The stars are aligning. A set of classic baby names with different trajectories has gathered at a single point. And like any good celestial convergence, this meeting is portentous. The names: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The names of the four Gospels may be the most iconic name set in the English language. They are reliably said together, in the order the books appear in the Christian Bible. As Bible books, each Gospel tells the story of Jesus in its own way: four perspectives, four voices. As baby names, though, the four have never been peers. John always ruled, absolutely.
The dominance of John owes less to the Gospel author and more to another biblical John, John the Baptist. He was venerated by medieval crusaders who spread the name upon returning home to England. According to researcher George Redmonds, by the late 1300s over a third of Englishmen were named John. The name’s reign spanned centuries and continents, as these charts show.
The Gospel name picture started to change in the mid-20th Century as male names became more open to fashion trends. Parents who wanted a fresher sound within the bounds of traditional style made Mark a hit. A Matthew wave followed a few decades later, and Luke started to pick up momentum as the century drew to a close. The NameGrapher “compare” view shows where those trends have led.
The disparate paths of John, Matthew and Luke have converged. Only Mark’s post-popularity slump stands in the way of total Gospel name equality.
It’s a poignant kind of equality, born of mutual decline. The total number of babies receiving a Gospel name is at an all-time historic low, down more than half since the turn of the millennium. Even the late bloomer Luke has fallen in popularity for the past seven years in a row. And the forecast is for more of the same.
This time, there’s no “new” Gospel name left to pick up the slack. The converging popularity lines are like roads in a perspective drawing, leading away to a vanishing point.
As the parent of a Mark, I was amused when he was in daycare when someone lined up the cubbies in order: “Matthew, Mark, Lucas and Jackson”.
I am curious how the inclusion of nicknames and formal variations would affect this. Do Matt, Marcus, Lucas and Jonathan have similar trends?