What’s In a Name? Popular Baby Names and Their Meanings

Choosing a name is one of the most difficult things imaginable and it causes far more stress than many might imagine. Until you actually go through the process of picking baby names you don’t realise just how many you come up with, reject, come back to and eventually decide on before baby’s arrival.

Of course, some don’t actually make a final decision until after the birth. With so many different options new parents sometimes take the view that they will wait and see what baby looks like before giving them their name, just in case they don’t look like a Maggie…

We recently asked parents on the Uber Kids Facebook page to get involved in a competition, giving us their all-time favourite baby names to see which names are long-standing favourites.

Here are a selection of the most popular baby names from the ones sent in, along with a brief history of the name and what it means in certain cultures. Who knows, you may even find some baby name inspiration of your own!

Baby names that keep coming back around

It seems that baby names are a bit like clothes in the sense that they’re popular for a few years, then disappear for a while and resurface down the line like a blast from the past. In recent times we have seen a lot of news articles talking about certain names that just aren’t being chosen any more, but we have seen some come back from the brink.

Olivia, Isabella and Jacob have all reappeared over the years. Each of these names came up several times in our competition and they’ve all risen up the most popular baby names rankings in recent years.

In data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in August 2019, Olivia is in fact the most popular girls name in England and Wales with more than 4,500 girls given the name in 2018. It has fluctuated around the most and second most popular name for some time now, but was ranked outside the top 20 in the mid-1990s.

Isabella was the seventh most popular girls name with more than 2,300 babies given the name. It’s only in the last decade that Isabella has moved into the top 10, and back in 1999 it was ranked 90th!

Jacob was the 11th most popular boys name in 2018 having risen from 35th in the 1990s. Noah is another to have seen a return in recent times. Currently the fourth most popular boys name with more than 4,100 Noah’s born in 2018, it has risen rapidly from just inside the top 100 in the early 2000s to the top 20 by 2010 and into the top 10 by 2015.

Perhaps inspired by the BBC series Peaky Blinders, Ada has returned to the top 100 list for the first time since way back in 1924 and is currently ranked as the 65th most popular baby girl’s name. Similarly, the name Arthur actually dropped out of the top 100 for around 50 years before returning in 2009 and is now ranked seventh in the top 100 boy’s names with more than 3,600 registered in 2018.

If any fans are wondering, the name Cillian (the real name of Peaky Blinders star Tommy Shelby), which didn’t come up in our competition, has risen 295 places in the last five years but is still only number 255 on the list.

Double-trouble: how double-barrelled baby names became popular

When a lot of parents-to-be struggle to pick out a name a recent trend has been to double-barrel their name. This might be based on celebrities who have been given similar names, or it might be a popular trend that has developed to give children an option for what they want to be known as when they grow up.

Wherever the trend came from there is evidence from our contributors that double-barrelling the first name is a popular way to name a child. Included in our list were Sky-Anna, Iyla-rea and Daisy-Kezia which don’t make the ONS top 100 list this year but certainly stand out as eye-catching and unique baby names.

Religious themes

Tradition also comes into the naming process from time to time and a lot of names have been chosen because of their historical and religious meanings. Popular names from religion have included Mary, Joseph, Matthew, John, Luke and Catherine with many still popular today.

We have evidence of this from our own competition. Mary, Christian, Gabriel and Vincent were all submitted – although only Gabriel (60th) is currently in the top 100 boy’s names and Mary hasn’t made the top 100 girl’s names list since the mid-1980s having been the most popular between 1900 and 1920.

A touch of royalty

Royal names are always popular. There’s always a sense of anticipation when a new Royal baby is born as to just what they’re going to be called, and many parents follow the trend and name their own children after the latest additions to the Royal family.

Among the competition submissions this year were Elizabeth, Henry and Harry – all names which feature on the most recent Top 100 list. Elizabeth is the 48th most popular girls name, while Henry is just outside the boy’s Top 10 in 12th and Harry ranks third with more than 4,500 new Harry’s named in 2018.

Of the current Royal children, George is the second most popular boy’s name with little brother Louis ranked 69th and cousin Archie 17th. Meanwhile, the daughter of Prince William and Kate, Charlotte, has the 11th most popular girl’s name.

Back to nature

We’ve seen a lot of “nature” themed names come over the years with names such as Skye, Summer, Holly and Brooke proving particularly popular. These are often chosen by people who have a love of the great outdoors or who have the dream that their child will grow up free, spending time outside in the country rather than indoors and away from the natural environment.

Juniper, Fern and Meadow were all cited in our competition. Juniper is a Latin name and comes from the English name for the plant or tree that produces berries. Fern is an English girl’s name that also refers to a tree, while Meadow comes from the large, often sun-kissed grass in the country.  

An increase in gender neutral baby names

With an increase in people identifying as non-binary or gender fluid in recent years we have seen names take on different forms. It’s no longer the case that something is specifically a boy’s name or a girl’s name with Alex, Riley and Taylor examples of names that could be taken by boys or girls.

Caden is a prime example of a name from our list that could be used by either boys or girls. Perhaps more commonly used as a boy’s name, Caden has multiple meanings from different religions and nations. For instance, in Arabic Caden means “friend”, while it means “spirit of battle” in Welsh.

Jesse is another example from our list of submissions. Perhaps given a male focus in recent years through the Manchester United and England footballer Jesse Lingard but before that the American Jesse James, the name is taken from Hebrew and means “gift”.

Popular baby names that have changed over time

Over time names have changed a lot. We’ve seen people give their children names based on all kinds of precious memories, such as the location of conception in the case of Brooklyn Beckham, or because of family members.

We have also seen names adapted from other languages and religions, and names shortened to more informal names like Chris, Tommy, Abi or Becky. An example from our list of competition entries is Gabriel – which could be spelled Gabrielle for a girl.

Baby girl names and their meanings

  • Lalia – a girl’s name of Greek origin meaning “well-spoken.”
  • Harbour – a very unusual name and one without much history as a name. That being said you would expect that it has come from a family with ties to the sea and perhaps the shipping industry.
  • Aiyla – is a girl’s name that comes from Turkey and means “moonlight”, and is also associated with a beautiful, strong female.
  • Una – this girl’s name is taken from the Irish language “uan” and translates to “lamb.”
  • Andraya – a Latin girl’s name that means “trusted by God” and is even referred to as royalty.
  • Kezia – comes from Hebrew and is taken from “cassia” which is the name of a spice tree.

Baby boy names and their meanings

  • Huxley – of old English origin meaning “Hugh’s meadow.”
  • Xander – an abbreviate form of the traditional name Alexander. Taken from Greek/Latin and means “to defend.”
  • Orion – taken from the Greek for “rising in the sky.” Orion was the name given to the son of Poseidon, who was the God of the Sea in Greek mythology.
  • Nate – a boy’s name with Hebrew origins, Nate is an adapted version of Nathan which means “giver”.
  • Magnus – is a name taken from Swedish and Latin languages. Interestingly, Magnus translates to “great” in both languages.
  • Carwyn – a Welsh boy’s name taken from the Welsh for “love, fair and blessed.”