What’s in a name? Quite a lot, when you come to think of what names mean, and why parents choose them.
Let’s go on a trip around the world, and take a look at the latest baby-naming trends. What you see might surprise you, and it might even inspire you if you have a little one along the way. After all, it’s unlikely that you will use a Roulette wheel to decide what to call the little bundle of joy – you just might end up saddling the child with something similar to what Frank Zappa foisted upon his sons when he called them Moon Unit and Dweezil!
Australia and New Zealand
According to reports, Australia’s most popular names for boys born in 2017 are Oliver, William, and Jack. Oliver comes from an ancient word meaning olive tree, William means resolute protector, and Jack is a diminutive of John, dating back to the Middle Ages.
Most girls born that year were named Charlotte, Olivia, and Mia. Charlotte is an old French feminine diminutive of Charles, which itself ultimately comes from an old Germanic word meaning free man.
In New Zealand, most boys were called Oliver, Jack, and Noah, a Hebrew name meaning rest or comfort, while most girls were named Charlotte, Harper, and Isla. Harper was originally a surname that indicates an ancestor may have been an accomplished harpist, and Isla means island.
USA and Canada
Last year saw Liam become the most widely chosen name for sons born in the US. Other popular choices were Noah and William. Liam is from old Irish, and means strong-willed warrior.
The most common monikers chosen for girls included Emma, Olivia, and Ava. Emma is old Germanic, and means whole. Ava may come from the Latin word for bird, or it may be a variation of the Hebrew name Eve (Chava), meaning life.
Canada saw similar naming trends to the US, with the exceptions that most boys were called Benjamin, and most girls Olivia. Benjamin is a Hebrew name meaning son of my right hand.
The UK and Ireland
The United Kingdom’s most popular boys’ names in 2017 were Oliver, Harry, and George in England and Wales, and Jack and Oliver in Scotland. Most girls were named Olivia, Amelia, and Emma.
Harry is a short form of the old Germanic Harold, which means leader or ruler, George is from a Greek word meaning farmer, and Amelia comes from an old German word meaning work.
In Ireland, the top choices for males were James, Jack, and Daniel, and for girls, Emily, Grace, and Olivia. Daniel comes from the Hebrew word that means God is my judge, Emily comes from the Latin word for industrious, and Grace is from a Latin word meaning God’s favour.
Japan’s most popular boys’ name, Hiroshi, has held its top spot since the 1920s. It means integrity or honesty. The second and third top choices for males were Takashi and Akira.
Most girls were named Nozomi, which means heart of hope. The next choices were Kokoro and Emika, both of which have floral meanings.
Given Brazil’s more than 60 per cent Catholic majority, it is perhaps not all too surprising that the number one choice of name for boys was Jose, and for girls was Maria.
Jose is derived from the Hebrew name Joseph, which means may God grant increase. Maria is from the Hebrew name Miryam, meaning bitterness, which when you think of it, is a little odd! While there are several characters known as such in Christian tradition, they are most popularly the monikers of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her carpenter husband.
Statistics show the favourite South African choice for sons was Junior, with Blessing and Gift following in second and third place. Most girls born were called Precious, Princess, or Amahle.
The third most common choice for girls, Amahle, comes from the Zulu language. The word means the most beautiful or the prettiest one, or the beautiful ones.
As we can see, some parents, in naming their children, give expression to positive values and cultural or spiritual ideals, or to confer blessings of success and prosperity. Others were perhaps inspired by events such as impressive wins on the sports field or a royal wedding. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice – but, please, for the children’s sake, do not go and pull a Frank Zappa on them.