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Place Names as First Names



At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, a minor trend is to place names to children. The list of the top 1,000 names for 2000 and 2001, prepared by the Social Security Administration, shows many instances of children being named London, Brittany, Savannah, Cheyenne, etc. It seems the daring, unique, uncommon, popular thing to do. Naming children after places, however is not a new custom, although previously it was rather rare.

Medieval crusaders, for example, often brought back vials of water from the River Jordan in the Holy Land with which to baptize their children. Often, these children would then be dubbed (both boys and girls) Jordan.

Much later (about the 19th century) battle sites were occasionally commemorated with the christening of a child. The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (3rd edition, 1977) relates how some unfortunate girls were named Trafalgar after the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), while others got Alma after the battle of Alma (1854, during the Crimean War). Presumably Kimberley started as a name soon after the town of Kimberley was besieged during the Boer War (1899-1902). The names of religious shrines like Loreto, or Lourdes were often given to Catholic children as well.

Rich, English-speaking parents who traveled the world, often named their children after the city of their birth. Famous nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), for example, was born in and named after Florence, Italy.

The name Clyde is said to have begun in the American South, when Southern planters of Scottish ancestry often gave their slaves the names of Scottish rivers, like the Clyde. Other rivers that have become names include the Shannon, the Kelvin, and the Severn (Sabrina).

Also during the 19th century, it was not uncommon for parents to bestow upon their daughters the names of states, often to honor state of their birth, or commemerate their parents birthplace. The most popular state names of the 19th century were Virginia, Georgia, and Carolina, which were, of course, feminine names in their own right. However, also common were Missouri, Tennesee, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana. And even women named Texas, California, Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon, Minnestoa, and Ohio Could be found. It is interesting to note that these states were often Southern states, or frontier states.

Turn of the century American immigrants often christened their new children America or Americo.

But it is in the late 20th century when this practice seems to have exploded, and we find names like: Kimberly (South Africa), Chelsea (London), Shannon (Ireland), and Brittany (France) at the top of the lists.


At the turn of the millennium, in the United States, we find parents using newer state names (like Montana, or Dakota), or city names (like Savannah, Cheyenne, Paris, London for girls and Paris, London, Denver, Houston for boys), or continents (like Asia and Africa), or countries (like India, China/Chyna, Ireland/Erin, and Kenya).

The reasons for doing this are many:
Presumably, parents are attempting to be creative and unique, but others may have a more specific reason.
Some parents, like Florence Nighingale’s, like to commemorate the place where their child was born.
Others parents, with little taste and less sense, like to commemorate where their child was conceived.
Still others like to honor their ancestry (Ireland, Kenya).
And religious and/or spiritual parents may give their child a spiritual and/or religious place-name like Heaven, or Eden.


As of 2001, the favorite “place names” are:

Savannah, ranking 43rd for girls.
Erin, ranking 60th for girls.
Kimberly, ranking 61st for girls.
Brittany, ranking 119th for girls.
Cheyenne, ranking 121st for girls.
Chelsea, ranking 156th for girls.
Brooklyn, ranking 174th for girls.
Shannon, ranking 178th for girls.
Asia, ranking 256th for girls.
India, ranking 298th for girls.
Heaven, ranking 297th for girls.
Dakota, ranking 330th for girls.
Eden, ranking 397th for girls.
Paris, ranking 512th for girls.
America, ranking 527th for girls.
Kenya, ranking 560th for girls.
Aspen, ranking 561st for girls.
Chyna, ranking 641st for girls.
Montana, ranking 671st for girls.
Lourdes, ranking 846th for girls.
London, ranking 867th for girls.
Ireland, ranking 908th for girls.

-and-

Dakota, ranking 96th for boys.
Dallas, ranking 324th for boys.
Phoenix, ranking 631st for boys.
Shannon, ranking 808th for boys.
Houston, ranking 844th for boys.
London, ranking 876th for boys.
Denver, ranking 930th for boys.




Place Names as First Names - Statistics and Information...


America, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 942nd most popular.
1910-1920: N/A
1920-1930: 966th most popular.
1930-1940: 880th most popular.
1940-2000: N/A
1998: 918th most popular.
1999: 865th most popular.
2000: 730th most popular.
2001: 527th most popular.

Americo, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 946th most popular.
1910-1920: 669th most popular.
1920-1930: 674th most popular.
1930-2000: N/A

The Americas were named after one Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), an “explorer.”
He signed a map with his signature, a German mapmaker misread it, and the rest is history.


Asia, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1980: N/A
1980-1990: 573rd most popular.
1990-2000: 216th most popular.
1998: 208th most popular.
1999: 228th most popular.
2000: 226th most popular.
2001: 256th most popular.

Asia is a massive continent in the eastern hemisphere.


Aspen, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 805th most popular.
1998: 576th most popular.
1999: 535th most popular.
2000: 571st most popular.
2001: 561st most popular.

Aspen is a town in Colorado famous for its expensive ski lodges.

Bethany:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1950: N/A
1950-1960: 742nd most popular.
1960-1970: 501st most popular.
1970-1980: 210th most popular.
1980-1990: 98th most popular.
1990-2000: 118th most popular.
1998: 135th most popular.
1999: 141st most popular.
2000: 156th most popular.
2001: 165th most popular.

Bethany comes from a Hebrew name meaning “House of Sorrow,” or “House of Figs.” Bethany as a first name, began life sometime after the 18th century when some girls were named Mary Bethany, in honor of the Biblical figure Mary of Bethany (sister to Martha and Lazarus). In the latter half of the 20th century, Bethany became fairly common in the United States, no doubt due to the unrelated name Beth (short for Elizabeth).

Brittany, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1970: N/A
1970-1980: 518th most popular.
1980-1990: 20th most popular.
1990-2000: 6th most popular.
1998: 25th most popular.
1999: 37th most popular.
2000: 61st most popular.
2001: 119th most popular.

Brittany comes from a Celtic tribe called the Britons. When the Anglo-Saxons invaded England circa 500 A.D., the Britons fled to France, to a region then named Brittany. The Britons also left their name to the British Isles, Great Britain, and the British people. Britannia is the Latin name for Great Britain.


Brooklyn, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990: 972nd most popular.
1991: 755th most popular.
1992: 573rd most popular.
1993: 494th most popular.
1994: 396th most popular.
1995: 353rd most popular.
1996: 300th most popular.
1997: 235th most popular.
1998: 204th most popular.
1999: 187th most popular.
2000: 178th most popular.
2001: 174th most popular.
2002: 155th most popular.

Brooklyn is a borough of New York City. It was founded by Dutch settlers in the 1600s and named after the old Dutch village of Breuckelen.


Chelsea, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1970: N/A
1970-1980: 530th most popular.
1980-1990: 67th most popular.
1990-2000: 30th most popular.
1998: 94th most popular.
1999: 123rd most popular.
2000: 140th most popular.
2001: 156th most popular.

Chelsea is an Old English place name, now a district of London. Originally it meant “Chalk (or Limestone) Landing.” Chelsea is a district of London known for its artists.



Cheyenne, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1980: N/A
1980-1990: 769th most popular.
1990-2000: 105th most popular.
1998: 75th most popular.
1999: 84th most popular.
2000: 98th most popular.
2001: 121st most popular.

Cheyenne originally comes from the Dakota language and means “Unintelligible Speakers” (the Dakota and the Cheyenne were enemies). It is the name of a tribe of Native Americans as well as the name of the capital city of Wyoming.

China, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 931st most popular.
1998: N/A

Chyna, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-2000: N/A
1998: 597th most popular.
1999: 467th most popular.
2000: 433rd most popular.
2001: 641st most popular.

China is the name westerners use for largest and most populous Asian country. The name comes from the Quin (pronounced “chin”) dynasty (the Chinese themselves call their country Zongguo, possibly meaning Middle Country).


Clyde, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 59th most popular.
1910-1920: 64th most popular.
1920-1930: 69th most popular.
1930-1940: 91st most popular.
1940-1950: 123rd most popular.
1950-1960: 174th most popular.
1960-1970: 262nd most popular.
1970-1980: 394th most popular.
1980-1990: 527th most popular.
1990-2000: 766th most popular.
1998: 932nd most popular.
1999: N/A

Clyde is the shortened form of Cledwyn, the name of a major Scottish River.


Dakota, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1980: N/A
1980-1990: 548th most popular.
1990-2000: 81st most popular.
1998: 75th most popular.
1999: 79th most popular.
2000: 89th most popular.
2001: 96th most popular.

Dakota, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 337th most popular.
1998: 253rd most popular.
1999: 277th most popular.
2000: 299th most popular.
2001: 330th most popular.

Dakota is another name for the Sioux tribe of Native Americans. The name means “Allies.” It is the name of the states North Dakota and South Dakota.


Dallas, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 371st most popular.
1910-1920: 336th most popular.
1920-1930: 316th most popular.
1930-1940: 281st most popular.
1940-1950: 321st most popular.
1950-1960: 381st most popular.
1960-1970: 463rd most popular.
1970-1980: 418th most popular.
1980-1990: 336th most popular.
1990-2000: 294th most popular.
1998: 283rd most popular.
1999: 307th most popular.
2000: 314th most popular.
2001: 324th most popular.

Dallas, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 613th most popular.
1998: 728th most popular.
1999: 898th most popular.
2000: 906th most popular.
2001: N/A

Dallas is one of the major cities of the state of Texas. It was founded in 1841 by John Neely Bryan and possibly named after George Mifflin Dallas, later vice-president of the United States.


Denver, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 767th most popular.
1910-1920: 499th most popular.
1920-1930: 527th most popular.
1930-1940: 540th most popular.
1940-1950: 531st most popular.
1950-1960: 659th most popular.
1960-1970: 843rd most popular.
1970-1980: 793rd most popular.
1980-1990: 875th most popular.
1990-2000: 962nd most popular.
1998: 808th most popular.
1999: 771st most popular.
2000: 897th most popular.
2001: 930th most popular.

Denver is the capital of the state of Colorado. It was founded in 1858 and named after the governor of Kansas Territory, James W. Denver.


Eden, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 722nd most popular.
1998: 564th most popular.
1999: 526th most popular.
2000: 524th most popular.
2001: 397th most popular.

In the Bible, Eden was the paradise in which Adam and Eve lived and were later expelled from. It comes from a Sumerian word meaning “plain.”


Erin, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1950: N/A
1950-1960: 446th most popular.
1960-1970: 217th most popular.
1970-1980: 41st most popular.
1980-1990: 28th most popular.
1990-2000: 48th most popular.
1998: 56th most popular.
1999: 59th most popular.
2000: 60th most popular.
2001: 60th most popular.

Erin is the Anglicized form of Eireann, a Gaelic name which comes from “Eire,” or Ireland. Erin, or Eireann, was the poetic name for Ireland (a la Britannia for England, or Columbia for the United States). It rather inexplicably began being used as a first name for girls in the fifties, possibly as a result of the vogue for Irish and Celtic names.


Heaven, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990: 898th most popular.
1991: 816th most popular.
1992: 828th most popular.
1993: 804th most popular.
1994: 638th most popular.
1995: 579th most popular.
1996: 600th most popular.
1997: 489th most popular.
1998: 372nd most popular.
1999: 393rd most popular.
2000: 344th most popular.
2001: 297th most popular.

Heaven is a religious word, where God lives, and the place where the blessed go after death.


Houston, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 569th most popular.
1910-1920: 584th most popular.
1920-1930: 512th most popular.
1930-1940: 585th most popular.
1940-1950: 722nd most popular.
1950-1960: 794th most popular.
1960-1980: N/A
1980-1990: 959th most popular.
1990-2000: 685th most popular.
1998: 742nd most popular.
1999: 771st most popular.
2000: 786th most popular.
2001: 844th most popular.

Houston is a major city in the state of Texas. It was founded in 1836 and named for Sam Houston (1793-1863), a leader of Texan independence. Use of Houston as a name may be less from the city and more from the hero.

India, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1970: N/A
1970-1980: 796th most popular.
1980-1990: 524th most popular.
1990-2000: 521st most popular.
1998: 514th most popular.
1999: 414th most popular.
2000: 401st most popular.
2001: 298th most popular.

India is a Latinate name, derived from the Indus River.

Ireland, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-2000: N/A
1998: 834th most popular.
1999: N/A
2000: N/A
2001: 908th most popular.

Ireland is the name of the island country next to Great Britain. It comes form Eire-Land, when Eire is the original name of the country.

Kelvin:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1950: N/A
1950-1960: 356th most popular.
1960-1970: 233rd most popular.
1970-1980: 253rd most popular.
1980-1990: 284th most popular.
1990-2000: 288th most popular.
1998: 320th most popular.
1999: 330th most popular.
2000: 351st most popular.
2001: 358th most popular.

Kelvin is the name of a river in Scotland, possibly meaning “Narrow River.” Kelvin was adopted as a first name around the 1920s, possibly confused with the name Kevin.

Kenya, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1970: N/A
1970-1980: 366th most popular.
1980-1990: 602nd most popular.
1990-2000: 456th most popular.
1998: 539th most popular.
1999: 553rd most popular.
2000: 509th most popular.
2001: 560th most popular.

Kenya is the name of a country on the eastern coast of Africa.

Kimberly, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns)
:
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 681st most popular.
1950-1960: 78th most popular.
1960-1970: 5th most popular.
1970-1980: 5th most popular.
1980-1990: 18th most popular.
1990-2000: 35th most popular.
1998: 51st most popular.
1999: 51st most popular.
2000: 57th most popular.
2001: 61st most popular.

Kimberly comes from the Old English place name and surname Kimberley, which meant “King’s City’s Meadow” from “cyne” (king), “burg” (city), and “leah” (meadow). Kimberley the place name gave its name to a noble family. In the 19th century, John Wodehouse, Earl of Kimberley (the colonial secretary) (1806-1902) gave his name to a town in South Africa (1878). During the Boer War, the town of Kimberley(also famous for its diamond mines) became very well-known when it was held under siege for 123 days.


London, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-2000: N/A
1998: N/A
1999: 912th most popular.
2000: 842nd most popular.
2001: 867th most popular.

London, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-2000: N/A
1998: N/A
1999: N/A
2000: 909th most popular.
2001: 876th most popular.

London is the capital city of England. London is derived from the old Roman name for the city, Londinium.

Lourdes, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 742nd most popular.
1950-1960: 476th most popular.
1960-1970: 347th most popular.
1970-1980: 505th most popular.
1980-1990: 659th most popular.
1990-2000: 891st most popular.
1998: 805th most popular.
1999: 822nd most popular.
2000: 930th most popular.
2001: 846th most popular.

Lourdes is a town in southwestern France which became famous religious shrine after 1858 when a peasant girl named Bernadette Sourbris is believed to have seen the Virgin Mary.

Montana, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 797th most popular.
1998: 500th most popular.
1999: 556th most popular.
2000: 600th most popular.
2001: 671st most popular.

Montana is a western state. The name Montana comes from a Spanish word meaning “Mountainous”


Paris, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1970: N/A
1970-1980: 913th most popular.
1980-1990: 836th most popular.
1990-2000: 728th most popular.
1998: 758th most popular.
1999: 890th most popular.
2000: 811th most popular.
2001: N/A

Paris, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1990: N/A
1990-2000: 509th most popular.
1998: 474th most popular.
1999: 464th most popular.
2000: 477th most popular.
2001: 512th most popular.

Paris is the capital city of France. It is named (sometime after the fourth century) after an ancient Celtic tribe, the Parisii, that lived in the area.

Phoenix, for boys:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-2000: N/A
1998: 912th most popular.
1999: 930th most popular.
2000: 880th most popular.
2001: 631st most popular.

Phoenix is the capital city of the state of Arizona. It was named after the mythological bird, the phoenix, which is said to rise out of its own ashes every five hundred years.

Savannah, for girls:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1910: 711th most popular.
1910-1920: 796th most popular.
1920-1930: 909th most popular.
1930-1980: N/A
1980-1990: 296th most popular.
1990-2000: 87th most popular.
1998: 45th most popular.
1999: 42nd most popular.
2000: 39th most popular.
2001: 43rd most popular.

The word “savannah” dates from 1555, from Spanish, from Taino, a Native American language. It became the name of a river and city in the state of Georgia. It has occasionally been used as a first name throughout the 19th and 20th century, especially in the South.

Shannon, for females:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 564th most popular.
1950-1960: 356th most popular.
1960-1970: 125th most popular.
1970-1980: 21st most popular.
1980-1990: 39th most popular.
1990-2000: 72nd most popular.
1998: 103rd most popular.
1999: 121st most popular.
2000: 158th most popular.
2001: 178th most popular.

Shannon, for males:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1940: N/A
1940-1950: 946th most popular.
1950-1960: 712th most popular.
1960-1970: 263rd most popular.
1970-1980: 106th most popular.
1980-1990: 258th most popular.
1990-2000: 572nd most popular.
1998: 664th most popular.
1999: 612th most popular.
2000: 724th most popular.
2001: 808th most popular.

Shannon, the name of a major river in Ireland, is rarely used as first name in Ireland (more so in Britain, after American influence), but became very popular in the United States. It can also be used after the surname Shannon.

Sharon:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1920: N/A
1920-1930: 757th most popular.
1930-1940: 87th most popular.
1940-1950: 9th most popular.
1950-1960: 14th most popular.
1960-1970: 24th most popular.
1970-1980: 65th most popular.
1980-1990: 168th most popular.
1990-2000: 301st most popular.
1998: 400th most popular.
1999: 402nd most popular.
2000: 418th most popular.
2001: 464th most popular.
2002: 511th most popular.

Sharon is a Hebrew word which means “Plain.” A place name in the Bible. As such it was briefly used as a male name during the Puritan era. Later, as part of the phrase “Rose of Sharon,” it was given as a name to some girls, most notably, to a character in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1936).

Tara:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1950: N/A
1950-1960: 521st most popular.
1960-1970: 232nd most popular.
1970-1980: 43rd most popular.
1980-1990: 52nd most popular.
1990-2000: 141st most popular.
1998: 181st most popular.
1999: 233rd most popular.
2000: 243rd most popular.
2001: 272nd most popular.

Tara is an Irish Gaelic name meaning “Hill.” It was the name of the residence of Irish kings in Irish mythology an ancient history. It was also used by Margaret Mitchell as the name of the O’Hara plantation in her phenomenally successful 1936 novel Gone With the Wind. Afterwards, in the 1940s, it began to be used as a first name for girls.

Tyrone:
Popularity (for newborns):
In the United States...
1900-1930: N/A
1930-1940: 750th most popular.
1940-1950: 309th most popular.
1950-1960: 220th most popular.
1960-1970: 173rd most popular.
1970-1980: 150th most popular.
1980-1990: 216th most popular.
1990-2000: 346th most popular.
1998: 413th most popular.
1999: 429th most popular.
2000: 412th most popular.
2001: 456th most popular.

Tyrone is the name of an Irish county. It means “Land of Owen” (Tir Eoghain) from Irish Gaelic. It was named for Eoghan O’Niall, a member of the ruling family of that land. It was the name of Tyrone Power (1795-1841), a popular Irish actor. His great-grandson, Tyrone Power, Jr. became a famous film star and helped make the name Tyrone common.






Copyright © 2003 Edgar’s Name Pages

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