Celebrity parents put Harper on a high
The Beckhams’ daughter inspires popularity surge
On the face of it the list of most popular names for baby girls has changed little in the last couple of years. While Amelia and Olivia remain the dominant choice of parents there are other trends emerging and a mix of new and traditional names pushing their way into the top 100.
Among the newcomers according to latest data from the Office for National Statistics, Aria has made her debit at 100 with a rise of 70 places in a year and 1195 places in ten years. The name means lioness and apart from the character Arya Stark in Game of Thrones it’s hard to find a clear reason for Aria’s new popularity.
You can’t say the same about Harper. Once known only as the forename of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, the name’s spectacular rise is clearly clothed in celebrity since it was chosen by Victoria and David Beckham for their daughter. Last year Harper rose 26 places to number 63 and shows a spectacular increase from the depths of 2619 ten years ago.
Thea, Mila and Robyn have all been on a roll over the past decade and are in the lower section of the chart.
Traditional names have been making a comeback for several years and the latest to hit the top 100 are Penelope at number 69 and Clara at 91. Nearer the top Florence, Charlotte and Elizabeth are all holding their places in the top 40.
Flowers are favourites throughout the list with Poppy, Lily and Daisy all in the top 20. Willow and Ivy are also climbing.
It’s looking like we’ll soon have to say farewell to Katie, the biggest faller in 2015, down 22 places to 99 and heading out of the chart.
Parents making similar choices in the boys’ world
Parents of baby boys seem to be happy to go with the current trend as there are surprisingly few changes among the most popular names over the past year. George was already in the top ten before Prince William and Kate gave their son the royal heritage name – one day he is due to become George VII – and since then he has made a modest rise of three places to number seven.
The current top ten order is Oliver, Jack, Harry, Jacob, Charlie, Thomas, George, Oscar, James and William with all of them featuring in Nameslink cards. Oscar and Noah (at number 11) have both risen by more than 50 places in ten years.
Of the various spellings of the favourite Muslim name, Muhammad has risen one place to 14 while Mohammed is down four at 27.
Freddie rose 15 places (up 76 over ten years) to clinch a slot in the top 20 this year with Victorian stalwarts Arthur and Albert both showing strong rises over the past decade. Both Theo and Theodore have enjoyed a surge in popularity with Teddy, Dexter and Joey the best performers over a ten year period.
Losing ground currently are Riley down 14 places over the year to 34, Tyler down ten to 47, Ryan down 18 to 69 and Jamie down 20 to 88.
John, who fell from the top 100 a few years ago may be making a comeback. He is currently one place off the pace at 101.
Winners and losers by popular trend
If general election voters decided to make their party choice based on the current popularity of thenames of the political leaders Ed Miliband would have a lead over David Cameron with Nick Clegg trailing in third and Nigel Farage a distant back marker. In Scotland Nicola Sturgeon would find her name has slipped from the giddy heights of the 1970s and is no longer a top 100 choice.
All the first names were popular when the leaders were born showing that their parents were following fashion. This is particularly the case for the Camerons as David was the top name in England and Wales when he was born in 1966. Nicholas was around 25 when Nick Clegg came along in 1967 while Nigel enjoyed its highest level of support at number 23 when Nigel Farage was born in 1964.
Edward was at its highest ranking around the time of the first world war just outside the top ten. When Ed Miliband was born in 1969 Edward was at number 50, a position it has held with little change since the mid-1950s until a bit of a spurt this century.
Nicola rose dramatically up the charts in the sixties and seventies with a top slot at number three but today she has a place in the three hundreds. The sharpest faller is Nigel with only eight baby boys given the name in 2013.
Of the four contenders running for seats in England the latest popularity ratings by first names puts Ed Miliband first at number 33 (for Edward), David Cameron second at 50, Nick Clegg third at 141 (Nicholas) while poor Nigel Farage is almost off the chart at 2403.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics
Who would have guessed? The fastest rising name for girls is Elsie and for boys Theodore and its familiar shortenings Theo and Teddy.
The story of Elsie is remarkable as she was nowhere ten years ago, scarcely in the top 500 names for girls, and now she sits at 47, up 23 places in a year.
Elsie is a classic example of a Victorian/Edwardian name that’s surged back in popularity like Charlotte, Ruby and Ivy. Elsie was in the top ten before the first world war but rapidly made way for Jean, Susan and Patricia, dropping out of the top 100 altogether by 1940.
Rather like the rise of Amelia, there’s no obvious reason – no celebs or royals to replicate – why parents should choose Elsie except that’s it’s a pretty name and once some parents like it, others soon follow.
Theodore has no background of popularity from a century ago and has been gradually gaining support over the past ten years or so. He entered the top 100 in 2012 and rose a further 19 places in 2013. Teddy has seen a spectacular rise of 55 places in a year to hit number 86 which is up 234 in a decade.
Theo is the best ranked of the three, currently at 41, showing a small rise in a year and up 85 places since 2003.
The highest profile Theodore is the US president Theodore Roosevelt who gave his name to the teddy bear – apparently after refusing to shoot a tethered bear that had been offered to him as an easy hunting kill.
* This item based on 2013 survey by the National Office for Statistics
Two important changes to flag up. First, we’ve given our home page a fresh look and introduced links from the small card images to their relevant page. You should find it easier to navigate the site and get quickly to the cards you want to look at.
Then, seeing that it’s Christmas time, here’s a little present. We’ve trimmed the price down to £3.50 for birthday cards and Hello cards for new babies. We think this is terrific value for a card that contains so much – and we hope you’ll agree. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why ‘Mr Dynamite’ decided to give his money to good causes
October is Nobel prize time of year with brilliant people recognised for their contribution to knowledge along with the 2014 shared Peace prize for Malala Yousafzai andKailash Satyarthi. The money for the recipients was left in his will by Alfred Nobel whose fascinating story is told in our card for Alfred – or more popularly Alfie.
Nobel is credited with discovering how to make dynamite – although he blew up his younger brother Emil when one of their experiments went wrong.
It is thought that Alfred decided to make his legacy for the benefit of humankind after reading an obituary of himself, mistakenly published in a newspaper on the death of his elder brother Ludvig. The item was critical of Alfred as a ‘merchant of death’ on account of the vast profits he made from selling dynamite and other war materials.
His conscience pricked, he left his fortune to fund the prizes.
Names that illustrate surprising changes in choice
The worlds of Jane and Oscar have been added to our catalogue. They represent popular names at opposite ends of the past 60 years. As recently as 1998 Oscar was outside the top 100 favourite names for boys and yet by 2013 he had claimed a place in the top 10 – at number 7.
Jane is a different story. She entered the top 50 during the 1940s and broke into the top 10 during the 1960s. Since then Jane has declined and now doesn’t make it into the top 1000. We, of course, see Janes differently – an exclusive choice in this century while in the great wide world there are many Janes who deserve a personal card.
We reckon that the combined charms of Jane, the Daily Mirror strip cartoon, and the ‘mean, moody and magnificent’ Jane Russell may have helped Jane reach the heights in the post-war years.
As for Oscar, he’s always carried a manly twang and has also become the dominant name among the film world’s top achievers. Quite why the Oscar statuette is so-called remains unclear but our card gives the most likely explanation.
Almost one third of names have religious roots
The number of boys given biblical names is rising fast in contrast to a decline in churchgoing in the UK. The recently published list of 100 most popular boys’ names shows that apostles, prophets, messengers and other characters from the Old and New Testament are present in significant number.
Thomas and James have been regulars in the top ten for decades and while Andrew and John have dropped out of the 100 they have been replaced since 2003 by newcomers Zachary, Elijah, Gabriel, Caleb and Seth. Altogether, 26 boys in the top 100 have names that derive from the Bible with Noah at No 13 the fastest riser
Three variations of spelling the Prophet – Muhammad (15), Mohammed (23) and Mohammad (57) – are highly placed while Ibrahim, in at 89, also reflects the choice of Muslim parents.
These are the biblical boys in the list of 100 most popular names from the Office for National Statistics, 2013:
4 Jacob, 6 Thomas, 9 James, 12 Joshua, 13 Noah, 14 Ethan, 19 Joseph, 20 Samuel, 22 Daniel, 29 Isaac, 30 Benjamin, 38 Sebastian, 39 Zachary, 40 Adam, 45 Luke, 47 Matthew, 50 David, 53 Michael, 54 Reuben, 55 Nathan, 69 Elijah, 72 Jude, 79 Gabriel, 81 Aaron, 88 Caleb, 97 Seth
Girls’ names are more often taken from flowers (see below) but they too can be drawn from the Bible with Evie (basically a version of Eve), Elizabeth, Hannah, Martha, Leah, Bethany, Sarah and Lydia all in the top 100. Grace and Faith add a further spiritual dimension to the list.
Ivy, Violet and Iris making big gains
The biggest trend in names for baby girls is the natural world and especially flowers. You can forget parents being starry eyed about celebrities. With the possible exception of Sienna who has made a remarkable rise to number 22, the 2013 list of names published by the Office for National Statistics shows that beauty all around us is the true inspiration.
In a way, this is part of a return to the tradition of a century ago when names like Rosie, Ivy, Violet and Iris were popular and until recently were more likely to be found among grandmothers than newborn babies.
Poppy is the latest flower to enter the top ten, while Lily who was at number 5 in 2012 has slipped to 12. Ivy is the most spectacular riser, up 733 places in ten years to number 66 while Violet is up 588 places to 78 and Iris is just outside the top 100 having risen to 106 from 412 in a decade.
Summer (48) and Skye (91) bring their wide open spaces into the top 100. In all there are 14 names from nature in the top 100
7 Poppy up six places since 2012 and up 36 places since 203
12 Lily down 7, up11
23 Daisy down 1, up 8
33 Holly down 8, down 20
37 Lilly down 4, up 132
38 Rosie up 10, up 4
48 Summer down 8, up 38
50 Jasmine down 5, down 20
54 Willow up 15, up 203
66 Ivy up 22, up 733
68 Rose up 10, up 69
75 Hollie down 21, down 1
78 Violet up 22, up 588
91 Skye down 5, up 23
How writers show their love of letters
Most of us remain happy to be known by the names we were given although in the world of literature there are plenty of leading authors who prefer to operate behind their initials. Perhaps the most obvious contemporary example is JK Rowling who chose the ambiguity of her initials – real names Joanne Kathleen – as she thought the use of her full name might deter boys from picking up her first Harry Potter story.
A similar device to add a whiff of mystery was used by Erika Leonard whose erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey enjoyed sensational success under her chosen moniker of EL James. But that’s verging on a pen name which is not quite the same thing.
Some of the most celebrated writers have established themselves by their initials. Might they be quite so famous if they allowed their first names to see the splash of a front cover?
Here are some other famous examples:
AS Byatt (Antonia Susan)
JM Coetzee (John Michael)
JP Donleavy (James Patrick)
TS Eliot (Thomas Stearns)
CLR James (Cyril Lionel Robert)
PD James (Phyllis Dorothy)
DH Lawrence (David Herbert)
CS Lewis (Clive Staples)
AA Milne (Alan Alexander)
VS Naipaul (Vidiadhar Surajprasad)
PJ O’Rourke (Patrick Jake)
JD Salinger (Jerome David)
JRR Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel)
PG Wodehouse (Pelham Grenville)