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What's in a name?

A look at the most popular and unpopular names in the UK

Many family names in the UK have been passed down for many generations and originally gave an insight into the profession of the individual. As the surname “Smith” demonstrates. This surname, which is officially the most popular surname in the UK, means metal worker.  However, the majority of people bearing this surname today have no connection to this profession. 

However, there are exceptions, such as “Brown” which is also in the top ten most popular surnames.  It is believed that this was originally a nickname for people with dark hair. Equally other popular surnames such as “Williams” and “Davis” where originally given names or first names but as they were used to describe children such as “Son of Davis” they became surnames.

There are many surnames that were once very popular in the UK that are now extinct such as “Miracle” which was popular in Wales and derived from the Latin first name Mauritius, which means dark. And “Relish” which first appeared in the UK in the early 14 century and did refer to taste or flavour but derives from the French word ‘relaisse’, meaning "something remaining, that which is left behind".

The popularity of first names is always changing and there are many that were hugely popular in the UK but are no longer. Girls names that you do not hear anymore include “Gertrude” which means spear of truth and “Bertha” which means bright one.

Equally boys names out of favour include “Willie” which is actually a nickname for William which remains popular, and “Cecil” which virtually translated means blind but is derived from the Roman clan name Caecilius.

Other boys names no longer popular include Arnold, Bernard, Horace, Leslie, Clifford and Norman and Ethel, Hilda, Marion Mildred, Dorothy, Gwendoline and Phyllis for girls.

Research also shows that there are a few unfortunate pairings of first names and surnames in the UK.  The most hilarious include Justin Case, Barb Dwyer, Stan Still, Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas, Anna Sasin, Doug Hole or Hazel Nutt.


Most popular boy’s names

  • Harry 
  • Jack 
  • Oliver 
  • Charlie 
  • Alfie 
  • Jacob 
  • Thomas 
  • James 
  • Riley 
  • Ethan 



Most popular girl’s names

  • Olivia 
  • Lily 
  • Sophie 
  • Amelia 
  • Emily 
  • Jessica 
  • Grace 
  • Ava 
  • Ruby 
  • Mia


Unpopular first names for boys

  • Willie
  • Cecil
  • Arnold
  • Bernard
  • Horace
  • Leslie
  • Clifford
  • Norman


Unpopular first names for girls

  • Ethel
  • Hilda
  • Marion
  • Mildred
  • Dorothy
  • Gwendoline
  • Phyllis
  • Gertrude
  • Bertha





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