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Category: British names

How About Harvey? What About Walter?

Harvey-moon-museum-cover

The Nameberry Question of the Week: Would you name your baby boy Harvey or Stanley or any of the other up-and-coming oldies appearing on the recently released British pop list?

Is this another case where the Yanks will follow the Brits in baby-naming trends and revive such previously verboten Grandpa names as Harvey, Arthur, Leon, Walter and Stanley– all once considered distinguished in their day?  Or similar in style name like  Gilbert, Murray, Ralph, Howard or Ernest?

Which, if any, of the names of this genre would you consider?

Would you choose it only to honor a relative with that name?  And/or only as a middle name?

If you did use one, would you consider it cutting-edge or pleasingly retro or perenially stylish?

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brit topgirls2009

At long last, the official list of the most popular names for baby girls and boys born  in England and Wales in 2009 has been released.  And, to cut to the chase, here are the Top 10 for each gender–all of which were there last year, with several remaining in the same spot:

GIRLS

  1. Olivia
  2. Ruby
  3. Chloe (up 3 places)
  4. Emily (down 1)
  5. Sophie (up 2)
  6. Jessica (down 1)
  7. Grace (down 3)
  8. Lily
  9. Amelia
  10. Evie

BOYS

  1. Oliver (up 1)
  2. Jack (down 1)
  3. Harry (up 1)
  4. Alfie (up 2)
  5. Joshua
  6. Thomas (down 3)
  7. Charlie
  8. William (up 2)
  9. James
  10. Daniel (down 2)

So Jack hit the road, after reigning as #1 for 14 years–though he was still on top in Wales and some areas of England.  But it’s interesting to note that if the 12 different spellings of Mohammed that were listed separately had counted as one name, it would have topped Oliver.

The biggest climbers in the Top 100 were Maisie for the girls and Austin for the boys.  There were also regional differences (Isabella in London‘s Top Ten, Seren #3 in Wales) and seasonal (Holly was the favorite name for the month of December).

The Royalist spirit was reflected in the naming of 16 Kings, 68 Princes, eight Dukes, 11 Earls, four Barons and four Lords, as well as 12 Queenies, seven Queens, 109 Princesses and five Ladys.

There were only six new boys’ names in the Top 100:

  1. Aiden
  2. Arthur
  3. Frederick
  4. Jude
  5. Stanley
  6. Austin

…replacing Blake, Jay, Billy, Corey, Zak and Sean.  Showing the greatest rise within the Top 100: Lucas, Sebastian, Aidan, and Noah.

New entries in the girls’ Top 100 were Heidi, Sara and Mya, replacing Maryam, Alicia, Courtney and AbbieMaisie was the highest climber within the Top 100, followed by Lexi, Layla and Aimee.

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literary3

I remember how, when I first read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, a whole new universe of names opened up for me. A world of sophisticated, eccentric, kind of uppity and veddy veddy Victorian and Edwardian  British names, many of which I had never heard before, but instantly became enamored with.

The comic novels of Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse and the plays (and novel) of Oscar Wilde and Shaw are still a good place to start if you’re looking for a name with a certain elegance, gentility, swank—and sometimes a bit of quirkiness as well.

GIRLS

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cornwall

The distinguished British name expert Julia Cresswell is the author of several books on the subject, the most recent of which is Name Your Baby.

The British Prime Minister recently chose the Cornish name Endellion as the middle name for his new daughter.  The baby was premature, and born while the family was on holiday in Cornwall, and Endellion was chosen because the family regularly holidayed at the little village of St Endellion, so strictly speaking the name belongs with the growing trend to use place names (such as Dakota, Savannah) as first names.  However, it is also a traditional Cornish name.

But first a bit of background.  Cornwall is a popular holiday place because of its unspoilt beauty. Its unspoilt beauty comes from the fact that its position at the extreme south west of England makes it isolated.  This isolation protected it in the past, and led to the preservation of a uniquely Cornish culture.

1500 years ago, when the rest of England was being taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, Cornwall remained independent and retained its own language, descended from the language of the ancient British and closely related to Welsh,  into the 18th century.  This language is the source of many of the specially Cornish names, while the distinctive West-Country way of pronouncing English has been another source. 

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British Baby Names: The Latest Crop

union_jack_baby

Every few months, about as often as I allow myself to relish a hot caramel sundae and with about the same amount of delicious anticipation, I dip into the London Telegraph birth announcements to see what the upper-crusty British baby namers are up to.

And as with that sundae, the results rarely disappoint.  There are always plenty of eccentric three-name combinations, lots of charming sibsets, and a collection of names not often heard in my neighborhood of New Jersey.

One trend asserting itself in this collection: R names, with a raft of children (far beyond those mentioned here) called Rory, Rufus, Rupert, Rex, and Rowley, and on the girls’ side, Ruby, Rose, Rosemary, Rosalind (and Rosalyn) and Romilly.  R is a letter that’s seemed dowdy for quite some time — blame all those Baby Boom Roberts and Richards — and is due for a resurgence.

The best of the recent British baby names are, for girls:

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