Linda McCartney
Linda McCartney; Image by Antoon’s Foobar via Flickr

She skyrocketed from obscurity to the #1 spot in the US.

Thanks to Kelly for this suggestion. With a happy birthday to Nameberry co-founder Linda Rosenkrantz, our Baby Name of the Day is Linda.

Up until 1947, there was a constant in the US Top 1000: Mary occupied the top spot, year after year after year.

If you checked the rankings, the name would eventually unseat Mary was there, too. Linda hovered in the 200s or 300s most years. And then she started her climb: #97 in 1936, #15 by 1939, and #1 in 1947.

Linda stayed at #1 through 1952 and remained in the Top Ten until 1965. Not only was she wildly popular, she was wildly popular during the post-World War II baby boom. There are a LOT of Lindas.

What explains her rise? I suspect it is mostly music:

  • In 1931, Al Bowlly recorded “Linda.” The lyrics “Linda, I’m in love with you, Linda … Linda, do you love me, too?” must have stuck with parents. It wasn’t Bowlly’s biggest hit, but the crooner was wildly popular in his day. He died in London during the Blitz. You’ve almost certainly heard his songs, as they’ve been used in everything from the soundtrack for The Shining to EastEnders;
  • Opera gives us Linda di Chamounix, an 1842 work by Donizetti, first performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1934 and 1935. Lily Pons – a big star in her day – sang the lead soprano role of Linda;
  • In 1945, The Story of G.I. Joe scooped up a handful of Oscar nominations, including Best Original Song, for Ann Ronell’s “Linda;”
  • Then came 1946’s “Linda,” written by Jack Lawrence and first performed by Buddy Clark. The song hit #1 in 1947 – as did the name. Plenty of recordings followed, including Jan and Dean’s, which added the le-le-le-le-linda refrain.

There’s a fascinating backstory here. The song had been written years earlier, but never recorded. As Lawrence tells it, he was asked by his friend, Lee Eastman, to record a song for his young daughter Linda. Mrs. Eastman – Louise – had a popular song bearing her name; so did their firstborn, Laura. Linda felt left out. Could Lawrence – then in charge of oodles of musicians entertaining the troops – help out?

It is no wonder that the Eastman family ended up with a Linda – apparently, they wanted to continue the “L” theme. But it is surprising that they’d never discovered Al Bowlly’s song.

But my favorite part of Lawrence’s story is this: apparently, he was urged to change the name of his single:

Most of them like everything about the song but the name Linda. “Why Linda?” they would ask. “That’s not a popular name”. One guy said: “Call it Ida — after my mother-in-law and I’ll publish it” … Another maven suggested the name Mandy. He felt that had a more musical ring than Linda.

Just like new parents today are often surprised to learn that Ava is a top ten name, neither Lawrence nor the publishers he approached realized that Linda was exactly the right song title.

There’s more, of course. Linda Eastman grew up to marry Paul McCartney.

There are two possible origins for the name. First, names like Rosalind contain the Germanic element linde – tender. In Spanish, she means pretty – and that’s the meaning that the Buddy Clark recording references.

The list of famous Lindas is too long to include here, but most of them are grown-up. In 2010, Linda ranked a relatively obscure #624, even as parents embrace names like Adalyn.

Odds are Linda will be back in baby naming vogue in another generation or two – and you’ll have your choice o charming, retro lull-a-byes.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I am not a fan, although there is no real reason why. It does feel dated to me, but I can see it coming back in a generation or two. I like the nickname Lindy, too, but I would rather use it as nickname for something else. Lindsay, maybe?

    1. Linden has always been my pick, but there’s also Rosalind. I do adore Rosalind, especially with the nn Lindy.

  2. I guess my grandparents must not have been fans of Linda, because although my mother’s two older sisters have L names (Lois and Luella), my mother ended up being named Vera at the height of Linda’s popularity. I actually don’t have any relatives or very close aquaintances by the name, so it doesn’t feel as dated to me as it might otherwise.

  3. Growing up, my best friend’s mom’s name was Linda. I believe she was born in ’43. She is a lovely, warm, artistic woman so I have positive associations with this name. However, I do find it quite dated. I would file Linda with Susan and Trudy – just not fresh enough yet.

  4. My mom is Linda and one of my professional mentors was a Linda. Both were born in 1947. I think the -lyn trend may be in part due to kids like me wanting to honor their moms without using Linda. I know we considered Madelyn/Madeleine (Madeline is pronounced different in my head), and my neice is Kaitlyn. My mom insisted that I NOT name a child of mine Linda or any other name ending in -da, as being to close to “Duh”.

  5. I have a fantastic aunt Linda – Linden has made it onto our lists as a possible way to honor her. And Lindy is a nickname that I flat-out adore.

    Plus, that Al Bowlly song rocks. Well, er, it doesn’t rock. That was pre-rock. But it is stuck in my head, not in a bad way …

  6. My step mom, Mary has a younger sister named Linda. Fitting considering Linda booted Mary from the #1 spot. Though they were both born in the 60s.

  7. Ah! My mother’s name! She was born in, yes, 1947. Her mother, my grandmother, hadn’t decided on a name for her and was lying in the hospital room bed when the song “Linda” started playing. And the rest, as they say, is history. She decided to spell it with a “y,” though – Lynda – and while no one ever spells it correctly, my mom actually likes the unique spelling; she once had 6 other Lindas in her grade, but she was the only who spelled it with a “y.”

  8. Linda is my favorite SIL (shh, don’t tell Deb!). She’s sweet, kind, friendly and helpful. If not for her, I would have lost my mind after the boys were born. So I love *my* Linda. (who generally goes by Lin). My neice, Megan has claimed Linda as a middle for her first-born (even though she’s at least 10 years from having kids, she says).

    All in all, Linda’s dated, yes but doesn’t have a completely unattractive sound. I can clearly see why it replaced Mary when it did. Pretty, little, dated Linda!

  9. I know everyone will have a favourite Linda they’ll want to list, but mine is Linda Radlett from Nancy Mitford’s “The Pursuit of Love”.

    When I was a very little girl, my favourite name was Linda, and I can’t even remember why or where I heard of it. I didn’t know anyone called Linda, don’t recall reading a book with a major character called Linda or seeing it on TV. Maybe I heard one of these old tunes on the radio and it seeped into my subconscious?

    As I grew older, I developed a great disdain for this old favourite as sounding frumpy and dated, but now I could maybe like it again. A bit.

    1. I remembered overnight where I learnt the name Linda from – it was the brand name of our electric kettle. I guess I read the name on the kettle and thought it was pretty.

      So *ahem* this is a little embarrassing, but I must also nominate as a favourite Linda – Linda the electric kettle.