Again, Dabney didn’t make the list!


I am fascinated by names and am from a family that routinely gives uncommon family names to their too-young to argue babies. (My grandmother’s name was Pocahontas, sadly, everyone called her Pokey.) My name, Dabney, is unusual and has never made the list of top names chosen by Americans for their progeny. How do I know this, you ask? Well, each year the Social Security Administration posts a list of the top ten boy and girl names for the previous year. Currently, the website is showing the names from 2009.

If you were a girl born as a US citizen in 2009, there’s a good chance you were named Isabella; a boy, Jacob.  Isabella is the first girl name NOT to start with an E that’s held the number one rank in the past fourteen years. For twelve of the past years, 1996 to 2007, the top girl name in the USA was Emily. In 2008, it was Emma. If you were a boy born as a US citizen in 2009, there’s a good chance you were named Jacob. In fact, if you were a male born any time in between 1999 and 2009, you might be named Jacob. It’s held the number one spot for the past ten years. And if you’ve noticed a lot of young men out there named Michael, that’s because, with the exception of one year, 1960, when American parents went for David, Michael held the number one spot from 1954 to 1998!

The SSA’s website is full of cool information about our naming habits. You can look at the most popular names by decade, state, region, even century. There’s a list that shows the most popular twin names of 2009, divided by girl/girl (Isabella and Sophia), girl/boy (Madison and Mason), and boy/boy (Jacob, Joshua). You can also enter any name and see if it’s made it into the top 1000 names at any time since the government began keeping track. My name doesn’t show up at all. My daughter’s name, Evelyn, has been on the list for every year for the past 100 years. Her name was most popular in the beginning of the 1900’s, dropped way down until the 2000’s and has been rising in the charts ever since. Her twin’s name, William, has also been on the list for the past 100 years, ranging from being the 20th most popular to the second most popular.

Another cool site for names is Baby Name Voyager.  This site lets you enter a name and see a graph of its popularity since the 1880’s. I put in my husband’s name, Gregory, and saw that, despite a brief surge of popularity in the middle of the 20th century, it’s now on the down swing big time. The name of a friend of mine, Athena, amazed me by being in the Voyager database, first appearing in 1950. Athena is currently at an all time high for US name rank–it was the 430th most popular name for girls in 2009.

One limit of these and most other baby name sites is that records only exist for those who have filed for a Social Security card. I suspect that the list would be altered if those who live here but aren’t registered as citizens were included.  If you’re interested in what’s popular in other countries, check out the website Most Popular Baby Names around the World. There, you can find out, for example, in 2009, the most popular names in Switzerland were Luca for a boy and Lea for a girl.

I like having an unusual name–now that I’m an adult. How about you? Do you have an unusual name? Did you give your kids unique names? Do you have a custom of family names? If you could rename yourself, would you? (I wouldn’t, but I’ve always loved the my great aunt’s name Arianna and, when I was younger wished my parents had named me for her rather than for her mother.)

19 thoughts on “Again, Dabney didn’t make the list!

  1. Leigh AAR

    Since you posted about names, I have to ask about yours. Is it from a last name? Or what is the history?

    I work with children, and do I ever see some different names. I think there are some studies that have correlated names to success with women doing better with uncommon names. Males are no so lucky.

    What does drive me a little crazy is how a name starts out as a masculine name, and then then in five to ten years it is the one of the more popular female names? I believe Dakota started out that way. . . Aiden. . . .

    Sometimes I do wish that that the U.S. did have the same government regulations that France does. . . the name has to be approved. . . (just kidding) but still wants to go through life named this:

    ParentDish’s 100 Weirdest Baby Names
    1. Aanisah: Macy Gray and Tracy Hinds (also: Tahmel, Cassius)
    2. Alabama Gypsy Rose: Drea de Matteo and Shooter Jennings
    3. Alcamy: Lance and Mary Jane Henriksen
    4. Anais: Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews
    5. Apple: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow (also: Moses)
    6. Aquinnah: Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan (also: Schuyler, Sam, Esme)
    7. Astrella Celeste: Donovan and Linda Lawrence (also: Oriole Nebula)
    8. Atherton Grace: Don Johnson and Kelley Phleger
    9. Audio Science: Shannyn Sossamon and Dallas Clayton
    10. Aurelius Cy: Elle Macpherson and Arpad Busson
    11. Banjo: Rachel Griffiths and Andrew Taylor
    12. Barron: Donald Trump and Melania Knauss
    13. Blue Angel: The Edge and Aislinn O’Sullivan
    14. Bluebell Madonna: Geri Halliwell and Sacha Gervasi
    15. Bogart Che Peyote: David “Puck” Rainey and Betty Rainey (also: Rocco Kokopelli)
    16. Brooklyn: David and Victoria Beckham (also: Romeo, Cruz)
    17. Bronx Mowgli: Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz
    18. Buster: Johnny Lee Miller and Michele Hicks
    19. Calico: Alice and Sheryl Cooper (also: Sonora Rose, Dashiell)
    20. Camera: Arthur Ashe and Jeanne Moutoussamy
    21. Cannon: Larry and Shawn King
    22. Caspar: Claudia Schiffer and Matthew Vaughn
    23. Chastity: Cher and Sonny Bono (also: Elijah Blue — Cher and Greg Allman)
    24. Coco Riley: Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette
    25. Dandelion: Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg
    26. Denim Cole: Toni Braxton and Keri Lewis (also: Diezel Ky)
    27. Destry: Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw
    28. Diva Muffin: Frank and Gail Zappa (also: Dweezil, Ahmet and Moon Unit)
    29. Ever Gabo: Milla Jovovich and Paul Anderson
    30. Everly Bear: Anthony Kiedis and Heather Christie
    31. Fifi Trixibell: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates (also: Peaches Honeyblossom, Pixie, Little Pixie)
    32. Free: Barbara Hershey and David Carradine
    33. Fuchsia: Sting and Frances Tomelty
    34. Gaia: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
    35. Goldie Priya: Ione Skye and Ben Lee
    36. Gulliver: Gary Oldman and Donya Fiorentino
    37. Harlow Winter Kate: Nicole Richie and Joel Madden (also: Sparrow)
    38. Heaven: Lil’ Mo (also: God’Iss Love Stone)
    39. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily: Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates
    40. Hermes: Kelly Rutherford and Daniel Giersch
    41. Holden: Mira Sorvino and Chris Backus
    42. Hopper: Sean Penn and Robin Wright
    43. Hud: John Cougar Mellencamp and Elaine Irwin (also: Spec Wildhorse)
    44. Ikhyd: M.I.A. and Benjamin Brewer
    45. Indiana: Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix (also: Atticus)
    46. Ireland: Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger
    47. Jaz Elle: Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi
    48. Jazz Domino: Joe Strummer and Gabrielle Salter
    49. Jermajesty: Jermaine Jackson and Alejandra Genevieve Oaziaza
    50. Jeronimo: Diego Luna and Camila Sodi

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  2. Leigh AAR

    and more:

    51. Journey: Jenna Jameson and Tito ORtiz
    52. Kafka: Tommy Lee Jones
    53. Kal-el: Nicholas Cage and Alice Kim
    54. Kyd: David Duchovny and Tea Leoni
    55. Lennon: Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit
    56. London Emilio: Slash and Perla Ferrar
    57. Lyric: Robby Benson and Karla DeVito (also: Zephyr)
    58. Maddox: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (also: Zahara, Pax, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne)
    59. Marquise: 50 Cent and Shaniqua Tompkins
    60. Mars Merkaba: Erykah Badu and Jay Electronica
    61. Memphis Eve: Bono
    62. Moses Amadeus: Mia Farrow (also: Satchel and Lark Song)
    63. Moxie CrimeFighter: Penn and Emily Jillette (also: Zolten)
    64. Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha: Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa
    65. Ocean: Forest and Keisha Whitaker (also: Sonnet, True, Autumn)
    66. Phinnaeus: Julia Roberts and Daniel Moder (also: Hazel)
    67. Pilot Inspektor: Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf
    68. Pirate: Jonathan and Deven Davis (also: Zeppelin)
    69. Poet Sienna Rose: Soleil Moon Frye and Jason Goldberg
    70. Poppy Honey: Jamie Oliver and Jools Oliver (also: Daisy Boo, Petal Blossom Rainbow)
    71. Prince Michael II/Blanket: Michael Jackson (also: Prince Michael I, Paris Michael)
    72. Puma: Erykah Badu and Tracy Curry (The D.O.C.)
    73. Reignbeau: Ving Rhames and Deborah Reed (also: Freedom)
    74. Rocco: Madonna and Guy Richie
    75. Rocket: Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan (also: Racer, Rebel, Rogue, Rhiannon)
    76. Rowan: Brooke Shields and Chris Henchy (also: Grier)
    77. Rufus Tiger: Roger Taylor (also: Tiger Lily, Lola Daisy)
    78. Ryder: Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson
    79. Saffron Sahara: Simon and Yasmin Le Bon (also: Amber Rose, Tallulah Pine)
    80. Sailor Lee: Christie Brinkley, Peter Cook
    81. Sage Moonblood: Sylvester Stallone and Sasha Czack (also: Seargeoh)
    82. Satyana: Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof
    83. Satchel: Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
    84. Seven Sirius: Andre Benjamin and Erykah Badu
    85. Snow: Robin Gibb and Claire Yang
    86. Sosie: Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick
    87. Steveanna: Randy and Eliza Jackson
    88. Story Elias: Jenna and Bodhi Elfman
    89. Sunday Rose: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban
    90. Suri: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
    91. Tabooger: Dan Cortese and Dee Dee Hemby
    92. Tallulah: Bruce Willis and Demi Moore (also: Scout, Rumer)
    93. Thyme: Isaiah and Jenisa Marie Washington
    94. Tripp: Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston
    95. Tu: Rob Morrow and Debbon Ayer
    96. Yamma: James Brown and Deidre Jenkins
    97. Zen: Corey and Susie Feldman
    98. Zola Ivy: Eddie Murphy and Nicole Mitchell
    99. Zowie: David Bowie and Angela Bowie
    100. Zuma: Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale (also: Kingston)

    Apple, Diva Muffin, Radio Science, Pilot Inspektor seem to be the more weird. . . but I have to say, that none of these names would make my baby list. .

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  3. DabneyAAR


    It’s a family name. There were three French brothers, the D’Aubignes who came to Virginia in the 1600’s. The name, over time, was Anglicized to Dabney. Most people in the US named Dabney are, distantly, related. My family is full of last names as first names. My husband thinks we’re crazy. I really wanted to name our oldest–a boy–Grymes (my maternal grandmother’s last name) but my husband refused. We named him Carter–another Virginia name instead and, now, I’m very happy I didn’t saddle him with Grymes!

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  4. Ann

    My name is Winifred Anne. I was named after my grandmother on my father’s side. When I was a baby everyone started calling me Winnie and my mother did not like it. The baby sitter told my Mom that Winifred is too old for a baby and said you should call her Anne. Well I shortened it to Ann in school. I wish I had just kept Winifred. I like the name now. Oh by the way I have 3 cousins on my father’s side all with Winifred as the middle name or first name. One cousin in Ireland is named Una which is Gaelic for Winifred. My Mom wanted to name me Bridget after her aunt. My Dad won!!

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  5. Leigh AAR

    Dabney, I thought it probably was a last name changed to a first. A good old southern tradition. Cole is one of my ancestor’s last name, and has transitioned to a middle name. . . Even my dog was not immune to this tradition, since he is named Lucas Cole. .

    Ann, I have to say that I have never met a Winifred. My first impression is that it is a name that you grow into. . . It reminds of of the elegant early 1900’s.

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  6. AARPat

    Turns out Patricia, my first name, was the 3rd most popular the year I was born, and now it has pretty much died out.

    I put in my uncle’s first name and got nothing: Desire; his middle name, Jules, was at least listed as was my husband’s mother’s name, Floy. Whenever our daughters would complain about their names, Sarah and Rebecca, we would tell them to be grateful that we didn’t name them after their ancestors, Edna and Floy.

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  7. Blythe

    Blythe never makes the list either. I have mixed feelings about my name. My mom named me Blythe in no small part because her name was Judy -short for Judith, which was #7 in 1942, the year she was born. But Judy itself is #15, so together it was even more popular (over 40,000 of them in her birth year). My mom always thought her parents lacked originality.

    I’ve gotten tons of compliments on my name all my life. But I HATE that no one understands it the first time I say it. I have spent 40 years spelling my name every time I introduce myself. My theory is that when someone asks your name they are expecting you to say Jennifer or Lisa (the two most popular names the year I was born), or something they recognize. They are not ready to process “Blythe”. So their reaction is “What?”

    On the plus side, I am the easiest person to fins on facebook. No one else has my name. When you google me, you know it’s me (which is how I found out that an author whose book I panned had named a very negative character after me in a later book).

    When I named my own kids, I tried to strike a balance between unusual and recognizable/understandable. Because the other problem with Blythe is that a lot of people can’t pronounce it even if they are reading it. No one mispronounces my kids’ names when they see them on paper. The only issue we’ve had is that sometimes people think Finn is saying “Ben” when they ask his name. But that happens less now that Glee and Adventure Time with Finn and Jake are on the scene.

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  8. DabneyAAR

    I spent my childhood spelling my name and then saying, “Dabney, not Debbie.” or “Dabney, not Daphne.”

    I hadn’t thought about ticking off authors and having a bad Dabney show up latter in a book. I think I might be thrilled if that happened….

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  13. Dabney N

    My Names Dabney too and I’m a Teenaged girl from South African. I can relate to spending my entire life of introductions correcting people who incorrectly pronounce my name… I’ve gotten ‘Daphne, Debbie, Dabne’,Debney’ … My mother also came across an actor whos surnname was ‘Dabney’ and decided it would be a well suited name for me. I like my unusual name, I have never come across another Dabney in my life before

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