A Girl Called Liam
Banned baby names: Liam and Marseille
You’ve probably heard the saying that when a dog bites a man, it’s not news, but when a man bites a dog, that’s news. This week we may have found the baby name equivalent.
When parents call their son Liam, it’s not news. Thousands of boys called Liam are born every year, all over the world. When parents call their daughter Liam, though, it’s more noteworthy. And when those parents are French and the local authorities try to reject the name, then it’s news.
Liam is a Top 10 boys’ name in France, according to the French baby name website Meilleurs Prénoms. But for a girl it’s a non, on the grounds that she might be mistaken for a boy, and this might have a negative impact on her life. It’s not that there are no unisex French names – Dominique springs to mind – but that Liam doesn’t have precedent as a girls’ name.
You may be surprised to know that Liam is also a royal name: Prince Liam of Nassau is fourth in line to the throne of Luxembourg, just behind his sister, Amalia. Other young royals with somewhat unexpected names include Savannah, Tallulah and Vincent.
Meanwhile in the US, there’s a small but steady stream of female Liams being born – 19 of them in 2016. It doesn’t look set to be the next Ryan or Logan, far less a truly unisex name, but it might be worth watching.
Lest you think the name news from France is always doom and gloom, here’s something positive: a father has finally been allowed to use his hometown as a second middle name for his son. Welcome to the world, Onken Philip Marseille! (Also, can we take a moment to admire those other names? In an earlier interview, dad explained that Onken honors the baby’s Congolese heritage on his mother’s side, and Philip is after a grandfather.)
Baby Liam isn’t the only girl with a traditionally masculine name in the news this week. Acting couple Hilarie Burton and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have announced the birth of their daughter, George Virginia. It’s a sweet, if unexpected, pair with brother Gus (short for Augustus).
Like most classic boys’ names, George has been used at a low level for girls since the name data began, peaking at over 200 girls a year in the 1920s and 30s – and that’s not including all the Georges whose full name is Georgina or Georgia. One that springs to mind is the character in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories.
A girl with a decidedly rarer name is Amadeus Reign. Known as Ami for short, she’s the subject of these beautiful birth photos. Her name makes an interesting coda to big siblings Xavier, Zayden, Kaydence and Ezra. Amadeus is rare but rising in the US, while its traditionally feminine counterpart Amadea has never been used more than 10 times in a year. It could be an unusual alternative to similar-sounding names like Amelie and Adalyn.
What’s hot in Ireland
Want to name like an Irish parent? Then call your baby Jack or Emily – those were the the top names in Ireland in 2017. And also in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. (In 2016, James took the top spot for boys.)
While change is slow in some parts of the charts (on that note: as far as I know, Ireland is the only place where Kevin and Mary are in the Top 100), there are still trends happening. Fast-rising names this year include Theo and Jackson for boys, and Aoibhin and Nina for girls. If you want to explore more Irish name trends over time, this is the tool you’ve been waiting for.
The Irish charts are also a good place to look for names that are about to get big Stateside. Cillian, Cian, Aoife and Saoirse are all rising in the US – with Saoirse notably jumping into the top 1000 in 2016 – and they’re all Top 100 names in Ireland.
Neil‘s notable namesakes
What, even more Irish names? Neil is one of those names, like Brian and Shane, that’s been used by English speakers for so long we tend to forget where it came from. It’s still in the top 1000, but most Neils statistically are in the parent or grandparent generation.
Which is why it’s a little surprising that the newest Big Bang Theory baby is called Neil Michael (known as Michael). After his big sister Halley it seems a conservative choice, but there’s no denying it has impressive credentials: he’s named after Neils Gaiman, Armstrong and Diamond.
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on March 8th, 2018 at 12:28 am
nameberry is the grand master of understatement: yes, George for a girl is certainly unexpected!
on March 8th, 2018 at 8:01 am
Mary is still top 100 in most of the southern US. Very popular in Alabama and Mississippi especially.
on March 8th, 2018 at 8:21 am
I grew up reading Nancy Drew so I don’t find a girl named George odd at all! I think it’s sweet!
on March 8th, 2018 at 11:11 am
That is the first thing I thought of too, @CaitlinBrittin ! My partner also had a co-worker in her earler 20s called George-Anna, but she went by Georgie.
on March 8th, 2018 at 3:38 pm
George (this spelling — not Georges, which is masculine) is a unisex name in France! An example is George Sand, the author.
on March 8th, 2018 at 3:54 pm
if I name my daughter George… have me lobotomized!
on March 8th, 2018 at 4:12 pm
George Sand is a pseudonym, for clarification, not the given name of the writer.
on March 8th, 2018 at 5:53 pm
This annoys me more than anything! There are SO MANY wonderful girl names to give your daughter. If it went both ways, fine. BUT IT DOESN’T. Once names “go to the girls” they don;t go back. There are already SIGNIFICANTLY less boy names listed than there are girl names. Stop taking them from the boys. Elliot, Ryan, Dylan, JAMES, Ezra, Harper, NOW LIAM!?!! For Christ sake, STOP THIS TREND. This is NOT what we should be teaching our daughters- that in order to be “strong” and successful you have to have a male’s name. It’s ridiculous.
on March 8th, 2018 at 6:53 pm
Ha, maybe that’s the intent. If girls “take” (*eyeroll*) all the boys’ names and turn them all unisex, then maybe society will finally be forced to abandon its misogyny, at least in baby-naming, and use “girl” names for boys just as much as “boy” names are currently used for girls.
Happy International Women’s Day!
on March 10th, 2018 at 12:22 pm
Kevin is still in the top 100 in the US!
on March 10th, 2018 at 12:25 pm
@MontessoriMeg You’re right, I always forget that!
on March 11th, 2018 at 3:43 am
I loved the suggestion of using Leigham for a girl!! It does sound the same, but at least she won’t end up in the boys phys ed class!
on March 13th, 2018 at 7:29 pm
I’m happy my country is putting some boundaries! I hate this trend. It’s simply sexist. Also George / Georges is not unisex in France 😉
I’m 100% with lydiaann27.
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