One of the challenges for any new parent is finding a name for their baby. Baby names are different across the world, for cultural and for religious reasons. Office for National Statistics (ONS) analysis shows that names given to babies differ even by local authority within England and Wales.
Last year, there were 679,106 live births, with babies being given 63,697 distinct names and with just 73 unique names ranking first across 347 local areas.
The top 10 boys’ names nationally were given to 13% of all boys born last year, whereas the top 10 girls’ names were given to 10% of girls. Since there are so many different names given to babies, even the most popular names are only given to a relatively small proportion of all babies named overall.
Analysis suggests that boys’ names are more homogenous, with there being a comparatively narrower selection of names (7,000 fewer) despite there being 17,000 more boys than girls born in 2017.
Last year, new parents across England and Wales called 348,071 newborn boys one of 28,222 unique names.
The top three boys’ names in 2017 were Oliver, Harry and George. These three names ranked first in 63% of local authorities1 across England and Wales, suggesting that these names are broadly popular across the whole country. There were 30 other boys' names ranked first in local authorities, including Jack, Muhammad and Noah.
The names Jack and Noah ranked first in 17 and 15 different local authorities respectively, and came fifth and fourth overall in the top names rankings for England and Wales as a whole. Muhammad was the highest ranked boys’ name in 35 local authority areas, but overall is only the tenth most popular name in England and Wales, suggesting that its popularity is specific to certain areas. Muhammad and other similar spellings are common Muslim names that frequently feature in the top 100.
Muhammad is also the name that makes up the highest proportion of names given to boys in any given local area. In Pendle in Lancashire, 9.9% of baby boys born in 2017 – 60 out of 606 – were called Muhammad.
Most of the names that were ranked first in a local authority are in the top 100 but there are some names that do not appear at all in the top 100 but rank first in an area.
In Gwynedd, Wales, the name Hari is the most popular given to boys, with 12 boys called Hari in 2017. In Ceredigion, Jac and Osian both come up top, with seven baby boys called these names. Jac is a Welsh language variant of Jack – there is no K in the Welsh alphabet. Osian is a Welsh name, derived from Oisín the Irish poet and warrior, and Hari is a “Cymricised” or Welsh version of the English name Harry. All three of these names are in the top 100 names for Wales. At the last census in 2011, 65% of people living in Gwynedd and 47% of people living in Ceredigion were Welsh speakers, which may explain these names.
David is an unusually popular name in north west London
While David is still a popular name nationally, its popularity has declined in recent years (it ranks 44th nationally, compared with 32nd in 1996 and first in 1954 and 1964), but it is unusually popular in specific areas. David ranks first in five local authorities: Corby, Barnet, Brent, Hackney and Harrow. Four of those areas where David is the most popular name are in London and three of them are neighbouring areas. The name David has links to Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious tradition. Nationally, about 1% of the population in England and Wales identified as Jewish in terms of religion, according to the 2011 Census. In three of the areas where David is unusually popular, a higher proportion of the population identified as Jewish, with Corby and Brent being the exception2.
This suggests that in areas where David is most popular, the religious make-up of the area could be influencing name choice.
Explore the top 100 boys’ names by area
Last year, new parents across England and Wales called 331,035 newborn girls one of 35,475 unique names – that’s over 7,000 extra unique names than those given to boys. The top 100 girls' names are much more spread out geographically, with names tending to be extremely popular in specific areas, and a slightly larger range of names being ranked first in different local authorities.
The top three girls’ names in 2017 were Olivia, Amelia and Isla. Together, they ranked first in 74% of local authorities across England and Wales, suggesting that these particular names are broadly popular across the country regardless of area. There were 37 other names given to girls that ranked top in a given local area, including Imogen, Poppy and Harper. For girls, the top three names were ranked first in a greater proportion of local authorities than for boys, however, the remaining local authorities had seven extra different girls' names ranked first than was the case for boys.
Ava was the highest ranked name given to girls in 24 local authority areas and is the fourth most popular name nationally, which means it is broadly popular across England and Wales.
The name that makes up the highest proportion of girls’ names in any given local area is Olivia, in City of London, where the name was given to 7.5% of all baby girls born in the area. However, this was only given to 3 girls out of 40 in the area.
As with boys’ names, most of the names that were ranked first in a local authority are in the top 100 but there are some areas where names are unexpectedly popular – far more popular than they are nationally. There are also three areas where the most popular name does not feature in the top 100 names nationally.
In Gwynedd, Efa is the most popular name – 13 babies born there were called Efa last year. In Powys, the most popular name was Ffion with 10 girls given this name. Efa and Ffion are in the top 100 names for Wales. Last year, 12 girls were called Zainab in Blackburn with Darwen and this name was ranked top out of all the names in that area.
Maryam is an unusually popular name in north east London
Maryam is the most widespread less popular name. It ranks 78th nationally for girls’ names, but is ranked first in five local authorities: Tower Hamlets, Newham, Redbridge, Luton and Leicester. Three of those are in north-east London. Maryam is an Aramaic form of the name Miriam, or Mary, and is closely linked to Christianity and Islam. Nationally, just 5% of the population in England and Wales were of Muslim religion, according to the 2011 Census. In the areas where Maryam is the most popular name, the proportion of the population that identified as Muslim was notably higher3.
Explore the top 100 girls’ names by area
These statistics are based only on live births, as there is no public register of stillbirths.
Where there are two or more top names with the same frequency, they have all been given the same ranking of number one.
In Barnet and Hackney, 15% and 6% of the population, respectively, were Jewish according to the 2011 Census. In Harrow and Brent, 4% and 1% of the population said they were Jewish, respectively.
In Tower Hamlets and Newham, 35% and 32% of the population, respectively, identified as Muslim, according to the 2011 Census. In Luton and Redbridge, 25% and 23% of the population, respectively, were Muslim. Lastly, in Leicester 19% of the population identified as Muslim.