Top City Baby Names Around the World

Urban name style from London to Los Angeles

 by Pamela Redmond and Joseph Satran

New York baby namers favor the literary boys’ name Holden, while Oscar is prized by movie-centric Angelenos.

Tradition-bound Londoners love the effete vintage names Ottilie and Otis, while parents on the Chicago plains prefer the earthier Cora and Greyson.

In a ground-breaking study of the top city baby names around the English-speaking world, Nameberry analyzed views of our name pages for the past year by visitors from seven cities in four countries on three continents – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, London, and Sydney.

Name popularity lists by city are rare, with only New York among our group offering an official count. And we focused on the English-speaking world to compare the preferences of city dwellers drawing from the same name language, surveying the urban centers with the most Nameberry visitors.

City-dwellers around the world, we found, share cosmopolitan name tastes and favor sophisticated baby names that are often ahead of the general trends. Cora and Atticus, on the Top 5 in all seven cities, are just beginning to climb international popularity lists. Urban favorites Jasper and Theodore are other emerging names, while city-dwellers love Charlotte and Olivia just like everyone else .

But Nameberry visitors from each city also have quirky favorite names as divergent as Bondi Beach and a Brooklyn brownstone.

Many of these unique name favorites reflect their city’s style and population, such as Jack in outgoing Sydney and Helen in buttoned-up Toronto, Maeve in Irish New York and Amara in Latino Dallas. Chicagoans love New American baby names as fresh as the frontier, while Londoners prefer their names as ancient as their castles.

Beyond the Top 5, it makes sense that Ophelia is beloved in London and New York, which host the most Shakespeare performances, while Dallas dwellers favor the cowboyish Wyatt and Sydney residents like the beachy Cove.

But many of the cities’ name preferences are not so predictable. London and New York have both fallen for Aurelia, for instance, but only London has warmed up to Aurelius. New Yorkers like Maximilian and Dallas residents prefer Maximus, while Torontonians favor quietly quirky baby names that no other cities even register.

Let’s look more closely at the tastes and trends in each city.

These maps show the Top 5 girls’ and boys’ names in each city:

And here is our full analysis of the trends in the seven cities:

LONDON: QUIRKY TRADITIONAL

London parents are more likely to use time-honored first names than parents in our other cities, but also more likely to explore obscure sources in search of distinctive choices. Some of the favorite names of Londoners are inspired by the heavens, for instance: Aurora, Astrid, Andromeda. Londoners also are partial to names associated with Ancient Greece and Rome: Cassius, Penelope, Cressida. And they draw from names rooted in other European cultures that urban parents outside Europe largely ignore, such as the German Ottilie and Otis, the Italian Cosmo, the French Elodie, and the Irish Rafferty and Orla.

LONDON GIRLS
1. Ottilie
2. Cora
3. Arabella
4. Olivia
5. Aurora

 

NEW YORK: LITERARY

New York is the headquarters of the publishing and magazine industries, a place where authors are still stars and people are more likely to read books than to take in a movie or head to the beach. That literary bent shows in New York’s taste in baby names. The most popular boys’ name in New York City is Holden, as in Catcher in the Rye‘s Holden Caulfield, which doesn’t pop up in a significant way in any other city. And the extended girls’ list is filled with the names of literary characters (Beatrice, Ophelia, Penelope) and authors (Iris, Edith, Lydia).

NEW YORK GIRLS
1. Cora
2. Genevieve
3. Amelia
4. Charlotte
5. Maeve

 

SYDNEY: FRIENDLY

Many of the names that are big in Sydney bring to mind a warm, cuddly image: the Teddy Bear inherent in Theodore, children’s book characters Eloise and Matilda, down-to-earth Jack. The British influence is evident in names such as the Scottish Isla for girls and Hamish and Lachlan both in the boys’ Top 20. Sydney’s favorite names also include a unique choice that nods to its world-class beach culture: Cove.

SYDNEY GIRLS
1. Charlotte
2. Cora
3. Adeline
4. Eloise
5. Isla

 

TORONTO: ICONOCLASTIC

Toronto is the city whose favorite names are the most distinct from all the others, with not a single Top 5 name appearing on any other city’s list. Further, many of the favored names of Canada’s largest city don’t appear on any other popularity lists of any kind. Boys’ favorites Cary and Ellison have not been on the US Top 1000 for decades, while Helen and Jocelyn lie outside the Top 100 everywhere. But that makes sense for a major city that prides itself on a culture that’s neither American nor British nor even purely Canadian but uniquely Torontonian.

TORONTO GIRLS
1. Helen
2. Jocelyn
3. Alice
4. Juliet
5. Allison
TORONTO BOYS
1. Cary
2. Ellison
3. Ethan
4. Vincent
5. Willian

 

CHICAGO: CONTEMPORARY

Chicago is the city that comes closest to favoring the New American names so popular outside US urban centers. Greyson, Finn, Declan, and Isla – are names that have come into widespread use only in the past 20 years. And looking just below the Top 5, we see other newcomers like Kai, Nolan, and Cole on the boys’ side; Aria, Luna, and Kinsley on the girls’ side. As city baby names go, Chicago’s are the least citified.

CHICAGO GIRLS
1. Cora
2. Evelyn
3. Olivia
4. Isabella
5. Isla
CHICAGO BOYS
1. Greyson
2. Finn
3. Liam
4. Declan
5. Elijah

 

LOS ANGELES: CINEMATIC

If there’s one thing that sets Los Angeles apart, in both its character and its taste in baby names, it’s the world of film and TV. Oscar is one of the top 5 boys’ names and Milo — as in hot actor Ventimiglia of This Is Us —  ranks higher here than in any other city. Many of the popular girls’ names are associated with movie stars past and present: Ava, Sienna, Celeste, Claire. The favorite names of Angelenos also connect to the city’s Latino culture, with Isabella in the Top 5, Leo and Elena in the Top 10, and Xochitl, an unusual Mexican name which comes from the Nahuatl word for “flower”, in the Top 20.

LOS ANGELES GIRLS
1. Cora
2. Olivia
3. Isabella
4. Caroline
5. Celeste
LOS ANGELES BOYS
1. Oliver
2. Milo
3. Atticus
4. Jasper
5. Oscar

 

DALLAS: BOLD FRONTIER

Amara, Dallas’s Number 1 name for girls, is a bold multicultural (it has roots in Esperanto and Igbo) choice largely unknown outside the US. The Top 5 is the Texas city includes other distinctive choices, such as Rose (as in the Yellow Rose of Texas) and cowboy name Wyatt. Further down the list, Dallas extends its reputation for individuality with New World names like Brecken and Weston for boys and Khaleesi for girls.

DALLAS GIRLS
1. Amara
2. Olivia
3. Rose
4. Caroline
5. Evelyn
DALLAS BOYS
1. Atticus
2. Jasper
3. Maximus
4. Wyatt
5. Asher

 

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23 Responses to “Top City Baby Names Around the World”

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rosemilk Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 4:27 am

Interesting round up, although I don’t think that 7 English-speaking cities (including 4 from the US) qualifies as “around the world”.

MamaEnzi Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 6:22 am

I was coming to say the same thing rosemilk! I understand that some areas are harder to get info on, but just a change in title would fix the problem.

mother_dragons Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 6:54 am

I agree with previous posters. While the article is very insightful and interesting, the title threw me off. I was expecting an analysis based on popularity lists and newspaper birth announcements from different countries and languages and I was a bit disappointed when I saw it was all English speaking and more than half American. Sorry if I sound too b**thurt, but being a Spanish speaking South American girl I get tired of seeing “the world” as only English

IslandMoon Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 8:24 am

I feel like this post is trying to do two different things. It would have been better, I think, to look at different styles within the US, and then have another one to look at the top 10 lists from different countries. I think by making one post that only looked at English speaking countries, and even then, mainly in the US, it hasn’t worked.

Penguinkin Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 8:44 am

I would love to see the longer lists from each city in this article- as a London berry!

mcinkat Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 9:02 am

Definitely interesting analysis! But why was Dallas chosen over Houston? The latter is the fourth-most populated U.S. city, behind NY, LA, and Chicago of course.

beynotce Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 9:37 am

I think previous posters who are concerned about the cities chosen might have missed that the data set here is *Nameberry page views*, so of course the bulk of the data is going to be from English-speaking countries, as I assume non-English speakers would be diffused among this site and sites written in their native language, such as neufmois.fr. My guess is that cities were chosen largely on the basis of the size of the data sets for those cities and/or the distinctiveness of the names that rose to the top.

I do think the article could do a better job about parsing the difference between name usage and name interest. The type of person who visits Nameberry pages is a sub-set of prospective namers (and name-enthusiasts) and doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect the tastes of parents naming babies.

Pam Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 10:36 am

@beynotce You’re right — I added a few lines to this effect, but these are the top cities of our visitors. While we write about and include names from many international sources, Nameberry is written in English and its focus and expertise is on names used in English-speaking cultures. With the exception of New York, none of these cities keep official statistics and no one has analyzed name tastes by city before.

The point of this article is to explore the similarities and differences of name tastes of city dwellers in diverse locales who share a language.

There is certainly much to explore regarding other cities and cultures, which we plan to pursue in the future. Oh, and @mcinkat, Dallas was chosen simply because we had more visitors from there than from Houston in the past year. And I would love to find a good way to share the extended lists as they are fascinating!

nora.rosenberg Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 11:23 am

I suppose Nameberry has members from all over the world and not only from English speaking countries. The article needed a more appropriate title

mother_dragons Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 11:24 am

Being one of the people that complained, I wanted to clarify that I have no problems with the article itself. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it a lot (I would definitely read the complete lists!). My problem is that the title doesn’t fit the text. When I read “around the world” I imagined it would be about London, LA and Sydney, but also cities like Paris, Mexico City, Tokyo and Mumbai- large cities from the entire world. I obviously understand why you chose the cities you did and I don’t have a single problem with that, but to me “around the world” means more variation that five North American cities, one European and one Australian. Maybe I’m being nitpicky but I think another title would be better. That was all I was trying to say.
I’m definitely very excited for more articles about other countries and cultures!

Pam Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 11:56 am

I tried changing the title to “around the English-speaking world” and it’s just too clunky. To my mind, Sydney to Los Angeles to New York to London is around the world. And I think we clarify how we chose those cities and why we focused on English-speaking cities. We also did consider cities with large English-speaking populations such as Lagos and Hong Kong and Mumbai for this story, but the name choices were just too different — fascinating, but for another story!

epowell Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Even with your explanation I found it super strange you chose Dallas over Houston considering the other US states chosen are 1-3 of the largest of the US and then you skipped over Houston (number 4) for Dallas. Houston is super culturally diverse (largest medical center in the world, NASA, oil industry) so it may have had some interesting choices.

Selkit Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 1:12 pm

This is fascinating! I knew “Cora” was gaining in popularity, but I didn’t realize it was getting popular enough to make the top five in five cities on three different continents!

Pam Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 2:11 pm

@Selkit I know! Future Number 1? Future Top 10 for sure.

Mrs_Darling Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Hate to pile on, but I have to agree with the other posters who have expressed frustration with this article. You’ve described Toronto as iconoclast, but you’ve omitted the fact that three of the names you listed for that city have recently been in the top fifteen in Quebec, which is predominantly French speaking and which shares a proximal, economic and social connection with the Toronto region. In other words, I think there is a good deal of context missing from this article. That said, the stats alone are really interesting and without the text I think they still tell a really great story.

minisia Says:

February 9th, 2018 at 6:03 pm

These names are such a pleasant surprise, go the nameberry community! Especially impressed with London.

Beort12 Says:

February 10th, 2018 at 11:02 am

I recognize that this has already been hashed out in the comments, but I am going to throw my voice in as well. The side note that this data is drawn from nameberry views is embedded in the text of one of the 12 introductory paragraphs/sentences, meaning that almost no one is actually going to pick up on that. I recognize that “English-speaking” is clunky, but having such a misleading title reinforces the idea that only angro-origin names are legitimate names. If I have any real qualm with NB it is the fact that this site has the overt tendency to be highly anglophile, and to reinforce the idea that English-origin names are “real” names and others are not. Yes, NB is in English and therefore caters to a English-speaking population. However, speaking English in no way indicates that the speaker is only (or at all!) interested in English-origin names – myself included!! Pam, you acknowledge that you have data on cities like Lagos and Mumbai, but the “names were just too different.” They may be different to you, but that does not mean they would be of any less interest to the viewers of this site, and may in fact be far more appropriate for them than seeing Olivia and Cora again and again. These cities only represent those countries that were colonized by England (plus England itself), speak English, have historically viewed themselves as anglo and protestant, and do not truly represent global naming trends, as advertised. This article needs context, and even more the acknowledgement that these names represent only a tiny chunk of the naming world (and likely not even the real naming practices of large portions of their non-white populations!)

Pam Says:

February 10th, 2018 at 11:21 am

@Mrs_Darling, I’m not sure how far back you were looking, but beyond Alice and William, names widely used throughout the Western World, there is no crossover among our most popular names in Toronto and the official list from Quebec according to recent statistics: https://www.rrq.gouv.qc.ca/en/enfants/banque_prenoms/Pages/recherche_par_popularite.aspx?AnRefBp=2016&NbPre=100

Names of the world is obviously a vast subject and this piece looks at it from one viewpoint that no one has ever explored before: Comparing and contrasting names favored by urban dwellers in seven large disparate English-speaking cities. A very large topic indeed and one deserving of its own focus.

Pam Says:

February 10th, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Some other popularity outliers in the Toronto Top 20: Bonnie, Camilla, Merida, Wendy, Cassandra, and Hermione for girls; Albert, Wilder, Declan, Winston, Callum, and Richard for boys.

southern.maple Says:

February 10th, 2018 at 8:11 pm

“We also did consider cities with large English-speaking populations such as Lagos and Hong Kong and Mumbai for this story, but the name choices were just too different — fascinating, but for another story!”

Excellent! When can we expect to see that post?

Pam Says:

February 10th, 2018 at 8:59 pm

In the next few months, definitely!

ejpop Says:

February 12th, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Yeah, I would be much more interested in an article that let me look up my particular region. The SSA.gov data is publicly available for each US state, but it would be nice to see that alongside the Nameberry searches for specific cities or counties.

SBelle Says:

February 16th, 2018 at 9:00 pm

Definitely agree with what other posters have said. Although I live in an English speaking country, I’m always searching for names that will still reflect the rich cultural heritage of my children.

I am glad that this article was written and it’s definitely a start. I would suggest that for future comparisons of the English-speaking world, making your analysis more evenly distributed between the four countries discussed. As someone else pointed out, it’s difficult to understand the significance of the top name in Toronto, without other Canadian cities for comparison. Instead of including Chicago and Dallas, perhaps it might have been more enlightening to see results from a second city in each of Canada, the UK and Australia (e.g. Vancouver, Birmingham and Melbourne). Yes, I have read why you chose the cities above; I’m just stating a case for what I think would make a note interesting analysis in the future.

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