20 UK Names We Should Steal

Why are Poppy, Freddie, and Dexter big in the UK, but neglected in the US?

By Abby Sandel

The new top baby names for England and Wales came out recently. At first glance, American and British parents have a lot in common. We all love Jack and Emily, Isabella and James.

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.


Poppy – First Nate Berkus, then Laura Hager Bush. Poppy has been all over high-profile birth announcements in the US, and yet the name remains rare. Poppy doesn’t chart in the US Top 1000, even though it ranks a sky-high Number 5 in England and Wales.

Freya – American parents have embraced names from Greek and Roman myth, but how about Norse? Freya – the goddess of love and war – has been a popular choice in England in recent years, currently ranked Number 21. In the US, the name comes in at a chilly Number 584 – though Freya shows signs of taking off in the US, too.

Florence – Names we all love: Charlotte, Eleanor, Evelyn. And yet the similarly vintage, feminine Florence is big there, but not here. Florence ranked Number 26 in England, but doesn’t even crack the US Top 1000.

Millie Lily has been an epidemic in recent years, but Millie? Number 29 in England, just 505 in the US. But could thoroughly modern Millie be ready for revival? I’ve even heard reports of formerly fusty Millicent in a fashionable New York neighborhood.

Matilda – Have you been waiting for Matilda to take off in the US? The name still ranks just Number 582, even though it’s a solid Number 36 in England. Matilda seems like an obvious alternative to everything from Amelia to Madelyn to Victoria.

Maisie – The Number 44 name in the UK started out as a Scottish short form of Margaret. Now Maisie seems like the obvious substitute for Sadie or Molly – especially since Maisie is a mere Number 655 in the US.

Esme – A literary name with a history that long predates Twilight, lovely Esme packs a lot of style into just four letters. Actors Anthony Edwards, Michael J. Fox, and Katey Sagal have all used the name for their daughters. But while Esme is Number 50 in the UK, it ranks a distant Number 815 in the US.

Martha – Call me crazy, but I love Martha. Ever since Martha Quinn was one of MTV’s original veejays, I’ve been rooting for this one. We love Founding Father names like Ethan, Samuel, and Benjamin. Why not the original First Lady, Martha Washington? The name charts at Number 69 in the UK, but just Number 735 in the US.

Thea – In fairness, American parents might have finally discovered England’s Number 79 name. The short form of Theodora re-entered the US charts at Number 775 in 2014.

Nancy Nancy, as in girl detective Drew, ranks Number 90 in the UK. There’s something sincere and capable about Nancy – a good-girl name with a lot of retro appeal. And what little girl wouldn’t love to share her name with children’s book character Fancy Nancy? As of 2014, Nancy was still fading fast in the US, sinking this former Top Ten staple to Number 752.


Thomas – Heartbroken that classics like James and William are so popular? Consider the equally enduring Thomas. The name remains a Top Ten staple in the UK, ranking Number 6. In the US, Thomas languishes at Number 54. That’s not exactly rare, but it’s less popular than many of the classics.

Freddie and Frederick – Brits love nickname names, so Freddie is Number 20, way ahead of Number 81 Frederick. In the US, Frederick is fading. But it’s every bit as handsome as Alexander or Theodore, and how sweet is Freddie?

Lewis, Louie, and Louis – Sure, Louie is very C.K. at the moment. But all three names are in the UK Top 100 – Numbers 46, 67, and 68, respectively. In the US, they’re on the rise – but far less popular than the similar-sounding Lucas and Luke.

Harvey – Twenty years ago, Henry was a little bit offbeat. Now Henry is a fast favorite, ranked Number 33 and gaining in the US. But Harvey? Harvey is the new Henry. Harvey ranks a comfortable Number 48 in the UK, but a mere Number 493 in the US. Legal drama Suits includes talented attorney Harvey Specter, played by Gabriel Macht.

Kian – At just Number 494 in the US, Kian is pretty rare – rare enough that many American parents might dismiss it as an invented smoosh of Kai and Ryan. Not so. Kian is straight out of Irish legend, ranked Number 54 in England and Wales, and sounds an awful lot like the white-hot Liam.

Stanley Stanley is Number 60 in the UK, but still somebody’s grandpa in the US. The name ranked Number 684 in 2014, and is still sliding. But Stan seems like a retro name ready for reconsideration. There’s world-travelling children’s book character Flat Stanley. Plus the name peaked back in the 1910s – meaning that the 100-year rule should be bringing Stanley back in vogue right about now.

Jenson – With Mason and Landon in vogue, how can it be that Americans have overlooked Britain’s Number 61 – Jenson? Actually, Jensen – as in actor Jensen Ackles – came in at Number 394. It’s the perfect name to honor all of those aunts Jennifer!

Hugo Leo and Mateo are just two of the ‘o’ ending boy names currently stylish in the US. So why not Hugo? The name ranks Number 70 in the UK, but just Number 438 in the US. Thanks to novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the award-winning film adaptation, this name feels almost magical.

Dexter – Sure, there’s the serial killer from the hit television show. But there’s also Cary Grant’s character in The Philadelphia Story. Short form Dex stands up nicely to Jax. So why is Dexter Number 73 in the UK, but just Number 394 in the US?

Ellis Ellis came in at Number 94 in the UK, and Number 443 in the US. With –s ending names from Miles to Brooks in favor in recent years, Ellis should fit right in.

Are there any British favorites you would import? See the full list here!

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30 Responses to “20 UK Names We Should Steal”

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20 UK Names We Should Steal | Greatest Images and Reviews Says:

August 26th, 2015 at 10:50 pm

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JH Says:

August 26th, 2015 at 11:28 pm

I have a 7 month old Frederick that we call Freddie & he is just the sweetest! I am totally fine with it staying unpopular here in the U.S. I totally agree that Frederick is a very handsome & strong name. Plus, it’s meaning (peaceful ruler) is a wonderful one.

Poppy is super cute, but I prefer it as a nickname.

Hugo & Louis are definitely growing on me!

Nancy Drew books were my favorite when I was little, but I can only hear it as a woman in her 50s-70s….the same as Linda or Carol.

I have a friend considering Maisie & brings to mind a happy-go-lucky girl who is a ray of sunshine!

20 UK Names We Should Steal Part of Top Quality of Picture and Image Says:

August 26th, 2015 at 11:47 pm

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eveyalecia Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 12:29 am

Poppy is a name I like on paper, but hate when I hear it/say it out loud.

A couple I know has a daughter named Freyja– their other two kids have similarly Norse-inspired names.

I hear Maisie on a lot of pets, which may be why it hasn’t really hit a stride for babies.

Nancy’s still a bit too old-fashioned for me to picture on a little girl today, though the connection to Nancy Drew is awesome.

I LOVE Thomas, especially nicknamed Tom. It’s so classic without being overused.

Never been a fan of Lewis/Louis/Louie/Lou.

Dexter is one of my faves, I’d use it in a heartbeat.

lesliemarion Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 2:01 am

We should use these and also, especially, the ones that may not be in their top 100 but that are charming and British.

The English (and Scottish and Irish and Cornish and Welsh) have us beat hands-down when it come to lovely names.

Essa Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 3:30 am

I love most of these, particularly the girls names. Shame I’m British. Perhaps you could do a ‘American Names the Brits Should Really be Stealing’ post. Pretty please?

Some of these I’m quite surprised at. Poppy has always been fairly popular in the UK so I just expect it to be fairly high up in America.

Matilda seems to have shot up recently. Until about 6 years ago, I genuinely thought it was a name Roald Dahl had made up and was going to stay ‘made up name’ forever but then I started meeting little Tilly’s everywhere and realised it is actually a real name. I do see Matilda being one to catch on in the US soon.

I love Harvey, I’ve only met one little Harvey but the height of it on the popularity chart saddens me. I do find it odd that Harvey isn’t popular in Ameica as I tend to think of it as a very American name, perhaps because I associate it with Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Anyway… the other way round now?

TheHumanCanvas Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 4:30 am

It’s funny, because I’m British and as a general rule I find the UK Top 100 to be very uninteresting.

amberdaydream Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 5:25 am

I admit, I’m British too, and I kind of agree with TheHumanCanvas.

British baby names, as has been pointed out before, tends to surround guarding a class status and getting approval from your peers.

Baby names in the United States have so much more personality and character, and feel much truer to the parents who named the children, and there’s a bigger diversity of style. Savannah, Aubrey, Xavier, Easton, Brooklyn, Genesis, Serenity – like it or not, there’s a very different image to the Brit’s standard Amelia, Lily, Sophie. There’s a particular authenticity, sass and freedom in the US top 100 that I rarely see in ours.

Maple10 Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 8:08 am

Funny how Brits see American names, and vis versa! As a mom of a Matilda “Tilly” in the U.S. I quite like British names. I see them as authentic with great nicknames. I think too many American names are made up ( stop it Brayden/Caden) or boys names for girls ( enough Madisons and Peytons). I think We’ve lost sight of great historical names.
That said, I don’t think a lot of these will catch on here, but I’m loving Freya lately!

chi1127 Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 8:49 am

The only Florences, Marthas, Nancys, and Stanleys I know are in the 60-90 year old category. So, they don’t feel fresh to me at all, more like tired and dated. And I think Harvey will forever be the invisible rabbit for me. Dexter has the TV serial killer association that doesn’t help it. I love Hugo, but I’m guessing the teasing potential keeps some (like me) from using it. So, I can see how a lot of these aren’t taking off here.

gumtrees Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 10:20 am

Hmm, I was expecting to see Harriet on this list!

ashbee Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 10:39 am

I’m with Maple10. I feel like British names are so elegant and historical. I really don’t like made up names. Also, I don’t want Esme to get too popular but I’d love to see more little Thomases and Fredericks.

lemon Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 11:31 am

*Jenna Bush Hager, not Laura Hager Bush!*

I find the UK Top 100 intriguing and elegant, with a few offbeat names. I mean, I get that while the Brits seem to favor the more prim and classic full names (Florence), there’s also a preponderance of nickname names (Maisie, Freddie), particularly for boys, that we just haven’t embraced in the U.S. quite as much. Then there’s the oddities, Nancy for one, tha seem a little more dusty than even fusty, and border on dated in the U.S. I don’t know if Nancy could make a comeback here without becoming something like Naleigh, to take Katherine Heigl’s daughter (Nancy Leigh) as an example. I wonder if the established but old-fashioned nickname-like names, such as Bonnie, might hold more potential, although I agree that the cutesy nickname names the UK seems to love (Maisie, Tilly, Milly, Archie) might take hold soon as we get tired of old staples like Molly and newer-but-tired options like Lily. But, I could also see more streamlined nickname names like Tess getting bigger, or simple classics like Grace.

I personally love Poppy, Thea, and Freya. I have not a clue why Matilda hasn’t soared in the U.S., as it seems ripe for it. Off the boys list, I’m intrigued, but not in love – though I’ve long favored Ellis (even for a girl!).

LoveBugsMama Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Some of my favorites are on this list; Freya, Maisie and Dexter being in my Top 20. I hope not *too* many US parents “steal” them…

augusta_lee Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 2:50 pm

As an American with a British mother, I love the comments from Britberries — and I’m intrigued by the idea that we admire your Top 100 here in the US for what we perceive as its sophistication while you envy us our diversity of style. And I LOVE @essa’s proposal: American Names the Brits Should Really Be Stealing.

My suggestions for names the Brits ought to steal from our Top 100:


Eli and Elijah

Just for the love of god, don’t name your kid Brooklyn.

Pam Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 3:53 pm

@Essa, are you going to write that piece for us? I love it!

AnnaO Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 4:13 pm

I love the thought of the British version of our list. I’d also love to get a Brit’s sense of which of your popular names seem overused or tacky. (I’m in love with the name Florence, for example, yet I’m weirdly worried about naming my daughter the Emma of Britain. These are the things that keep me up at night.)

LostMargaret Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 4:44 pm

AnnaO, your comment made me laugh! My daughter’s name is Martha (and we live in the U.S.), and I do wonder how differently it comes across. I love that it’s kind of an outlier here. I also adore Florence, Nancy (though I probably know too many to use it as a first), Louis, Frederick (Freddie!!!), and Thomas/Tom/Tommy.

It was so fascinating to read the comments from you Brits, above–it’s true, I also have this perception of your top 100 as much more tasteful than ours–interesting to hear how the naming culture feels a bit more inhibited and loaded with class connotations. Though that’s probably the same here to some extent, even though it seems there’s more variety and invention in the top 100.

LuMary Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 4:54 pm

I was disappointed when Jenna Bush named her second daughter Poppy. I like Poppy, but it seems flimsy compared to Margaret, her firstborn. Evidently, it’s a nod to her grandfather (Poppy was his nickname), but still. Wouldn’t Georgia be a better choice?

I’ve loved Thomas for some time, and even now like the familiar Tommy, as its nickname.

I’m still waiting for us to steal Jemima (h) from the British.

AnnaO Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 5:36 pm

LostMargaret, I love the name Martha! That’s also on my list. My sense of Martha in the UK (based entirely on reading Telegraph birth announcements and on the naming practices of British celebrities) is that it’s a classic, non-trendy choice, albeit far more widely used there than here. But Florence is upmarket trendy. Anyway, I’d love more feedback from the Brits in the nuances.

gmdx Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 6:03 pm

I love Martha a lot! In equal parts due to the Bible and Martha Jones. I also like Nancy a lot as it’s my grandmother’s name, but I prefer Annie.

ARead Says:

August 27th, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Names I love from the British list:

As an American who spent the last several years living and having babies in England, I do agree that class has a lot more to do with naming babies in the UK than in the U.S. But then class has more influence on a lot of things there. The feedback I got from Brits about American names is that we’re too “out there” (“you give your babies really strange names in America,” one mom told me. “You name them things like ‘Schuyler!'”). But glad to see that not all Brits think we’re crazy!
Personally, I find the British top ten girls list to be not too dissimilar to the U.S.’s. Meanwhile, the boys’ list has similarities but is almost entirely unoriginal classics.
And then there are the cultural connotations that change from one side of the pond to the other. For example, Jemimah may have been a popular name in the UK for 20 years, but here it’s too tied to the matronly purveyor of syrup to have taken off.

MozzGoggs Says:

August 28th, 2015 at 1:24 am

Being an American married to a Brit and having lived over there, I’ve noticed that Brits also have some pretty unusual names, but they’re just not as widespread as American unusuals. For example, Princess Diana had two flower girls in her wedding party named Clementine and India. Camilla Parker-Bowles has a sister named Anabel and I believe names like Jemima might be more popular in America if it was pronounced the British way; i.e. Ja-mee-muh. Many British names have an alternate pronunciation, from ours, such as Evelyn, which is pronounced Eave-a-Lyn (but is actually a boy’s name!) Just pray that their Percy never catches on over here!

Essa Says:

August 28th, 2015 at 8:16 am

Oh no @Pam! Don’t tempt me!! I may just write it. Much to my husband’s disapproval since I’m supposed to be writing an essay and starting a new job… but hey, names are much more important and definitely interesting!! Oh I just don’t know where to start. Will this be the beginning of Essa the name blogger?

Essa Says:

August 28th, 2015 at 8:20 am

@MozzGoggs I’m British and have never heard of Jemima being pronounced that way, it’s always been Juh-my-muh to me and that’s how it’s pronounced in the Beatrix Potter novels too. I’ve always heard Evelyn as Ehv-uh-lin as well, I’ve never come across a boy nmed Evelyn so I think it’s died out, although to me, not a bad thing since I do prefer it on girls but it’s a shame it’s lost it’s original masculinity.

LuMary Says:

August 28th, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Millie can be used as a familiar form of Mary, if someone is shy about using nickname names.

I do wish we would move on from Luke, and that Louis/Lewis would catch on.

Alvina Says:

August 29th, 2015 at 6:42 am

Stanley is one of those names that will never regain appeal for me. Harvey is a little better even with Lee Harvey Oswald and an invisible rabbit. Louis is my father’s middle name, and I had an adopted Grandpa Louie, so this name is dear to me.

I would use Thea as a nickname, but would have the formal Althea or Anthea on the birth certificate.

20 British Baby Names That Are Crazy Cute Says:

August 31st, 2015 at 11:14 am

[…] This post was originally published on Nameberry by Abby Sandel. […]

MissusAytch Says:

September 1st, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Jenna Hager is George W. Bush’s daughter. Laura Bush is the former First Lady. Laura Hager Bush is… no one.

krh21 Says:

November 4th, 2015 at 1:29 am

Oliver/Olly is one of my favourite names. Seems to be found much more often in the UK

also I love Alfie.

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