What’s in a name?

5th September 2020

Last week the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released its report on the popularity of baby names registered in the England and Wales in 2019.

For all the stats nerds among you, visit the ONS website to download and play with the spreadsheet, for the rest of you here are the headlines:

  • Oliver and Olivia remained the most popular name for boys and girls in England and Wales.
  • Freya and Lily replaced Emily and Ella in the top 10 girls’ names, while there were no new entries in the top 10 boys’ names in 2019.
  • Alfred, Chester, Hudson, Ibrahim and Oakley entered the 2019 top 100 boys’ names replacing Alex, Dexter, Dominic, Kai, Sonny and Tobias.
  • Lara and Mabel replaced Aisha and Francesca in the top 100 girls’ names; Mabel has not been in the top 100 since 1924.

David Corps, of the ONS’s Vital Statistics Outputs Branch commented:

“Oliver and Olivia continued their reign as the top boys’ and girls’ names in 2019, but analysis shows choices in baby names can differ depending on the mother’s age. We found younger mothers opted for more modern girls’ names like Harper, which has seen a rise since the Beckhams named their daughter so in 2011, and shortened boys’ names like Freddie. In contrast, older mothers chose more traditional names such as Jack and Charlotte.

“Popular culture continues to influence the baby names landscape. Following Dua Lipa’s first UK number one single in 2017, the number of girls named Dua has doubled from 63 to 126 in 2019.”

Top 10 girls and boys names in 2019:

As well as looking at the most popular names, the stats highlight interesting trends in ‘new’ names which appear to be driven by popular culture or current affairs.

Since 2016, when the Amazon Alexa was first available in the UK, the girls’ name Alexa has decreased in popularity from 2016 when there were 332 girls named Alexa to just 39 in 2019. In contrast, a girls’ name that may have increased following the rise to fame of a celebrity is the name Dua. Dua Lipa, the popstar, had her first UK number one single in 2017. In that time, the number of girls named Dua has doubled from 63 in 2017 to 126 in 2019; this is the highest number since our annual records began in 1996.

Similar trends have been seen in boys’ names where the name Taron has increased in popularity, with 48 boys born in 2019 being given this name, the most since detailed records began in 1996. This choice in name might be influenced by the actor Taron Egerton who starred in the 2019 award-winning Elton John biopic, Rocketman. Continuing the cinematic trends, the name Kylo appears to have increased in popularity since the release of the new Star Wars sequel trilogy. Kylo Ren, a leading character, first appeared in 2015. Since then, the number of boys named Kylo has risen from 10 to 67 in 2019.

Other names are falling out of fashion. Looking back to 1996, when detailed annual rankings of baby names first became available, we have seen names rise and fall and some all but disappear completely. The girls’ names Brittany and Kerry were reasonably popular 20 years ago, with Brittany the 101st most popular name in 1999, and Kerry was 136th in 1996. However, in 2019, there were two or fewer children given these names.

There were similar cases for boys’ names. In 2019, there were two or fewer boys named Kieren or Glenn for the first time since our detailed annual rankings were first available in 1996. Kieren’s highest rank was in 1997 when it reached 169th position. The more popular spelling of this name, Kieran, has declined too, decreasing from 89th position in 2010 to 374th in 2019. Meanwhile, Glenn was once the 95th most popular boys’ name in 1964.

We’ve generated our own set of statistics for comparison, counting the most frequently occurring inventor names of GB patents published in 2019.

Nice to see Andrew maintaining its position as a top-10 name

Do you think we’ll see any names based on current cultural event appearing soon? Could we see a little Corona Smith or Covid Jones soon? Let us know via social media.

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