British Baby Names: Hot New Trends

This was one of those delicious mornings when I allowed myself to dip into the recent British baby names in the London Telegraph birth announcements. As usual, they didn’t disappoint (can you tell that my speech has suddenly acquired a British cadence?) and I managed to pick up on some actual trends.

The first is that, now that Americans have started following the British lead and using two middle names, the Brits are upping the ante by using three. Four first names total, ala Charlie Gaspar Geoffrey Langton: that’s one major new trend.

But in another way, British parents have started imitating Americans by using surnames and word names as middle names: besides Langton, there’s a Macmillan, a Melrose, a Tiger and a Capability here.

Some British baby names seem much more fashionable there than in the U.S.: Martha, Nancy, India, Alice, and Agatha for girls; Edmund, Otto, Hector, Ralph, and Benedict for boys. I guess we know why they use Benedict and we don’t. But can someone British please explain to me your fondness for Alfie and Archie?

There also seems to be a trend toward having several charmingly-named children of one sex, followed by a charmingly-named child of the other sex, creating a family out of a storybook. I mean, when I read about little Hector, George, Inigo, and Alfred welcoming sister Poppy, or imagined Lettice, Beatrice, and Agatha gathered around the cradle of baby brother Atticus, I nearly abandoned this blog to rush off and write a series of adventure tales starring these lovely siblings.

Here, the new baby names from England:




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39 Responses to “British Baby Names: Hot New Trends”

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Genevieve Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 3:53 am

I love the Noah, Jago, Cassius and Kitty sibset – there’s something quite symmetrical about it that I like! Zebedee, on the other hand, seems wildly out of place in his sibset to me – not to mention within the rest of his name… Zebedee Ebenezer? Jeez, thats a lot of b..b..b and e..e..e..

I’m British, so here’s my idea why names like Alfie, Archie, Charlie and Freddie are all wildly popular: With the remake of Alfie starring Jude Law in 2004, that name was catapulted into being one that appealed to parents where it maybe wouldn’t have before – Mr Law gave it a new, and more attractive, lease of life. In addition to this, a loveable character on a British soap opera also wore the name around the same time. Archie followed suit. I think the reason they have had such sustained popularity over the past few years is because parents view them as what you might call ‘Old-Man-Lite’. The trend for old fashioned names is fervent here, but despite what the Telegraph may suggest, the majority of people in the UK would never name their sons Hector or Benedict. Half of the ‘real’ boys I meet are Jack. The other half are Alfie, Oliver and Logan. This may sound ridiculously classist, but I think it takes a certain variety of person to carry off a name like the ones on your list – A Hector would fit in fine at Eton, but would be torn to shreds in inner-city London.

Genevieve Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 4:13 am

Also, names in the Telegraph come from parents from all 4 corners of the UK, not just England. Sorry, hate to be pernickety but its a pet-hate of mine to be lumped into one category (I’m Scottish)!

brannon Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 6:25 am

Brilliant. My husband is British and I’m obsessed with the telegraph. Our kids definitely need more names.

gracenote Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 6:26 am

Beatrice Rose and Rory Benedict! What a lovely sibset! And how darling is Hermione Cecily Mabel?

And as for Badger… that’ll get some odd looks even from us Brits, I’m afraid… it’s very daring!

But Pam – you mentioned that we Brits use Benedict much more than across the pond in the US. Benedict is still very uncommon here in the UK – the names found in the London Telegraph aren’t always representative of what we hear on the street; Benjamin and Ben are still much more commonly heard. It is a shame though, because I think Benedict is stunning! Hector, not so much…

As for Alfie and Archie – there is a big trend at the minute for nickname-names, and Alfie and Archie fall right into this category, being much more fresh and fun than stuffy old Alfred and Archibald. I think that Alfie is just adorable!

Abby Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 6:41 am

Monty Dyson Apollo? That’s a series of three names I’d never have put together. Wonder what big sis Mitzy’s middles are? Mitzy Taylor Circe, Mitzy Ellington Demeter … the mind reels.

pam Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 8:36 am

Hahaha, Abby. But I love these names that don’t go together in any conventional way! Thanks for the insight, Genevieve, and of course you’re right about how these names are not typically British any more than Britnee and Breaker are typically American. I lived in London for a few years and remember how I bristled at anything that smacked of “you Americans always….” These names just feel to me quintessentially British, but I suppose I mean quintessentially upper-class, rarefied, stereotypically public (that is to say private) school British!

SadieSadie Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 9:26 am

Yes! One more Hermione moves me closer to my Hermione! Lol. I have to agree that Jack is the number one name heard in England, at least when I lived there.
Some of these are truly lovely.

lemon Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

So many of these names are great! I think the best ones are Tabitha Daisy Kate and Jemima Daisy Ophelia – I must be on a Daisy kick. My favorite girl names, independent of pairings, on this list are India, Eliza, Cecily, and Julia. On the boy side, I think my pick is Wilbur James Macmillan, though my favorite boy names on the list are Patrick, Oliver, James, and perhaps even Rocco, though Roscoe is more my style.

Sadly, I’m sure my mother would find many of these names “uptight.”

Cathy Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Capability could be named after 18th century seminal landscape designer, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (I never knew Capability wasn’t his given name until I googled it just now). He was a forerunner of the gardenesque style of landscape design, and influenced Andrew Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted here in the States. Seems like something a history buff or landscape architect may name a child.

Elea Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Very posh Brits have always used 3 or 4 middle names — it’s what they do. The rest of us stick with 1 or 2 😉 The Telegraph names are fantastic, but they only really represent the ‘upper set’ and not so much your average British children. This list is the future class register for Eton 😀

Alfie appeared in the top 100 in 1997 in England and Wales. It pretty much jumped up about 20-30 places every year after that so that by 2006 it was in the top 20. It was helped, as Genevieve said, by the film and the character Alfie Moon in Eastenders.

Archie appeared in the top 100 in 2000 and rocketed up after that. This is most likely because of the hugely popular TV series called Monarch of the Glen (2000 – 2005) in which the main character (a dishy young Scottish laird) was called Archie (Archibald) – interestingly the main female character was called Lexie (Alexandra) another big climber.

If you look to the 90s name trends there were a lot of nicknames that were popular – Harry, Jake, Jamie, Sam, Ben, Charlie, Joe, Billy, Josh, Tom, Danny – so Archie and Alfie (and Freddie) were new alternatives. We’ll be having Eddie, Ollie, Ronnie and Teddy next.

Elea Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Oh, also…I remember when ‘Badger’ had his birth announced back in 2003. His full name is Samuel Badger (name beginning with ”R’ that I can’t remember).

In this context I’m guessing Badger is from the surname. It’s not actually uncommon, particularly in the upper class to use family surnames as either 1st or 2nd names. It because popular in the Georgian period.

auburn Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Badger is probably a nickname. We Brits are famously keen on our nicknames, and the very upper class often seem to compete to find the strangest ones! It did make me laugh, though.

Kitty Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Did you notice that there’s an Oriana and an Oriano? I love them! So beautiful! I also love Calypso and India, and Beatrice Rose and Rory Benedict. I had to laugh when I saw them – I’m such a geek – cuz of the Beatrice-Benedick shakespeare relationship, though I’m sure that was unintentional.
Actually, the only name on here I dislike is Helisent. It sounds so pretty, but really? Hell is sent? And it sounds too Middle-Age convent-lady to me. Sophie Isis does save it a little, though.

Em Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I absolutely adore these names. If only we were naming babies like this in the US…

Lyndsay Says:

December 17th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

<3 sigh. I just love them.

leffie Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 5:28 am

I love all these names! Very inspirational.
Why would Benedict be used more in England than anywhere else?

Persephone Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 5:52 am

I think the Brits’ love for nickname names such as Alfie and Archie comes from the love of the larrikin culture – everyone loves an affable larrikin. They are friendly, character-filled names, evocative of a guy with a cheeky sense of humour, who gets along with everyone and can look after himself when necessary. In Australia, we very much understand this ‘love of the larrikin’ and nicknames are an affectionate nod to this. That’s my take on it anyway!

Titch Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 6:43 am

I love so many of these names (I may be biased as I am English). We are expecting a baby in Feb and if its a girl she’ll be Agatha. I know some people find it fusty but I just adore it. I have been a little apprehensive about announcing it for fear of the reaction but feel somewhat validated by these announcements in the Telegraph! 🙂

corsue Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Leffie, Benedict Arnold of the Revolutionary War. Perhaps a hero to the Brits, but a complete traitor in the US.

Gingersnap Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I have a question about how to handle two middle names. I actually have two middle names myself, but I’ve just dropped the second one, because on forms, applications, etc., they ask for a middle initial and I just use M., the initial of my first middle name. My second middle name is Agnes, which I used to hate, but I’m starting to like it now. What do other people with two middle names do?

Emmy Jo Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Kitty — I think the Beatrice/Benedict pairing was very intentional. Even if the parents weren’t trying to name their children after famous lovers, they were definitely going for a meaning connection. Both names are sometimes said to mean “blessed.” Plus, if you look at their other names, Rory means “red king” and Rose is a red flower or a tint of red. Beatrice Rose and Rory Benedict have just the sort of subtle connection that I love.

My personal favorites: Minna Julia Rose and Hamish Francis Eager. I LOVE the idea of Eager as a middle name. How interesting!

And I kind of like Helisent. I wonder if it has legitimate medieval roots or if it’s just a Helen/Melisande combo. I’ve come across Bellisent/Bellisande before, but never Helisent.

My least favorite: Digby Rollo. Does it get any more ridiculous?

Foodie Says:

December 18th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Tabitha Daisy Kate might be one of the cutest names I’ve heard in a long time.

Livi Says:

December 19th, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I love so many of these names! They’re so Victorian/Steampunk! It makes me happy that there are more little Agathas than I originally thought. 🙂

Alisha Says:

December 19th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Most of these make me proud to be a Brit 🙂

Eliza Says:

December 19th, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Our young dachshunds are named Arlo and Digby. Either I’m on the cutting edge of British baby names, or the Brits are giving their children dog names.

J Says:

December 28th, 2010 at 7:10 am

These are not common British names! They are from the 1% upper class set who actually bother to have announcements published in the Telegraph. You want to look in the Sun newspaper!!!
I live here (in the REAL world) and I should know!

All this is perpetuating the ridiculous umbrella and bowler hat stereotype…

Belle Says:

January 5th, 2011 at 7:24 pm

LOL. Believe me darling, you first sentence wasnt brittish at all! XD Anyway, thats just some of the baby names. The british have a love for nicknames at the moment. so Nicky, Albie, Afie, Charlie, bobby, benny etc are all there! and these names arn’t that popular. The daily telegraph is kinda stereotyped in england as a ‘posh paper’. Very few read it. If i was you, i search for the annoucements in The Sun or The Daily Mail. You’ll have much better luck! Benedict isn’t even in the top 500 baby names in england! England, truthly, is full of- Bens, Laurens, Ashleys, Hayleys, ELizabeths, Rubys, Johns, Bobbys, Daniels, James, Charlies, Dylans, Madisons, Lucy, and there is thousands of Jessicas! Very rare to hear a Badger or a Zebeedee.

Brooke Says:

January 7th, 2011 at 10:16 am

How cool is Henry Capability?! Love that!

Fritzi Says:

January 12th, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It’s sad to say, but I’m going to have to echo the comments of many others on here.
These are so beyond the realms of normal here. If a Peregrine Guy Richard Jago started at my school they’d be classed as POSH straight away. You just really wouldn’t call your children these names unless you were so upper-class you were beyond caring.

I went to a comprehensive school in central London and I actually have a really interesting mix of names there.
There are the slightly more middle class (Isabelle and all it’s variations/Cosima etc) to the not posh at all (Kerry-Leigh/Lilly-Mae) but the most interesting are allllll the different cultures.
Arabic names Mohammed (Moe for short) Tariq/Hamza/Ahmed/Aziz etc, to Rana/Sayma/Saida/Fatima for girls.
Lots of Portuguese or Latin American names – Katarina/Sylvia/Jorge
And lots of different areas of Africa – Temidayo/Ojulape/Ruthe/Kojo and very Biblical names like Emmanuel.

I’d say this is the most interesting face of British naming. I suppose I am in a bubble by living in central London and knowing people from all over the world, but it’s what made me interested in naming. I don’t think I’m that likely to ever call my children a typical ‘British’ name. Much more interested in Italian and Germanic/Scandinavian names and my favourite name EVER for a boy is Kofi. Haha! To pull it off I’m gonna need to find a nice Ghanian boy to marry and make sure I have a boy born on a Friday!

Fritzi Says:

January 12th, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Oh, and one more thing (sorry for the length),
I think the reason names like Alfie/Archie/Milly etc are so popular here is that they do transcend the class barrier. I’d predict that the more upper class namers are calling their offspring Alfred and Millicent and using the nicknames and the more normal working class are just calling their children Alfie. Possibly after a kind granddad but also because they sound like old, solid names but are still baby friendly.

Isabel Says:

January 30th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Beatrice Rose and Rory Beneditc also have opposite initials which I’m sure was intentional.

mary-la Says:

February 25th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Can I just say that the rise in Amelia, Rose, Rory, and Martha may be due in part to the rising popularity of Doctor Who. Possibly just my opinion, but… *shrug*

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Tori Says:

July 18th, 2011 at 10:04 am

Warning as a fellow Brit these are not what the average British would name there child. These names make up a small porportion of our society’s children’s names. As you say most boys Archie/Alfie than Benedict/Hamish. I believe Archie/Alfie are so popular because it’s following the craze of vintage which is very popular but not over the top, varries from all classes so the child can not be stereotyped and also popular television programmes. Such as with Alfie theres the beloved Alfie Moon!

Anyway I’ll indulge over these beauties. My favourites consisting off Agatha Annie, Amelia Scarlett India and all her delightful siblings. Eliza, the trend of India is very attractive. Angelica is also gorgeous. Elizabeth is lovely, along with Hermione (inspired by Harry Potter?) Cecily her middle name is cute Mabel not so much. I also love Jemima Daisy how cute is that? Ditch Ophelia in my opinion anyway. Kitty Violet Larissa is strangely enchanting and so is the adorable sibset Nancy Grace Elizabeth & Martha. Poppy Elizabeth is very cute along with a crush developing for her brother Alfred’s name. Theodora Grace Primrose is strangely gorgeous and I have had much love for Primrose for ages. As for Tabitha Daisy Kate the cutest name ever!

Moving on I love Alexander Rafael Thomas Collett just how cool and quirky does that sound?! Oliver is lovely as well as Thomas James. The whole thing with Buster has become increasingly popular with our celebrities too something I’m not keen on however Buddy similar to this is cute. Loving Maximilian looks really cool as does Edwards. Apollo I have stumbled across before admittedly on a little boy whose brother was Achilles and were very upper class. As for Zebedee my friend’s brother has this name however their Turkish and he calls himself Zeb. Anyway as for Zebedee sister’s Clementine and Florence these names are becoming popular in my town and I am loving them, especially Clementine which screams Southern France, sunshine and happiness.

Beatrice Rose & Rory Benedict is very deliberate and gorgeously middle class 😉

To cut along story short I actually love these names, I love this naming style it’s so epically me and I just wish these names would feature more in our society.

arunciblespoon Says:

April 29th, 2012 at 10:59 am

So great to see a Hermione, hopefully it will have moved away from HP by the time I have a daughter. Loving the Beatrice and Benedict twins, not so keen on Rory though. I think Benedict along with Peregrine might be my new favourite.

Amelia, Theodora, Clementine, Cecelia and Cassius are just lovely. While I might not go for Clementine or Ignatius as first names,I love the idea of plummy interesting middle names.

Special mention goes to Apollo, there seems to be a rising interest in ancient names of the gods.

erin13 Says:

May 8th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Being British, I’d just like to point out that the people who announce their child’s birth in the London Telegraph are higher-class people who give their children higher-class names. Most people here name their children things like Chloe, Jessica and Ruby, with ONE middle name and, at a push, two. The Telegraph really doesn’t accurately represent British baby naming trends. It’s a small minority. We don’t all walk around in top hats drinking tea and talking like we have toffee stuck up our noses, or naming our children things like Hector and Benedict…just saying.

And, I don’t really understand the fondness for Alfie and Archie either. They sound like dogs’ names.

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Kemme Says:

July 6th, 2013 at 10:07 pm

A little late to the party here, but I love Ferdinand. It’s been on my top 10 for ages. I would love to use it one day but I don’t really see it happening because it is kind of clunky and very old fashioned, plus the popularity of Ferdinand the Bull kind of takes it away from the usable set.

I like essentially all of the names listed above, except I don’t dig Buster, Digby, Monty, Wilbur, or Geordie.

yayforbaby Says:

August 21st, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Though i’m not British, i have a Zebedee (nn Zeb) and we love it! Funnily enough, Clementine is definitely on our shortlist of possible girls names in the future.

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