Ok, so you’re a Utah name veteran. You’ve met the LaVaughns and Larues, the Teancums and Cloydeans. You’ve met Tyslies and Rylies and Traydens and Raydens. But have you ever wondered: out of all the Utah names ever, which is the Utah-est of them all?
Wonder no more, because here I will answer all your questions. While training the baby namer bot, I noticed a lot of Utah names kept coming up over and over, which made me wonder which one of all of them would win in a contest for the most characteristically Utah name of all time, so I decided to look in the data and find out. There were two clear winners. So without further ado, the two most distinctive Utah names of all time are <drumroll>:
Afton (for girls) and Dallin (for boys)
Afton is a very old Utah girls’ name while Dallin peaked in the 90s. There were a lot of strong contenders through the decades though, and I want to highlight some of them and give you the top 50 for both genders. But before we go to the list, let’s look at what it means to be the most distinctive Utah name of all time.
First I should mention that it’s not actually of all time since the government’s baby name database only goes back to 1910. So if you’re wondering why there are no Lorenzos on the list, that’s probably why.
Secondly, by most Utah, what I don’t mean is the strangest or funniest Utah name. Anyone can go through baby lists and cherry pick the funniest sounding names. Instead, what I set out to discover is which names, out of the thousands of common Utah names, are the most representative of the state of Utah. This basically breaks down into two requirements:
- Uniqueness: Over the years the name has to have been way more popular in Utah than outside of it.
- Popularity: The name has to have actually been somewhat popular in Utah.
Uniqueness is important. If you just search the data for just the most popular overall names in Utah, you’ll come up with Mary and Michael, respectively for girls and boys. More Utah babies over the last century have been given those two names than any others. The problem is that Mary and Michael are popular names in every state, so even though they are the most common Utah names in history, there’s nothing particularly Utah about them. We want names that are specific to Utah.
Straight up popularity is also important because just because names are specific to Utah doesn’t make them particularly representative of Utah. If you search the internet for “Utah baby names” you’ll find gobs of online lists of silly baby names found in Utah. These are the Swayzees and Krus, the Truxtons and Korvers and so forth. There are A LOT of those as you might expect. But it turns out that any given one of them is pretty rare. Utah’s got the market cornered on Swayzies, but you could easily live your whole life in Utah without ever meeting one.
So I set out to find the names that are the best combination of popular in Utah and unique to Utah. I combined the two criteria into a single score, which I call the Utah Score. In order to have a high Utah Score, a name has to be both popular (as measured by the percentage of all Utah babies given that name in the last 100 years), and unique to Utah (measured by how much more popular the name was in Utah than outside of it). The names with the highest combination of uniqueness and popularity are the most Utah names of all time.
Ok now that we all understand what the Utah score is, let’s see the winners, starting with….
THE “MOST UTAH” GIRLS’ NAMES OF ALL TIME:
Utah score: 357
Peak UT popularity: 1914, #11
Uniqueness: 60 times more popular in Utah
The clear winner of the “most Utah” Utah girls’ name was an old timey name popular in the early 1900s. Since 1910 there have been 60 times more Aftons per capita born in Utah than in the U.S. That is impressive, but the thing that makes Afton really stand out is just how popular it was in Utah during its day. Of all of the most Utah names (both boys’ and girls’), Afton was by far the most popular, peaking at #11 in 1914, ahead of old timey favorites like Alice and Elizabeth. But despite its popularity in Utah, on a national stage Afton did not even break the top 700. A true Utah name. Fun fact: even though Afton fell out of favor by the 1930s it’s actually made a modest comback in recent years (Lookin’ at you, hipsters).
Utah score: 302
Peak UT popularity: 1991 #158
Uniqueness: 131 times more popular in Utah
McKell (ranked 2nd), along with McCall (4th), Mikelle (10th), and Mikelle (33rd) heralded the arrival of the absolute deluge of “Mc-“ names that rained down on unsuspecting baby girls in 1990s Utah. (This was around the time that the name McKenzie was getting popular in the U.S. at large, but it predates the baby McKennas and McKaylas of the late 90s). McKell wasn’t as popular as Afton was in its day, but the name is far more distinctive to Utah, being over 130 times more popular in Utah than in the U.S. at large. If you’re looking for names that basically never made it out of Utah, McKell and McCall are about as Utahn as you can get.
Utah score: 265
Peak UT popularity: 1929 #50
Uniqueness: 64 times more popular in Utah
The name Carma (from Sanskrit, apparently) is another old-timey winner, popping up in the 1920s just as Afton was declining in popularity. What an old Sanskrit word was doing floating around Utah baby names in the 1920s is anyone’s guess, but Utah parents loved the name so much it took off, eventually becoming the third most characteristically Utah girls’ name in history.
Utah score: 265
Peak UT popularity: 1994, #140
Uniqueness: 105 times more popular in Utah
Following on the heels of McKell was the slightly-more-popular-slightly-less-Utah name McCall. We’ve already talked about the Mc- naming trend, but I just want to point out that when you look through the data there was just something special about the early 1990s in Utah. Utah has always had a spattering of distinctive girls’ names throughout the decades, but around 1990 something just snapped. It started with McKell and McCall of the 1990s, continued through the Brinlees and Taylees of the 2000 and 2010s, and on to the Oakleys and the Navys of today. Speaking of which, actually, coming in 5th place we have
Utah score: 260
Peak UT popularity: 2012, #126
Uniqueness: 86 times more popular in Utah
As much as the Mc- prefix was the clear trend in the 1990s, the last ten or fifteen years in Utah have been dominated by girls’ names ending in hard Es, and in particular -lee. Take a gander at the full list below, and you’ll find Oakley (6th), Oaklie (7th), Shaylee (8th), Tylee (16th), and I can’t even write them all here there are so many. If there’s anything Utah loves, it’s girls’ names ending in -lee. And the queen of all of them, from a Utah-ness standpoint anyway, is the name Taylee. Despite having only been around a decade or so, it’s already 86 times more popular in Utah than in the U.S.
If you’re interested in what names are next, check out the full list at the bottom of this post (spoiler alert: Larae. Didn’t see that one coming did you.)
THE “MOST UTAH” UTAH BOYS NAMES OF ALL TIME:
Now let’s take a look at the boys’ names that are most representative of Utah, starting with our all-time winner:
Utah score: 494
Peak UT popularity: 1997, #51
Uniqueness: 67 times more popular in Utah
While it may have been hard to understand where names like Afton and Carma came from on the girls’ side, the top boys’ name, Dallin, anything but mysterious. The name was essentially nonexistent in Utah until the rise of Dallin Oaks (picture below).
Oaks was the president of Provo’s Brigham Young University in the 1970s, then served on the Utah supreme court, before being appointed as an LDS apostle, and is currently one of the most senior Mormon leaders. The name Dallin, along with sundry variations (Dallen, Dallan, and Dallon, which are are all in the top 25) has enjoyed a remarkably long two or three decades of high popularity. The name technically peaked in 1997, but continues strong even today. Decades of popularity while being nearly 70 times more popular in Utah was enough to earn the name Dallin the position of “most Utah” Utah name of all time.
Continuing on with the boys’ names, coming in at #2 we have:
Utah score: 430
Peak UT popularity: 1995, #86
Uniqueness: 98 times more popular in Utah
In the early 90s, Utah parents saw a million little McKells and McCalls and McKenzies running around, and were sad that there were no more little baby girls to put Mc- prefixes on. So they turned their attention to the boys, and that’s how we got McKay (also McKade #32). Like the Mc- girls names, McKay ranks high on the list because of a phenomenal uniqueness to Utah. A full 80% of all McKays in America were born in Utah (one of the highest percentages of any Utah name ever), which is even more impressive when you think that Utah has less than 1% of the population of the United States.
Utah score: 390
Peak UT popularity: 1911, #40
Uniqueness: 79 times more popular in Utah
From the biblical Hiram, the name Hyrum was mediumly popular in the U.S. in the 1800s, but lost all of its steam going into the 20th century. That is except in Utah where the name has enjoyed a fairly consistent popularity for the last century and more. Don’t let the fact that it peaked in 1911 make you think that Hyrum is an old-timey name– there are still plenty of little Hyrum babies born in Utah every year. As with Dallin, we can safely attribute Utah’s love for the name Hyrum to a specific person: Hyrum Smith, the less-famous brother of Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon religion. You might think that being one of the first Mormons is a pretty sure ticket to getting a lot of namesake Utah babies, and with Hyrum it worked out. But apparently that’s not all you need, since it turns out the name Joseph, which could easily have been the Mormoniest name of all time, turns out to be much less popular in Utah than the rest of the country. By a lot. Utah just loved the name Hyrum for some reason. And I mean who wouldn’t, right?
Utah score: 361
Peak UT popularity: 2009, #65
Uniqueness: 55 times more popular in Utah
The name Bridger is presumably an homage to Jim Bridger the mountain man, or perhaps his eponymous Fort Bridger, the site where an entire generation of 80s Utah kids rested their Cholera-stricken Oregon Trail characters and then twenty years later named their children after it. Either way, the name Bridger is the Westernest-sounding name on the market. If your baby boy is birthed in a log cabin and comes out with a full beard, a hatchet in one hand and animal pelts in the other, there’s basically one name you can possibly give that child, and that name is Bridger. Also, even though Bridger was originally popularized in Utah and is the 4th most Utah boys’ name, it’s also popular in (prepare to not be surprised at all) Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The resulting lower Utah uniqueness score is easily made up for by high relative popularity (though 55x is nothing to balk at).
Utah score: 344
Peak UT popularity: 2001, #127
Uniqueness: 67 times more popular in Utah
When I started this, to be honest I expected that looking for the most characteristically Utah names would turn up mostly obscure-sounding names taken from the Book of Mormon or something. And while a lot of the very top popular boys’ names have been named after prominent Mormons (notably Dallin and Hyrum), most of the top 50 are not particularly Mormon at all, they’re names like Taggart and Cache and Val. Ammon is the first one on the list that’s actually from the Book of Mormon itself. In case you’re curious, other Book of Mormon names in the top 50 are Alma (9th) and Jarom (10th), Nephi (30th), and Moroni (39th). Ammon may lead the list on account of also being a biblical name and sounding considerably more normal than, say, Moroni.
So now we know. If you happen meet a Dallin (or a likely extremely-old Afton), tell them congratulations for having the all time most Utah names.
Here is the full list of top 50 most Utah girls’ and boys’ names: