The many forms of Mary, and its plethora of nicknames

The Umileniye (Tenderness) ikon, believed to show Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, before which the popular St. Serafim of Sarov, Russia was fond of praying

Mary, the #1 female name in the U.S. from 1880–1946, #2 from 1947–52, #1 again from 1953–61, #2 again from 1962–65, in the Top 10 until 1971, and in the Top 20 until 1975, now positively feels like a breath of fresh air and an original choice after falling to #127.

This historically most common of all female names, across many languages, likewise was #1 for many years in Canada and other parts of the Anglophone world, but has now either fallen off the charts or diminished greatly in popularity.

Mary is to older generations what Jennifer is to my generation—you’ve known too many to count, since the name was so ubiquitous. (On a side note, I honestly can’t think of a single bad Jennifer I’ve ever known or known of. I have universally good associations with the name.)

This name has such a sweet simplicity, works well on all ages, and isn’t associated with just one type of girl or woman. It’s a truly timeless classic, borne by so many incredible women throughout history. Though I’m not Christian, I also find the image of Mary as a loving, universal mother figure very touching.

Mary Pickford, one of my favourite female actors of the silent era, and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood in her day

Other forms of this venerable name include:

1. Maria is German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Scandinavian, Catalan, Occitan, Dutch, Faroese, Basque, Sardinian, Corsican, Finnish, Romanian, Polish, Greek, Frisian, and English. Nicknames include Mitzi, Mia, Ria, Marita, Maja, Mariele, Meike, Mareike (German); Mariella, Marietta, Mimi (Italian); Mariona, Ona (Catalan); Mariazinha (Portuguese); Marzena, Maja, Marylka, Marika, Mania, Marysia, Marynia (Polish); Majken, Mia, My, Maja, Maiken (Scandinavian); Maike, Mareike (Frisian); Miep, Mies, Mieke, Ria, Mia, Meike, Marita, Mariska, Marike, Maaike, Marieke, Marijke, Mariëlle, Mariëtte (Dutch); Marietta, Marika (Greek); Marjatta, Maritta, Marika, Marita, Maarika, Marjukka, Marjut (Finnish); and Maia (Basque).

The alternate form María is Icelandic (nickname Mæja), Spanish (nicknames Marita, Maritza), and Galician (nickname Maruxa). Mária is Hungarian (nicknames Mariska, Marika, Marietta, Mari, Marica) and Slovak (nicknames Maja, Marika).

2. Marie is French and Czech. The Czech name pronounces the last two letters separately instead of as one. Nicknames include Marise, Manon, Marielle, Mariette, Marion (French) and Maja, Marika, Madlenka, Maruška, Mařenka, Majka, Máňa, Mánička, Márinka (Czech).

The awesome Queen Marie of Romania

3. Mariya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian. Nicknames include Manya, Masha, Marusya, Manyechka, Manyenka, Marusha, and Mashenka.

4. Mari is Breton, Welsh, Finnish, Estonian, and Scandinavian. Estonian nicknames include Maarika, Marika, and Mare.

5. Miriam is the original Hebrew form.

6. Mirjam is Hungarian, Dutch, German, Slovenian, Estonian, and Finnish. Nicknames include Miri (Hungarian) and Jaana, Mirja (Finnish).

7. Mariam is Armenian and Georgian.

8. Maryam is Arabic and Persian.

9. Mariami is Georgian.

10. Maryya is Belarusian.

Empress Maria Theresa

11, Meryem is Uyghur and Turkish.

12. Maryamu is Hausa, a Chadic language spoken in much of Western Africa.

13. Marja is Sorbian, Finnish, and Dutch. The alternate form Márjá is Sami.

14. Marija is Latvian, Lithuanian, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Croatian. Nicknames include Mojca, Marica, Maja, Maša, and Mare.

15. Mele is Hawaiian and Samoan.

16. Mere is Maori.

17. Moirrey is Manx.

18. Màiri is Scottish.

19. Mair is Welsh.

20. Máire is Irish. Nicknames include Máirin and Mairenn.

Grand Duchess Mariya Nikolayevna of Russia, third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Aleksandra

21. Miren is Basque.

22. Maarja is Estonian.

23. Malia is Hawaiian.

24. Mirjami is Finnish.

25. Marij is West Frisian and Dutch.

26. Miriama is Fijian and Maori.

27. Mareia is Romansh.

28. Mariamu is Swahili.

29. Maryat is Chechen.

30. Maryja is Vilamovian.


Assorted thoughts on the Top 100 boys’ names of 2014

To save time and space, I’m not going through every single Top 100 name. As always, these are just my opinions. It doesn’t mean you have to dislike or like the same names I do, or that I’m in need of some lecture because I have a certain opinion you don’t share.

1. Noah. I don’t particularly like this name, but I don’t hate it either. It’s just one of those “not my style” names. I’m not sure just why it’s become this popular.

2. Liam. I used to love this name and think it was really cute. I even have a character named Liam, born in 1984 and created in 1998, ahead of the trend. Now I’m annoyed at how oversaturated it’s become. It’s even overused in YA and NA books, of course on characters who would’ve been born ahead of the trend and would be more likely to have names like Justin or Ryan. At least my fictional Liam born ahead of the trend has that name because his father is a proud Irish–American. If you’re going to give your character an outlier name, at least have a plausible reason for it.

3. Mason. Yet another “not my style” name I’m baffled at the huge popularity of.

4. Jacob. I prefer the Jakob spelling.

5. William. A solid classic, though I don’t know very many young Williams. Perhaps I just don’t live in the right area.

6. Ethan. I honestly never liked this name. Though I have no personal associations with it, it’s always struck me as a spoilt brat’s name, the children of yuppies with more money than sense.

7. Michael. And to think that not all that long ago in the U.S., this name was considered too Catholic for Protestants to use. Now it’s one of the most common male names on people of all religions.

13. Logan. Yuck. The bully I knew in seventh grade ruined this name forever for me, to the point where I now have an immediate visceral reaction to it. By the time I met an awesome Logan in my social psychology class my junior year of university, the damage had long since been done.

14. Aiden. Sad that a misspelling is more popular than the real spelling. This ugly misspelling makes me want to pronounce it Ay-DEN, not AYD-an.

15. Jayden. Why is this name even popular? It doesn’t sound serious or professional.

21. Anthony. Another “not my style” name. I also associate this name with spoilt brats and yuppie kids, though I don’t have any such personal associations.

23. Samuel. I really wish my all-time favoritest male name wouldn’t be this high up. At least it’s a steadily popular classic, like David and Daniel, though I still wish it would be lower in popularity like my next-favorite male name, Peter.

25. Joshua. Never saw the appeal of this name, coupled with how most Joshes seem to be jocks and frat boys.

26. John. It’s always a surprise to see this name so low down, after centuries of being the most popular male name, even in other languages.

27. Carter. Not a fan of surnames as forenames.

29. Dylan. It’s sad how many people naming their sons Dylan have never even heard of Bob Dylan or Dylan Thomas. You obviously don’t have to name your son Dylan because of them, but I’d expect someone to at least be aware of famous bearers.

32. Oliver. I love this name, and hope it doesn’t get much more popular.

33. Henry. Another name once considered too geriatric to be hip, now reclaimed by hipsters and yuppies.

34. Sebastian. A “not my style” name, coupled with the fact that I’ve always thought John Sebastian has a kind of annoying voice. There are only a few of his songs I can bear to listen to.

39. Wyatt. Not a fan of these “li’l buckaroo” names.

40. Hunter. Never saw the appeal of this name. What if he grows up to be an anti-hunting activist? It’s certainly possible to be an ethical hunter, but you can give your child a name reflecting your interests without being so in-your-face. Though at this point, I assume most people are just using it because it’s tryndy.

41. Jack. I don’t particularly mind this as a legal name, since it has a fair bit of history of being used as such. However, I still prefer it as a nickname for John or Jakob.

42. Christian. We don’t name kids Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim. What if he grows up to be an atheist or converts to another religion?

43. Landon. Not my style. Surnames as forenames aren’t what I’m into.

46. Jaxon. Because Jackson was too hard to spell?

53. Cameron. Not my style.

55. Jordan. Never saw the appeal of this name, though at least it’s still being used by boys instead of completely taken over by girls.

58. Evan. Another “not my style” name.

59. Adrian. I absolutely love this name!

60. Gavin. This name has always sounded like a spoilt yuppie brat to me.

62. Brayden. Hate this name. It also sounds like the sound a donkey makes.

66. Austin. Not my style at all. At least it’s no longer as insanely popular as it was a decade ago.

68. Jace. Isn’t this supposed to be a nickname? It sounds too much like the hero of a romance novel, not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels.

70. Kevin. Is this name still on the Top 100? It’s a perfectly fine name, but it just seems dated to the previous generation.

71. Brandon. See above.

72. Tyler. Weren’t there already enough of them ten years ago?

74. Ayden. An even worse misspelling is still more popular than the real spelling!

75. Jason. I really would’ve thought this name had reached its saturation point by 1985, if not sooner.

77. Ian. Not my style.

78. Chase. I’m not a fan of verbs as names.

80. Hudson. How is this name on the Top 100?

83. Easton. Another li’l buckaroo name I’ll pass on.

84. Blake. It was a big surprise to me when I discovered this is supposed to be a male name, since I was introduced to it through the female character Blake Marler on Guiding Light (back in the early Nineties, before it jumped the shark and became The Reva Show).

85. Jaxson. Really, what’s wrong with Jackson?

86. Cooper. Not a fan of surnames as forenames, not to mention the teasing which would probably result in elementary school. You do know what this name rhymes with, don’t you?

87. Lincoln. This is one of the few surnames as forenames I actually like. Again, this isn’t me being inconsistent (as I was baselessly accused of being in my post about nicknames), but just considering how long it’s been used as a forename vs. how recently it became popular.

89. Bentley. Yuck. People who name their kids after cars tend to not have the money to afford those cars. There’s also the association with the firstborn spawn of the repulsive orange Maci from the first season of Teen Mom.

90. Kayden. Yuck. Can this name please go away?

97. Leo. This name is really cute! It’s an example of a cute-sounding name which ages well and sounds mature and professional, unlike Jayden or Kayden.

100. Camden. I’m betting these parents have never even been to Camden, New Jersey.

Assorted thoughts on the Top 100 girls’ names of 2014

Since it’s May, the new Top 1000 name lists have finally come out. Instead of giving a thorough run-down of each and every name on the list, I’ll just give my thoughts on some of them.

1. Emma. I liked this name more before it exploded in popularity as a replacement for Emily. It might be old and established, but it’s not like, say, Elizabeth, a name which has been popular pretty much forever. It lay dormant for a long time and then raced up the charts, leading to oversaturation in a very short time.

2. Olivia. I also liked this name more before its explosion in popularity.

3. Sophia. I personally prefer the Polish form Zofia. Again, this is a name which was quite unpopular for many decades, and then suddenly was hot all of a sudden.

4. Isabella. I cannot use this name on a potential daughter because it’s become far too popular. At one point, well before the explosion in popularity, I was considering this as a name for a potential daughter.

5. Ava. Never saw the fuss over this name, and the explosion in popularity makes me even more meh about it.

6. Mia. It’s a cute name, and kind of a surprise to see it up so high. I’ve known Mia and Maya have been popular for awhile, but not that Mia was this popular.

7. Emily. Honestly, this name feels more timeless than Emma, since it’s been popular for awhile, and didn’t just suddenly explode onto the charts after many decades of wide disuse.

8. Abigail. It’s not particularly my style, though I don’t dislike it. It kind of strikes me as a Nineties name.

9. Madison. Is this name really still in the Top 10?

10. Charlotte. I love this name.

11. Harper. Really, Harper is up this high? I wasn’t aware it was climbing this far.

13. Avery. Can this name please go back to the boys?

15. Amelia. Just as I suspected, it’s getting way too popular, because parents want a sound-alike replacement for Emily and Emma. If you like a name, no matter how popular, use it, and if you think a variation will make a difference, think again. This is how names become popular, because a lot of other parents thought the exact same thing, like replacing Madison with Madeline.

16. Evelyn. I’ve known this is a trendy name, though it’s a surprise to see it’s so popular.

20. Aubrey. Can this one also go back to the boys?

24. Addison. Can this one just disappear altogether? I don’t even like it on boys.

26. Brooklyn. I really doubt anyone using this name has actually been to Brooklyn.

29. Layla. Kind of a surprise to see this becoming so popular.

30. Scarlett. Also a surprise to see this suddenly so popular.

31. Aria. I love this name.

42. Penelope. I’ve always loved this name.

46. Sadie. Another surprise to see so popular.

47. Riley. Please, can this go back to the boys?

48. Skylar. I never liked this name on either sex.

53. Paisley. Seriously? This is a pattern, not a name.

54. Kennedy. I don’t have to be told a lot of folks using this name don’t even know or care who JFK was. Kreatyv spylyngz make it even worse, like Kynadi and Kenadeigh.

56. Peyton. I don’t like this for boys either.

61. Aubree. Did this name get popular because it’s the name of the obnoxious Chelsea’s baby on Teen Mom 2? This spelling makes me want to pronounce it Au-BREE, not AUB-ree.

64. Alexis. While I’m used to women having this name, it’ll always be male to me.

65. Heaven spelt backwards will never be a name, sorry.

70. Bella. Another name I liked a lot more before its explosion in popularity.

78. Eleanor. I hope this name doesn’t explode much further up the charts. I hate when names I like are ruined by oversaturation and massive popularity.

87. Ashley. I’m honestly surprised this name is still so popular. When a name has been most popular in a certain generation, instead of steadily popular over decades, it kind of sticks out when it’s used past its popularity peak. It’s like still naming your child Jennifer. I’ve always liked the name, but it’s past its heyday.

88. Khloe. Like the Kardashian nobody?

93. London. Really, native Londoners have said no one in their city would name a child London.

99. Hadley. I don’t like this name on either sex.

The perils of not tracking popularity charts

I can understand how people some generations back might have genuinely had no idea a name was so popular, or becoming popular. News travelled slower, people weren’t so interconnected, and we didn’t have instant access to all sorts of information (and misinformation). But since the Internet Age has begun, there’s really no excuse for not knowing a name is more popular than you’d wanted.

If you’re naming your child something like Elizabeth, Robert, Joseph, or Sarah, you know your child will have to share that name with numerous people throughout life. Those names are longtime established classics, and if you wanted to avoid your child being one of several classmates by that name, you would’ve chosen a less common name. I’d actually be more surprised to see any of these established, timeless classics suddenly plummeting in popularity.

I frequently hear people lamenting how they wouldn’t have chosen a name if they’d known it was so popular among that age set, that they’re annoyed they weren’t as original as they thought, or that they had no idea a name was becoming popular or trendy. If you’re concerned about popularity, there’s no reason not to at least glance over the Top 100 from the last 10 years or so. Not only does it tell you what’s popular now, but it also gives you an idea as to what’s trending, and what names might replace oversaturated names (e.g., Madeline instead of Madison, Amelia instead of Emily/Emma).

Obviously, not everyone is going to be a name nerd, and thus won’t put the same type of research into baby names. There’s nothing wrong with picking a name because you just liked the look or sound, and only starting to think about names after conceiving or starting the adoption process. But it just seems like good, common sense to be familiar with popular names and up and coming trends, so you’re not shocked to find Sophia shares her name with five other girls in kindergarten, or to learn ten other couples in your circle also have new babies named Kaden.

I devour the new Top 1000 Social Security list when it comes out every May, and there are certain names I watch with concern. I’m going to name my future firstborn son Samuel no matter what, but I just wish it weren’t Top 30. Yes, it’s an established classic, and has never been out of the Top 100, but I just wish it weren’t that popular. The name Isabella is no longer on my list of potential names because it got way too popular, and I’d never want to be accused of just following the crowd. Strangers wouldn’t know she were named after the late Isabella (Katz) Leitner, who wrote the most haunting book I’ve ever read.

Some people won’t care if a name is reaching the oversaturation point or speeding up the charts, but if you do care, check the charts! And make sure to look at about 10 years’ worth, both Top 100 and Top 1000, to get a handle on what’s trending, what’s holding steady, and what’s on its way down.

Likes and surprises on the boys’ Top 500 of 2013

Though things have certainly begun changing in recent years, it’s still largely true that popular boys’ names are more stable over time, with less trendy and cutesy names getting popular. I have to agree with the observation I’ve heard, that a lot of people sexistly view girls as cute little accessories, while boys are considered more worthy of names that sound serious and mature as they age. At least be consistent and give both your sons and daughters trendy, childish-sounding names, instead of naming your sons William and Andrew, while naming your daughters McMadysynleelynn and Kynadee.

#13, James. Always liked this name and used to want to use on on my future second son (back when I wanted eight kids and had their names and whole lives planned out). I don’t think I’d use it on a future son now, but I still like it.

#18, David. A perennial favourite, which sounds good on someone of any age. I know it’s overused as anything, but I’ve never been annoyed by its overuse.

#25, Samuel. I’m pissed my future firstborn son’s name has gotten so popular. I’m certainly not expecting it to ever be, like, #800 or #450, but at least it doesn’t have to be Top 30! Hopefully I’ll have kids by the time I’m 40, and it won’t get any more popular by then.

#27, John. What a shock to see John down so relatively far, after centuries of being the most popular male name in existence, across numerous languages! The names John and Mary were so overused and boring 100 years ago, but now they seem like a breath of fresh air since they’re no longer #1. I’d think a modern parent choosing the name John wants him to stand out instead of blend in.

#29, Isaac. Love this name, and don’t like seeing it become so trendy. Once a name you like becomes really popular, it’s hard to be able to use it. There’s that fear that people will assume you only chose it because it was popular, and wouldn’t have considered it otherwise.

#31, Nathan. Lovely name.

#37, Henry. One of the old man names that’s gotten trendy in recent years. I liked this name before it was trendy, enough to have used it for one of my characters.

#47, Julian. Very classy name.

#52, Oliver. Of course I love this name, being a huge Laurel and Hardy fan.

#69, Josiah. Something tells me not all the people using these religious names like Josiah, Isaiah, Isaac, and Jeremiah in recent years are motivated by religiosity. A name like David can go either way, but if you’re using such a heavily religious name, I kind of expect you to be more than a little religious!

#95, Lincoln. I’m not really a fan of surnames as first names, but this is one of those surnames I don’t have a problem with as a forename.

#107, Micah. Sad to see this name becoming so popular.

#111, Max. Always been a favourite, and it pisses me off that it’s gotten so hot among the yuppie set. A lot of people use names like Maximilian and Maxwell just so they can call the kid Max.

#112, Leo. Love this name.

#125, Timothy. Used to want to use this name on my future third son. I still like the name, and don’t get the criticism that it’s “wimpy.”

#128. Giovanni. Beautiful Italian name.

#137, Ivan. I adore this name with the Russian pronunciation, Ee-VAHN. The Anglo mispronunciation EYE-vinn just throws it away.

#157, George. Nice to see this name making a comeback, after being written off as an old man name! I’d be shocked to see it get much more popular, though.

#170, Theodore. Always loved this name because of Teddy Roosevelt. I wanted to name my future fourth son this name, and still would love to use it on a future child if I’m meant to have more than one. I’m positive, based on my gut feelings and all the dreams I’ve had over the years, that I’m going to have a boy first, but if the future Samuel isn’t my only child, I’d love to have a Theodore as well.

#199, Kai. This name is really cute and quirky.

#203, Graham. Apparently the U.S. is the only place in the world where this name is routinely pronounced GRAM. The pronunciation used everywhere else in the English-speaking world, GRAY-um, is so much more distinguished.

#208, Peter. Long been my next-fave male name.

#229, Simon. Readers of my main blog may remember this is the name of my giant stuffed frog, who takes up half my bed and is almost as big as I am. I never liked the name till I read Leon Uris’s Mila 18, which totally transformed my association with this name. (Froggy is named after someone else, though!)

#263, Martin. I associate this name with old guys and Martin Lawrence. Kind of surprised to see it’s so popular.

#286, Edgar. Love this name, in spite of how some people think it’s an old man name. Hopefully it won’t become the next Jack or Max.

#294, Alexis. I’ll always think of this as a MALE name, in spite of how popular it’s gotten for girls. Glad to see some names haven’t totally gone to the girls yet.

#296, Felix. This name is so cute.

#323, Arthur. This name is so classy, elegant, and handsome.

#346, Nehemiah. Wonder if this name will become as popular as Isaiah, Isaac, Elijah, Josiah, and Jeremiah.

#349, Allen. This has always been my favourite spelling of the name, since it makes the most phonetic sense. I honestly thought the Alan form was pronounced A-LAN when I first encountered it as a child.

#364, Phillip. Always liked this name, though I prefer it with one L (#386).

#394, Keith. I love this name because of Keith Moon. I have a stuffed dog named Keith in his honour.

#4o3, Ronald. I have a hard time picturing this name on a baby or little boy!

#415, Donald. See above. Nothing wrong with either name; they’re just strongly dated to older guys!

#416, Bruce. Love this name.

#417, Jakob. I far prefer this name with a K, since it looks more distinctive and European. There was also a horrible bully named Jacob in junior high, whom I hope to God isn’t teaching his kids to bully other people. The K spelling doesn’t give me that association with this prick.

#424, Solomon. Really strikes me as a very geriatric name.

#425, Rhett. Like Romeo, do people really have any other association with this name? Then again, I’m hardly one to talk, since I like the name Lucifer.

#439, Saul. Always liked this name, though I’m well aware that many people consider this an old man name.

#459, Rory. At least some people know this is a MALE name, contrary to how the overrated Gilmore Girls depicted it as a girls’ name.

#468, Moses. Surprised to see this name charting so relatively high! For some reason, I don’t see the Hebrew form Moshe as being geriatric, but the English form does feel very old.

#470, Adriel. I’ve loved this name since I discovered it in 2002. Nice to see it getting some love, and that some people know it’s a male name. Why would anyone assume this is a girls’ name simply because of the -el ending? It’s not -elle!

#478, Warren. Always loved this name. It’s so strong and distinctive.

#492, Frederick. I love this name, and the nickname Freddie.

#499, Marvin. Besides the obvious association with Marvin Gaye, this strikes me as a very old man-type name.