General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Are last names starting with vowels relatively uncommon?

Asked by LostInParadise (32041points) 3 weeks ago

Off the top of my head I can think of Adams and Alexander. Among 44 U.S. presidents there is only Chester Arthur and Dwight Eisenhower. To do this right, we have to compare the frequency of words starting with vowels in the English lanuage. It may that these are also less common.

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23 Answers

LostInParadise's avatar

Among U.S. presidents I forgot to include the two Adams.

Smashley's avatar

Not uncommon, but statistically less common than expected. Probably less true in Ireland.

Dutchess_III's avatar


Not uncommon.

canidmajor's avatar

There are 26 possibles to start names. About 20% are vowels, so statistically much less likely.

JLeslie's avatar

Some countries probably more common than others, but maybe starting with a vowel is still in the minority. There are fewer vowels than consonants in the alphabet to begin with.

jca2's avatar

I’m thinking of Hispanic names Alvarez and Alvarado.

Lots of Irish last names start with “O.”

My last name is Hispanic and starts with a vowel.

Kardamom's avatar

Abrams, Anderson, Acosta
Edwards, Ericson, Eber
Isaacson, Ivers, Ito
Obama, Oliver, Olberman
Underwood, Uggams, Utley
Yeltzin, Yancy, Yearwood

LostInParadise's avatar

Darn, I forgot about Obama for presidential names. That makes for 5 presidents out of 44, or about 11%. I don’t know how that compares to the rest of the language.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

One out the top thirty surnames in the USA starts with a vowel. That is Anderson..

Forever_Free's avatar

Ask any Irish person.

LostInParadise's avatar

I did a Web search on this and found this site: uage/11/text-and-language-processing/frequencies-of-letters-vs-first-letters.html
You can’t click on it. You will have to do a copy and paste.

Don’t get bogged down in the code. What I found of interest were the two tables. The first shows how many times each letter comes first. The second shows how many total times that the letter appears.

If consonants and vowels were completly randomly distributed, we would expect the 5 vowels (for simpiicity I am ignoring y), out of 26 =5/26, a little under 4%. Vowels show up more frequently than that because every syllable has at least one of them. According to the data in the Web site, vowels overall appear 40% of the time.

If we just look at how frequently vowels appear at the beginning of words, the rate is 20%. In the case of people’s names, it seems that vowels do even more poorly at the start of the name, for example looking at the 11% for presidential last names.

canidmajor's avatar

^^^ Sometimes. ;-D

elbanditoroso's avatar

Ask Umberto Eco or Ari Emanuel.

canidmajor's avatar

Or Aaron Elkins.

Jeruba's avatar

Got an old phone book? I’d start there and just count pages. I believe S is the most common last initial by far. Least would have to include Q, X, Y, Z. I don’t know about the vowels, but would guess that they (at least 4 of them) would put in fairly strong showings.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

From my above link there are 784,404 people with the name of Anderson in USA, it is the largest group of people with a vowel starting surname.
Therefore the largest number of people with a vowel is Anderson and is 2.4 percent of the USA population (784,404 / 330 million).

JLeslie's avatar

AEIOU 5/26 if we use the English alphabet and don’t include Y. 19%. If the vowel names are around 19% in English speaking countries it’s proportionate.

LostInParadise's avatar

19% agrees with the Web site I referred to, which would mean that last names starting with vowels are actaually more common than the expected 11%

LostInParadise's avatar

@Jeruba , Could you please use your phonebook to get the numbers of pages for a,e,i,o and u, along with the total number of pages? That would allow a calculation of percentage of names that stqrt with vowels. Thanks.

Demosthenes's avatar

When I worked in a library, we organized books on hold by surname.

S and M were the letters with the most books on the shelf.

A also had a decent amount. E and O never had many, but more than I.

Q and U had the least of all letters. The Q and U sections were often totally empty.

X, Y, and Z were close seconds, but had a bit more than one might expect. Part of their higher representation were Chinese surnames beginning with these letters.

Forever_Free's avatar

Hammerin Hank Aaron

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