Unusual British Baby Names
The British are known as much for their eccentricity as for their conventionality, two stereotypes evidenced in the unusual British baby names from the recent birth announcements in the London Telegraph.
Sometimes, the two images cross, with the same eccentric (to American ears, at least) names being used so often they begin to feel conventional. The first three months of 2014, for instance, seem to be rife with girls named Matilda and Ottilie and boys named every variation of Fred: Frederick and Wilfred and Alfred and Freddie.
But what we’re focusing on today are the truly unusual British names, the one-offs and the unusual choices that may prove fashion forward or may just be evidence of the infamous British wackiness. These eccentric new names fall into several different camps.
The first and largest might be thought of as the mainstream eccentric British names, such as:
Several of the fresh and unusual British names are nickname-names, so popular in the UK now. From the current birth announcements these are:
Another category of unusual names from the birth announcements are names from the British isles that transcend style — Scottish or Irish or Welsh or English names that are neither in nor out of fashion but stand apart from the crowd. These include:
Iona (the only girls’ name in this bunch)
Then there are those names from other cultures, usually European but a few Asian as well. These may have genuine family connections or just appeal on the basis of travel or culture. These include:
I also want to make note of the unusual number of boys’ names that start with the letter R, including:
Image from the excellent British children’s clothing store Elfie London.
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on May 12th, 2014 at 10:53 pm
That’s it. I’m moving to England. Their taste in names is absolutely my taste. I am sick of the Social Security Top 100 and long for (what is for me) my mother country.
on May 12th, 2014 at 10:54 pm
Thea, a nickname name? Absolutely not. You might want to check your etymology.
But don’t even get me started on white Britons using ‘India’ as a given name…
on May 12th, 2014 at 11:09 pm
Antonia, Magdalena, and Matteo are three of my all-time favorites I’m so glad that they’re known across the pond as well! Yay!! 😀
on May 12th, 2014 at 11:54 pm
I love the Telegraph birth announcements, so many classy names! I’ve heard these kinds of names aren’t really the “norm” even in the UK though?
on May 13th, 2014 at 3:45 am
This post made me smile, as I wouldn’t consider at least half of these eccentric at all. Yes, some of them are a bit out there, and some of the ones I don’t find eccentric are not exactly the norm, but many of them are just bog standard British names to me. And coming from Scotland, I can say that Angus, Fergus, Hamish, Iona are nothing unusual or ‘stand out from the crowd’ there. It’s more if a case of “not another Iona!” or “another Hamish? boring…” (and my friends & acquaintances are generally not Telegraph readers) I always find it interesting how different the perceptions are.
on May 13th, 2014 at 5:18 am
I REALLY like Huxley, I only wish it had a better meaning. NB says it means ‘inhospitable place’, another site says ‘Hugh’s meadow’, which sounds much more pleasant. Which one is correct though?
on May 13th, 2014 at 6:03 am
This is a very amusing entry for a Brit to read!
For us names like Cayden seem eccentric but Antonia and Constance are completely normal. Constance is a great name and would be on my list but I know too many people called Constance both grown and babies. I seem to know a lot of little Hectors and I even really truly honestly have a baby cousin called Tarka.
Just like Marypoppins above says, the Scottish names are everyday names and not at all “stand out from the crowd”. I love the name Hamish, but I have to say it would be a bit odd to call a kid Hamish if you weren’t Scottish. Some names like Finn have completely crossed over and are no longer an indicator of Celtic (pronounced Keltic not Seltic by the way) ancestry.
Everyone is called Freddie in the playground.
Cosmo is quite a posh name (like Allegra), Tabitha is fairly posh or for cats.
When I posted a Nameberry thread asking for advice on what to call twin 2, my American nameberry counterparts weren’t so keen on Elizabeth. I couldn’t understand why – I then realised that it’s a top 10 name in the USA whereas in UK it’s only number 48 but on the other hand, names I think of as super common (and therefore guilty pleasures) like Grace and Ruby and Lily and Esme aren’t at all common in the States.
Small World Alert! Elfie London clothes, whose picture is used to illustrate the piece, is run by people I know, what a coincidence! Am so pleased to see Nameberry – my favourite website – supporting their label, they make the most beautiful traditional smocked dresses which I have occasionally sent to friends in America who have had baby girls. I can’t wait to have daughters of my own so I can indulge in Elfie clothes – my son has a couple of their sweaters but it just ain’t the same thing at all.
Meanwhile, none of this is helping me make up my mind about what to call my twin girls due in 5 weeks time! No one will talk about names with me anymore, my partner has said he will go with whatever I choose, he has chosen his. They are all on baby naming strike. Nameberry is my last refuge!
on May 13th, 2014 at 6:49 am
Baby name strike! That’s funny @hannahloulou. In the past we’ve run readers’ baby name questions or emergencies in the blog — http://nameberry.com/blog/he-says-shayla-she-says-cecilia-help-this-couple-agree-on-a-baby-name — to gather lots of opinions on interesting dilemmas. Would love to feature yours. Write to email@example.com if you’d like to do that! We are NEVER on baby name strike, and definitely not for twin girls!!
on May 13th, 2014 at 6:54 am
Like marypoppins and hannahloulou, I wouldn’t consider half of these to be very unusual. Antonia, Angus, India, Rory, Philippa, Tabitha… meh. I’d actually be more surprised if there wasn’t at least one of those in a school. But Ptolemy? Yeah that’s a bit odd. Huxley actually sounds very American to me, as do most surnames. I relly like Antonia, Primrose, India and Bertie (:
But don’t even get me started on Americans having an issue with India…
on May 13th, 2014 at 8:39 am
I’m surprised to find some of these names on this list. I thought Hector, Raymond, Flor and Antonia were very popular in the Hispanic community. I know quite a few Hector’s and Raymond’s. Antonia’s are a little harder to come by but not impossible. Off the top of my head, I can think of two that I know. Tabitha is a name I love but, because everyone seems to use it for cats, I guess it’s not a name I could ever use (like Zoey, which is common in my area for dogs).
I do like a few of those R names… Rufus is adorable, Rupert gets me to the nickname Rue (without having to go through Ruben, which I’m not a fan of), and Rocco, though I’d only ever use it for a nickname to something, is so tough sounding.
I can see names like Constance and Lyla becoming popular (Constance since virtue names seem very “in” right now and Lyla since the double-l names is still a trend).
@hannahloulou – I absolutely ADORE Allegra. My cousin, who is the only person who will discuss baby names with me and not look at me like I’m crazy, hates the name and says it reminds her of the sinus medicine. I don’t care. I love Allegra and have considered sneaking it into the girl version of my “honor mom and grandpa” combo (which would give the poor thing the names Georgianne, Mireya and Allegra in some combination or another… Talk about a mouthful!)
on May 13th, 2014 at 8:41 am
I’m loving these names, and being British! 🙂 I know/have known girls called Antonia, Primrose, Polly (and Poppy), Hattie (full name Harriet), Thea, and Lara. And I love:
Ptolemy (Love X10)
Rupert (Random observation, lots of British actors called Rupert; Grint, Graves and Everett)
on May 13th, 2014 at 8:54 am
I would much rather see any one of these names than the names I do see at my school. I love the following girls’ names: Antonia, Constance, Philippa, Millicent, and Tabitha (and love Constant and Melisande too). I know a baby Millicent, Millicent Mae, who is a year old. My daughter went by Kitty for years as her nn, even though she was Katie when she was little. Now, at 29, she’s using Kate. Other girls’ names I like are Athena, Tekla, Talia, and Sylvie. I prefer Elspeth to Elisabet.
Bertram is a family name I love. I would so use Bertram now if I had the opportunity. I also like Angus, Fergus, Hamish, Lachlan, and my favourite Ivor, another name I would use; and of the R names, Reuben, Robin, Rocco, Rufus, and Rupert — and Ralf. I love Ralf. When I was growing up Brooks (not Brook) and Aubrey were names used in my “circle” in Connecticut.
on May 13th, 2014 at 9:21 am
I love seeing Sukey and Minna used as standalone names!
on May 13th, 2014 at 10:57 am
I love a lot of these names, but I rarely hear them here in Britain, which is a shame. I think most of them would be considered way too posh for my area, people are even skeptical about my sister’s name, Tabitha, which I wouldn’t consider too posh at all.
on May 13th, 2014 at 11:44 am
Yeah, I’m so not British. I can’t imagine how Kitty is a good idea. Between Hello Kitty and the fact that it’s slang for a part of the female anatomy where I’m from (perhaps not in Britain???), I normally force my students (in China) to change their English name if they’ve chosen Kitty (or Candy, Cherry, or any other name with a questionable meaning).
on May 13th, 2014 at 4:39 pm
I know several people in Scotland who go by Kitty, it’s just a nickname for Kates, Katherines etc. I’ve never considered it weird or unusual, even though it’s also used for cats. But I’ve never associated anything rude with it. Then again, in the UK we squirm with embarrassment when Americans talk about ‘fanny packs’…
on May 13th, 2014 at 4:54 pm
Being British none of these really surprise me, like said before I am fed up of hearing Freddie, Archie, Noah, Alfie, Tommy etc
on May 13th, 2014 at 9:57 pm
My favorite popular British baby name (not on the list) is Florence. I wonder, from the Brits, if it’s now considered overused? UK readers?
I’ve long loved Ivor, as well as Ivo. I didn’t realize that Ivor was Scottish, though—I thought it was just posh.
on May 14th, 2014 at 3:49 pm
Ivor isn’t really a name I’d associate with Scotland, at least I’ve never met any Scottish Ivors yet. But I did meet several in Wales when I lived there for a few months (though mostly spelled Ifor).
on May 17th, 2014 at 10:56 am
I totally agree with ‘Iolite’ that a lot of these names would only work depending on the area you live in! I’m a primary school teacher and can honestly say I’ve met very few children with names like the ones posted which is good because some of these unusual names are totally my style.
The area that I live in is considered pretty upper class and I can say that I spent time in a school full of Tabitha’s, Jemima’s, Harriet’s etc. The parents were also ahead of the game with Isabella but unfortunately for them there ended up being 8 Isabella’s across 3 classes! However, of the names listed I know of a Hector, 1 Lyla and 1 Lila, a teenage Philippa, a couple of Tabitha’s, a few Stanley’s, 1 Anouskha, 1 Talia, 1 Lara and several Luca’s.
The vintage names are all the rage but some are so commonly used they are no longer unique or unexpected – think Stanley, Alfie, Archie etc. The posted who asked about Florence – I would say it’s just expected now it has been used a fair bit.
I would definitely use Primrose, Athena, Sylvie, Matteo, Rafferty, Rupert, Rocco and India!
Also, I love that Aubrey is used so little in the UK because I just love it for a boy – Aubrey and Avery are just perfect boy’s names!
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