British Baby Names

When I lived in London in the 90s, I was gobsmacked (astonished in British) by how different the baby names were there. It wasn’t like they used names Americans had never heard of – exotic ones like Pema or invented ones like Puma – but that they used some of the familiar English names far more often than did parents in the U.S.

Clementine and Hugo, for instance, were the most fashionable names of that day in the U.K., names I’d rarely heard stateside. Clementine was pronounced with an –een ending, which removed it from the “Oh My Darling” association – not that many Brits carried that association.

Some of the names popular in Britain and not in the U.S. are similarly free of connections that may damn them in America: Jemima, say, and Archie. Others are old Celtic or Cornish or Welsh names that never crossed the ocean, such as Tamsin and Callum.

And then there are those names on this list that are classics or short forms heard in America, but not as fashionably – I’m thinking of Forence, for example, and Freddie, Lucy (yes, still) and Louis.

Based on another entertaining tour through the London Telegraph birth announcements from the past few months, here are some names that are stylish in the U.K. right now.

Girls

ALICE
CECILY
CHARIS or CARYS
CRESSIDA
DARCY or DARCEY
DAVINA
EDIE
ELIZA
FLORA
FLORENCE
FREYA
GENEVIEVE
GEORGIANA or GEORGINA
IMOGEN
JEMIMA
LUCY
MAISIE
NATASHA
OCTAVIA


POPPY
PRIMROSE
TABITHA
TAMSIN
VERITY
ZARA

Boys

ALASTAIR
ANGUS
ARCHIE
ARTHUR
BARNABY
BENEDICT
BYRON
CALLUM
CATHAN
COSMO
DIGBY
DOMINIC
EWAN
FELIX
FERGUS
FLETCHER
FREDERICK or FREDDIE
GEORGE
HARRY
HARVEY
HORATIO
HUW
IVOR
LACHLAN
LOUIS
OLIVER
OSCAR
OTTO
RANULPH
RHYS
ROCCO
ROLLO
RORY
RUPERT
SEBASTIAN
THOMAS
TOBIAS or TOBY
WALTER

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25 Responses to “British Baby Names”

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Jill Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 2:46 am

I love too many of these names to list them all, but some of my favorites are:

Eliza
Genevieve
Georgiana
Poppy
Tamsin

Arthur
Byron
Frederick
George
Oliver

Ghoti Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 3:29 am

I take your point generally. (Last year’s top 10 in England & Wales had only three names in common for both bys and girls with the top 10 names in the US; Joshua, Daniel and William, and Olivia, Emily and Chloe)

However, as a British person living in Britain and working with young children for the last 7 or 8 years (also spending a lot of time around babies in the last year), I’ve never heard of any baby having some of those names, and some of them I only know on adults!

It does seem generally true that ‘old-fashioned’ names are highly popular now – I know babies/children named Eliza, Arthur, Charlie, Martha (and similar).

From your list, hese are the names from your list that I’ve heard on English people under the age of 10 (Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish babies tend to be named differently, with more of the local names occurring, and I don’t know so many)

Cecily
Eliza
Freya
Genevieve
Georgina
Imogen
Lucy
Natasha (but she’s actually Russian)

Archie
Barnaby
Benedict (my son, guilty as charged)
Callum
Dominic
Felix
Frederick or Freddie
George
Harry
Huw(Spelt Hugh)
Louis (spelt Luis, as his mum’s Portuguese)
Oliver
Oscar
Rocco (but his dad’s Italian)
Thomas

I think boys’ names are still more predictable… but you’re also still more likely to hear biblical names (Joshua, Samuel, Daniel, Joseph, especially) than some of the ones I’ve mentioned.

Mookie Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 7:34 am

These are my favorites:

Alice
Cecily
Flora
Florence (considering its usage, as I have a familial reference)
Genevieve
Georgiana
Imogen
Lucy
Poppy
Tabitha
Verity (one of my favorite virtue names)

Alastair
Archie (a nickname for my second-favorite name, Archer)
Callum
George
Harry
Lachlan
Oliver (getting popular state-side)
Rhys
Rocco (any future nephew of mine will be Rocco Anthony!)
Rory (love!)
Sebastian
Thomas (my nephew’s name!)

I definitely like British-used names. Those from the London Telegraph are extremely lovely — Clementine (with the -ine ending, not -een) has been making her way up my list for a while now!

Abby Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 8:54 am

I love Cecily and Rhys … wait, actually, I love almost every name of these lists! Only thing I can’t get behind is the nickname-as-full-name. Especially since the British always seem more formal than Americans! That never fails to surprise me.

namefan Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 9:25 am

My favorites from this blog are:

Alice
Lucy

Dominic
Oliver
Rory
Sebastian

In fact Rory Sebastian is one of my favorite boy’s combos at this time (I mentioned it awhile back on the forums).

JNE Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 11:28 am

Ah, the Brit names… yep, I go for them big time. Actually, by design because my OH is a Brit and while we live in the US, we want to give a nod to half of our kids’ heritage. All the names we are seriously considering for our next one are on the list, as is our girl’s name (Imogen). I will say, here in the States (in NC), Imogen is pretty much unrecognized – I’d say maybe 2% of people have ANY recognition of the name (and 2% is generous). I think we’ll have more luck with the next name – the boy names we’re considering are not only more recognizable in the US, but also rank in the top 200 in the US – almost scarily popular for me.

It’s been a few years since I’ve lived over in England (wow, 8 years, hard to believe), but I’d say Ghoti definitely has a point – the Telegraph is fun and I love the names, but a certain set of people announce in the paper and they have slightly different naming patterns than the general English public. When I’ve suggested some Times/Telegraph names to my OH he dismisses many as ‘ridiculously posh,’ ‘trying too hard,’ and ‘sloany.’

The young Brits I know are (my family/friends’ kids):
Ben (x3)
George
Arlo
Jack
Jake
Isabella
Jacob
Samuel
Emily
Phoebe
Millie
Charlie
Lily
Declan

I’m missing some, but those are the ones I remember off the top of my head. We’re heading over the pond for a visit in the next couple weeks and I’m excited about doing a bit of name recognizance!

Thanks for the post – I can never get enough of the Brit names!

Andrea Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 1:13 pm

The London Telegraph is where the upper middle class to the wealthy to the titled announce the names of their new offspring. There’s a fairly large difference between the sort of names that are popular among this group and your more average English or Scottish or Welsh parent. Take a look at the last popularity list and there’s a difference between this list and the most popular names. I would guess that your typical British kid is still likely to be named Alfie or Chloe. The American names popular here are also starting to be fairly well used in Europe. Jayden is on some popularity charts.

Kerri Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I just love love love the name Lachlan. I wish I had been able to convince my husband! He certainly would have been the only Lachlan in New Mexico!

ailsa Gray Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Yes, Andrea has hit the mark. The London Telegraph or Times announce baby names for upper-middle-class babies upwards, as a general rule. When the paper announces its top names in early January for the previous year, this list is significantly different from the list published by the Office of National Statistics.

Saying that, we Brits apparently emulate our “betters”, so the Telegraph announcements signify where we are probably heading. Imogen is a good example – not so long ago, it was used by very “well-heeled” types, but now you find little Imogens everywhere! And then once that happens, the Sloaney types stop using the name!

I am NOT upper-middle-class (but class is such a dfficult subject even if you are British, let alone American!) but this would not deter me from using some of the names on your list.

ailsa Gray Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

oops, I dont know how I am not Red Riding in that last post! Never mind, I guess you all guessed who I was!

Pam Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I’m aware that the Telegraph birth announcements are usually of babies from more upper class families, but upper middle class names often set fashion trends, both in the US and (at least from my experience) in the UK. I mean fashion/style as opposed to popularity. I’d love to hear from UK nameberryites on whether they think that’s true.

dancer4life Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I like a lot of these names, too. Here are some I like:

Alice
Cecily
Eliza
Flora
Freya
Georgiana
Maisie
Natasha
Verity

Alastair
Barnaby
Cosmo
Felix
Otto
Rhys
Sebastian
Thomas

I have always loved Alice, Cecily, Eliza, and Thomas and I know someone who had a baby recently with the middle name Verity, which I think is very pretty.

Alice Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I’m British and I do know a lot of young kids with names that are on this list. Sebastian, Freya, Lucy, Imogen, Tamsin, Felix, Rhys/Reece, Ruby, Jasper and Reuben seem to be very popular where i am (the north east). Personally i don’t think that the upper class families of britain set naming trends because a lot of names that the upper middle class tend to use like Horatio, Rupert and Octavia, the rest of britain wouldn’t use them. Especially where i come from, a child wouldn’t survive at school with a name like Horatio, but the upper class seem to live in a very closed society where they wouldn’t be teased for having a ‘posh’ name. Having said that, i really love all the names on this list, especially Poppy because its just so adorable!

Emz Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I’m in Scotland and although I’ve come across a few of the names listed, they’ve mostly been in certain areas. I live in the west end of Glasgow, certain parts of which are pretty upper-middle class and populated by yummy-mummy types with kids named things like Oscar and Felix (there also seems to be a real trend amongst this particular set for very Scottish names). Other areas of the west end are the poorest in the country and the kids in, for example, Drumchapel, tend to have names that are less ‘cutting edge’, if you like (lots of Demis, Jays and even a Destiny). So of course those names on the list aren’t representative of the entire UK, but they are certainly representative of the current crop of ‘cool’, super-fashionable names.

I did a teaching placement in a school in Drumchapel and at lunchtimes the head of department would read out the Telegraph birth announcements for that day. Everyone found them very funny. Perhaps because they’re pretty pretentious, but perhaps because they were such a contrast to the Shawnees and Demi-Leighs they were teaching who would no doubt have kicked the living snot out of little Sebastian or Montgomery.

Do I think names ‘trickle-down’ from the middle classes? Sometimes I think they can, but I think the naming patterns between the two groups are so wildly different that it’s hard to compare. In Glasgow, Bearsden (7th richest area in the UK) and Drumchapel (poorest in Scotland) are literally a stone’s throw from each other – you can nip across the border to the corner shop for some milk and your life expectancy increases by about twenty years – but the two groups DO NOT MIX. Some names probably ‘trickle down’ (to use what is arguably a rather offensive metaphor) but I don’t see any little Georgianas or Jolyons appearing on the playgrounds of Drumchapel any time soon 🙂

Emz Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 8:12 pm

And one more thing – I’m moving to London on Friday and am keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be coming across some of the Telegraph babies we talk about so much!

Andrea Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

It probably depends on the name itself and where else it has been used. In the Telegraph announcements I’ve seen names like Algernon “Algy” or Hebe or other really rarified names that I really doubt would ever be widely used elsewhere in Britain, let alone in the U.S. — think “Algae” and Heebie Jeebie once the poor kid is in kindergarten! At Eton or Oxford, it wouldn’t matter as much because they have classmates with similar names.

Both in the U.S. and in the UK, if a model or a movie star or a soap opera character or actor has a certain name, it gets wider exposure and maybe is more likely to be used, regardless of class or location — Alfie, Isla, Poppy, etc. The names of some of the child cousins of the British royal family are interesting for what they say about style: The Duke of Gloucester’s son is called Alexander, but HIS baby son’s name is Xan Richard Anders. Lady Helen Windsor’s son are Columbus and Cassius, and her two young daughters are named Eloise and Estella. Her brother Nicholas named HIS baby son Albert. Timothy Knatchbull’s children (all under age 10) are Amber, Milo, Ludovic, Isla, and Willa. The Hicks siblings have children named Angelica and Ambrosia and their cousins Maddison (girl), Jordan (girl), and Rowan (boy), and their cousins Felix, Amory (boy), Conrad. and Domino (girl). All of these children are in line to the throne if they aren’t born out of wedlock, albeit fairly far down. They seem to be both influenced by popular culture and trend-setters in some cases. The traditional family names are mainly stuck in the middle or are so Victorian that they are in style right now.

Vera Says:

August 25th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I read this post while up with my baby at 2 am. after having many hours to go over the names in my head i’ve decided that i love pretty much every name on this list. Davina and Tamsin, and are at the top of my list, and I am now adding Cressedia because oh do i ever love it. I would use Carys in a heartneat but my cousin used it in 2008, and Octavia was my favorite name for five years until my husbands parents named their puppy that, unaware of my love for it. My first daughter is named Zara, and Imogen is my youngest daughters middle name, while Alastair is my oldest sons name and we almost named my second son Lachlan. I LOVE this list!

Stacy Says:

August 26th, 2009 at 6:28 am

Some of these are on our list.

I really like Alice, although my husband is not so crazy about it. I also like Cecily, Carys and Edie, and Natasha has been on our list for a while.

For the boys, Sebastian is our #1 name, although our family all hates it. Benedict, Tobias, Oliver and Rhys are all lovely, too although I can’t imagine we’d use any of them.

My husband’s a teacher, he’s often too sensitive to potential associations.

sheigh Says:

August 26th, 2009 at 10:05 am

I’m in love with:

ALICE
CRESSIDA
GENEVIEVE
GEORGIANA or GEORGINA, and Georgia too
IMOGEN
NATASHA
OCTAVIA
TAMSIN

ALASTAIR
ANGUS
ARCHIE, Archibald too
ARTHUR
BENEDICT
CALLUM
DOMINIC
EWAN
FERGUS
FREDERICK or FREDDIE, I prefer without the final “k”
GEORGE
HARRY
LACHLAN
LOUIS
OSCAR
RHYS
RUPERT, i’m totally crazy about it.
SEBASTIAN
THOMAS
TOBIAS

eva Says:

August 26th, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I love British names. How is Zara pronounced in England?

Elizabeth Says:

August 28th, 2009 at 12:37 am

I like these names:
ALICE
CECILY
DARCY
DAVINA
LUCY
TABITHA
VERITY

FREDERICK
GEORGE
OSCAR
RUPERT
SEBASTIAN
WALTER

Lucy Says:

August 30th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I’m from the UK and not upper middle class enough to want to post my BAs in The Telegraph. However, my youngest child (of three) is called Cecily, which seems to feature on a lot of lists above!
I would say the trends in the UK probably start in London and work their way out. I guess you are probably right about some of the trends tending to start amongst more upper middle class people, but not all.
I would say the names on the list are a bit of a mixture. Some are quite popular and have been for a while eg Lucy, Freya, Poppy, Imogen, Oliver, George, Harry, Oscar. Others seem to have a ‘vintage’ feel which I love eg Alice, Cecily, Eliza, Flora, Arthur, Frederick. There is definitely a trend for vintage type names in the UK. I have recently met a baby Audrey, Elsie and Iris local to me and I don’t live in a trend setting area at all. There a smattering of Scottish/ Welsh/ Irish names which we always be the case. There are also a few which I think will definitely tend to stay amongst the upper middle classes eg Cressida, Octavia,Horatio, Ranulph, Walter. Of course, I could be wrong!!

Keolani Says:

January 6th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I cam across a blog or site that published the names of the babies and their siblings. The names were from London newspapers. Anyone know the site I’m speaking of?

dave Says:

October 28th, 2010 at 3:12 am

i find it funny that on this site you fail to admit the most popular boys name in england is mohammad or is just middle class liberal white parents in denial that the muslim population in the uk is growing a t 37% (uk government 2009) coming to your leafy suburbs and private school soon.

Going Wild (Drssgchic) – Page 135 | Mark’s Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 135 Says:

July 31st, 2012 at 12:36 pm

[…] Leo? Benedict? (makes me think of Cumberbatch, so maybe not) Sebastian? British Baby Names – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Christian and Edward strike me as kingly names, so I went British. Originally Posted by […]

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