What your name says about your age

Updated - November 17, 2021 03:13 am IST

Published - January 20, 2016 02:38 am IST

When we started looking at names based on data extracted by SocialCops from Delhi’s voter rolls, we were particularly drawn to the relationship between ages and names. One great example of work on this is by data journalism pioneers Fivethirtyeight.com. On similar lines, there is quite a lot you can say about someone's age based on their name in Delhi too.

For this, we looked at the ages of all people with a given name, and calculated their median age. The median is the age of the mid-point of the distribution, meaning that you’d find half of all people with that name on either side of the median. The median Delhi voter is 37 years of age, so looking up your name gives you a good idea of whether your name is more popular among younger people or older people.

When you hear the name Vidyawanti or Tarawanti, do you picture a grandmother? You’re probably right; the median age of Delhi’s Vidyanwantis is nearly 79, while Tarawanti is 75. Now picture Monika, Lakshita or Tanya; their median ages, as their names suggest, are all under 30.

With some female names, the inspiration for their emergence is quite clearly indicated by their median ages. The median female Swaraj and Swadesh are both 70, or just a little older than independent India is. Indira has declined in popularity as a female name since the 1970s – unsurprising given Delhi’s history of the Emergency.

(Quick note on the chart below: for each name, you’re seeing the median age in the middle of the box, as well as the age at which 25 per cent and 75 per cent of the distribution lie as the bottom and top edges of the box respectively. Additionally, the two lines sticking out at either end of the box show you how old the youngest and oldest person with that name are.

The rise in the popularity of the name Rahul has been meteoric, and it is now Delhi’s second most popular name among 18-25 year-olds. Mohammed remains an evergreen name on account of naming conventions among Muslims, where the name of the Prophet is used as a prefix, irrespective of the given name. Ram and Madan are similarly timeless - men as young as 19 and as old as 96 have these names.

Among women, Shanti and Laxmi are evergreen names, with women as young and as old as 20 and 94 with these names. Names like Rhea, Chahat and Aashi at the other end of the spectrum; the only women with these names are aged 20.

Also declining in popularity are unisex names for women; we found 15 names shared by at least 5000 people of each gender (to be sure these were substantially unisex names, and additionally weren’t typographical errors). Santosh and Kamlesh are among the most popular names for older women, and in tune with the Sikh tradition of unisex names, but are rapidly falling out of fashion, as more distinctly feminine names like Pooja and Priyanka gain in popularity.

Movie stars seem to have an impact on naming conventions too. The median Raveena, Karishma, Twinkle and Kajol are between 20 and 23 today, which, given the two movie stars’ debuts in the early 90s, makes sense. The median Aishwarya is 21, which is roughly how many years ago Ms. Rai Bachchan won the Miss World title.

Among men, there has been a sharp rise in the popularity of Shahrukh and Sachin, both peaks coinciding with their debuts on film screens and the cricket field respectively. Amitabh is declining in popularity after hitting a peak among those who were born in the mid 70s.

>Read the first part of the story: What's in a name? Finally some numbers

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