Unisex Names: Blake

Blake

A dominant boy name for the last couple of decades, now undergoing a shift to a more unisex name. It’s Blake.

MEANING

Blake, as a first name, is transferred from the surname, derived from Old English in most cases. In this respect, it may be derived from either blæc meaning “black” (pronounced pretty much like the word “black”³) or blac meaning “pale” (the a pronounced like Bob in American English, with that vowel being extended³)¹ ².

HOW POPULAR AND UNISEX IS BLAKE?

With increasing usage of surnames as first names from the 16th century, it’s no wonder that the first record dates from that century, though they don’t include images and the records from the 16th and 17th centuries number only a few, so it seems as if it wasn’t used (more often) until the 18th century⁴. As with most surnames-turned-first names, it was mainly given to boys (around 80-95%) throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, though with regards to popularity, it was relatively rare.
For instance, in England and Wales, there are 56 records with the name Blake dating from 1838-1899 compared to an estimate of around 2-2.5 million records for John⁵. In the US, it’s only been in the top 1000 12 times before the 1940s (when Blake started to appear continuously in the top 1000)⁶. Looking through the Social Security Death Index⁴:

John Blake
1880s 182,535 74
1890s 314,013 196
1900s 336,055 266

As mentioned, the 1940s was where Blake started to appear continuously in the top 1000 in the United States and for a few decades, it saw a gradual uptick in the numbers. Come 1981 and it rose a bit more steeply – from 969 boys in 1980 (237th place) to 1,703 boys in 1981 (159th place)⁶. Credit the hit soap opera Dynasty for the increase (other names like Krystle and Kirby saw steeper increases) which features Blake Carrington as one of the main characters. The same influence can also be felt in E&W⁵:

1979 23 records
1980 25 records
1981 72 records
1982 68 records

Blake, as a boy’s name, would end up being in the top 100 by 1989 and would still be there to this day, though it wouldn’t be on E&W’s top 100 until the late 2000s and 2010s. Throughout this time, it is still mainly used as a boy’s name, though in the past few years, the masculine ratio would end up decreasing as Blake is rising for girls, as seen below⁶ ⁷.

In 2015, Blake was ranked 423rd in the US for girls⁶ and it is expected to reach into the 300s when data for 2016 will be released in early May.

Here are the latest statistics from 3 other English-speaking regions/countries:

Scotland⁸ South Australia (Australia)⁹ British Columbia (Canada)¹⁰
2011 (2010) 61 boys / 3 girls 81 boys / no girls 53 boys / >5 girls
2012 (2011) 79 boys / 3 girls 67 boys / 1 girl 74 boys / 6 girls
2013 (2012) 100 boys / 10 girls 54 boys / 1 girl 86 boys / 10 girls
2014 (2013) 101 boys / 9 girls 59 boys / no girls 54 boys / 9 girls
2015 (2014) 94 boys / 5 girls 32 boys / 1 girl 75 boys / 15 girls
2016 (2015) 102 boys / 18 girls 46 boys / 5 girls 67 boys / 23 girls

What’s interesting to note here is that British Columbia, along with neighbouring state Alberta, has a higher feminine percentage for Blake than in other places mentioned here. With regards to rankings, Blake, for girls, is ranked 159th in BC¹⁰ and 167th in Alberta¹¹.
A long while ago, the Canadian BabyCenter had released their top 100 for Canada in which the feminine Blake rose up strong to 77th place from 218th place while the masculine Blake fell to 71st place¹². That, and the evidence of the rise of Blake for 2016 seen in Scotland and SA, makes feminine Blake’s debut into the top 100 in BC and Alberta a plausible scenario.

What do you think of Blake? Do you prefer it for a girl or do you stick to its masculinity? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below the sources.

Sources:
Behind the Name on Blake – https://www.behindthename.com/name/blake¹
Ancestry on the surname Blake – http://www.ancestry.co.uk/name-origin?surname=blake²
Wiktionary on³:

Family Search – https://familysearch.org/search⁴
FreeBMD – http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl⁵
Social Security Administration – http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html⁶
Office for National Statistics – http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/baby-names–england-and-wales/index.html⁷
National Records of Scotland – http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/names/babies-first-names⁸
South Australian Government – http://www.data.sa.gov.au/dataset/popular-baby-names⁹
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency – http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/babynames/¹⁰
Alberta, Open Government – https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/frequency-and-ranking-of-baby-names-by-year-and-gender¹¹
BabyCenter Canada on 2016’s baby names – http://www.babycenter.ca/baby-names-2016¹²

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