If you were to meet the stereotypical Muslim couple in Lucknow, she would be called Noor, he Mohammad (but prefer to abbreviate his name to Mohd or Md) and their last name would be Ali - these are the three most prominent Muslim names found on Lucknow's electoral rolls right now. The runner-ups are Nasreen, Naseem, Sima and Parveen on the female side, Abdul, Ahmad, Ali and Saif on the male side and Ahmad, Bano, Khatun and Khan as far as lastnames go.1 What is interesting is to see how the frequency of these names change over time - and how gender plays a role in this. Let's have a look at male firstnames first (click on the image for a larger version):

What we see here is the percentage of people born in any given year which bear one of the five most frequent male Muslim firstnames. And above all, we see that Mohammad rocks the boat: while around 5% of Muslim men born in the 1920s had it as (one of) their firstnames, this share rose to around 15% till the early 1990s (newer data is not available, since electors need to be at least 18 years of age), with a particular steep increase since the late 1980s. That is fairly impressive - and finds no comparable parallel in female Muslim firstnames:

None of the five most frequent female names ever went beyond 1% - male names are apparently much more concentrated among a select few, even if we discount the exceptional case of Mohammad. In this second graph, we however nicely see how names come and go in waves - and we also see that until the late 1970s, Noor and Naseem were in decline while Nasreen, Sima and Parveen rose in prominence. In the 1980s and early 1990s, however, all five most prominent names declined - the names chosen for women became more diverse overall.

I will soon look into this in more detail (in particular into the steep rise of Mohammad - to hazard a guess: it has to do with the communalization of UP in the 1980s, maybe?), and link it to ethnographic material on naming practices and pattern - but I thought why not give you a brief update on the most obvious trends first. Keep on reading - and feel free to voice your thoughts in the comment box below...

I would like to acknowledge the use of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre (OSC) in carrying out this work.

  • 1. I should clarify that single names - if found on the electoral rolls - count as lastnames here...

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