Last year there were twice as many Nevaehs born, than there were Marys.

Why does no one call their kid Mary anymore?


You might need to sit down, because this is a lot to take in.

New research from the US shows parents in 2011 are twice as likely to name their daughter ‘Nevaeh’ (‘Heaven’ backwards), as they are to call their daughter ‘Mary.’

My name is Mary.

And this makes me sad.

Because this figure isn’t just hippy parents or hipster parents whom, by chance, happened to complete a survey at their farm co-op AGM. No.  This stat is for parents throughout the whole of the US.

The forecast for us ‘Mary’s Down Under doesn’t look much better.

I started kindy in 1999. I was the only ‘Mary’ in my whole primary school, which was a pretty mean feat given that it was a 600-strong Catholic primary in what is widely considered to be Sydney’s bible belt. If there were ‘Mary’s about, they would have been there. But they weren’t there. Because there weren’t any. (And, for the record, there still aren’t. My sister just finished Year 6 at the same school. Still not another ‘Mary’ in sight.)

In fact, since 1980 Mary has failed to make the top 100 baby names in Australia.

It’s all a far cry from 1930, when ‘Mary’ was the 6th most popular name in the country. ‘Mary’ sat smugly in the top 10 or 20 until the mid 1900’s, when between 1960 and 1970, ‘Mary’ dropped from the 27th most popular name to the 73rd.

Dropping from 6th most popular name to not even making the top 100? My people are an endangered species!

In all seriousness, if no one is calling their child ‘Mary’, what are they calling them? The average NSW kindy class of 2017 will have fewer Marys than:

  • Siennas (the 8th most popular girls’ name with 489 ‘Sienna’s born in 2011)
  • Islas (the 22nd most popular girls’ name with 228 ‘Isla’s born in 2011)
  • Scarletts (the 24th most popular girls’ name with 226 ‘Scarlett’s born in 2011)
  • Addisons (the 51st most popular girls’ name with 131 ‘Addison’s born in 2011)
  • Indianas (the 77th most popular girls’ name with 90 ‘Indiana’s born in 2011)

Now, this isn’t the part of the article where I just take cheap digs at parents who call their daughters ‘Mack a la’ or ‘Xandanah.’ Frankly, parents can call their kids whatever they please. But, this IS the part of the article where I ask: do you really think that anyone calls his or her daughter ‘Isla’ because it is a common name?

No. Of course they don’t. Parents name their daughters ‘Isla’, or ‘Addison’, or ‘Indiana’ with an understanding that these names are unique. The only problem is that, nowadays, if they were after unique, they’d be better off with ‘Mary.’


The demise of ‘Mary’ as a name has been meticulously documented by US sociologist Philip Cohen. In the US, Mary was the top ranking name from the commencement of records until 1961. Then it dropped. And dropped. And dro- for goodness sake! Look at the graph!

Look at the graph! (Source: The Atlantic)

Cohen gives two reasons for the rapid decline in babies called ‘Mary’:

First, it’s the growing cultural value of individuality, which leads to increasing diversity… Conformity to tradition has been replaced by conformity to individuality. Being number one for so long ruined Mary for this era.

Second, America’s Christian family standard-bearers are not standing up for Mary anymore. It’s not just that there may be fewer devout Christians, it’s that even they don’t want to sacrifice individuality for a (sorry, it’s not my opinion) boring name like Mary.

Oh, right. I get it. So those Christian kids in the South who were being called ‘Mary’ are now ‘Nevaeh.’ It all makes so much sense.

Except for the part where parents who want an original name head straight for the names that are actually incredibly popular like ‘Sienna’ and ‘Scarlett.’ That part seems a little silly.

(Oh, and boring is subjective, Philip.)

So, if you’re a trendy parent, and you’re making a list of the baby names that will set your kid apart, why not consider ‘Mary?’ I can say that I have independently tested it to be the best name ever.

And it’s ‘Yram’ backwards. Take that, ‘Nevaeh.’

Mary is an intern at Mamamia, and a Media and Communications student from Sydney. She can do the splits, wiggle her ears and tell you who won Eurovision in 1973. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Did you know any ‘Marys’ growing up? What names do you hear a lot these days? What names do you rarely hear?