The Hottest Baby Names in England and Wales, 2011: Guess What Crossed the Pond?

Aug 16th 2012

This week the UK released its annual baby name statistics. The new top names for boys and girls:

1. Harry
2. Oliver
3. Jack
4. Alfie
5. Charlie
6. Thomas
7. Jacob
8. James
9. Joshua
10. William

1. Amelia
2. Olivia
3. Lily
4. Jessica
5. Emily
6. Sophie
7. Ruby
8. Grace
9. Ava
10. Isabella

For more, check out our full chart of the 1,000 most popular baby names in England and Wales. But as usual, the most intriguing stories aren't about the top of the charts. They're about the movers and shakers, the names that rose and fell the fastest. And in that regard, all of the sweet stories about timlessly English names like Harry, Amelia, Arthur and Harriet are missing the boat.

Yes, cute nicknames continue to be an overall dominant theme in British baby names. But 2011 reveals a second, different trend as well. Take a look at he fastest-rising names in England and Wales in 2011:

1. Tommy
2. Bentley
3. Riley
4. Flynn
5. Bertie
6. Zayn
7. Jaxon
8. Oakley
9. Tommy-Lee
10. Tommie

1. Mila
2. Maci
3. Skylar
4. Pippa
5. Tulisa
6. Amelia-Rose
7. Belle
8. Eliza
9. Betsy
10. Willow

In the boys' list you can't miss the three versions of Tommy, which was clearly the name of the year. Fellow cute nickname Bertie got a boost from the film The King's Speech. But after those two: goodbye, England. Call it "The Year the Colonies Struck Back."

Jaxon? Oakley? Bentley? Those are names of the American heartland today, and names American parents jumped on earlier than their UK counterparts. Flynn is an Australian favorite popularized by the Disney movie Tangled. And Zayn owes to British-Pakistani singer Zayn Malik of "One Direction."

On the girl's side, the top riser was Mila, as in Ukrainian-born American movie star Mila Kunis. Further down the list you find a collection of classic English nicknames, American-style andro-cute names Maci and Skylar, and American celebrity name Willow. You'll also find Tulisa, a name that's totally unknown in the U.S. Credit that one to reality tv -- Singer Tulisa (Tula Contostavlos) didn't become a name-maker until she joined the judging panel on "The X Factor."

And speaking of reality's the top story that leaps out at me from the UK names. #2 hottest girl's name: Maci. #2 hottest boy's name: Bentley. Sound familiar? Those are the names of the unwed teenage mother of MTV's "Teen Mom" and her young son. They were also the fastest rising names in America in 2010.

When I announced that U.S. result last year, I heard a lot of angst about how it reflected on our society. The idea that a pregnant teenager could be the nation's biggest stylemaker was taken by some as a symbol of a uniquely American cultural decay. It seems, though, that the only uniquely American part of this name phenomenon was the tv air date. "Teen Mom" started broadcasting later in the U.K., but turned out to pack the same style punch.

Personally, I'm not on the "cultural decay" bandwagon. In fact, I don't believe that many babies are named after the "Teen Mom" stars at all. As I've written before, naming children after people you admire is a disappearing tradition. More than ever before, names today are about freshness and fashion, and we'll take that anywhere we can find it.


August 16, 2012 4:14 PM

It seems like the British are bit more creative with their names. Is anyone else falling for that allusion? Maybe it just seems that way because I'm not used to their naming trends.

By J.
August 16, 2012 9:52 PM

I don't buy the culture decay arguments either. There is nothing new under the sun. When I look at lists, like this one (, I feel choosing a name for its "freshness" and style has long been a pattern. In 1859, Bible literacy would have been much higher than it is today, and yet we see people using Pharoah and Bathsheba as names for their children. It's unlikely that those parents didn't know about the Biblical connotations for those names (after all, contemporaries were using rare Biblical names like Hephzibah). It's equally unlikely those names represented characters parents admired in Victorian society. But if you read the's conceivable that they could have sounded "fresh." 

August 17, 2012 12:28 PM

I agree that looking for fresh names has been going on for quite a bit.  My grandmother born in 1900 had a made-up smoosh name Linilda with the only vaguel related nickname Billie (as a child).  Her middle name was Lucille so the love for the double-"l"s is also not new.

August 17, 2012 1:28 PM

@Chauncey if you were going off the top 1000 one thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the influence of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi names. I would imagine that it is much more visible in Britain than in America. Also there are some Welsh influences (I just happened to notice Rhian).

In general I would agree that America is much more creative. I mean think out the outcry there was when David and Victoria Beckham named their daughter Harper. Those sort of names have been filtering across, and you always get a few, but it is only recently that Mason, Jayden etc have started to be big news over here. The two trends atm seem to be trendy American names and Middle-Class/private school names.

August 17, 2012 3:45 PM

just did a little happy dance for Zayn! Yay! I like this very much because I don't think there is any other explantation for the rise of Zayn other than, Zayn Malik from One Direction (And maybe gives credence to the idea that Harry Styles from 1D helped push Harry to the #1 spot finally?). I really like the name Zayn, I think it crosses over really well, while it is a typical arabic name, it sounds familiar to the English speaker as well, I'm pretty sure "Zane" isn't unheard of in English speaking countries, and is similar to other names like Dane and Wayne - Zayn seems like a fresh take on those names. As Directioners like to say, that's inzayn (or amazayn).

I agree with Laura in not buying into the cultural decay. There is a reason that Maci named her baby Bentley, she didn't think of it out of the blue, so there is good reason to assume other mothers also thought of other reasons to name their babies Bentley. I don't think Bentley came completely out of the blue. It's stylistically fits in with a lot of other names popular right now.

August 18, 2012 5:00 AM

@Essy01 there is also a prominent British national radio presenter named Zane, so the name would have been familiar sounding anyway. And I think that is still the more popular spelling.

I completely agree with what people are saying about the name and its sound being more important to modern parents that where is came from (it is certainly what is more important to me). However I still think that One Direction cannot me given credit for Harry. Just like that other girl from x-factor can't be given credit for Amelia. Harry and Amelia are SO on trend with other names in the top 100, and have been growing for years. I don't think people needed any inspiration to name their kids either of them. They are stereotypical middle-England names (the type that have been used by the South for years).

Names such as Amelia, Wiliam, Harry and Olivia are the type of names that you see time and time again in the list of graduating students at the moment, and Universities are dominated by better-off Southern students. It is just that recently these have become the norm countrywide. I am not suggesting that hey have 'trickled-down', more that middle-England and vintage shabby chic is in style now, and those are the type of names that go with it.

August 22, 2012 2:00 AM

Amelia-Rose might be due to Doctor Who. The Doctor has had quite a few companions on the show but Rose Tyler and Amelia Pond have been the two most popular companions since the show came back in 2005. I've actually considered naming a daughter Amelia Rose due to admiring these characters.

August 28, 2012 2:44 PM

I totally agree with firefly.  What crossed the pond was Amelia Pond...  and Rose Tyler.  :)  Eagerly awaiting this next season over here in the states!  I also hope it gives the name Melody a boost, although I'm not sure if the name got enough attention; I think River and Song are less likely to get a ton of mainstream naming attention.


What strikes me from these names is Betsy.  That jumps out at me as something I might have considered but probably would have ended up passing by in the end (there are just too many good names!).  It's just interesting that not only did a lot of people consider it, but then apparently, a number actually chose it as a given first name.  I think it has potential.  It could be spelled kreatively (Betzie, Betzey, Betzy...  Do people still have a love affair with the letter Z?  I shudder to think of the possibilities.)  Betsy itself sounds classic, cute, and nick-namy with the potential for creative AND classical spelling and it fits in well with some other sounds floating around out there (all the names with the "bell" sound somewhere in there and the "cee" sound at the end seems like it fits in well with current trends, like Jay-Z, Kaycee, Macy, etc.)



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