Name Popularity: Does It Matter?

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This week has seen the release of the hotly-anticipated ONS list of the most popular baby names. As ever, there are very few surprises – Oliver and Amelia topped the list for boys and girls respectively, for the third year in a row; Pop culture has affected naming trends (there are 69 girls called Khaleesi, for example); the Daily Mail is whining because there’s lots of babies called Muhammed, and all over the country, mums and dads to be are unhappy. They’re either complaining that their chosen name is too popular, or that it doesn’t even appear in the list.

That’s why I wanted to look at the importance of popularity when choosing your baby’s name – who does it matter to, and why?

It didn’t matter to us. As soon as we picked a Welsh name, I had an inkling that it wouldn’t be common for the entire UK, but I thought we were picking a fairly common Welsh name. Celyn is a nature/object name meaning “holly”, and has the same sort of feel as Seren (“star”) – the #1 name in Wales, now shooting up the ranks in England too. It didn’t really register with me, and I never even thought to research the popularity of the name.

I’ve always wanted unusual names for my children, from when I was six or seven, deciding what to call them. My tastes may have changed slightly from then – having three daughters called Summer, Autumn and Wynter isn’t part of our life plan – but even when I got pregnant, I liked unusual names. When we decided on Celyn, however, I loved the name so much that the fact I thought it was a really popular name didn’t matter one bit.

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When she’d been born and named and we were starting to take her out and about, people would comment on how unusual her name was. It wasn’t just English-speaking people, who didn’t know what “Celyn” meant – everyone would say how unusual (but pretty) it was to meet a Celyn. Curiosity got the better of me and I had a look at the ONS statistics – and it turns out that Celyn is actually an uncommon name, even in Wales! I think around 30 were born the same year as SB; even fewer this year.

Maybe it’s the “-yn” ending; traditionally masculine in the Welsh language. Maybe it’s the propensity of non-Welsh-speakers to mishear it as “Karen” or mispronounce it as “See-lyn”. Maybe it’s just that they don’t want their child to have an uncommon name?

That’s one fear I’ve never really understood. I get the urge to give your child an unusual name; I totally understand the feeling of not wanting your child to be one of six or seven in the class, to forever be known as “Oliver C” or “Amelia T”. That’s not to say I judge parents who choose popular names; I just understand why people go for the less popular ones. Fear of names that are too uncommon? I just don’t get it.

It’s probably because my name is uncommon – or at least, it was when I was growing up. I was twelve before I met another Madison – and even then, she was a tiny baby, and her name was spelled wth two “d”s. I’ve never met another one my age or older, and even today, when people try to guess my full name (I pretty much exclusively go by Maddy), they guess Madeleine. They’re always surprised to hear Madison.

Sure, I never found my name on personalised cups/door signs/hairbands. As a six-year-old, it was frustrating, but as I got older, I learned to love my unusual name. It’s always a talking point with people. Even before I left work, I’d sit down with customers in appointments and they’d ask me what Maddy was short for, and it was a real conversation starter. Sometimes it’s nice to be different.

SB is unlikely to find items with her name on either, but her name will be memorable. Her name will stand out in a sea of top-ten names, the way mine did when I was younger. It’ll be a conversation starter. It might even open doors for her.

Classic names will always be in style. People see them as good, solid, sturdy names. Your child will be easy to buy gifts for, because there will be a stream of items with their names on it. They won’t have to deal with misspellings and mispronunciations.

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At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal taste. I don’t think a name can be too popular, nor do I think it can be too uncommon.

Be proud of your child’s name. Whether you picked it out of a hat or made it up yourself; whether it’s number one on the list or doesn’t even appear – celebrate it. It’s part of what makes your child absolutely unique.

Do you think the popularity of names matters? Did you go for classic, top 100 names or something a little more out-there when it came to naming your children? 

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25 thoughts on “Name Popularity: Does It Matter?

  1. Sarah says:

    I had the opposite problem – there was NEVER a Sarah mug or pencil or anything left in the shop. There were 5 of us in my year at school and we all ended up in the same GCSE Art class at one point (3 Sarah Janes and 2 Sarah Louise’s) I don’t mind though, I think Sarah is a perfectly lovely name! And I was named for my great Nan, not because it was the most popular girls name in 1980. Sigh.

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  2. nipperandtyke says:

    I hope my son agrees with you and loves his unusual name – Jet. I think he does. It suits him down to the ground. My daughter’s is less unusual – Stella – but then Jet was a bit of a tough act to follow.
    I don’t think kids really see names as unusual or usual any more – after all, most things are new to them, and so many people give their children either a less traditional, or a more ethnically diverse name these days anyway. It’s just the grown ups who do a sort of auditory double take. My grandad thought we had named him Geoff 🙂 which would have sounded pretty incongruous now I come to think of it… 🙂
    Alice and William (my name and my brother’s name) were quite common in the eighties. My brother wasn’t even the only Will Eaton at his primary school! Chris (my husband) was one of about 10 Chrises in his year (what is the plural of Chris? I am struggling with that :/ )
    I like the sound of your daughter’s name, and the sound is what I look for in a name, I think.
    x Alice
    #kcacols

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  3. Tracey says:

    When I picked Olivia’s name I wasn’t too concerned with how popular it was but back then I think it was still in the top 20 anyway. Now it’s regularly in the top 5. I’m not a fan of really out there names though and love a good traditional name myself. #kcacols

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  4. Sarah says:

    Haha! As a Sarah (yup, 80s baby) I was adamant any child of mine would have a wildly unusual name. Turns out there wasn’t an unusual name we could agree on so settled on the pretty normal, Matilda, but she’s a Tilda for short which I think is a bit more unusual. #kcacols

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  5. Fran @ Whinge Whinge Wine says:

    My dad informed me today that my son and daughter are both number 50something this year. He’s named after his great grandad so it just shows how names come around! It doesn’t bother me really. I had a name unusual enough to be the only one at school, but also no one could bloody spell it right. I am not sure if I enjoyed that! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

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  6. thehippychristianmum says:

    Names are so hard to choose! I tend to like the more unusual names Inaya, India, were a couple of my tops for my daughter but husband vito-ed them. Both my kids have ‘everyday’ names but funny enough both really suit the meaning of their names so that’s cute. #KCACOLS

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  7. Jade - Raw Childhood says:

    It didn’t really bother me either, I picked my first boys name when I was actually in high school and never wanted anything different.. I like unusual names too, my boys are ‘Leo Micah’ and ‘Mylo Roemn’ and I just love them, I don’t care what people think or what they rank, if I like them then that’s kind of it for me 🙂 #KCACOLS

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  8. beautybabyandme says:

    Well said gorgeous girly! I have always been a strong believer in if you love a name, go for it. I never really read these lists, Hubs and I are both quite traditional in our name choices but I fully respect anyone who chooses unique names. I hate that people judge this – it’s your baby, your choice. And your little one has a beautiful name ❤ xx #fartglitter

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  9. thesingleswan says:

    Choosing a name is tough. In the end my now ex and I went for the name that neither of us disliked rather than liked. We found that we just vetoed each of our first choices. I think kids grow into whatever name you give them. Pen x #KCACOLS

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  10. winnettes says:

    We had a few requirements for names when we chose ours. A major requirement was it had to have the ability to be shortened. Both my name and Hubbys can’t be realistically shortened but people still try. We also didn’t want names that were ‘Top 10’. Our eldests name is creeping up the ranks but were nearly 4 years ahead with it so I’m not that bothered. It’s not that I would mind if both the girls names ever hit real popularity it’s just I didn’t want them popular at the time. On the other hand I really didn’t want rare or bizarre names. I like traditional names and actually went to school with a Seren which in England and at the time was very rare. Not sure I could ever call a child something like Apple or Sailor, but fair enough if that’s what people want their children to be called that.
    #KCACOLS

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  11. Emma says:

    I honestly don’t give a stuff what anyone thinks of my son’s name haha! friends and family included as well – they are often the worst for opinions. I personally wanted a name that I wouldn’t have to keep saying things such as “its spelt like this” or “it has one L/T, no Y” – that kind of thing. We picked Brandon and it suits him so well and isn’t so popular which im happy with. #KCACOLS

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  12. From Day Dot says:

    I’m due in November with my first and we have one girl’s and one boy’s name ready that we’ve always loved. We’re really struggling to even find any other names as back ups (you know, just in case) that we remotely like, so to us, popular or not, they’re our names! I’m more worried about close friends who are also having babies around the same time as me going for the same names, because even if they do, it’s tough! #FartGlitter

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  13. Jakijellz says:

    It’s funny you should share this post this week.
    My husband and I couldn’t decide on a name for our son for quite some time during my preganancy. He wanted the more traditional and it was me who fancied something a little more unusual. We then fell in love with the name Ethan and so that was decided. It wasn’t overly common four years ago – I didn’t know another Ethan and neither did any of my family members.
    Earlier on in the year Little EJ started nursery and there was another Ethan there so he instantly became Ethan J! Now, low and behold last week, yet another Ethan started so now my uncommon name is seemingly popular!! At least he won’t be the only Ethan with his surname initial after his name.
    I think the moral of this story is the conclusion of your post. It shouldn’t matter. So long as you love it and it suits them, that’s all that matters! #fartglitter

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  14. themotherhub says:

    My kids have what I would call classic names – not modern but not boring. My name is Beth and when I we younger it was so unusual and I hated it – it took me a long time to learn to love it ! #kcacols

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  15. Rhyming with Wine says:

    I think that Celyn is a beautiful name! Both of ours have quite classical names, but then our surname is quite straight forward and so it wouldn’t really carry anything too unusual. I would have loved something a bit more unique, but I think that The Tots have grown into their names and really suit them now. I’m a little bit in awe of those that have called their babies “Khaleesi” though! 😉 Thanks for linking with #fartglitter x

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  16. The Mum Reviews says:

    I don’t think that popularity matters at all. My name was the same as two others in my class and it was no big deal. I would prefer that people are able to spell my name easily – my maiden surname was a nightmare to spell. We chose really classic English names for our sons, to go with our really English surname. I never thought I’d go for classic names, but when it came down to it, they were the only ones we could agree on! #KCACOLS

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  17. Something About Baby says:

    We found choosing a name the hardest thing – we had almost settled on Freddie then my brother had twin boys 4 days before us and named of his boys Freddie so that went out the window! In a way I’m glad as it has become very popular, but then we went for Alfie which is also hugely popular! We struggled so much to choose a name that I didn’t even consider how popular it would be – we just went for what we liked and what suited the baby! #fartglitter

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  18. Savannah (@HowHesRaised) says:

    I totally agree!!! When naming my son, we didn’t consider the popularity of his name once. His dad always wanted a boy named after him, so that’s what we did. Statistics or numbers didn’t matter because the name meant something to us, and I think that’s how more people need to start looking at it! LOVE the name Celyn! ❤ #KCACOLS

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  19. Sonia says:

    I could never find Sonia on cups etc when growing up but these days you can just get things personalised quite cheaply anyway. As you said there are pro’s and con’s to common and uncommon names and with the multicultural society we live in, there are always new and unusual names around. I remember at school having 5 James’s, 3 Claire’s and 3 Adams all in one class of 25 kids. That doesn’t happen now quite so much! #KCACOLS

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  20. oddhogg says:

    I didn’t want Piglet to be one of a million at school with the same name, but I also wouldnt have cared if he was the only one with the name either! As an Alexander he’s pretty standard though #kcacols

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  21. omgitsagirl2015 says:

    I was the same when picking names. My son has a “normal” name but not very popular.

    Little Miss OMG had what I thought was an unusual name but it did appear at the tail end of the list.

    We were more concerned with the forename and surname going together.

    Great post and your daughter has a lovely name.

    #kcacols

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  22. Kate says:

    First baby group I went to there were 3 other Izzies and 2 Olivias and only one other girl 🙂 First time I went out with my little boy we met another Theo. I don’t do original 😉

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