About Names: Once big, Deborah had a fall from grace

Debra Messing co-starred as Grace Adler on NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 1998 to 2006. Her name in all its forms — Deborah, Debra, Debbie, Deb — once dominated the baby boomer names lists. / Associated Press

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15 column, he looks at the history of the name Deborah.

The name Debra is just as amazing. It’s an alternate spelling of Deborah, which is derived from the Hebrew word for “bee.” The name wasn’t used by Christians until after the Reformation. Then parents searching the Old Testament discovered it.

In England, Deborah first joined the top 50 names in 1610, peaking at 24th in the 1660s. The name was even more popular with Puritans and Quakers of colonial New England and Pennsylvania.

When yearly baby names data start in 1880, Deborah ranked 499th. It bottomed out at 892nd in 1912, and barely rose until 1928. What happened to Deborah after that? Read on to find out more about Deborahs in history!

 

About Names: August, a name with ancient roots, is again in robust usage

Queen Latifah portrayed August in “The Secret Life of Bees.”

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 1 column, he looks at the history of the name August.

In the year 8 B.C. the Roman Senate renamed the month Sextilis after the first Roman emperor, Augustus, whose great military victories came in that month. Around the year 1500, noble families in Germany and Poland, inspired by the emperor’s fame, began using the name. In German and Polish the name was “August,” but these men were usually called “Augustus” in English.

German immigrants brought the form August to the U.S., where, in 1850, the census found 10,320 Augustuses and 3,049 Augusts. There were also 776 men named Auguste, the French form.

2008 was the first year that more than 100 baby girls were named August. In 2016, 222 arrived. If 265 arrive this year, August will make the top thousand for girls as well as boys. Read on to find out more about Augusts in history!

 

About Names: McCartney is a rare talent, and a (historically) rare British Paul

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 18 column, he looks at the history of the name Paul.

The name Paul is the English form of Latin name Paulus or Paullus, meaning “small” or “humble.” St. Paul was an important leader of early Christianity. Despite Paul’s biblical significance, his name wasn’t popular in medieval Western Europe.

Paul had a minor uptick from 19th to 16th in the U.S. when Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic. For Americans, though, Paul wasn’t “fresh” enough for that to last, and it fell out of the top 50 names in 1991. McCartney is the most famous modern Paul, but there are scores of others. Paul Robeson (1898-1976), singer and political activist whose version of “Ol’ Man River” is still the most famous rendition of the song, kept the name known among African-Americans. Read on to find out more about Pauls in history!

 

About Names: July 4 2017 is the 241st birthday of the United States of America. But the name America dates back 510 years

America Ferrera

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 4th column, he looks at the history of the name America. 

America was named after Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512.) He was born in Florence and named after his paternal grandfather. The Normans brought a French form of the name to England, where it became Amery or Emery. In Latin, Amerigo became Americus.

Américo is the Spanish form. América has been used as a woman’s name throughout Latin America — fittingly, since South America was given its name.

Hispanic immigration brought America back into the top 1,000 U.S. names in 1998. For unknown reasons it later boomed with Latino parents, peaking at No. 410 in 2002, when 704 children were given the name America.

It’s tempting to link that surge with actress America Ferrera. Born to immigrants from Honduras in Los Angeles in 1984, she was named after her mother, América Griselda Ayes. Read more about the history of the name America here!

About Names: Nicole popularized by films, France, Fitzgerald

Yvette Nicole Brown by Gage Skidmore

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 20 column, he looks at the history of the name Nicole.  Nicole Kidman, who played those characters in “Batman Forever,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “Lion,” turns 50 today. Kidman is an Oscar winner; in 2002, she won for best actress in a leading role, playing British writer Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.”

Her given name is a French feminine form of Nicholas, Greek “nikê”, “victory” and “laos,” “people.” The name’s biggest surge in popularity came in 1969. A 134 percent rise landed it in 47th place when the soap opera “The Edge of Night” introduced vivacious fan favorite Nicole Travis (played by Maeve McGuire).

Nicole, with its similarity to fashionable French sisters Michelle, Danielle and Stephanie, marched upward until peaking in 1983. That year, 1.25 percent of girls born that year were named Nicole, ranking it seventh. Read on to find out more about Nicoles in history!

 

About Names: Lion’s share of Daniel’s cachet is thanks to Bible

“You talkin’ to me? Happy weekend face. Frontierofficial is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 6 column, he looks at the history of the name Daniel. Daniel is a Hebrew name meaning “God is my judge.” The original Daniel is hero of the book named after him in the Old Testament. Daniel, a Jewish captive, is made chief of Babylon’s wise men when only he can interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.

Though after 1350 Daniel was rare in England, it was one of the first Old Testament names revived after the Reformation. It ranked 44th for English boys born in the 1550s, and 15th in the 1690s.

Daniel, like most Old Testament names, receded in popularity in the late 19th century, but it never became rare. Between 1914 and 1916 it ranked 55th, its lowest point, on Social Security’s baby names lists.

Read on to find out where Daniel ranks now!

 

About Names: Is ‘Star Wars’-inspired moniker the chosen one among parents picking baby names?

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 23 column, he looks at the influence of popular media like Star Wars on the most popular baby names of 2016.

Riley shot up 18 percent last year, twice as fast as the year before. Two Disney characters helped: Riley Matthews (played by Rowan Blanchard), the title character of the Disney Channel’s recently canceled “Girl Meets World,” and Riley Andersen, the girl whose personified emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear are the chief characters in Pixar’s animated film “Inside Out.”

Social Security’s website divulges names among the top 1,000 that made the biggest jumps in 2015. Kylo skyrocketed from 3,269th to 901st. Thirty-five were born in 2015 and 238 last year. It wasn’t just the new characters: Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa inspired a 32 percent leap in girls named Leia. Last year, 1,005 were born.

Of course pop culture can also hurt a name’s popularity. Alexa fell 19 percent last year. Perhaps parents don’t want their daughter to share a name with Amazon’s electronic personal assistant.

About Names: Candace, from biblical queen to Hollywood star

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 9 column, he looks at the history of the name Candace. Candice is an alternative of Candace, Latin form of Kandake, itself the Greek form of kentake, which is Meroitic for “queen” or “royal woman.” Candace, like other biblical names, went out of style in the late 19th century. Candace peaked at 171st in 1952. The name’s fashion had ended, it seemed. Then Candice Bergen became a fashion model. Read on to find out more about famous Candaces!

About Names: Enchanting Ella traces history to English nobles

Ella Fitzgerald

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Ella. The name Ella or Ela was brought to England in 1066 by Norman conquerors. In the late 18th century British and American authors were fascinated by medieval chivalry. Ela was one of many medieval names they revived — though they preferred spelling it with two l’s. The Ellas of today are mostly too young to be famous — though actresses Ella Peck (1990) of “Gossip Girl” and “Deception” and Ella Anderson (2005) of Nickelodeon’s “Henry Danger” are already well known. They and thousands of other young Ellas will enchant us for decades to come.

About Names: Name “Judith” personified justice back in medieval times

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 11th column, he looks at the history of the name Judith. Judith is the English form of Hebrew Yehudit, “woman from Judea.” In the Book of Genesis, Judith is a wife of Esau, the twin from whom Jacob steals his birthright. Like other biblical names, Judith went out of style in the late 19th century. In 1880, when Social Security’s baby name lists began, it ranked only 882nd. But in 1937, when Judy Garland became a star in the “Andy Hardy” films, Judy had risen to 91st — and Judith ranked 34th. Read on to find out about more famous Judys!