Vol. 50 No. 4 (2002)
Research Article

Long Term Trends in the Frequencies of Given Names

Published 2002-12-01



The frequency distributions of personal given names offer important insights into the nature of the information economy. Here I present data on the popularity of the most frequent personal given names in the United Kingdom over the past millennium. The data show that the popularity of names, like the popularity of other symbols and artifacts associated with the information economy, can be usefully viewed as a power law. The frequency distribution of personal names, graphed as the logarithm of name popularity against the logarithm of name popularity rank, is similar to other popularity distributions where people and organizations are free to create and choose among many collections of symbols used in a similar way. Naming is seen to be representative of more general patterns of behavior in the information economy. Furthermore, the data suggest that historically distinctive changes in the information economy occurred in conjunction with the Industrial Revolution.


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