Category: British baby names
By Emily Cardoza
There is no play that illustrates the biting wit of Oscar Wilde better than The Importance of Being Earnest. And with a pun on names central to the plot, how could I miss the chance to make it my newest installment of Literary Names, in which I play the game of finding substitutes for the character names?
Brits love diminutives. We use them, often automatically, to shorten names in a familiar way, and they have been essential for centuries as a way of distinguishing individuals with the same name. We love them so much, many of them have now been elevated into full-name status, and happily litter the Top 100.
The most common are two-syllable, ie/y-endings we know and love well; Isabelles are Izzy, Olivers are Ollie, Katherines are Katies and Fredericks are Freddies. But more and more, parents are looking to a more brisk and quirky style of diminutive. Edwards are often Ned, rather than Eddy; several Henrys are Hal, and Christophers are the striking Kit rather than Chris.
With this niche trend in mind, here is a rundown of some one-syllable diminutives that have become overlooked since they were developed in the Middle Ages. Several of them, perhaps surprisingly, were unisex.
In the 16th century Bess was a popular nickname for Elizabeth. You could almost say that it was the diminutive for the name, as the most famous bearer, Elizabeth I, was known fondly as “Good Queen Bess“. It began to lose favour in the 18th century, but was revived as Bessie in the 19th. In some instances, Bess was also used as a diminutive for Beatrice.
Every few months, we love to peruse the birth announcements in the London Telegraph in search of new trends in British baby names. The most recent listings included a bumper crop of unique, eccentric choices. Does this mean that parents in England, like those in the US, are becoming more attracted to unusual names? Though the British birth announcements still include plenty of expected names like Amelia and Beatrice, Henry and Alexander, we’re also seeing more distinctive, even edgy names.
In English style, this usually means names that have traditional roots and are not invented or drawn from places or things the way they might be in the US. But we are also seeing more baby names drawn from far-flung cultures, cross-gender choices, and revivals of long-dormant names. In the middle, there are more surname names along with animal names such as Bunny and Bear.
Here, 50+ real baby names from the recent British birth announcements that evidence the new heightened taste for the unique….or is it just traditional English eccentricity?
Now that the 2014 baby name statistics are out for England and Wales, we can see what names are the most popular in these two British countries and we also can look at the names near the bottom of the popularity list and find quite a lot of inspiration for new and fresh name ideas. The following names have only been used for three to five babies in the UK last year.
By Abby Sandel
But the new UK Top 100 is packed with names that far more popular across the pond – including a few that are all but ignored by American parents.
Here are my picks for the British baby names that Americans should import.