Name To Watch: Wilhelmina

Supermodel Wilhelmina Cooper

Supermodel Wilhelmina Cooper

Wilhelmina may seem impractical. For one thing, it is impossible to spell.

Could a name like Wilhelmina zoom up the baby name charts?

Maybe five years ago I would have scoffed at that possibility.

But the baby name tide may be turning.

The top baby girl names in America are very different from Wilhelmina.

Look at these names in the top 100 and see if you can spot what they have in common:

  • #3 Isabella
  • #4 Olivia
  • #23 Amelia
  • #49 Arianna / #74 Ariana
  • #73 Gianna
  • #91 Aria

Besides all ending in A, they are all heavy on vowels and mostly stem from Romance language such as Spanish or Italian. (Although Amelia is actually a variation of the German Amalia and German isn’t a Romance language, it’s a Germanic language.)

Names from consonant-heavy Germanic languages, the most widely spoken being English and German, were seen as fusty and frumpy by Americans for the past few decades.

Wilhelmina is considered a German name making it very different from names that were sought after in recent decades.

In recent decades, the sought after names were the lovely, lyrical, liquid sounding names from Romance language, especially for girls. Names like in the above list.

This wasn’t always the case. At one point Germanic names were fashionable among Americans. Some Germanic names that were popular during the Victorian era include Bertha (which peaked at #7 in the 1880s) and Gertrude (peaked at #22 in 1906).

American parents may be ready to welcome these names back into nurseries and pre-schools.

But I don’t think Bertha and Gertrude will be among the newest wave of Germanic names to hit the top 1000 within the next decade.

Well… OK… Gertrude may have potential with cute nicknames, Gertie and Tudy.

Cute nicknames aside, I believe the newest hot Germanic names will include Greta (one of UBN’s first Watch List Names), Otto (another Watch List Name) and now:

Wilhelmina

Wilhelmina is the feminine form of Wilhelm, a German variation of William.

While overlooked for many years, dismissed as being perhaps too consonant-heavy, from 1880 (the earliest year baby name stats are available) until around 1900, Wilhelmina ranked in the 200’s. The name declined through the early 20th century, left the top 1000 in 1953, and has yet to return.

But I feel the name has a shot to re-enter the top 1000 within the next few years.

There are two reasons I believe this.

  1. Within the past year, Wilhelmina became a minor celebrity baby name, the youngest daughter of 90’s teen idol Taylor Hanson and his wife Natalie.

    The Hanson’s other daughter was given super-breakout name Penelope, which has come back in a big way, rising almost 300 places in a five-year span from #409 in 2007 to #125 in 2012. This indicates that the family knows name fashion.

  2. Wilhelmina is gaining popularity on parenting site BabyCenter.

BabyCenter has its own baby name rankings separate from the official US Social Security rankings, and if a name ranks higher with BabyCenter, that is a good sign it could climb the Social Security list within the next year or two.

On BabyCenter, Wilhelmina ranks at #393 for 2013, and has risen the past couple of years.

Wilhelmina’s birth numbers in the US show a promising upward trend the past four years. But considering that the birth number had been stagnant until recently, these birth numbers don’t suggest that Wilhelmina will likely hit the top 1000 next year.

Year # of Newborn Girls
2002 21
2003 18
2004 14
2005 19
2006 15
2007 31
2008 23
2009 28
2010 41
2011 54
2012 63

 

Generally a girl name must have about 250 births—give or take—in any given year to make the 1000th place on the Social Security list. That means Wilhelmina’s birth numbers would have to almost quadruple to put it in the top 1000 next year.

Nevertheless, Wilhelmina has the makings of a fashion star. First there are the wide choices of nicknames: Wilma, Willa, Willy, and Mina.

Then there is Wilhelmina’s four syllables, something it has in common with mega-hit name Isabella, and rising-star Cecilia.

Wilhelmina has earned a place on the UBN Watch List Report, a list of names I add to yearly and track every year.

To get the latest Watch List Report (and get on the list to receive the next Watch List Report, the one which will have Wilhelmina) become an UBN email follower by submitting your name below.

As an UBN email follower, you will also get updates on names ahead of the curve and other stuff I don’t share on the UBN blog.

 






Image credit

Resources:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/508379/Romance-languages
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/romancelanguage/a/050611-Romance-Languages.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_languages

Comments

  1. I’m not sure about Wilhelmina, but I think we could see a lot more of Willa and Mina as stand-alone names. They’re similar enough to currently trendy/popular names like Willow, Winter, Mila, Mia, etc., to strike that fitting in/standing out balance that many parents seek out.

  2. I have met a little one, but her parents spelled the name Willamina.

  3. I’m so excited to see the odd German name making a comeback. But also terrified! All of our picks are clunky German names from the family tree and I dunno if I’m ready to share them 😉 Wilhelmina is not one of them, but I really do love it, especially when pronounced “correctly” (more like Vil-hehl-meena)

  4. We just had our first child, a daughter, and Wilhelmina was definitely on my list! I have fully German heritage and a thing for German names, including more intensely German ones like Hildegard (come on, Hilde is a cute nn!) and Wolfgang.

    Some of the only ones that felt really usable–and possible to convince my husband on–were Mathilda, Anneliese, and Wilhelmina. They all have potential spelling issues, but they all also have cute nickname potentials. I love Mina, Willa, Wilma…Anyway, it may stay on the list if we have another girl in the future. 🙂

    BTW, we ended up choosing a name that is definitely NOT German, but also has 4 syllables and happens to be on the UBN watch list: Magnolia. (With the middle name Irene after my German mother…even though the name Irene isn’t really German itself.)

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