What is the Most Popular Girl’s Name in British Columbia Over the Past 100 years?

Tara Ahmadi
Feb 28, 2016 · 3 min read

I’ve been living in Vancouver for 4 years, and still couldn’t figure out which girl name is the most popular one here. I mean I’ve came across lots of girls name Jessie or Amy or Shan but who knows what their real name is. Since Vancouver is a multicultural city lots of people change their name mainly because their original name is too difficult to pronounce.

So out of my own curiosity I started analyzing the most popular girl names in British Columbia (BC) for the Past 100 years. The data that I’ve used is provided by the Provincial Government of British Columbia and can be found here.

The dataset includes 2493 first names given to girls born in BC from 1915 to 2014. Note that every given name in the list was chosen five or more times in a year.

I started with finding the most popular name in each year, which is the name that has the highest ratio of all newborn girl’s name in that year. For example, from all 4000 girls who were born in 1915 in BC 269 girls(6.7%) were named Mary.

Fig 1. The ratio of the most popular girl name over total newborn girl names in each year during the past 100 years in BC

As it is shown in Fig 1. some names like Mary and Jennifer were the most popular name for over 15 years while names like Patricia(Patritia) or Shirley were the most popular name for just 2 years.

Fig 2. The ratio of each name over the total girls names in the past 100 years in BC

Fig 2. shows that the most popular name of 1915, Mary, was almost 7% of all newborn girl’s names where Olivia ,the most popular name of 2014, was only about 2% of all newborn girl’s names.

Fig 3. Girl name distribution in 2014 vs. 1915. Blue lines show the names that have been used more and grey lines show more “unique” names

The girl’s name distribution in 2014 versus 1915 (Fig 3) indicates an increase in girl’s name variety. Some of the name diversification during the past century can be attributed to immigration growth and the influx of foreign names. Also we cannot neglect the effect of individualism in Canadian culture. One of the trends that has been seen in individualist cultures is an increase in unique first names. “Everybody wants to be unique just like everyone else”.

Many believe that a girl’s name is a critical milestone that dictates certain paths she will take in life. For instance let’s compare the meaning and root of Mary and Olivia. Mary has been widely used due to its associations with the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, while Olivia is derived from Latin oliva “Olive tree” which is the symbol of peace. There is also a shift from popular names in the Christian world like Mary, Margaret, and Helen to nonreligious names like Olivia, Emma, and Emily. This may mean the change in cultural values can be another factor in name diversification.

Now let’s get back to the main question; What is the most popular girl name in BC?

Fig 4. Top 10 most popular girls names in BC during the past 100 years

Surprise! It’s not Mary nor Olivia. It’s Jennifer! During the past century 222,572 girls were named Jennifer only in BC. Following close behind was Linda (135,881), Jessica (118,392), and Emily (102,232). But why Jennifer is such a popular name not only in BC but all over Canada? Well, that is another question that needs to be answered.

Tara Ahmadi

Written by

My career is driven by a passion for data mining to solve problems and extract the most actionable insights along the way.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade