International Baby Names: Popular Names That Travel Well

September 8, 2014 WaltzingMoreThanMatilda

By Anna Otto, Waltzing More Than Matilda

There’s a lot to be said for having a name that is familiar in many countries. It makes travel and working overseas just that little bit easier, and if you have a particular cultural background, it’s nice to know that relatives in your country of origin will easily be able to spell and pronounce your child’s name. Even if your child never leaves their native shores, we live in a global village, and they will most likely meet, study, and work with people from other countries.

To me, a name with high international recognition needed to be popular in as many regions as possible, so that as a mimimum, it needed to be Top 100 in the English-speaking countries of Australia, New Zealand, England/Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Canada, and the USA. It also needed to be popular in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia.

You need to remember that even in cases where the name is spelled identically, it probably won’t be said in exactly the same way, but most people are fine with that. In many countries, my name is said AHN-ah, rather than AN-a, and to me this is not only perfectly comprehensible, but even makes my name sound warmer and more exotic.


I have treated these variants as the same name, because certain countries regard them so in their popularity charts. This means that Alexander is popular in the English-speaking world, as well as in Western Europe. It is a favourite in Eastern Europe, solidly popular across most of Scandinavia, and familiar in South America. Alexander is Top 10 in Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and the USA, and most popular in Russia, where it is #2. What makes Alexander an international winner is the widespread popularity of its short forms and variants, such as Alex, Xander, Alejandro, Alexandre, Alessandro, Alexandru, and Iskander. Credit Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world more than 2000 years ago, and whose name is famous in both east and west.

As well as being popular in the English-speaking world, Daniel is popular right across Europe, where it performs well in Eastern Europe, and is Top 100 in every Scandinavian country. It’s also a popular name in South America. Daniel is Top 10 in Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South America, and the USA, and is the #1 name in Spain.

David is popular in the English-speaking world, and widely across Western Europe. It also does well in Eastern Europe, is familiar in Scandinavia, and popular in South America. David is Top 10 in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Spain, and Switzerland, and most popular in Moldova and Brazil, making #2 in two hemispheres.

Being the oldest name in the Book does give you widespread recognisability, which is why you can find Adam fairly evenly through the English-speaking world, and in many countries of Western, Eastern, and Northern Europe. Adam is Top 10 in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland, and is most popular in Malaysia at #3.

Samuel is popular in the English-speaking, and widely found across Western Europe, as well as parts of Eastern Europe and most of Scandinavia. Samuel is Top 10 in New Zealand and South America as a whole, and most popular in Canada, where it is #5.


I have treated Sophia and Sofia as one name, since several countries do so when calculating their most popular names. Sophia/Sofia is the queen of international names; popular around the globe, and familiar in a host of countries. As well as the English-speaking world, it is popular right across Europe, the whole of South America, and in Malaysia. Sophia/Sofia is a Top 10 name in Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Moldova, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland, and is the #1 name in Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Russia, South America as a whole, and the USA.

Emma is popular in the English-speaking world, and across the whole of Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It charts in several Eastern European countries and is Top 100 in every part of Scandinavia. It is also highly popular in South America. Emma is Top 10 in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, South America as a whole, and the USA, and is # 1 in Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, and Switzerland.

Popular in the English-speaking world, and in Western Europe, Anna also does well in Scandinavia, and is a particular favourite in Eastern Europe. Top 10 in Armenia, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, and Russia, it makes #1 in Austria.

Ella is popular in the English-speaking world, and in Europe, including Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Denmark. It is Top 10 in Canada, Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, and Sweden, and #1 in Malta.

Eva is popular in the English-speaking world, and in several European countries. It is a Top 10 name in Northern Ireland and Switzerland, and most popular in Slovenia, at #2.

Looking at the names, you can see certain themes at work. The big tip to finding an internationally popular girls’ name seems to be something short and simple that is easily pronounced in a variety of languages and accents. For boys’ names, traditional names from the Bible are a unifying factor.

This is an abridged version of an article published at Anna‘s name blog, Waltzing More Than Matilda. Waltzing More Than Matilda looks at names from an Australian perspective, and Australian history and culture through its names.

About the author


Waltzing More Than Matilda is the creation of Anna Otto, who blogs about a wide variety of Australian names, and Aussie name trends.

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