Two weeks ago, the 2015 name stats for England and Wales were released. As an American, I don’t know much about British naming trends. They’re fun to observe and learn about, but it’s not an area that I feel too comfortable expounding on beyond some minor comparison.
There are, however, people who do. You all should seriously check out the site British Baby Names, run by Eleanor Nickerson. It’s a wondrous blog that includes the data and analysis of Britain’s naming trends, along with historical names, recent birth announcements, and in-depth name profiles.
Anyways, BBN provides a top 1000 list for England and Wales (their data is released together; Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate lists). I was curious how it compared to the American top 1000. So, with the help of spreadsheets, I’ve been sorting out the names that were only in the top 1000 of either the U.S. or England/Wales. Here are my observations on women’s names:
Surnames and Men’s Names on Women
Something interesting I’ve seen is that unisex names are only unisex or gender-bending in the U.S. While some will appear in both (Addison, Ashley), most do not. A female Mackenzie is going to be American…it’s a men’s name in the Isles. Same with Cameron.
The big exception I can think of for the U.K. is Darcy and its many forms. Darcy ranks #88 as a girls’ name on the English/Welsh list; stateside, Darcy is fairly outdated. It hasn’t been in the top 1000 since the early 1990s. No, Pride and Prejudice didn’t cause its dropping out, even if the miniseries came out the first year it wasn’t in the charts.
The style of classic name that’s only popular in the U.S. differs from the style of classic name exclusive to the other side of the pond. A lot of ours were staples of the 1930s and 40s and are barely hanging on to the top 1000 (Joyce, Barbara, etc.). Strangely, only the American list contains Anne and Jane – both names of English queens regnant. To be fair, Lady Jane Grey was only queen for nine days…still, how is Anne not a top 1000 name over there?
Strictly British classics include choices that may once have been wildly popular in the U.S…in the 18th and 19th centuries. Florence and Agnes especially come to mind. Seriously, we should be making better efforts to resurrect lovelies like Harriet and Theodora!
Ancient, Classical, and Mythological
This needed a header separate from the classics. It’s hard to call Juliana (U.S. only) or Hermione (E/W only) classics by modern standards, despite their long histories. On the other hand, Virginia (U.S. only) and Flora (E/W only) do count as classics.
A few of the other names in this section are spelling variants for more common shared spellings. Freyja only appears on the English/Welsh list, though Freya is popular both there and here. Kassandra only appears on the American list, but Cassandra shows up on both lists.
Interestingly, Hermione, Persephone, and Juno appear on the E/W set, but Ariadne is American. Still no Calliope on either top 1000. 😦
The given-diminutives that only appear in the E/W list are very old-fashioned…the American nicknames, not so much. Selections from their list: Effie, Lula, Minnie, Florrie, Edie. On our list: Charleigh, Liv, Jessa. Americans also have Zelda, though I think we’ve become iffy on whether it’s actually a nickname. Technically Charlotte is a nickname, though we all regard her as formal.
OK, so Adeline appears on both lists, but most other spellings (Adalynn, Adelyn, etc.) only appear in the U.S. More on that below in The Emmas and The Lynns.
While Emma is popular pretty much everywhere, like Adeline only the the top form really curries favor in England and Wales. Emmalyn, Emmaline, etc. are only in the American top 1000. The exception is Emmeline, which appears on both lists.
Names ending in -Lynn are pretty strictly American. If I find one they like in the U.K., I’ll let you know.
Alison and Co.
Alison, Allison, Allyson, etc. are all American.
People on both sides of the Atlantic have difficulty pronouncing and spelling Celtic names…especially the Irish ones.
That said, a number of Irish names appear on the E/W list only and in their original spellings. Aoife, Caoimhe, and Saoirse especially come to mind. However, there are also the Anglicized spellings – Keeva, anyone?
Of course, it wouldn’t be the English and Welsh top 1000 without some Welsh names! Bethan, Cerys, Eleri, and Anwen are all choices you won’t find in the American top 1000. That’s not to say there aren’t Welsh names on the American charts…Megan‘s still pretty popular.
Names from Spanish, French, and Amerindian Languages (and etc.)
These are more strictly American. If you meet an Aranza, Belen, Itzel, or Noelle, she’s American. Italian girls’ names seem to go either way though…Chiara is English, but Giuliana is American.
Arabic and Muslim Names:
These are fairly common to both lists, though the E/W seems to hold more exclusively. On their list (but not ours) are names like Khadija and Nusaybah.
Peculiar to the English/Welsh list, unless you want to attribute Izabella on the American list to a Polish-speaking population (I think it’s just because Isabella is so fashionable). The E/W set includes Kornelia, Matylda, and Weronika. (Side note – does anyone else think it’s strange that Kornelia is top 1000 but Cornelia isn’t?)
Strictly British. The Social Security Administration doesn’t account for these in their data, so even if someone names their child Ava–Lynn, it will appear as Avalynn (#884 in U.S.). That said, double-barrels are pretty common across the pond. Amelia–Rose ranks #210 there, and there are quite a few others, including Evie–May, Demi–Leigh, and Poppy–Mae. Also Ruby–Rose, which reminds me of the 5th Element.
You won’t find the American names London and Bristol on English children. There is an American city called Bristol (Virginia/Tennessee border) known for NASCAR – whether this city or Bristol Palin is the namesake is up to the parents. I do wonder if anyone born in or near Bristol actually has the name. New York is the only state where Brooklyn wasn’t in the top 100 last year. Funnily enough, Brooklyn is unisex on the English/Welsh charts, though I suspect the reason for *that* is David Beckham’s son.
- Brits *love* Poppy. It’s the highest ranking girls’ name in England and Wales that isn’t even top 1000 stateside. That hopefully will change soon…last year it was pretty close to cracking it!
- Girls’ names beginning with the letter ‘I’ disproportionately appear on the English/Welsh lists, while J names are disproportionately American.
- American babies are being named after Kensington Palace (!). Kensington ranked #969 last year.
Thoughts? I’ll post the full list of what’s exclusively English/Welsh or American later, and then my observations on the boys’ names.
4 thoughts on “U.S. vs. England/Wales (Girls’ Names)”
I cannot imagine Jane and Anne not being in the British top 1000! Once upon a time, many girls over there were named specifically after Queens.
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You have an interesting Blog. I am working on a children’s book, so it’s fun to read your research on names. I found your site on the Community Pool.
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Thanks so much! I’m very glad I can provide a resource for writers. Best wishes on your book. 🙂
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