What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? Good question. People have been naming their kids since, well, forever. A child’s name can come from origins as diverse as family lineage, biblical inspiration, and extreme pretension (looking at you, Gwyneth). But shouldn’t we know more about some of these origins before attaching these words to kids permanently? Let’s take a look at some popular (and not so popular) names throughout history.

Noahs: they’ve got your back.

Noah – We’ll begin with the current reigning champ in the United States. Noah has been the most popular name for a boy since 2013, steadily climbing the ranks since checking in at #50 in 1995. The name traces back to the Old Testament, where Noah built a marvelous catamaran. Or maybe it was a speedboat.


Emma – The current number one name for a girl in the U.S., Emma derives from the Germanic ermen, meaning ‘whole’ or ‘universal’. After being somewhat forgotten as a name, “Stone Cold” Jane Austen brought the moniker back with her novel ‘Emma’ in 1816.


James: Always the life of the party.

James – Want your kid to be president? Name him (or her) James. Six presidents have that first name, including Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield and Carter. Naming your child Millard (as in Fillmore, 13th president) could work as well, but it might also get you sued by that poor kid for emancipation.


Adolf – Let’s go there. From the Germanic for ‘noble wolf’, this name was actually somewhat in common usage in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a regular for Swedish kings, most notably Gustav Adolf II. However, it has pretty much dropped off of everybody’s list since, you know, that Adolf.


Marys: like a snowflake, no two are alike.

Mary – The most popular U.S. girl name for the last century, over 3 million children have been named Mary. Most likely derived from Egyptian, the name appears several times in the bible, has been borne by two English queens, and has graced the author of Frankenstein. That’s right – there’s just something about Mary.


The Letter J – That’s right, if you’re a boy you are most likely to have a name that begins with the letter ‘J’. John, James, Joseph and Jacob are consistently among the highest ranking names in the last 100 years, and that doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. Our heartiest congratulations to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.

What’s the most obscure name you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments below.


If you like this, you might also like Hail to the Chiefs: President Trivia

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