When I was writing yesterday about sophistication and other related “soph-” words in English, I purposely omitted discussion of the name Sophia. I decided to wait so that I could write a post about the Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Names search engine. The girl’s name Sophia, which is Greek for “wisdom,” was #4 on the SSA’s 2009 list of most popular girl baby names in the U.S. The #4 ranking is a bit misleading, though. Sofia was #36 and Sophie was #65. If we combined the stats for the different forms, they well might beat out Isabella, Emma or Olivia for one of those top three spots.
The SSA’s baby name page is really fascinating. You can do two types of searches, by date and by name. I pull up my birth year, for example, and find that the top five names are Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen and Linda. So it’s no surprise that I dated a Lisa, that I’m married to a Susan, and that at one time I had among my coworkers all in one department a Mary, a Karen, and a Linda, all similar in age to me. While the birth year function on the SSA site gives you a snapshot in time of what was popular, the name search is much more interesting to me. Enter a name, and it will give you the name’s annual rank as far back as you’d like to go within their 130 years of data (default is ten years if no date range selected).
Coming in at #118, Sophia was fairly popular when the data begins in 1880. From there, it had a steady decline until the mid-’50s. It reached its nadir in 1956, with a #923 ranking. After that, it trudged slowly back up the popularity path over the years. Since 1997, it has appeared in the top 100. Since 2006, it has been in the top 10. Our dedication to wisdom must be increasing!
You’ll enjoy spending some time poking around this site. Discover interesting facts like this: The top girl name over the last century, Mary, has 3.76 million instances, over twice as many as the #2 in that category, Patricia, with 1.57 million. However, the top two boy names, James and John, are very close—4.87 million and 4.77 million respectively. See tables of top names by decade, top names by state, top 5 names over a period of time, popular names for twins. There are all kinds of possibilities. Enjoy!