British Names: the Ultimate Guide
Do you love all things British (including, or maybe especially, British names)? Happily lose yourself in The Telegraph’s birth announcements, dream of hyphenated combinations, and know every name of the Queen’s great-grandchildren (and all 22 Radford children)? Then this Ultimate Guide to British Names is for you.
Read on for the most popular baby names around the UK, plus more on distinctly British baby name trends like double-barreled names and sweet vintage diminutives, and a look at local favorites in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Top 10 British Names
The regions of Britain publish their baby name statistics separately. This means that the most popular names in Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t get swamped by England and Wales, — which together have a much larger population — so we can see local favorites more clearly.
Olivia, Amelia, Isla, Oliver and Noah are in the Top 10 in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, making these all-round British favorites.
These are the most recent Top 10 name popularity lists from around Britain.
Northern Ireland 2020
Popular British Names Uncommon in the USA
While British and American parents share many of their top names, there are some that haven’t crossed the pond yet, or have a very different image depending on your country.
For example, Nancy in Britain is a cute, old-fashioned comeback that reminds you of your great-granny, or the Oliver Twist character. In the States, Nancy is a mid-century lady who’s friends with Barbara and Susan.
Meanwhile, Harley is unisex in both countries, but it leans more boy in Britain and more girl in the US. (Read more about US versus UK unisex names here.)
The names below are popular in the UK (and some also in Australia, New Zealand and Canada), but much less so in the USA.
Rare and Refined British Names
These names are often long and sometimes playful nicknames; sometimes from surnames or from history. They’re by no means common, but they still have a quintessentially British feel. To name but a few:
Multicultural British Names
Popular British names reflect the various cultural and linguistic communities in the UK, and the charts contain many Arabic names (especially Muhammad — the best-used Muslim name of all — in several spellings) as well as Polish, Romanian, Indian, Yoruba, Turkish and more.
We can’t do justice to the full range, but here are some from near the top of the rankings.
Uniquely British Nicknames
The Brits love nicknames-as-first-names like no one else: even Prince Harry’s children are called Archie and Lilibet, not Archibald and Elizabeth. They can be cute and vintage like Dottie and Ned, and modern-sounding like Ellie and Theo.
You’ll have seen some above among the most popular British names. Here are even more that are commonly used as full names on birth certificates (though we love them as short for longer names too).
British Double-Barreled Names
Britons’ love of hyphenated names is legendary, and because the national statistics include punctuation marks, we can see exactly how popular they are.
Double-barreled names move with the fashions, so while previous generations wore names like Sarah-Jane and Katie-Louise, today’s best-loved double names have a young, fresh feel.
For girls, the most common double-barreled names combine a popular first name, usually with two syllables, with a short second name, usually Rose, Grace, Mae (or May or Mai), Rae or Leigh. Popular combinations include:
Double names for boys are less common, but still a notable British trend. As with girls, they usually combine a two-syllable first name, often a diminutive, with a one-syllable second names: James, Lee and Jay are the most frequent. Sometimes they are used to make “junior” names, like Jack-Junior. Some popular boy names in this style:
Some Arabic names for both sexes are also hyphenated, like Fatima-Zahra, Abdul-Hadi and Abu-Bakr.
British Celebrity Baby Names
British stars can undeniably have an impact on name fashions. For example, take Victoria and David Beckham: their children’s names rose dramatically in popularity as soon as they were born, and are still going strong. (Look them up on a name graph tool like this one and see if you can guess their years of birth!)
Ok, not every high-profile parent gives their children wildly offbeat names, and not every unusual starbaby name catches on. But here are some stars whose name tastes are noteworthy, fashion-forward, or just beautifully British.
Brooklyn, Romeo James, Cruz, and Harper Seven (Victoria and David Beckham)
Buzz Michelangelo, Buddy Bob, Max Mario (Tom and Giovanna Fletcher)
Dali and Iggy (Noel Fielding and Lliana Bird)
Edie and Delilah (Keira Knightley and James Righton)
Freda Simone (Charlotte Church)
Gaia Romilly (Emma Thompson and Greg Wise)
Lisbon Lion (Dr Zoe Williams)
Olive, Winifred, Doris, Ty and Birdie (David and Georgia Tennant)
Ottilie Rue (Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes)
Poppy Honey Rosie, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Daisy Boo Pamela, Buddy Bear Maurice, and River Rocket Blue (Jamie and Jools Oliver)
Sonny, Kit, Ray, Jesse, and Mickey (Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones)
Theodora Rose, Charlton Valentine, Colette “Coco” Josephine (Robbie Williams and Ayda Field)
Wulfric “Wolfie” Alexander Fredrik (Binky Felstead)
British Royal Names
We can’t talk about the UK without mentioning the royal family. Royal names have both shaped and reflected baby name trends through history, and many are timeless classics. But the new generation of royal parents is breaking new ground with not-quite-so-conservative choices like August, Isla, Savannah, Lucas, and of course Archie and Lilibet.
Here, a sampling of British royal names ancient and modern.
British Icon Names
Celebrate your love of Britain’s culture with an instantly-recognizable tribute name. Here are a few possibilities: