Language Origins of the American Top 10

I’ve been studying the popularity data of names for years, and their origins for even longer.  Yet, it only just occurred to me to combine the two.

Here are the top ten most popular American boys’ and girls’ names in 2014 and their backgrounds.  If you have any questions about names not here, please ask.  At a later date I will provide analyses for the top 100 and for popular names in other countries.

Boys:

  1. Noah – Hebrew
  2. Liam – Irish nickname for William
  3. Mason – An English professional word deriving from Old French, in turn Germanic.
  4. Jacob – Hebrew
  5. William – Germanic
  6. Ethan – Hebrew
  7. Michael – Hebrew
  8. Alexander – Greek
  9. James – Another form of Jacob, but came to English via Late Latin and Greek detours
  10. Daniel – Hebrew

Girls:

  1. Emma – Germanic
  2. Olivia – English, from Shakespeare.
  3. Sophia – Greek
  4. Isabella – Ultimately Hebrew, as it’s related to Elizabeth
  5. Ava  – Can come from multiple sources.  I’ve read English, Germanic, and interestingly enough, Persian.
  6. Mia – Considered a nickname for Maria, which would indicate Hebrew roots.
  7. Emily – Latin, related to Aemilia.  Not to be confused with Amelia, which is Germanic.
  8. Abigail – Hebrew
  9. Madison – Here’s a fun one.  It’s an English last name meaning “son of Maud.”  Germanic, then.  Still think it’s feminine? 😉
  10. Charlotte – Germanic

So – 6 of the boys names are originally from Hebrew.  3 are ultimately Germanic and one is Greek.  The girls are more diverse.  3 Germanic, 3 Hebrew, 1 English (coined), 1 Greek, 1 Latin, and one unconfirmed.  If this suggests anything, it’s that in America boys are more likely to have Biblical names than girls, and if you consider that the male names on the list tend to come directly from the Bible (whereas Isabella and Mia come to English through other means), then boys are far more likely to have Biblical names than girls period.

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