Most Popular Baby Names Around the World
Baby names can tell us a lot about a country's culture and influences. In the U.S., for instance, Emma skyrocketed in popularity thanks to the hit show "Friends" (it's what Ross and Rachel named their little one) and has continued to dominate, while Harry and George reign supreme in the royal-crazy UK.
Meanwhile, many classic names flourish across the globe in their specific cultural iterations; “John" in the United States is “Juan” in Mexico, “Johann” in Germany, “Sean” in Ireland and “Jean” in France.
So what are the most popular baby names in popular destinations across the globe – and what can they illuminate about the countries they come from? Earlier this year, The Telegraph, the British newspaper, put together a list of popular baby names in several countries. Here’s what they found.
More and more American travelers are visiting Japan, whether as tourists or to reconnect with their homeland and ancestry. Japanese names tend to represent great hopes for the babies they’re given to, or characteristics the parents hope their children will grow to have.
Girls in Japan were most frequently named Nozomi, which means “heart of hope.” The name Kokoro (meaning “cherry blossoms of the heart”) and Emika (“blossoming flower”) were also quite popular.
Boys in Japan were most often named Hiroshi, a name so popular, it’s been at or near the top of the list since the 1920s. It means “honesty” or “integrity.” Second place goes to Takashi (“noble, prosperous”) and third to Akira (“sun and moon”).
Italy is a must-see destination for travelers, with a set of popular names that are uniquely of the place. When you hear an Italian name, you can usually place its heritage very quickly.
Italian baby boys were most frequently named Francesco last year. The current pope, Francis, might be part of the inspiration for that choice. (Interestingly, the name actually means “Frenchman.”) Second place goes to Alessandro and third to Leonardo – as in Italy's favored son, Da Vinci.
For girls, Sofia, derived from the Greek word for “wisdom," is first in Italy. Sofia Loren is an Italian icon and the possible inspiration for many parents. The runner-up is Aurora, and third place goes to Giulia, also the name of an Italian luxury car.
From Cancun to Baja, Mexico offers much to see and do. There, tourists are likely to meet locals with names derived from Spanish ancestry – and babies born last year are no exception.
Baby girls in Mexico are most likely to be named Maria, a form of the Latin “Mary,” which comes from the Hebrew “Miriam.” It often is said to mean “sea of sorrow.” Mexicans also named baby girls Sofia and Isabella.
For baby boys in Mexico, the most popular choice is another classic: Jose, a form of the Latin “Joseph,” which comes from the Hebrew version, spelled the same. It means “May God increase.” Mexican boys were also frequently named Mateo, meaning "Gift of God," and Santiago, which has its roots in Saint James the Great, the brother of John the Apostle. The country's religious-influenced names are hardly a surprise; about 91% of the country's total population is Catholic.
It may surprise some that the most popular name for a baby boy in Israel last year was Muhammad. But in fact, it makes sense that this name of the prophet who founded Islam is common; the country's population is 17.7 percent Muslim, and among this cohort, the name is overwhelmingly the No. 1 choice. The Hebrew names Yosef and Noam are second and third, with Noam being the most popular name for Jewish baby boys in Israel.
The most popular name for a baby girl in Israel last year was Tamar. It’s a Hebrew name which means “palm tree” or “date palm.” Noa and Abigail, also Hebrew, round out the top three.
In the U.S., Emma tops the list, followed by Olivia and Ava for girls. Emma is a Germanic name which means “whole” or “universal,” but many Americans associate it with the popular Jane Austen novel of the same name, Ross and Rachel's baby, and celebrities like Emma Stone and Emma Watson (in celebrity-focused countries like the U.S., baby names are often influenced by popular performers).
For boys, Liam is the most popular baby name in the U.S. A shortened form of Ulliam, which itself is a variation of William, Liam means “strong-willed warrior or protector.” The runner-up for boys’ names in the U.S.? Noah, followed by William.
Canada's favored names reveal how much influence neighboring countries can have on one another; its list is strikingly similar to the United States'.
The most popular name for girls in Canada is the one that's second-most popular in the U.S.: Olivia, which first appeared as a woman’s name in Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night." Emma, the most popular in the U.S., is second. (Lea is third.)
For boys, Canadians favor the name Benjamin; originally a Hebrew name, it means “Son of my right hand.” Liam, the United States' most popular boy name, is second, while Jackson is third.
Many names in the U.K. are classics, but for boys, Brits have put the trendy name Oliver in the top spot. It literally means “from an olive tree," and connects to the idea of fruitfulness and dignity. Harry and George came in second and third, no doubt influenced by the country's royal celebrities.
The U.K. hasn’t invented the wheel with its most popular name for baby girls, either. It’s – you guessed it – Olivia, the female version of Oliver. Considering their close global relationship, it isn't so surprising that Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom all love the same name. Amelia, knocked off its top perch after five years, and the ever-popular Emma are the runners-up in girls’ names.
There’s much to see in South Africa, especially in the capital city of Johannesburg, and the country's baby names are equally unique and memorable.
No. 1 on the list of popular boy names? Junior. Familial line is very important in South African culture, so this diminutive name makes sense. In fact, it is far ahead in the rankings. The runner-up for boys is Blessing, and in third place is Gift.
As for girls in South Africa, parents most often chose to name their baby girl Precious, with the names Princess and Amahle, which means “The ancestors are with us,” close behind.
Close to the United Kingdom is the island nation of Ireland (with Northern Ireland part of the U.K.). Americans love visiting the Emerald Isle, and quite a few popular names for American babies are Irish in heritage. So, what do the Irish name their children?
James, Jack and Daniel are the surprising winners for the Republic of Ireland. While Liam, an Irish name, leads in the U.S., the Irish themselves seem to be turning away from traditional Gaelic names. James is another traditional Hebrew name, meaning “one who follows.”
For Irish girls, the trend away from traditional names continues. The top three are Emily, Grace and the ever-popular Olivia. Emily is a Latin baby name, with a connotation of industriousness.
France has given travelers so much: Paris in the spring, wine and cheese in every season, and names like Amelie and Paul. Fittingly, this country of proud traditions and modern flair counts conventional and contemporary names among its most popular.
For girls, Louise is in first place. The name, which translates to “renowned fighter,” references the many kings of France named Louis. The ever-trendy Emma is in second, followed, surprisingly, by Jade.
For boys, Gabriel, the name of an archangel in the Christian Bible that means "God is my strength," tops the list. Raphaël (another angel) and Jules follow. While relatively speaking, France isn't all that religious, it is still about two-thirds Christian, perhaps accounting for the popularity of theistic names.