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Baby Name Voyager

By Murray Bourne, 08 Jan 2007

How many Peters are there, compared to Pauls and Paulas? How many parents named their kid Paige? When was Brittney a popular name?

The Baby Name Voyager indicates in visual form the changing fate of names since the 1880s. It does so using a clever java applet:


The Voyager compares names that were registered in the US. The scale used is "usage per million babies". It is cool for many reasons:

  • You can see changes in popularity for particular names (see "Michael" below)
  • The java applet is super efficient, once it loads
  • It is nice how you can play with statistics, reminiscent of Gapminder. Statistics can be a lot more meaningful when it is presented visually.

Let's have a closer look at Michael:

Michael 3

Their database only contains US names so far.

Like all statistics, you need to be careful with interpretation. From their FAQ:

Why do these graphs look different from what I've seen on other web sites?
The graphs in the Baby Name Wizard book and web site show the frequency of use of different names. If one name stripe is twice as thick as another on the same screen, that means the name was twice as common.

You may have seen other graphs based on popularity rank. Be wary of any information source which does this--it's a fundamental misuse of data, and the graphs just aren't meaningful. For example, the name Joseph has risen from the 13th most popular name 50 years ago to #10 today...but the name is actually significantly less common today.

Parting words: From What's hot:

   Girls 	Boys
1. Emily 	Jacob
2. Emma 	Michael
3. Madison 	Joshua
4. Olivia 	Matthew
5. Hannah 	Ethan

See the 1 Comment below.

One Comment on “Baby Name Voyager”

  1. chris says:

    Hi Murray,

    The original baby name voyager link is now broken. Here's a replacement visualization made in Javascript.

    hope this is helpful

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