American Names

Collegiate Baby Names

September has long been associated with a return to school. For children, it signifies a return to homework, friends, and more homework. It’s also college application season for the older students. As for me: I’ve already graduated from university, and I miss it.

Feeling some very seasonal nostalgia, here’s a list of baby names that are also universities! For the most part, I’m omitting those that contain common people’s names (sorry William & Mary) and states’ names (i.e. Kansas) included in university titles. That said – though I exclude the name California, I include Berkeley.

  • Auburn – 34 girls, 6 boys. Auburn is a university in Alabama, and notorious rival to the University of Alabama. Auburn is also a shade of red; meanwhile, Crimson (as in Crimson Tide) is both the color associated with U. Alabama and a baby name (given to 69 girls and 44 boys last year). Indeed, about 26% (18 out of 69) girls and 16% (7 out of 44) of boys named Crimson last year were born in Alabama. Additionally, around 31% (5 out of 16) of American girls named Krimson last year were also born there. Under 5 boys and girls in the state were named Auburn in 2016, but I’m sure there were a couple.  Football reigns supreme.
  • Baylor339 boys (#715), 209 girls. Baylor University is a private Christian university located in Texas. As a name, it’s rising so fast that I’m asking myself if Baylor is the next Taylor (what do you think?). And similarly to Alabama with Crimson / Krimson, more children were named Baylor in Texas than anywhere else last year (though Tennessee and Louisiana also had a lot of them).
  • Berkeley – 116 girls, 16 boys. This name can also honor the surname or an early Virginia governor. Approximately 16% of girls named Berkeley in 2016 were born in California. “Burke-lee” is the common pronunciation (especially when referring to the school), but you can also say “Bark-lee.”
  • Cambridge – 11 boys, 6 girls. When Cambridge first entered Social Security birth data in 1992, it did so as a girls’ name.  Since then, it’s mostly flipped back and forth between the genders. In 2016, more babies were named Cambridge than ever before (that we know of). The famed university is in England, but I wonder if anybody with this name was named after Cambridge, Massachusetts (home of Harvard, MIT, and a couple other universities).
  • Columbia – Doesn’t appear in 2016, but 10 were born in 2015. Columbia is the female personification of America; the university is in New York City.

    Columbia, personified
  • Drexel – 7 boys, after the private Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Children named Drexel might also be named after St. Katharine Drexel, who was related to the university’s founder.
  • Duke – 513 boys (#557). This academic baby name might be rising for any number of reasons, from the trendiness of royal-title names to the popularity of Western/Cowboy names. The university is in North Carolina.
  • Durham – 9 boys in 2016. Speaking of Duke, we also find its hometown in the data! As a scholastic baby name, Durham also refers to the University of Durham (England).
  • Emory – 447 girls (#654) and 268 boys (#838). Emory University is in Georgia.
  • Fordham – 6 boys. Fordham is a Jesuit-associated university in New York.
  • Hampton – 57 boys and 10 girls. Hampton University is an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in Virginia.
  • Harvard – 5 boys in 2016. As a first name, this first appeared in SSA birth data in 1912 and enjoyed fairly steady if sparse usage through the 1950s. There’s been a very slight revival in the 21st century, though Harvard remains an extremely unusual baby name.
  • Howard – 239 boys (#900); reentered top 1000 in 2016. Howard University is a prestigious HBCU in Washington D.C.
  • Liberty – 571 girls (#541). Enormous Christian university in Virginia. As far as the SSA data shows, the name Liberty has become popular in three periods since 1880. The first time was 1918 (end of World War I). The second was the Bicentennial in 1976. Thirdly and finally, Liberty became popular in 2001 (and stayed popular) after 9/11.
  • Marshall – 999 boys (#345) and 5 girls. Marshall University is a West Virginia school that’s probably best known from the movie We Are Marshall. The name can also honor 5-star General George Marshall (as in the Marshall Plan), the surname, or even the ancient Roman poet Martial.
  • Oxford – 7 boys. Can refer to the English university or the town that houses the University of Mississippi “Ole Miss.”
  • Princeton – 769 boys (#413). This name first appeared in SSA birth data in 1950, but didn’t take off for several more decades. Top 1000 entry came in 2011, and reached the top 500 in six years. Still, I think Princeton’s trajectory is starting to slow. 
Nassau Hall, Princeton (1903)
  • Stanford – 12 boys. When I was a teenager, I read a novel called “Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time” about a boy named Stanford who isn’t the greatest student. He ends up being tutored by Millicent Min, who got her own book…and don’t they both have fantastic names?
  • Temple – 11 girls, 5 boys. Temple University is in Philadelphia, PA. Temple Grandin is probably a more obvious namesake.
  • Trinity – 2215 girls (#137) and 18 boys. Can refer to any number of schools, including Trinity College, Dublin.
  • Wellesley – 6 girls in 2015, unknown number (under 5) in 2016. Prestigious women-only college in Massachusetts.
  • Yale – 5 boys. Yale is also a mythical/heraldic creature.

Do you have a favorite collegiate baby name? Would you add any to this list? Let me know in the comments!

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