Category: English baby names
What names are quintessentially ‘British’?
I see this question a lot but it’s a hard one to pin down. Do we mean solely British in origin, or only British in use? When Prince George was born our media heralded it as a “quintessentially British” name — and why not? We’ve had numerous kings bear the name, and it’s even the name of the patron saint of England. But George was originally a Greek name, brought late into our Royalty by German Hanovarians. Ask many Americans and the first George they think of is Washington or Bush.
For me, the quintessentially British names are those which are very familiar to us as a nation, that have been or are currently popular, but are little used in America, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries. Names such as Nicola – our darling of the 70s – Darcy, Imogen, Poppy, Freya, Alfie, Jenson, Gareth, Alistair and Finlay.
I always love the slightly off-kilter (from the American perspective) British baby names plus the eccentric string of middle names. But including the names of brothers and sisters adds an extra dimension of style interest.
Counting first children not mentioned here too, trend watchers will want to note the names Elodie, Emilia, Florence, Isla, and Jemima for girls, and Barnaby, Frederick, Hugo, Montgomery, and Willoughby for boys. Also, diminutives such as Jack and Annie as not only full first names but middle names.
Recent British baby names and their siblings include:
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:
- Clementine Annabel Emily, sister for Rupert
- Daphne Olga Amelie, sister for Henry and Beatrice
- Eliza Miranda Rosemary, sister for William
Some months back, we ran a blog about the names of rivers in Western Europe, and we promised to follow it up with one on English and Irish waterways. Well here, at last, it is.
The landscapes of the British Isles and Ireland are traversed by rivers, some as long as the Thames and the river Shannon, some flowing across national borders, from England to Scotland or Wales, while others are much smaller streams.
Not surprisingly, most of these names are less lyrical than the French and Italian examples, more simple and straightforward. A sizable number of them already exist as people names—Amber, Tamar, Perry, Douglas –while the rest are possible crossovers. Of these, some sound decidedly masculine (Dart, Dewey), while others could conceivably be used for girls.
In the spirit of friendly, transatlantic competition, I couldn’t let a post about the President’s children go by without taking a look at the naming habits of Prime Ministers past. With a few more years of incumbents to consider(Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister in the modern sense of the position, was appointed in 1721), I discovered a veritable mountain of lovely, classic names.
The most commonly occurring name for the son of a Prime Minister was William, which popped up twelve times. In fact, one PM, William Henry Cavendish-Bentwick used it twice, naming his first two sons (who both survived childhood) William and William Henry. In second place was George, with nine. The middle name Augustus appeared four times.
As for daughters, the most popular name was Mary, which occurred seven times, as well as there being two little Marias. The Catherine variants numbered seven – five Catherines, one Katherine, and, most recently, a Kathryn. Other names which proved surprisingly popular were Hester and Louisa.
Strange naming trends abounded; naming children after relatives and friends, for example. ‘What?’ I hear you cry. ‘I named my daughter after so-and-so.’ Well, of course, but not like PM George Canning did when he named his second son William Pitt Canning, after friend and former Prime Minister, William Pitt the younger. Robert Peel also named one of his sons after a former Prime Minister who had supported his career, bestowing upon him the name Arthur Wellesley Peel.