What are the most popular names for new babies in Britain?

According to the data compiled annually by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the most popular names for children born in England & Wales during 2014 – published this week – were as follows:

Position Boys Girls
1 Oliver Amelia
2 Jack Olivia
3 Harry Isla
4 Jacob Emily
5 Charlie Poppy
6 Thomas Ava
7 George Isabella
8 Oscar Jessica
9 James Lily
10 William Sophie
11 Noah Grace
12 Alfie Sophia
13 Joshua Mia
14 Muhammed Evie
15 Henry Ruby
16 Leo Ella
17 Archie Scarlett
18 Ethan Isabelle
19 Joseph Chloe
20 Freddie Sienna

There are some patterns here.

First of all, astonishingly the most popular boys’ name and the second most popular girls’ name are essentially the same (Oliver and Olivia) – what is technically known as cognates – and these names have been in the top two for their gender for the last six years. Is this the case in any other nation? Second, it is striking how traditional most of the names are for both boys and girls, although for the boys it is interesting that the familiar form of names rather than the original version is often preferred – Jack instead of John, Harry instead of Harold, Charlie instead of Charles, Alfie instead of Alfred, Archie instead of Archibold, Freddie instead of Frederick. Third, in the case of boys, five of the top 20 names begin with the letter ‘J’ while, in the case of girls, 10 of the top 20 names end with the letter ‘a’, seven of the top 20 names end with the sound ‘ee’, and ten of the top 20 names contain the letter ‘l’ (in four cases, twice).

On the other hand, the name John, which is the most common male name in the Britain, is nowhere in the top 100 names in the 2014 listings, while David – which is the second most common name in Britain – slipped out of the top 50 of names chosen for baby boys born in 2004 and has only just come back (it is currently 50th). Similarly Margaret – the most common female name in the population as a whole – does not even appear in the top 100 names chosen for girls these days, while Susan – the second most common name in Britain – is not even in the top 100.

These observations underline how much fashion shapes the popularity of different names. Fashion is a stronger influence with girls’ names than those of boys. So, for example, in the last 10 years (2004-2014) Lexi is up 724 places to 64, Ivy is up 704 places to number 54, Violet is up 538 places to 71, Bella is up 462 places to 52, and Elsie is up 387 places to 32.

It should be noted that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) produces its ranking of the popularity of names using the exact spelling of the name given at birth registration. If one combines the numbers for names with very similar spellings, a very different picture is revealed. For boys, combining the occurrence of Mohammed, Muhammad, Mohammad & Muhammed plus eight other spellings of the names would put it in first place – a reflection of the changing ethnicity of the British population and the powerful trend for Muslim families to name their son after the Prophet. Similarly, if one combines the occurrence of Isabella, Isabelle, Isabel and Isobel, one would find the name top of the girls’ list and, if one took Lily and Lilly together, the name would come third.

You can find the top 100 boys and girls names in 2014 click here

You can find my comprehensive guide to naming practices around the world here.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>