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The Baby Name Color Wheel

September 21, 2021 laurawattenberg 6 Comments

The Baby Name Color Wheel

September 21, 2021 LauraWattenberg 6 Comments

Many babies share their names with colors. But which colors? 

What color names are given most to babies? Do American baby names span the rainbow? And have our hue choices changed over time?

These seem like straightforward questions, but color usually takes a backseat to other word-name themes. The problem is that few color names are just colors—most do double-duty in other more common categories. Lilac and Ebony are botanical names; Emerald and Garnet are gems. Yet the colors they call to mind are essential to the impressions the names make.

To focus on color specifically, I looked at all of the color names given to American girls* in the 21st Century and compared them to the names given a century earlier. (*Colors are a female-dominated name category by a ratio of 10:1.) These color wheels show the top choices of each era, proportional to the total birth populations of their times.

As you can see, the color names of the early 1900s were hugely popular but concentrated in a few standard names, mostly in warm shades. The result hardly looks like a color wheel at all. Today’s color names are only modestly popular in comparison, but far more diverse. As popularity fractured, the names spread out to cover the whole spectrum. It’s a striking visual metaphor for our whole naming culture over the past 120 years.

Here are the two wheels again, sized equally for ease of viewing. Based on time period, relative popularity and hue, can you guess the top five color names of each era? Be warned that one of the colors is a little hard to pin down. Answers—and links to images with all the colors named—follow below.


1900-1920: 1. Rose  2. Hazel  3. Ruby  4. Violet  5. Olive

2000-2020: 1. Jade  2. Ruby  3. Violet  4. Hazel  5. Amber

The tricky color name is Hazel (#2 on the left, #4 on the right.) As a color, hazel is commonly used to describe eyes that are a mix of brown, green and sometimes amber. When it comes to a paint shade or RGB value, though, there turns out to be little agreement on exactly what color hazel is.


1900-1920 wheel

2000-2020 wheel


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Brid September 22, 2021 at 9:00 am

    I cannot see the full list of names for the 2000-2020 wheel. The page stops at Amethyst, and it won’t scroll down.

  • Ira Sass September 26, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    This is such a cool post! I like color names overall. I’ve never heard Crimson, Cyan, or Mahogany used as names before.

  • Steve Odom September 28, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Interesting post and I love the name ideas. Where do you get your data set of names?

  • Sal October 9, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    Was Jade Jagger the Jade trendsetter?

    • Namerology
      Namerology October 10, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      Nope, Jade Jagger didn’t have a big effect. The growth of Jade has mostly been a slow and steady organic style phenomenon, with a modest boost from the 1995 movie Jade.

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