31/10/2018
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

New research reveals baby naming trends over 180 years

9163daef-416d-4bc9-8714-a369fffc33ed

Discover how popular your first name has been over the decades with a new interactive, released alongside new research from the University of Edinburgh.

Choosing a baby’s name that is distinctive is becoming harder,  the new research reveals. Greater media access, global communication and rising immigration have increased people’s exposure to different names, but also ensures these become common more quickly.

Using a tool originally created for understanding how genes behave, researchers from the University of Edinburgh analysed trends in the names given to more than 22 million babies born in the UK over almost 180 years, between 1838 and 2016.

Baby naming trends

Naming trends were linked to historical events or people in the public eye, experts found. Changes in tradition, multiculturalism and people’s ongoing quest for individuality also played a part.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, name choices were relatively stable, dominated by biblical names such as John and Mary. These traditional names became relatively unpopular in the years following the Second World War, when increased migration introduced names of Polish, Italian and Indian origin. Spikes in popularity for certain names become more frequent in the 21st century, but these fell out of fashion owing to over-use.

Changing patterns in names

Experts found that the use of hyphens and variant spelling to make existing names distinct – such as Amelia-Rose, and Rebekah instead of Rebecca – had increased substantially in recent years. This demonstrates society’s shifting desire for recognisable, but rare, names they suggest. The research is published in PLoS One.

Try the tool

 

Stephen J Bush, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: “Collectively, shifting patterns of name choice provide a fascinating insight into changes in societal values, personal tastes and ethnic and cultural diversity from the Victorian era to the present day. The speed with which modern name choices fall in and out of favour reflects their increased exposure and people’s ongoing desire for distinctiveness.”

About the data

The data derives from 22 million birth records transcribed by the volunteer UK Local BMD project, and includes 143,259 unique names over 177 years, over seven geographically diverse counties. The chart for each name shows the percentage of all transcribed records in which it appears. Data compiled by Dr Stephen Bush and Professor Tom Freeman of the University of Edinburgh. See the pre-print paper for more trends and network effects in the data.

QUICK LINK: Top 100 most popular baby names in Scotland - 1900 and 1950

(image copyright Rene Asmussen)

Back to "News" Category

31/10/2018 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

On this day in Scottish history - King James VII of Scotland died

King James VII of Scotland died on 16 September 1701. ...


The Hector emigrant ship left Loch Broom bound for Canada

The Hector emigrant ship left Loch Broom bound for Canada on 15 September 1773.


Geographer Robert Gordon was born - On this day in history

Scottish geographer Robert Gordon of Straloch was born on 14 September 1580. ...


Call and Response: The University of Glasgow & Slavery

Members of the public are invited to react and respond to a new exhibition at the University of Glasgow that ...


Other Articles

On this day in Scottish history - Scottish horticulturist William McNab died

Scottish horticulturist William McNab died on 12 September 1848.


The Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought - On this day in history

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought on 11 September 1297.


The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was fought - On this day in history

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was fought on 10 September 1547. ...


King James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field - On this day in history

King James IV of Scotland was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field on 9 September 1513.