I recently found a dataset at the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics that shows the number of people born each year with each given name, from 1948 to 2021. I thought it might be interesting to see how names change in popularity over time, but it’s a massive amount of data, so I came up with a simpler goal. I selected the ten most popular names from 1948, and the ten most popular names from 2021, and then plotted all of them on a graph over time.
For Jewish boys, the ten most popular names in 1948 were Moshe, Avraham/Abraham, Yoseph/Joseph, Yaakov/Jacob, Yitzchak/Isaac, David, Chaim, Shlomo/Solomon, Shmuel/Samuel, and Yisrael/Israel. In 2021, they were David, Ariel, Lavi, Yoseph/Joseph, Ari, Raphael, Noam, Uri/Ori, Moshe, and Yehuda/Judah. Ari doesn’t show up in the list until 1953 (and still misses some years until 1959). Lavi doesn’t show up until 1959 (and misses years until 1972). All of the other names show up in 1948, but only three names (Moshe, Yoseph/Joseph, and David) show up in the top ten in both 1948 and 2021.
Here are the names with the numbers of boys born in each year:
Here’s a chart that makes some of the patterns easier to pull out:
First, note that at the beginning all of the names go up significantly. This obviously isn’t because the names became more popular, but rather reflects the fact that the population of Israel was growing strongly in the early years of the state.
One noticeable spike in popularity is for the name Yisrael in 1984, where the popularity nearly doubles (the green line in the middle). I’m not sure why that happened, although one possibility is that the famous rabbi and kabbalist known as the Baba Sali, Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, died in January of that year.
Another obvious rise is the name Noam, which made a huge surge starting in the early 1990s, and peaked in 2008 (the grey line), before coming down almost as fast. Another name that grew in popularity at the same time is Uri/Ori, which can be seen in the red line growing behind it, although it didn’t peak as high as Noam, and came down to around the same level.
Note the two names that were not on the list in 1948, Lavi and Ari, in the front of the chart. You can see that the lines only start in 1953 and 1959 as noted above, and then stay very low on the list until they both spiked around 2006 (although Lavi spiked a couple of years before Ari).
For the girls names, the popularity shifts more than the boys. Like the boys, there are three names that show up in the top ten in both 1948 and 2021, Sarah, Esther, and Chana/Hanna. Only the name Adele doesn’t show up in 1948, but does in 2021. One girls’ name, Dalia, is in the top ten in 1948, but doesn’t show up at all in 2021.
Here are the names with the number of girls born in 1948 and 2021:
Here’s the chart:
At the beginning, you see a similar pattern as the boys, where the names shoot up with the increase of population. You can see a big spike in popularity for the name Maya in the early 1970s (dark grey line). Like Noam for boys, there is huge spike for Noa for girls (bright green line). Noam peaked in 2008 and Noa peaked in 2009. You can also see the rise of Tamar (pink), Maya (dark grey), and Avigail (dark yellow) all around the same time in the early 1990s.
In the front of the chart you can see the name Adele, which doesn’t enter the chart until 1966, and starts to rise somewhat in 2007, the same time the British singer Adele entered the public view. A small spike when her first album was released in 2008, and then a huge spike in 2011 when she introduced her second album (which was number 1 in numerous countries). For a look at the influence of Music and Movies on girls names in the US, see an article I wrote in 2013 which shows the origin of the popularity in the US of the names Layla, Aaliyah and Savannah: Popularity of girls names in the US.
Lastly for the girls, you can see that Dalia (the yellow line that ends on the bottom right) ends just a bit before the other lines, because Dalia doesn’t show up in the list for 2002 and 2021. One final point on the names that are missing in some years. Technically, not being in the list means that there were less than 5 babies born with that name (and gender and religion). So in any of those years, it’s possible there were 4 or less babies born with that name.