Belfast Telegraph

Jack and Grace win the baby name game

By Claire Graham

This year's child is full of Grace.

Because it seems that parents in Northern Ireland have fallen in love with the name. With 200 amazing baby Graces born in the province this year it has become the most popular name for girls for the first time.

But for boys Jack is still the lad, hanging on to the title as Northern Ireland's favourite for boys for an 11th year. Jack has been inked onto birth certificates 280 times since January.

Grace has risen up the annual chart from third place last year. Emily remained in second place, while Sophie fell from first last year to third in 2013.

Jack has been the most popular boy's name since 2003. James has held second position for the third year running, while Charlie was third in 2013 climbing from fifth in 2012.

Four of the top 10 boys' names from 2003 are still present in the top 10 today – Jack, James, Daniel and Matthew – unlike the girls' names where none of the top picks from 2003 still feature at the top of the list.

This year's top 10 sees a surge in biblical names with Jacob and Noah both rising.

University of Ulster Professor of Midwifery Research, Marlene Sinclair, said babies now grow up in a world of stiff competition with increased visibility and with no place to hide.

"I think the key factor in naming a child is the name association factor. Parents tend to select names they associate with positive and pleasant experiences of someone who has that same name and is or has been part of their positive life experience or journey. In addition, some parents may feel obliged to name their child after a parent and this can be a very important and highly valued aspect of traditional family values and is evident in many cultures. Motivation to select the name can also be biblical, faith-related or personally relevant to the parents.

"From experience, I have been present for the unusual naming of babies: 'Yamaha' and 'Suzuki' whose parents were ardent motorbike fans.

In another situation where the birth was very complex a mother took pride in naming one of her twins after me and I felt honoured by this.

"Younger parents are definitely more influenced by pop stars, idols, heroes, and give their children names that are meaningful to them."

A-list celebs could well be playing their part in helping along the decision-making process for local parents.

Actress Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green welcomed baby Noah into the world at the end of last year, which could help explain its boost in popularity moving up four places in the top 10.

As for traditional Irish names such as Aoife, perhaps Saturdays star Una Foden raised the profile after she gave birth to Aoife Belle. This year Jacob and Thomas have increased in popularity to reach the top 10.

Jacob is not only a biblical name but also a character in teen sci-fi film Twilight.

The greatest drops from the 2012 top 100 were Corey, down 66 places to rank 105 in 2013 and Reece, down 65 places to 155.

The biggest falls out of the girls' 2012 top 100 were Shannon, down from rank 96 to rank 143, and Elizabeth, down from rank 74 to rank 106.

Top 10 girls' names 2013

1. Grace: For Christians Grace means free salvation from God. Film star Grace Kelly married The Prince of Monaco and died in a car crash in 1982.

2. Emily: meaning rival. Notable Emilys include poet Emily Dickinson and suffragette supporter Emily Davison who threw herself under a horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

3. Sophie: meaning wisdom. Sophie Zawistowska is the Polish heroine of the William Styron novel Sophie's Choice.

4. Ella

5. Lucy

6. Sophia

7. Aoife

8. Jessica

9. Amelia

10. Anna

Top 10 boys' names 2013

1. Jack: During the Middle Ages it was very common, and it became a slang word meaning "man".

2. James: The name appears in the New Testament. It has been the name of six US Presidents including Jimmy Carter (below)

3. Charlie: Meaning Free man. Famous baby Charlies include, Charlie Axel Woods, son of Tiger Woods and Elin Nordgren. Increasingly popular as a standalone name

4. Daniel

5. Harry

6. Noah

7. Ethan

8. Matthew

9. Jacob

10. Thomas

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