As this year draws to a close, it’s time once again to look back at the most prevalent trends that have influenced baby names in Britain in 2016.
It looks like Oliver and Olivia will be the big hits of 2016. Oliver has been #1 in England and Wales since 2013 and is set to keep his crown. Olivia has taken second place to Amelia since 2011. But the births for Amelia have been steadily going down, and Olivia creeping up. Olivia has also taken the #1 spot in Scotland this year according to provisional data for 2016.
Both Olivia and Oliver are names with a lot of history, but were both quite rare in use up until the 18th and 19th century respectively. This gives them the same elegant, grounded feel as many “classic” perennial favourites, without feeling too tired or commonplace.
SLIM NAMES; BROAD VOWELS
Short four letter names that pack a punch are all the rage here at the moment. Especially hot are names with strong vowel sounds. Arlo reached the Scottish top 100 this year and will most likely have done the same in England and Wales, alongside Ezra and Lyla.
In 2014, Simon Cowell’s son Eric and Holly Willoughby’s son Chester were born. At the time, they were well received by popular consensus even though they were unconventional choices. Their friendly and upbeat retro charm has won many hearts over, and both names have seen a rise this year.
TV AND FILM INFLUENCE
As always, popular television and film has also had an impact on names in 2016.
BBC drama Peaky Blinders returned for a third series this year, and it was all everyone was talking about for several weeks. The name of the main character, Tommy (portrayed by Cillian Murphy), has once again seen a rise in fortunes this year, having been initially boosted by Eastenders in 2011. Other character-names have also seen a rise: Polly and Ada – and possibly even Arthur (though that has been swiftly marching up the charts all on its own and will likely be in the top 20 soon).
ON-TREND CELEB BABIES
As always, 2016 has seen a wide range of styles and trends in British celebrity baby names, from popular choices such as Theodore James “Theo” and Sophia Olivia, to the offbeat Deveraux Octavian Basil and River Rocket.
Here are some celebrities whose choices fit current British trends:
Trixie Grace – Presenter and all-round style icon Emma Willis was already setting trends with her maternity-wear before she gave birth to her and Busted band-member Matt Willis’ third child. The name they chose found an “uncommon but not out there” middle ground between big sister Isabelle and big brother Ace’s names as well as being perfectly on trend with the British love of –ie names. With Beatrix on the rise, I think we’ll be seeing more of Trixie to come. Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainsley took the “trix” trend even one step further by naming his daughter Bellatrix Athena this year.
Avarie-Belle Betsy – Actress Dani Harmer opted for the popular British hyphen name this year (two syllable “ie” ending combined with one syllable is key). As a Cheery Retro, Betsy is already on the rise, and breezy American-inspired surnames for girls such as Avery, Aubrey and Everly are also gaining popularity.
Bowie Taylan – Howard Donald of Take That fame chose this rock star honour-name for his son this year. Not only is Bowie getting attention (and even more so given that 2016 was a tragic year for Bowie fans), so are Lennon, Hendrix, Presley and Cohen.
Buddy Bob – How do you follow Buzz Michaelangelo? McFly’s Tom Fletcher and author wife Giovanna opted for the cuddly Buddy Bob for their second son which received much applause. Already used by Jamie Oliver, Buddy has the same friendly retro charm as Top 20 favourites Alfie, Freddie and Archie.
Kit Joseph – Following Kai and Klay, we all knew that a one-syllable K name was inevitable for the newest Rooney baby, but Kit was an almost unexpectedly hipster choice. Already used by other celebrities such as Joanna Page previously, and riding a wave thanks to actor Kit Harrington, it’s little wonder that we are seeing this name more and more.
Macsen & Cybi – Ian “H” Watkins from pop band Steps and partner announced the arrival of their twin boys this year, opting for names from their native Wales. Both Macsen (MAK-sen) and Cybi (CUB-ee) are historic Welsh choices: Macsen is a legendary king and Cybi is a saint. Macsen has recently entered the top 100 for Wales and fits perfectly alongside other Max names. Cybi remains very rare.
THE 2016 BRITISH NAME CONTROVERSY
Just before the very belated England and Wales name stats came out this year, Mumsnet did a survey about name regret. Cue all the articles and radio shows calling for people far and wide to share their name regret stories, including the typical ones about how unusual names are a terrible idea, putting even more pressure on expectant parents to get the ASBOLUTELY PERFECT NAME because, look, here is a poll and lots of anecdotes to prove that it can all go horribly wrong and you’ll regret your choice forever.
But, here’s the thing: names are not static. They may be indelibly written on our birth certificates, but our names evolve and adapt as we do throughout our lives. There are the multitude of nicknames we get given by the people in our lives (sometimes nothing to do with our actual given names), and our middle names which we may or may not choose to use. Some people may even choose to change their names as adults, and for many different reasons other than hatred.
Most of us go through either a “hate-phase” or an experimental phase with our names at least one time in our lives. As a teacher, I see children go through this all the time. An Aimee started writing “Amy” on her work for a few weeks. A Josiah announced he only wanted to be called Joe (then changed it to “Si” a few months later) and an Olivia and Lucy decided to “swap” names at school because they preferred each other’s names.
Sometimes their parents ask me if they should be worried about it. No, I always say. It’s a perfectly normal and natural part of growing and evolving with one’s own name. Our parents may choose it (with love and good intentions), but, after that, our names are ours to mold and make our own.