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Name Experts Talk Trends

Name Experts Talk Trends

What do baby name experts chat about in their spare time? Baby names, of course. Read on for a conversation between me and my lovely colleague Sophie Kihm, Nameberry’s Name Guru to the Stars.

Sophie is a pregnancy and postpartum therapist based in Chicago, while I’m a languages teacher-in-training living in Rutland, England. So we both spend a lot of our time surrounded by names! Here we discuss US and UK trends, what’s hot and what’s not, and which trends won’t be crossing the pond anytime soon.

You can also watch the fun US vs UK baby name accent challenge we set each other below. (American readers, I can only apologise!)

What names are you hearing a lot of buzz around at the moment?

S: I’ve definitely noticed more talk about Stanley lately. Especially people on Instagram, they like it. And Freya! It’s really funny because my friends like to come to me with names. And they’ll think they’re being so creative, they’re like “Oh my gosh, best name ever, guess what: Freya! What do you think?” And I’m like “Ahh, it’s a really nice name but I hate to tell you it’s been getting more popular!”

E: Yeah, it seems like every baby I know born this year has been called Freya. Last year they were all called Freddie!

S: Another one that my friends keep bringing up is Alma. I have had a bunch of my friends separately come to me and be like “What do you think of Alma? I love it!” And it’s a really beautiful name, but it’s funny how similar people are going to want to choose similar names.

E: I think the one that I’m hearing is Elodie. Lots of people loving Elodie. And Margot is definitely shooting up too. I think that’s one of the ones where, even if you look at the charts and see it’s rising, you think “Oh well, it’s not too high!” But actually there are several different spellings so it’s more popular than people realise.

What are the hipster names where you are?

E: Lots of vintage names that have not quite made it back to the US yet. So we’ve got Ralphs, we’ve got Stanleys, we’ve got Wilfreds, we’ve got Chesters. And Wilbur! Wilbur’s probably more hipster than Wilfred here.

S: Ah, here people really strongly associate Wilbur with Charlotte’s Web.

E: But that’s a good association! Who wouldn’t want to be named after an adorable talking pig?

S: Right?! I think it’s cute. I hope all of those names continue to rise in the US, but I think it’s going to be a while before any of those become mainstream here. We had a dog when I was in high school and I named him – his name was Harvey. And now I’m like “Oh my gosh, I wish I had saved Harvey, it’s so cute!” But this was my mom’s beloved dog, so I cannot do it.

E: What about if you spin it as “I’ve named him after the dog I know you loved so much”?

S: Haha! Yeah, then she might be OK with it. And what about the vintage girl names – what are the ones that are on the rise there?

E: Mabel is a big one. Marnie, Martha… There are a lot of Ms, actually. Maude – that’s a bit hipster, probably – and I guess Matilda was in that category but now it’s super popular. And all the old nicknames like Peggy, Polly, Dottie, Betsy, Elsie, Hattie, Hettie… All definitely back in a big way.

S: I love Martha! I met a two-year-old named Martha probably like eight years ago now and it was so cute on a little girl.

E: Yes! I’ve even met a baby Sybil, called Sybbie, which was so cute. You know, it was one of those times when you hear a name and then you have to hover near that family in case they’ve got other kids!

S: Oh my gosh, yes!

What about names that are dated very differently in the US vs the UK?

E: Boys’ names always amuse me, I think it’s because boys’ names tend to be more classic and there are fewer fast trends so I’m less used to it. Especially when they’re billed as cute British names – like “It’s so cute, it’s got a real British flair” – and it’s Colin or Malcolm or something. Don’t get me wrong, I know lovely Colins and Malcolms, but that is a proper dad and beyond name to me. I cannot imagine a baby Colin or a baby Malcolm, or a baby Raymond, or a baby Desmond, or an Adrian.

S: You see, Adrian feels like a good, classic, strong name. Like if I met a baby named Adrian I wouldn’t think that was funny. And Colin, no! I know young Colins and that seems totally normal.

E: It should be, because in theory: Colin – that’s a great name! It’s just, it’s Col, you know? It’s Col from down the pub. Or like, Uncle Col. It’s just weird.

S: There’s another one that comes to mind, I think we’ve talked about it before: Gemma.

E: Yes, Gemma! Again, I really like the name, but it does amuse me to see people saying “Gemma! Such a fresh alternative to Emma!” when I had like eight Gemmas in my school. And conversely: Jessica has only recently dropped out of the Top 10 in England, but that’s long gone in America.

S: I associate Jessica more with people in my parents’ generation. I know more Jessicas who are mothers of my friends than babies. How about Allison and Vivian? Both Top 100 in the US but outside the Top 1000 for girls in the UK.

E: Vivian, yeah. I think it sounds old in a cute way but maybe that’s because I’ve spent a lot of time on Nameberry! I would guess that before Vivian comes back in Britain, Vivienne will come back. Because it’s French and it’s chic and it’s got celebrity connections. And then maybe if Vivienne comes back, I can see Vivian climbing again. I don’t really know why it’s so low, but it just sounds old. It’s kind of like… Allison’s mum!

Which British name trends won’t be crossing the pond anytime soon?

E: All the nickname names are definitely big here, and basically the cuter the better! So we have lots of Albies and Teddys and Kittys – and those are their full names, which is totally normal here. But Americans are sometimes a bit like “Oh, he can’t just be called Teddy! Imagine being an adult Teddy!” But I think there’ll be a whole generation of Teddys and Albies and Rosies and Cocos and it’s just going to be normal.

S: I love the nickname as a full name trend so much. My birth name is Sophia because my mom really liked the name Sophie, but my dad was like “OK, but we need a more traditional name for her to fall back on.” No, I don’t! Sophie is a perfectly full name in its own right.

E: Definitely! Another UK trend – and this really goes beyond nickname names – is almost like pet names, like Buddy and Woody and Ziggy and Honey and Dolly. Is that as much of a thing in the US?

S: For dogs! I know a lot of dogs with those names, but people are hesitant to give them to their babies. I mean, I’ve noticed that you see some more now that celebrities are using things like Buddy. But it still seems like something that is an “out there” trend, like “Oh celebrities, they’re able to do that because they choose interesting names.”

E: I actually really like Ziggy! I don’t think I’d dare use it, but I would definitely have it as a nickname for something. And Wolfie is another cool one I’ve heard.

S: Yeah, I wish those were more popular in the US, I think animal names are cute. I’m actually surprised that Wolf isn’t more popular.

E: Me too! Especially in the UK because Wilf is quite popular here, on its own or short for Wilfred, so it doesn’t seem that “out there” to go Wolf.

What about American name trends you can’t see crossing over soon?

S: I think a lot of the word names, especially ones that are spiritually related, like Genesis and Serenity and Messiah, things like that.

E: Yes, I just can’t see them catching on here. Messiah as a baby name?

S: Yeah! I’ve met little Messiahs. I used to work in a school and there were a few.

E: I suppose Biblical names that end in -iah are considerably more popular in America, so maybe it’s building on that ending sound that’s quite fashionable already. But because it’s not used here, it always makes me think “That sounds like it should be offensive” – even though it’s not.

S: Right! Yeah, it’s funny, you get used to it really fast. I remember the first time I heard Messiah I was like “Wow, that’s an interesting choice!” and now I’ve met a handful of them and it’s just a totally normal name.

E: What about -ley names? We have a couple of popular ones: Riley, Oakley, Harley… But here it tends to be that they’re popular as individual names, rather than this “lee” ending sound just being hugely popular in itself.

S: Yeah, whereas here you can just take a popular prefix and a popular suffix and get, like, Brinsley, Kinsley, Tinsley. It seems like those are pretty big here but in the UK you’re not seeing them.

E: I think we hyphenate instead. So you get lots of names like Lily-May and Ava-Rose and Tommy-Lee.

S: That’s very regional here, where you see it in the South. My brother is in college in the South and they have really interesting ones, you can basically mix and match anything.

E: Here, the formula tends to be: two- or three-syllable, popular-ish first part, and then single-syllable second part. If it’s a girl it tends to be Rose or May or Grace, and then if it’s a boy usually James or Lee or maybe Ray. And just loads of different combinations, which I guess is quite an easy way of making popular names a bit more unique.

Thanks so much, Sophie!

About the Author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.