The top baby name of the 1970s was Michael, but meeting a man named Mike doesn't immediately conjure up the "Me Decade." Michael was too diffuse of a hit, encompassing half a century in its popularity wave. For a pure, potent dose of the '70s, you need names concentrated in that decade.
We've identified 20 names with pure '70s power. If you meet someone named Kojak, Chakakhan, or any of the other names on this list, you can be pretty confident they were born in the 1970s—and that their parents were steeped in the events of their time. Each name is listed with its "70s purity score," the percentage of all Americans with the name who were born from 1970 to 1979.
Mr. Drummond & friends of Diff'rent Strokes (Image: tvguidemagazine.com)
Kojak (M) '70s Purity Score: 100%. The police drama Kojak starred Telly Savalas as the titular NYC police detective. His trademark style of bald head and lollipop made such an impact in the '70s that the names Telly and Savalas could also qualify for this list…Telly for boys and girls alike.
Chakakhan (F) 100%. Once upon a time, a young aspiring singer named Yvette Stevens was dubbed Chaka by a Yoruba elder. She then married a man with the surname Khan, and under the bold new name Chaka Khan became the Queen of Funk. The name Chaka is heavily '70s in her honor, and the extended name Chakakhan is as pure '70s as they come.
Drummond (M) 75%. The most common memory of the sitcom Diff-rent Strokes is of young Arnold, played by Gary Coleman, saying "What you talkin bout, Willis?" But the character who sparked a '70s baby name wasn't Arnold or Willis but Mr. Drummond, the wealthy white man who took in the two orphaned African-American boys.
Sacheen (F) 95%. When the 1973 Academy awards announced Marlon Brando as Best Actor for The Godfather, Brando sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage on his behalf to refuse the award. Two lasting impacts: Oscar winners are no longer allowed to appoint proxies to receive their statuettes, and over a hundred American women were named Sacheen.
Travolta (M) 100%. A scattering of boys were named Travolta in the wake of John Travolta's star-making turn in polyester in Saturday Night Fever.
Ayatollah (M) 100%. There was a lot more to the '70s than sitcoms and disco. In 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini led the revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran—and before the extended Iran hostage crisis cemented Khomeini as a villain in the eyes of the American public—the name Ayatollah briefly caught on.
Darth (M) 100%. Yep, that would be the ultimate helmeted, hollow-voiced bad guy, Darth Vader. The name Darth popped up for a few years after the original Star Wars came out in 1977. Once the prequel trilogy appeared, parents opted for Vader's birth name, Anakin.
Shaft (M) 83%. The biggest name of the "blaxploitation" film genre, private detective Shaft was one tough dude with one catchy theme song.
Charo (F) 85%. Actress and flamenco guitarist Charo was a ubiquitous tv guest star in the '70s, known in the U.S. for her catch phrase "cuchi-cuchi."
Amitabh (M) 100%. Amitabh Bachchan was a towering superstar of 1970s Bollywood. Amitabh was one of the first Indian film star names to make a mark on U.S. name stats; today, top Bollywood stars and characters regularly register on the top-1000 name charts.
Starbuck (M) 100%. Before Seattle's Starbucks Coffee conquered the world (and long after chief mate Starbuck tried to counter mad Captain Ahab in Moby Dick), Starbuck was a swashbuckling space pilot in the 1970s tv series Battlestar Galactica.
Comaneci (F) 100%. Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci was a breakout star of the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Starsky (M) 85%. The police detectives of the action series Starsky & Hutch tore around the mean streets of Southern California in a flashy Ford Gran Torino.
Kizzy (F) 79%. The most popular name on this list, Kizzy was the daughter of Kunta Kinte in the 1977 miniseries Roots, a show which left behind a powerful legacy in American baby names. Kizzy was a nickname for Keziah, a biblical daughter of Job.
Benji (F) 77%. Why were girls suddenly named Benji in the '70s? The answer walks on four paws. The title dog of hit film Benji won hearts with his winsome manner and crime-fighting acumen.
Thalmus (M) 100%. Thalmus Rasulala may not be a well-known name today, but the actor was a staple of 1970s African-American productions from Blacula to Roots to What's Happening!!
Sossity (F) 100%. For a dose of the earnest, weighty folk-rock that helped define the spirit of the early '70s, cue up the Jethro Tull song "Sossity: You're a Woman."
Coffy (F) 100%. The 1973 film Coffy starred Pam Grier as a vigilante, "The baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad that ever hit town!" Grier's most famous role of the period, "Foxy Brown," also inspired a handful of Foxy namesakes.
Snapper (M) 100%. Heartthrob doctor Snapper Foster of the soap opera The Young and the Restless was played by a young David Hasselhoff, before he took on the mantle of Knight Rider.
Tennille (F) 71%. Songs like "Love Will Keep Us Together" and the rodent ode "Muskrat Love" made the duo Captain & Tennille one of the biggest musical acts of the mid' 70s.
Here at BabyNameWizard.com, we leave no stone unturned in our investigation of names and culture. In that spirit, we present a new first: a tale of baby names and body hair.
The name in today's spotlight is the playfully regal confection Milady. Some may associate the term "milady" with the cynical seduction techniques of "The Pickup Artist" a decade ago. Others may hear it as kin to new exalted name inventions like Myangel, LaKing and SirCharles. But Milady first became an American baby name over a century ago, thanks to the introduction of . . . sleeveless dresses.
In the Victorian era, clothing reliably covered women's limbs. As the 20th Century began to ease strictures in dress and deportment, feminine armpits started to see the light of day. Culturally speaking, women's bodily features tend to be divided into two categories. There are the concealed parts, which are treated as objects of titillation, and the revealed parts, which are treated as objects of scrutiny and self-doubt. When the female armpit began its shift from concealed to revealed, marketers rushed in to speed the transition. Self-doubt, after all, is a major sales opportunity.
First to the party was the legendary King C. Gillette, inventor of the safety razor. Gillette saw a chance to double his market by introducing shaving—which is to say, the perceived need for shaving—to women. In 1915, he offered the first razor marketed specifically for the denuding of the female armpit (which Gillette's ads referred to by the then-new euphemism "underarm.") The marketing campaign presented this new ladies' razor as a class marker, an emblem of elegance. That point was underscored by its design in gold plate and ivory, and its name: the Milady Décolleté.
That $5 price point translates to $122 today. Note how the ad presents the product name as if announcing a guest at a ball: "Milady Décolleté Gillette." Note, too, how the text smoothly alternates between using "Milady" to refer to the razor and to its genteel owner. They were selling a brand image as much as a product.
The success of Gillette's campaign in hitting its emotional target can be seen in an unintended effect, on baby names. As of 1915, Milady was unknown as a personal name. After an ad campaign that pitched the sophistication of Milady Décolleté in every ladies' magazine, dozens of American girls were named Milady.
The baby name was clearly inspired by the brand. That isn't quite the same, though, as saying that the babies were "named after" a razor. Similarly, a 21st-century girl called Lexus isn't necessarily named after a car. Luxury brand names and advertising campaigns are designed to conjure a dream of the good life. Generation after generation, that's a dream expectant parents share for their kids. Milady was a harbinger of a century of luxury brand marketing, and a century of baby names to match.
Hollywood wouldn’t be what it is today without the pioneering glamour of its early starlets—and neither would the U.S. top 100 names list. Turn-of-the-century names like Clara (as in actress Clara Bow), Lillian (Gish), and Alice (Terry) are back in fashion, with modern parents drawn to their elegance and vintage vibes. If you like the throwback style, more names of the silent film era are ready to be discovered.
Some of these feminine names exude sophistication and uniqueness, while others embody a more classic and understated aura. Still, these fifteen retro names look beautiful whether headlining a movie poster or printed on a birth certificate.
Theda Bara in Cleopatra, 1917 - Image via Flickr
Theda. The original “vamp,” Theda Bara was known for her iconic femme fatale roles, as well as her exotic name - Theda is short for Theodosia, as Ms. Bara was named for Aaron Burr’s daughter. Today, Theda feels ripe for revival, with its formal simplicity and stunning appeal.
Corinne. This delicate French name is a gorgeous alternative to Cora, and comes from the Greek word for “maiden.” Actress Corinne Mae Griffith helped boost this name’s popularity in the 1920’s, but Corinne has always been appreciated for its femininity and grace.
Viola. Despite the popularity of Olivia and Violet, confident and compelling Viola has yet to join her style sisters on the top 1000. Silent film star Viola Dana is one thespian namesake, but twenty-first century audiences may relate the name more closely to modern actress Viola Davis.
Dorothy. A top ten name from 1904 to 1939, it’s no wonder that delightful Dorothy has begun to rise again - its English sound, notable namesakes, and overall positive vibes make it especially attractive. Actress Dorothy Gish was known for her talent as a comedienne, giving the name cinematic substance beyond The Wizard of Oz.
Olive. The lovely Ziegfeld star, Olive Thomas, was the first actress to portray a “flapper girl” on film, adding this pleasant name to the pantheon of movie history. Darling Olive has certainly been helped by the rise of Olivia, but it still feels like a vintage botanical choice.
Florence. With a stage name like Florence Lawrence, it’s no wonder that the performer earned the title of “The First Movie Star” during a time in which many actors were uncredited. The name Florence calls to mind historical figures and gardens in bloom, making it especially memorable today.
Mabel. Sweet and stylish Mabel has been slowly rising over the past few years along with retro gems like Lucy and Stella, yet it feels more timeless than trendy. Notable wearer Mabel Normand not only acted in early films, but also wrote for the screen and led her own production company - an inspiring early #GirlBoss.
Jetta. While this Dutch diminutive of Henriette is now associated with the Volkswagen brand, the name stands apart with a contemporary edge - Jetta is cool and quirky, an update to Jenna or Jade. The popularity of actress Jetta Goudal increased the name’s usage in the mid-1920s, but it’s never been given to more than 50 girls in a year.
Blanche. One of MGM’s first starlets, Blanche Sweet captivated audiences throughout the early twentieth century with her dynamic acting style. Bianca may have more fans these days, but Blanche deserves another look for its French sound, sophisticated aura, and (current) uncommon usage.
Mae. An ideal cross-cultural choice, Mae (as well as May and Mei) is beloved worldwide for its femininity and panache, working well as a nickname or full first name. Silent film star Mae Murray reportedly chose her stage name based on her birth month, but Mae’s most defining traits are its energy and flair.
Dolores. The dust is beginning to shake off this beautiful Spanish name as modern parents become drawn to its elegance - and its fabulous nicknames, Lola and Dolly. Actress Dolores Costello is known as the matriarch of the Barrymore acting family, as well as “The Goddess of the Silent Screen.”
Constance. The tenacious and funny Constance Talmadge joined her sister Norma in silent comedy films in the 1910’s, contributing to the early rise of Hollywood. This virtue name peaked in the mid-twentieth century, but Constance could make a comeback with its strength and gravitas.
Pola. Bombshell Pola Negri adopted her stage name from a shortening of her true middle name, Apolonia, but the name also nodded to Negri’s roots in Poland. The aurally similar Lola and Nola have gained attention for their concision and delicacy, so why not consider Pola?
Leatrice. Thanks to actress Leatrice Joy, this combination of Leah and Beatrice soared through the top 1000 in the 1920’s and 1930’s. With L-names especially favored nowadays, Leatrice could work well as a route to Leah or Trixie - but it admittedly may require a bit of explaining.
Bessie. A classic nickname for Elizabeth, Bessie has been worn by musicians, athletes, and actors, including silent film actress Bessie Love (born Juanita Horton). Once relegated to the barnyard, Bessie may be ready to bounce back with its upbeat spirit and amiable sound.