John & Jane Does

It is one of the first words we hear and one of the first we learn to speak. The given name is always with us. Some forenames are inherited from our ancestors, are inspired by figures of the time (religious, artistic, sporting) and a few -more than imagined- result from our parents’ creative minds. The least -83,178 to be exact- are unique and unrepeatable.

Starting today, we present the first major analysis conducted in Costa Rica to the database of registered births. Our editor of data journalism, Alejandra Fernández Morera, immersed herself in the births recorded between 1900 and May 2014. Together with our developer Marco Chacón and our illustrators (Marcela Maury and Alejandro Ramírez), Alejandra developed a number of games for you to draw your own conclusions. For example, when was your name first used in Costa Rica? How many times was it used on the day and year of your birth? In which part of the country and in which decade has your surname been most widely used?

Our goal is for you to “play” the story, in this new attempt by to offer innovative ways to reach, inform and engage readers.

Antonio Jiménez
Executive Editor

First call

When it comes to naming children, Costa Ricans chose to baptize, that is, they resort to Catholicism for suggestions. Thus, 10 per cent of the 5,311,394 born or nationalized between 1900 and May 2014 are named after one of Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph.

If you are not one of them, surely you have dealt with one of the 322,337 Maries or with at least one of the 213,836 Josephs, who have received those names over the past 113 years.

This possibility increases if you are from Guanacaste or Cartago. In the country’s North Pacific, 9.1 percent of newborns go by the name Mary and 7.17 percent by Joseph. In the old metropolis, 8 of every 100 babies have been named after the mother of Jesus and 5 in 100 after her husband. The opposite occurs in Limón, which has the lowest percentage of Maries and Josephs. In the Caribbean only 2.66 percent of those born in the last century are called Mary and only 2.47 percent have been named after the Carpenter.

While Mary and Joseph top the list of most common names in Costa Rica, their popularity mark a century in steady decline. While in 1900, out of every 1,000 births 167.4 were Mary, in 2013 they were only 15.1 out of every 1,000. This is also the case with Joseph, a Christian name that in the early twentieth century was used in 113.3 of every 1,000 births, but is chosen only in 14.5 out of every 1,000 births 113 years later.

This follows from the analysis set out by of Costa Rica’s birth records database, the first of its kind carried on in the country. The study includes all records as of 1900, since previous entries in the nineteenth century are sporadic, one or two people per year.

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Your name

When was your name first used and in which province? How many people have been baptized with the same name? In which year was your name more popular or that of your acquaintances? Play and compare using the following interactive tool.

Date of birth:

About your name

was first used in Costa Rica on , , in the province of .

people have been registered with the name between and May 2014.

was most popular in .

In , people received this exact name, that is for every 1,000 births.

Compare the popularity of your name

Enter more names to compare:  

The day you were born, individuals were given the same name, in and in total in .

The combination of the first name and the surname appears times in the last years.

In a ranking of the top most frequent lastnames in Costa Rica, yours is ranked #

For each Karla, 21 Maries

Over the past 113 years, for every woman who has been named Karla, 21 have been called Mary.

In the list of the 10 most popular names, Mary, as is well known, is at the height of popularity, Karla ranks tenth.

Competition is fierce between Rosa, Laura, Ana, Marta, Carmen, Katherine, Andrea and Flor for a place in the ranking of the 10 most common.

Drag each of the cards to sort them from the most to the least popular among women names in the country.

Joseph’s rearguard

Behind the 213,700 Costa Rican Josephs there is a troop of 499,000 men. Together they make up the list of the 10 most popular male names in Costa Rica. Oscar ranks tenth, Gerardo ninth, Manuel eight and Victor seventh.

To complete the ranking of most popular male names in the country, drag and sort each card from the most to the least popular.

What remains

They might not be the most powerful, but surely the most recurrent. They are overrepresented in the phone book and in the voter registry. Out of 34,154 surnames lodged in the vital records database, 20 identify one quarter of Costa Ricans born in the 20th century: 1,062,279 people. Families Alvarado, Araya, Campos, Castro, Chaves, Gómez, González, Hernández, Jiménez and López have a legitimate right to boast about their popularity. The same goes for the Moras, Morales, Pérez, Quesadas, Ramírez, Rojas, Sánchez, Solanos and Vargas.

Match the images and figures to find the ten most common surnames

In which province is your last name most widespread and what migratory flows has it had over the last century? This interactive tool has the answer

Your last name over the century

Slide the bar

1900 1925 1950 1975 2000 2014
San José
people were registered in the year with this lastname.

One time wonders

Supuesta [Alleged], Isavel, Deseada [Desired], Welcome, Bladymir y Monito [little Monkey]. These men and women share one peculiarity with other 83,172 Costa Ricans, the name they received at birth shows up only once in Costa Rica's vital records database. That is, there's not two like these.

Out of each 100 people with a unique name, 58 are women, 42 men. The majority -31 per cent- was born in San José and the minority -3.5 per cent- in Heredia.

What’s in these names? Play and guess. With help from the given clue try to complete the mystery word. You may fail four times. Every mistaken letter approaches the dummy to the bucket.

The Queen mothers

The country is, indisputably, a women’s reign. In the “kingdom” there are 1,508 Reinas[Queens] y 290 and 290 Reynas, but just 112 Reyes [Kings].

The royal lineage includes 13 additional titles, which have been registered as names in Costa Rica: Empress, Princess, Prince, Baron, Duke, Count, Marquis and Sir.

Moreover, there are those named after memorable queens. That is how Anne Boleyn, the most influential queen consort of England, is also every inch Costa Rican and so is Marie Antoinette.

Some ascended the throne by inheritance and not by marrying a king. They were christened Reina Isabel, Reyna Isabel, Reina Elizabeth and Reyna Elizabeth.

To know which royal titles are used as names in Costa Rica, scan the images below.

Solve and discover

Four puzzles, four options. About the designs: Flor is the name of 16,589 women; Moses is the name of 4,029 Costa Ricans; there are 3,674 Marilyns and 10 Nefertitis, the name of the most famous Egyptian dynasty queen.

Solve these puzzles to find out which were the 10 most popular names on the day, month, year or decade you were born. Click each piece to move it around.

Flora, wildlife and astronomy inspired 49,791 names

Eighteen species of flowers, two different birds, cetaceans, felines, constellations, celestial bodies and natural satellites: in the national vital records database there are species to suit all tastes.

When it comes to flowers the favorites are Rosa, with its popularity peak in 1952, Margarita an all time favorite in 1932, Melissa -in vogue in 1985, Jasmine in 1994 and Hortensia, characteristic in early last century. 45,043 women wear one of these five names. Less faddish are Guaria, Orchid, Cala or Clavel.

Among them flutter 1,439 Larks and 50 Palomas. There are over 500 Lions and Lionesses and Dolphins to match the marine environment.

Two constellations, Orion and Andromeda, name 17 people, and there is Venus and Mars, more than one Moon, and 556 Suns.

Move the images and find out more about these categories


Test your knowledge answering these 15 questions, and discover the names of Costa Ricans, who are those of famous personalities from sports, politics, science, art, music, jewelry, fiction and deities.

Click on the answer you think is correct and proceed to the next question.

Those who choose a celebrity's name, prefer those of fashionable singers

The combination of a microphone, public exposure and fame has a special power in the Costa Rican baptismal font. identified at least 30 names of recognized singers in the database of Costa Rican vital records.

Of the 30 celebrities, the one that has had the greater influence on the national anthroponymy is the tex-mex, rancheras, ballads, pop and American cumbia singer, Selena. During the 1990s, Billboard cataloged her as the most prominent and best-selling Latin artist. Her end was tragic; Selena was murdered in March 1995 by the president of her fan club. As if it were a posthumous tribute, the year of her death 68 women were registered in with the name Selena and a year later 108. Of the 561 Selenas locally registered, 95 percent were born between April 1995 and May 2014.

In popularity follows a "rebel" girl, now dressed as Hello Kitty. The single Complicated made her famous among teenage audiences. Avril Lavigne is a Canadian born singer with 431 Costa Rican namesakes, most of them born between 2009 and 2014.

Britney Spears ranks third. The princess of pop's stage name has had three marked peaks of popularity in the country: 2001, 2009 and 2011. It is also part of a composite name Britney María, Britney Soledad, Britney Esmeralda, Britney Alondra and 268 more.

There are also 101 Rihannas of which four are Rihanna Mary born between 2009 and May 2014, and one more has been consecrated to the Virgin, Rihanna de Los Ángeles.

The leader of the band Guns N 'Roses, Axl Rose, gives name to 62 Costa Ricans, Prince to 33 males, Beyonce to 9 women and Chayanne and Marc Anthony to 8 people.

The list would not be complete without The Beatles. Five ticos are named after two mythical figures of the English band: John Lenon (sic) and Ringo.

Move the images to learn the details of the names in this category.

Worshiping Our Lady

The devotion to Catholicism is responsible for Mary being not only the most common first name in the country, but also the second or third.

Of the 5.3 million Costa Ricans born in the last 113 years, 8 percent -that is 430,540 women and men- have been consecrated to Mary (11 virgins) or the Holy Trinity.

The most popular are 'La Negrita', nickname of Our Lady of the Angels, patroness of Costa Rica and the Virgin of Carmen, patron saint of the sea.

Some are triply religious such as José Jesús de los Ángeles or María del Carmen José.

Contrary to what you might think, most people with the name 'de los Ángeles' was born in San José, not in Cartago. The same goes for 'del Carmen', which is also very popular in Guanacaste and Puntarenas, but not in Limón.

Click the following pictures to discover the total amount of Costa Ricans consecrated to a virgin divided by gender division.