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50% rise in 'uniquely spelled' first names

Published 02/09/2016

The most popular baby names in England and Wales are still Oliver and Amelia
The most popular baby names in England and Wales are still Oliver and Amelia

The number of "uniquely spelled" first names has shot up by around 50% in the past 20 years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

Tens of thousands of names were registered just once or twice in 2015, while there were 1,333 names recorded just three times for boys and 1,740 for girls, figures for England and Wales show.

Other trends include the growing use of both hyphenated and shorter first names, the comeback of those popular around a hundred years ago and the dramatic decline of those favoured around the 1970s, ONS statistician Nick Stripe said.

There were signs of the influence of migration on trends, with the eastern European variant Zuzanna over 10 times more popular than Susannah, while Muhammad became the top boys' name in two English regions for the first time - London and the West Midlands.

Names like Clara, Ava and Violet, which were widespread in the early 20th century, have made a comeback, while those "from the 1970s" such as Paul, Steven and Darren have sunk dramatically in recent years. Those recently influenced by celebrities such as Jenson, Sienna and Harper remained popular.

Hyphenated first names include James-Dean, Alfie-James and Archie-Lee for boys and Scarlett-Rose, Gracie-May and Ava-Leigh for girls. Among shortened names, Bobby became more popular than Robert, which dropped outside the top 100 for the first time.

The influence of the royal family and celebrity culture has remained a constant, while the effect of widely watched television shows such as Game Of Thrones was evident, with scores of people naming their children after characters in the HBO series.

Oliver and Amelia remained the most popular overall for the third year running.

Jaxon, Roman, Reggie and Carter, broke into the boys' top 100, taking the places of Owen, Robert, Joey and Finlay from 2014.

Of these, Jaxon rose the most, climbing 35 places to number 80 while Kian fell 44 places to 98, the largest decline.

Penelope, Mila, Clara, Arabella, Maddison and Aria made the girls' top 100, replacing Lydia, Faith, Mollie, Brooke, Isabel and Amy from 2014.

Of these, Aria showed the biggest ascent, shooting 70 places to claim the number 100 spot, while Katie dropped the furthest - 22 places to number 99, just staying inside the top 100.

Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting site, said: "Parents are once again looking across the pond for Americanised monikers.

"Jaxon, a US-version of the traditional Jackson, is rocketing in popularity, after being made famous by Jaxon Bieber, half-brother of Justin."

She added that Maddison "is one of the most common US girls' names and is gaining traction here".

Half of the top 10 most popular boys' names in 2015 had kept their place from a decade earlier in 2005: Oliver, Jack, Harry, William and Thomas.

Four out of the top 10 girls' names in 2005 kept their place, these were Olivia, Emily, Ella and Jessica.

There were 697,852 live births in England and Wales in 2015, with more than 27,000 different boys' and 35,000 different girls' names registered, the ONS said.

The statistics are "based on the exact spelling of the name given on the birth certificate; grouping names with similar pronunciation would change the rankings," the ONS said.

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