Celebrity Names Blog

Greenberg & Color Name Surprises

Greenberg & Color Name Surprises
Mike/Fame Pictures: Singer Pink dressed, appropriately, in pink

Earlier this month Greenberg, the new Ben Stiller movie, hit theaters.  The film's title comes from its main character, Roger Greenberg.  Our attention went to the first syllable of the last name -- Green.  We got to wondering, just how common are color names?  Are there many words out there give name to both colors and people?   

We began exploring on Baby Name Wizard's Name Voyager, and quite frankly, are somewhat surprised by the results.  See below what we found.

Red, yellow and blue -- the primary three -- have not crossed over from name of a color to name of a person enough times to make the 1000 most popular names in America. {A fun instance of Red -- that's the name Cary Grant calls Katharine Hepburn's character by in The Philadelphia Story.}

But Orange, a name we would not have expected to see crossing the top 1000 threshold, had its place on the chart in the late 1880s for boys' names.  Sure, it ranked in the 700s and then 900s, but still, Orange was there.  Another shocker -- at the turn into the 20th century, Pink as a boys' name made the chart, while for girls it was Pinkie that made the cut.  That time period must have had a thing for colors, as Green (the name/word that prompted this inquiry) also made the top 1000 names for boys' names in the late 1880s/early 1900s.  And by now you won't be surprised to know the same story is true for Brown.

Any guesses as to why colors had name popularity turning into the 20th century but not the 21st?

Violet is a color name whose popularity did not taper off after the early 1900s, only departing the top 1000 from 1970 through the 1990s.  But now Violet's back at #184, part of the popularity upswing for so-called old fashioned/old lady names.  Celeb example: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's daughter Violet Anne Affleck.  And her sister also has a color in there -- Seraphina Rose Elizabeth Affleck.  Admittedly, these names are a touch tricky to categorize, as they are both flower and color.  Rose is a big time player on the chart, always on it and in the top 100 until the 1960s.  Currently Rose is ranked at #344.

Another color name surprise: Ivory.  Ivory for girls and boys made the top 1000 in the early 20th century, and for boys stayed on until the 1970s.  Which is when Ebony, as a girls' name, arrived on the top 1000 scene, quickly rising to #158 by the 1980s.  At the moment Ebony is not in the top 1000.  The color name currently climbing high is Sienna, not a surprise given the fame of Sienna Miller.  Sienna entered in the 1990s and is now up at #177.  {Check out other Name Candy posts involving the name Sienna.} 

Other colors that didn't take the top 1000: Black, White, Purple, Lavender,  Teal.  Lavender seems like the best bet to enter the chart next -- anything connected to Harry Potter, remember Lavender Brown, a lady with double color-nameage, seems to capture our interest.

Why do you think certain colors make the jump to names while others don't?  

Here's our hunch about why words naming colors, particularly primary colors, aren't more common: because these words are there so completely identified in our thoughts with the colors, and in turn, the colors are so closely linked with emotions.  Blue to sadness, green to jealously, yellow to timidity, red to anger and passion...  Perhaps when parents sit down to pick a name, the associations of these words are just too much.  

We're glad Greenberg got us going on this naming topic.  Share your thoughts -- if old school names are making a comeback (i.e. Sadie) why have we overlooked Orange and Green?  

--D.J.

Comments

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March 30, 2010 2:07 AM
By hillary (not verified)

I've noticed Scarlet(te) is really popular right now too! Seems like the color names in vogue are ones that allude to the color but don't bash you over the head with it (a la Yellow or Purple). I could see Green working as a nickname for a longer surname-inspired first name. Orange is just an unpleasant word. I think Clementine or Coral is the closest Orange will come to a modern baby name.

March 30, 2010 7:37 AM
By Lane

Another Katherine Hepburn color name: In Adam's Rib, she and Spencer Tracy call e/o Pinkie and Pinky.

March 30, 2010 12:21 PM
By Zoerhenne (not verified)

I think you have to look at the actual name sound/look/feel rather than just whether it's a color or not. I'm betting not many people would name their child Ochre. However, some are jsut catchy enough to use though. Redd Foxx is a person that comes to mind with a color name. Scarlett Johansen is another. Violet is as you said also a flower name. There is also Jett (as in airplane and black). Green and Pink were most likely used as a kind of nn/surname type of name. Pink came from Pinkney and lots of surnames start with Green.

March 30, 2010 1:34 PM
By Leslie (not verified)

What about the names 'Hazel', 'Ruby', & 'Bleu'? I saw a celebrity's name (John Travolta, I believe) whose daughter's name was 'Anna (?) Bleu' (not sure on the first first name there!)... 'Bleu' is the French word for the English word 'Blue'. Also, remember the character 'Bonnie Blue' fromGone With The Wind? Could make some headway there...I really liked the way the spelling 'Bleu'' looked. I also think the word for 'Red' in French ('Rouge') could slip into the name scene quite easily!

March 30, 2010 2:21 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

John Travolta's daughter is Ella Bleu. There is also an old song called Delilah Blue.

March 30, 2010 3:53 PM
By Emma from Argentina (not verified)

Here in Argentina to name a person after a colour is usual but not very usual.We have names as Rosa(Pink),Violeta (Violet),Blanca(White),"Negra" as a nickname to the ones who are darker (Black),Azul(Blue),Celeste (Light blue),Esmeralda (Emerald as a kind of green),Lila (a smoother violet) and many more.All of them are for baby girls.I don't know about a colour referred name for a boy.
Regards,
Emma.

March 30, 2010 4:25 PM
By Anna (not verified)

I totally have a male relative way back somewhere named Pink. :P Horrendous. Also I think names like Lavender, Rose, and Violet just happen to be colors; they're chosen more for their floral attributes. It's less weird to name a kid after a flower than a color. [Seriously, PINK???]

March 30, 2010 11:09 PM
By Amie mouse (not verified)

But there are LOTS of names that are colors, the color might not be the first thing we think of but these are all names/colors:

Ruby, Cyan, Garnet, Amber, Sage, Saffron, Ginger, Grey, Indigo, Jade, Olive, Poppy, Heather, Midori, Carmine, Ciel, Cerise, Coral, Fawn, Fern, Forest, Moss, Myrtle, Hunter, Kelly, Sky, Iris, Jasper, Plum, Pearl, Terra, Cole, Raven, Sable, Marine, Magnolia, Ash, Slate, Isabella, Lilac

March 31, 2010 3:40 AM
By tess(not signed on) (not verified)

Blue seems to score in the middle name slot.To add another, I offer that Cher's son is Elijah Blue. And as for green-as a famous muppet once said, it isn't easy being green. :)

March 31, 2010 11:14 AM
By Justrachelmarie (not verified)

I think Ochre is kind of lovely... I could also see Brown coming around, as well as Hazel, Grey, Lavender, and Coral.

April 1, 2010 7:48 AM
By NAMES (not verified)

I knew a girl named Emerald in high school.

I find Orange very strange.

April 3, 2010 12:17 AM
By Mo (not verified)

I'm wondering if the color names from the turn of the 20th Century (Pink, Green, Brown) were chosen because of last name links. Green and Brown are both last names and there are surnames like Pinkerton. Using last names fist is not indigenous to the 21st century.
I also wonder where Gray landed on the list. If I were to choose a color name to rise that would be it, for boys and girls. Wasn't there a Gray is the Great Gatsby? Or am I thinking of the wrong book.
Color names that cross over to flowers, spices, or jewels will always be more popular, I believe, because the mental connection is more abstract. Naming a baby Yellow is like choosing Elvis for your little boy. However, names like Sage or Jade are like John. Did you automatically think John Lennon?

As for Orange.......maybe Gwenyth Paltrow would do it.

April 3, 2010 12:37 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Don't forget about Amber and Jade. They have been around for along time. A friend recently named their daughter Turquoise (nms).
Other color names that I've heard are:
Olive
Opal
Sterling
Tawny
Crystal

I like Greenlee!

I don't think colors like Orange and Green are going to make a comeback any time soon, but its possible. After all, they made the list once.

April 4, 2010 8:52 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I used to know a girl named Teal. She had a long last name and it fit. I am surprised this name isn't more popular.

Is Crystal really a color? ;-)

April 5, 2010 5:47 AM
By Dorothy Hanna (not verified)

I wonder if Orange is a last name cross over from the Dutch house of Orange...some kind of royalty I think.

April 5, 2010 4:23 PM
By A Rose (not verified)

I saw the San Fransisco production of "Wicked" a few weeks ago and the woman playing Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) was named Teal Wicks. I thought that name suited the character perfectly!

Also: Red was the name of the dad on "That '70s Show" but was probably a nickname for something. Red was also the nn for Margaret Mitchell's first husband.

April 5, 2010 7:19 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

Didn't Punky Brewster name her daughter Jagger Joseph Blue? I'm pretty sure, as that name continues to hunt my nightmares.

I've seen Sage before, which is a type of green. And Isla Fischer and Sasha Baron Cohen named their daughter Olive.

I've also seen Tawny but that names seems to have passed its prime. I've also seen Azure and Azura. There have been spottings of Navy as well

October 19, 2012 2:52 AM
By hermes birkin replica (not verified)

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