The Least Popular UK Baby Names That Have Become 'Extinct' - and More At Risk
The Least Popular UK Baby Names That Have Become 'Extinct' - and More At Risk

Every parent knows choosing a name for your little bundle of joy can be a daunting task, and flicking through the A-Z of names doesn’t make it much easier.

However, like anything else, baby names follow trends and while some have increased in popularity, other names are dying out fast.

The language experts at Babbel have analyzed baby name records from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to determine the most popular baby names, as well as those at risk of extinction.

Although you might have been in a class with more than one Jodie, or even a Jordan, you'll be surprised to learn that baby Jodies and baby Jordans are nowadays, pretty few and far between. In fact, some of these baby names are nearly going extinct in England and Wales. Somebody call David Attenborough, we need to save these names, pronto.

To find out which names have found themselves falling lower and lower on the popularity list, Cosmopolitan UK compared some of the most common names in 1996 (as far back as detailed government data on baby names in England and Wales goes) with the number of times they were given to babies born in 2020 (the most recent data set we have). And, we're sorry to say it, but some '90s names have gone sorely out of fashion, it seems.

What are the 'Extinct' baby names in UK - Overview

Nigel and Horace are both on the extinct list, with no appearance on the baby name register in 2020.

Graeme, Iain, Leigh, Melvyn, and Royston have also been labeled extinct.

And for girls, the list includes Bertha, Beverley, Carol, Carole, Doreen, Gail, Gertrude, Gillian, Glenys, Glynis, Hilary, Jeanette, Jill, Kay, Kerry, Lesley, Lindsay, Lyndsey, Lynne, Lynsey, Mandy, Maureen, Muriel, Phyllis.

There were many more monikers Babbel considered to be 'endangered', which were those featured in the top 100 between 1914-1994 but 10 or fewer babies with the name recorded in 2020.

The at-risk names for girls were Annette, Beryl, Brenda, Carolyn, Cheryl, Dawn, Debbie, Debra, Denise, Diane, Donna, Doris, Edna, Freda, Geraldine, Gladys, Gwendoline, Hilda, Janet, Janice, Jean, Jordan, Kirsty, Lindsey, Lorraine, Lynda, Lynn, Marian, Marion, Marjorie, Marlene, Maud, Mildred, Norma, Pamela, Pauline, Sheila, Shirley, Suzanne, Thelma, Tracey, Tracy, Toni, and Yvonne.

Meanwhile, for boys, there were hardly any in 2020 named Barry, Cecil, Clarence, Claude, Clifford, Cyril, Dale, Donald, Gary, Garry, Glen, Glenn, Gordon, Graham, Howard, Keith, Leslie, Neville, Norman, Rodney, Stewart, Stuart, and Trevor.

Speaking about the findings, Ted Mentele, Editor in Didactics at Babbel, said: "Naming practices form the basis of all language as well as the basis of identity. The fact that the etymological roots of these names can be traced back to different languages and cultures from around the world shows how languages have impacted on each other over time.

Baby-names going extinct in UK: Boys' names

Craig - 98% drop

705 baby boys born in 1996 were named Craig, but just 16 were given the name in 2020.

Scott - 97% drop

1,632 baby boys born in 1996 were named Scott, but just 41 were given the name in 2020.

Kieran - 97% drop

2,882 baby boys born in 1996 were named Kieran, but just 97 were given the name in 2020.

Jordan - 96% drop

5,750 baby boys born in 1996 were named Jordan, but just 223 were given the name in 2020.

Shaun - 96% drop

773 baby boys born in 1996 were named Shaun, but just 31 were given the name in 2020.

Ashley - 96% drop

1,874 baby boys born in 1996 were named Ashley, but just 66 were given the name in 2020.

Shane - 96% drop

846 baby boys born in 1996 were named Shane, but just 31 were given the name in 2020.

Sean - 95% drop

1,594 baby boys born in 1996 were named Sean, but just 74 were given the name in 2020.

Curtis - 94% drop

757 baby boys born in 1996 were named Curtis, but just 42 were given the name in 2020.

Connor - 93% drop

5,009 baby boys born in 1996 were named Connor, but just 335 were given the name in 2020.

Andrew - 93% drop

2,676 baby boys born in 1996 were named Andrew, but just 176 were given the name in 2020.

Dean - 93% drop

719 baby boys born in 1996 were named Dean, but just 52 were given the name in 2020.

Matthew - 93% drop

7,426 baby boys born in 1996 were named Matthew, but just 492 were given the name in 2020.

Bradley - 93% drop

2,557 baby boys born in 1996 were named Bradley, but just 167 were given the name in 2020.

Callum - 92% drop

4,281 baby boys born in 1996 were named Callum, but just 332 were given the name in 2020.

Baby-names going extinct in UK: Girls' names

Photo: 30seconds
Photo: 30seconds

Kirsty - 99% drop

1,202 baby girls born in 1996 were named Kirsty, but just 8 were given the name in 2020.

Shannon - 99% drop

4,649 baby girls born in 1996 were named Shannon, but just 15 were given the name in 2020.

Gemma - 99% drop

1,261 baby girls born in 1996 were named Gemma, but just 11 were given the name in 2020.

Jodie - 99% drop

1,354 baby girls born in 1996 were named Jodie, but just 14 were given the name in 2020.

Lauren - 99% drop

6,299 baby girls born in 1996 were named Lauren, but just 77 were given the name in 2020.

Danielle - 98% drop

2,641 baby girls born in 1996 were named Danielle, but just 42 were given the name in 2020.

Jade - 98% drop

2,750 baby girls born in 1996 were named Jade, but just 61 were given the name in 2020.

Leanne - 97% drop

616 baby girls born in 1996 were named Leanne, but just 17 were given the name in 2020.

Chelsea - 97% drop

1,735 baby girls born in 1996 were named Chelsea, but just 43 were given the name in 2020.

Ashleigh - 97% drop

1,081 baby girls born in 1996 were named Ashleigh, but just 30 were given the name in 2020.

Amy - 97% drop

5,206 baby girls born in 1996 were named Amy, but just 167 were given the name in 2020.

Rebecca - 97% drop

5,828 baby girls born in 1996 were named Rebecca, but just 198 were given the name in 2020.

Rhiannon - 96% drop

654 baby girls born in 1996 were named Rhiannon, but just 24 were given the name in 2020.

Samantha - 96% drop

1,854 baby girls born in 1996 were named Samantha, but just 64 were given the name in 2020.

Megan - 96% drop

4,948 baby girls born in 1996 were named Megan, but just 201 were given the name in 2020.

What are the 'At Risk' baby names in the UK?

Many more names are considered at risk, meaning they had been in the top 100 baby names between 1914 and 1994, but fewer than 10 babies had the name in 2020.

For boys, this list includes old-fashioned titles like Cecil, Clarence, and even Rodney.

Unpopular names for baby boys in 2020 were Barry, Claude, Clifford, Cyril, Dale, Donald, Gary, Garry, Glen, Glenn, Gordon, Graham, Howard, Keith, Leslie, Neville, Norman, Stewart, Stuart, and Trevor.

There were few - but not zero - baby Beryls and Gwendolines in 2020.

What are the most popular baby names in the UK?

Photo: today
Photo: today

Oliver and Olivia were the most popular baby names in 2020 across England and Wales. Oliver has remained at the top for the past eight years, while Olivia has been the top girls’ name for five years in a row.

Since 2010, Ivy has risen 221 places to become the sixth most popular girls name in England and Wales in 2020. Ivy and Rosie entered the top 10 for the first time, replacing Grace and Freya.

Arthur and Noah have seen an increase in popularity over the last two decades both rising over 200 places in the ranks to the boys’ top five in 2019 and 2017 respectively (Figure 1). In 2020, Archie entered the top 10 for the first-time replacing Charlie. This is the first time Charlie has not been in the top 10 since 2005.

In 2020, the largest movers into the top 100 boys’ names in England and Wales were Milo (80th) and Otis (96th), both rising 28 places since 2019.

Maeve has risen 124 places since 2019 and was the largest new entry into the top 100 girls’ names (94th) in England and Wales for 2020.

Baby-names by age of mother

The trends seen in 2019 continued into 2020 when the choice of name tended to differ between older and younger mothers.

For girls, mothers aged 35 years and over continued to choose more traditional names, while younger mothers opted for more modern names.

The trend continued with boys’ names where younger mothers chose less traditional or shortened versions of traditional names.

How to pick a baby name

1. Consider the popularity of the name

This one is tricky because it's a bit of a balancing act. It's cool to keep up with the trends, but when those trends mean your child will probably be one of 14 girls called Edie in her class after 14 sets of parents got swept away with the resurgence of vintage baby names, she might struggle to feel like she stands out. "You probably don’t want your child's name to be a passing fad that dates very quickly," says Lorna, highlighting another problem with opting for something very popular at the time.

On the other hand, however, Lorna points out that "having a relatively common name can also be an advantage." Benefits of giving your child a more broadly known name include that they're "less likely to come up against misspellings and mispronunciations, and people like familiarity."

"It’s about finding the right balance for you," the expert concludes. "Parents often like to look at classics that may not be hugely popular at the time, so are unusual in their own way, but have longevity."

2. Think about how it'll sound when they're older

"Talking of longevity, remember that your child’s name has to stand the test of time through adulthood," advises the baby-naming expert. And she's got a point. "While a super cutesy name like Bunny will suit your boy while he’s still in baby grows, it may not have the same appeal when he’s a 40-something lawyer." Yup. Noted.

3. Make sure the whole name fits well together

And say it out loud a lot of times before you commit. A lot of times. "First name, middle name or names, and surname should all sound right when said out loud," suggests Lorna. And it's always worth a google, just to make sure you're not inadvertently giving your child the same combination of names as a serial killer, or something equally unfortunate. "Watch out for any potential pitfalls in how the names look too," adds the expert. "Initials can present problems. Phoebe Ophelia Osborne may sound like a beautiful girl’s name but the initials don’t have quite the same ring." No. No, they don't.

4. Consider the nicknames they might be given

"Think about any unwanted nicknames that your choice could easily prompt from other children, or adults. If you’re going to go for something a bit unusual, make sure it doesn’t also clearly rhyme with a body part or function, for example," says Lorna. And that's a fair point. You don't want your poor son being known as 'Kit the shit' forever more, now, do you? "Also think very carefully of how the name may be shortened or changed," adds Lorna. "You may love the name Henry but are you also ok with others calling your child Harry, Hal or Hank?" Just a thought.

5. Sing 'Happy Birthday' and insert the name

Hopefully your child will live a long and happy life, which means you'll be singing 'Happy Birthday' a lotof times. So while you might think a double-barrelled first name is delightfully boujee at the time of birth, when every single one of Gabriella-Marie's party guests struggles to fit the six syllables of her name into a two-syllable slot, things can get problematic.

6. Choose your spelling wisely

"Spelling variations of names are becoming more common. Just look at how Jaxon is now more popular among UK parents than Jackson for boys," points out Lorna, who adds her advice: "Just make sure though that you don’t give your child a name with a spelling that’s so unusual that going through the phonetic alphabet during every other phone call becomes a lifelong burden. Also, consider if the most obvious pronunciation is going to be the wrong one."

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