Cultural Influences Behind Popular Baby Names
With the growth of digital media platforms such as social media and Netflix, and high budget TV series and films being released, there are plenty of popular figures and characters that can influence our way of thinking.
Something that every parent must decide on is what to name their new baby, and there are several factors which could influence your decision.
You could look to name your newborn after someone in your family or research baby names online, but pop-culture and celebrities can also influence what the nation’s babies are called.
Cultural influences have always played a part in what babies are named, and this has been no different for the past few years.
The Kathryn's team have therefore researched what the most popular cultural influences are behind children’s names, by examining the following factors:
- Musical Artists
- TV Programmes
- Reality Celebrities
Data provided by the Office of National Statistics has helped us to conduct our research, by providing the data for what babies have been named in recent years.
Following the release of George Ezra’s Album Wanted on Voyage which contained the single ‘Budapest’ that rose to number 3 on the UK charts, the number of babies named ‘Ezra’ in the UK has spiked.
In 2014 when his album was released, there were around 275 babies named Ezra that year. 7 years after the release of his debut album, the singer’s stage surname ‘Ezra’ was given to babies 1,226 times, which resulted in a total increase of 346%.
Did you know? George Ezra’s real name is actually George Ezra Barnett, so Ezra is in fact his middle name.
Another singer who has influenced baby names over the past few years is Mabel, a popular RnB and Pop singer.
Following the release of her breakthrough single ‘Finders Keepers’ in 2017, there were 350 babies named Mabel during that year. In 2021 after 4 years of Mabel being a huge name in the UK music scene, that figure rose to 885 babies named Mabel, which was a 153% increase.
Musical influence on baby names
The average increase in baby names from the artists we looked at saw an average increase of 259% in baby names after popular artists, meaning that parents across the UK are still influenced by the names of their favourite musical artists.
The popular Netflix program ‘Sex Education’ first aired in 2020, and the rise of the names for two of the main characters, ‘Otis’ and ‘Maeve’ had already begun.
Following the release of the first series, the number of babies named Otis in the UK rose from around 275 babies to just over 450. Following the release of series 3 of Sex Education in 2021, there were 737 babies named Otis in the UK, an increase of 168% in just 4 years.
There were also just 84 babies named Maeve in the UK prior to the release of Sex Education in 2019, however following the release of series 3, 654 babies were named Maeve in 2021. That totalled an increase of 679%, highlighting the influence that Sex Education had on baby names across the UK.
Following the release of the BBC’s popular series ‘The Peaky Blinders’, there is evidence to suggest that the names of the main characters on that series have affected how babies have been named in the UK.
The largest increase has come from the name ‘Arthur’, as there were 1,559 babies named Arthur when series 1 was released in 2013. As the show's popularity has risen and more series have been released, there were 3,766 babies called Arthur in 2021, a 142% increase.
Other names also saw an increase due to the popularity of the show, such as ‘Finn’ and ‘Tommy’.
However, both of their rises were inconsistent in comparison with Arthur, with ‘Tommy’ already being a popular name prior to the release of the Peaky Blinders, and ‘Finn’ also featuring as a character in the Star Wars franchise.
TV’s influence on baby names
From the sample we explored, TV programs resulted in a 330% increase in baby names across the UK, with the highest of those names coming to an uncommon name in ‘Maeve’.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s son ‘Saint’ was born in 2015, and has featured on the popular reality TV program ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ since then.
When Saint was born in December 2015, only 5 babies were given the same name that year in the UK.
After Saint featured on the hit TV program and inside celebrity news stories for over 6 years, the popularity of the name has significantly increased.
In 2021, there were 59 babies given the name Saint in the UK alone, resulting in a huge, 1080% increase.
Star Wars shows how names can become popular following the release of a popular film series.
Name’s such as Kylo and Lando were given to babies fewer than 2 times per year up until 2015. The name ‘Kylo’ was given to 189 babies in 2020 following the release of the third Star Wars film, as one of the main characters in the updated franchise was named ‘Kylo Ren’.
As Kylo was not a common name prior to the new Star Wars films being released, there was a 1790% increase in babies being called Kylo from a result of the franchise.
As mentioned, there has always been an interest in what celebrities name their children, and recently we have seen an influx of celebrities naming their children after Disney characters and films.
Since the news of popular influencer Molly Mae Hague naming her baby girl Bambi, there has been an 83% increase in searches for ‘Bambi’ in January 2023. This shows the strength of Molly Mae’s influence not only just on social media with 7.3 million followers, but in popular culture.
Other reality celebrities who have used Disney names for their newborns are Stacey Soloman, who named her daughter Belle, and Stacey Dooley naming her daughter Minnie. This seems to be a current theme over the past month, and we could see this trend continuing given the influence that these celebrities have.
These celebrities are clearly influencing other parents to be, with data for ‘Disney baby names’ up by 61% in January 2023 and ‘Disney themed names’ up by 200% since November 2022. This shows that naming children after Disney characters or names could keep rising further into 2023, becoming a trending theme for baby names.
Here are some popular Disney-themed baby names that are in the US Top 1000 to give you some inspiration:
By looking at the impact of what many babies were named prior to a cultural influence, the largest increase on people choosing their babies name were films and reality TV stars:
- Films (resulted in a 1780% increase of baby names)
- Reality TV stars (resulted in a 1080% increase of baby names)
- TV programmes (resulted in a 330% increase in baby names)
- Musical artists (resulted in a 259% increase in baby names)
This is because films have the power to create new characters with names that have never been used before, meaning uncommon names can rise exponentially in popularity.
If you’re expecting a new baby and are struggling to think of a new, exciting name, why not take influence from your favourite musical artist, TV program or film character?
Disney character names could keep rising further into this year, becoming a big trending theme for 2023 names. With the big influence of celebrities and reality stars using these names and search data proving the increase in searches for them, Disney names could certainly be the new craze.
Taking inspiration from popular cultural media for baby names is definitely on the up, and gives you something extra to consider when thinking of a name for your baby.
We used data released by the Office of National Statistics to assist our research and inform our findings, as well as publicly available information to find release dates for TV programmes, films and music.
We used data from the ONS to find out which cultural influence had the largest percentage increase for baby names, therefore finding which has the largest impact on what babies are named in the UK.