Biblical names abound in popular baby names list

In USA Today by Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

Biblical names abound in popular baby names list

Meanwhile, there is a campaign for children to be baptized with traditional Christian names to maintain their identity in Mumbai by Jesuit Priest Elvis Ben-Hur Diamond. Oh wait, his name is Fr. Joseph Dias.


  1. Mariah Carey named one of her twins after a floor in her apartment? Wonder what significant event transpired there?

  2. Baby names are a wonderful illustration of the change from industrial society where the emphasis was on efficient production of similar items to post-industrial society with its emphasis upon diversity and self expression.

    In 1950 the top ten boy names covered 33% of boy babies, and the top 24 names covered half the boys, while the top 500 names covered 93% of all male babies.

    By 2009, the top ten boy names covered only 9% of boy babies; it took the top 134 names to cover half the boy babies, and the top 500 names covered only 71% of male babies.

    Women have led and continue to lead the way in self-expression.

    In 1950 the top ten girls names covered only 23% of girl babies; it took the top 46 names to cover half of the girl babies, and the top 500 names covered only 88% of girl babies.

    By 2009, the top ten girl names covered only 8% of girl babies; it took the top 321 names to cover half the girl babies, and the top 500 girl names cover only 57% of the girl babies!

    Religious leaders get it wrong when they think it is about tradition. As the article points out Biblical names do rather well. Rather it is about self-expression.

    Religion is becoming less about denominations, or even congregations, and more about becoming a particular spiritual person. An unusual name, whether Biblical or not, may be a first step in that self expressive direction.

    1. I suspect that this US change in naming patterns represents the end of the immigration cycle for Euro-Americans and the end of the migration for Afro-Americans from the rural South to the urban North.

      So long as people feel they are migrants “new” to an area and wish their children to assimilate to the culture where they now intend to remain [2nd or 3rd generation], they tend to name children in accord with majority culture practices, expressing conformity with that culture and upward aspirations through working within the culture.

      Most Euro-Americans are now far enough removed from immigrant anxieties that they feel more comfortable selecting distinctive or class approved baby names rather than conformist names. Afro-Americans are still struggling to define themselves as rightfully distinct from the European host culture. Euro-Americans may have taken that effort as their own invitation to personal distinctions.

      I would be interested in knowing the naming patterns for second and third generation Hispanic-Americans, whether they are selecting names for the sake of assimilation or for cultural identity maintenance or for personal distinction.

      Regardless of my theories, I agree that the selection of names has little to do with religious motivations rather than cultural ones.

    2. The Social Security website offers lists of baby names for each year since 1880. Social Security started compiling baby name lists in 1997. The explosion of names in recent years has been fed by the availability of this annual report.

      However, historically the peak for having only a small number of baby names occurred around 1945, and expanded thereafter.

      Earlier data however has to be viewed cautiously since the practice of coverage of social security expanded over time. It was also awhile before social security numbers were assigned at birth, so that has to be factored into interpretations.

  3. I suspect the next pope might help himself to become a particular spiritual person by caling himself Mahershalalhasbaz I. 🙂

  4. The local orthodox parish prays specifically for the unborn child of any parish member. A rather simple and powerful pro-life statement as well as a wonderful statement of Christian community, the sense of this person already being incorporated into the parish community.

    The taking of names by Popes and some other hierarchs reminds me that there is a long tradition of taking names in religious life. There is a lot about naming in the Bible. There was the ancient notion that saying a person’s name gave you some control over that person. There is the practice of not pronouncing the Divine Name. It seems that there is a lot of material out there they could be assembled and made available for the naming process from a Christian perspective. Has anyone done this?

  5. Catholics and Anglicans are more likely to focus on saints’ names than on biblical names. Helen, Philomena, Margaret, Theresa, Hilary, Basil, etc.

  6. It seems to me that “heaven” spelled backwards, would have a meaning of the opposite of heaven. It implies that the parents expect their child Neveah to be “hellish”. Also, it is reminiscent of the hand cream Nivea.

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