turns heads with the flashy Penelope.

Finnian Henry
Little Finnian is given a manly leg-up by the strong Henry

Scarlett Christina
An interesting choice for me - I'm not the world's biggest Scarlett fan, but when I saw this I caught my breath. I don't know why, but it works.

Barnaby Hector
Gentle Barnaby doesn't need a flashy middle name, and strong, dependable Hector is a perfect match.

Ottilie Lucia
Ottilie isn't seen much these days - shame because it can be both frilly and fascinatingly down-to-earth. In this case, frilly - Lucia is a splendid middle name choice.

Winner: Sebastian Elliott Tadeusz
Three dashing, slightly eccentric but entirely swoon-worthy choices. A worthy winner!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Helen, Ruth, Lyra, Eleanor and Isabel


17 girls were named Helen in Scotland in 2006
10 girls were named Helen in Sweden in 2004
There are 2599 people in Norway called Helen, 4 of which were born in 2006
#343 in USA, 2006 - it's peak was between 1900 and 1919 when it was #2 name
Helen is not an approved name in Portugal, but Helena is

Greek - 'bright, shining one'

Characters and Usage:
In Greek mythology, Helen is the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Leda, whose abduction by Paris brought about the Trojan War.
There is a place in Georgia, USA called Helen, with 430 residents.
There are several actresses named Helen: Helen Hunt, Helen Hayes, Helen Mirren and Helen Slater.
Helen Clark is the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Helen Keller was a death and blind woman, who was the first death-blind woman to graduate from college.


17 girls were named Ruth in Scotland in 2006
10 girls were named Ruth in Sweden in 2006
628 people named Ruth in Argentina (Buenos Aires)
There are 11524 people in Norway called Ruth, 18 of which were born in 2006
#373 in USA, 2006 - it's peak was 1908-9 when it was #4 name
Ruth is not an approved name in Portugal

Thought to come from the Hebrew re'uth meaning compassion or friend. In English, ruth is a noun meaning 'pity' or 'sympathy' - and is most commonly used as the form 'ruthless'.

Characters and Usage:
Biblically, Ruth was the Moabite protagonist of the Book of Ruth, who after her husband dies, chooses to stay with her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi rather than return to her homeland. She later marries Boaz, and is one of the ancestors of David, and subsequently Jesus.
Ruth is a symbolic name for girls born on the Jewish month of Shavuot (corresponding with late May-early June), when the Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue.
Ruth is the name of two craters - on the Moon, and on Venus.
Ruth is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.


1 girl was named Lyra in Scotland in 2006
There are 6 people in Norway called Lyra
Lyra is not an approved name in Portugal, but Lira is

Greek - lyre

Characters and Usage:
Lyra is a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, containing the star Vega, third brightest in the Northern sky. Vega will become the Pole Star in approximately 14 000 AD due to the progression of the equinoxes. Lyra was named so as it is in the shape of a lyre, one theory being that it is the lyre of Orpheus.

Lyra is one of the protagonists in Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy


#42 in England and Wales, 2006
35 girls were named Eleanor in Scotland in 2006
There are 63 people in Norway called Eleanor
#277 in USA, 2006 - it's peak was in 1920 when it was #25 name
Eleanor is not an approved name in Portugal, but Eleonor is

From the Provence name Aliénor, with an obscure meaning. In langue d'Oc of the Provence region, this means 'another Aenor' - possibly relating to Eleanor of Aquitaine, an early bearer, whose mother was named Aenor. Aenor is related to the Greek Eleonore from eleos meaning 'pity' and the Arabic Ellinor - 'God is my light'.

Characters and Usage:
There have been several queens named Eleanor - in particular:
Eleanor of Aquitaine - wife of Louis VII of France, and Henry II of England
Leonora of England - wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile
Eleanor of Castile - wife of James I of Aragon
Eleanor of Provence - wife of Henry III of England
Eleanor of Castile - wife of Edward I of England
Eleanor of Castile - wife of Alfonso IV of Aragon
Eleanor of Castile - wife of Charles III of Navarre
Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of Franklin D Roosevelt, American President
Eleanor Dashwood is one of the heroines of Jane Austen's 'Sense and Sensibility'
Eleanor has been in the title of songs by:
The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
Franz Ferdinand - Eleanor Get Your Boots On
Jet - Eleanor


#69 in NSW, Australia, 2006
#44 in England and Wales, 2006
13 girls were named Isabel in Scotland in 2006
#46 in Spain, 2005
79 girls were named Isabel in Sweden in 2006
#76 in Chile, 2005
4698 people named Isabel in Argentina (Buenos Aires)
There are 976 people in Norway called Isabel, 70 of which were born in 2006
#87 in USA, 2006 - it's peak was in 2003 when it was #83 name
Isabel is not an approved name in Portugal, but Isabela is

From Elizabeth -Hebrew- 'my God is a vow'

Characters and Usage:
There has been a large number of queens and monarchs named Isabella, but few named Isabel (with no elle).
Isabel Martinez de Peron was the third wife as Juan Peron and served as Argentinian president 1974-6.
St Isabel of France was a daughter of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile. She founded the Abbey of Longchamp, but never became a nun. When her body was exhumed 9 days after her death it showed no sign of decay.
There are several towns (including 3 in the USA) called Isabel.
Hurricane Isabel was a category 5 hurricane in 2003, causing $3.6 bil of damage