What's in a baby name? Quite a lot, it turns out

Deciding what to name a new baby can be a tricky decision (Getty Images)
Deciding what to name a new baby can be a tricky decision (Getty Images)

The next wave of western-world babies could well be called Barnaby, Thora and Edmund, according to baby name website Nameberry. The site has released new data suggesting that old-fashioned names, popular back in the 1900s, are now set to make a big comeback. 

But what really drives our baby name trends? What makes some unusual names soar into the top ten seemingly from nowhere (hello Ivy)? While other, once-classic names mysteriously sink without trace (goodbye Paul)? 

For SJ Strum, founder of the baby name consultancy podcast Baby Name Envy, it's all about the circle of baby name life. 

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"Names have about a 100 year cycle of becoming fresh and on trend again," she told Yahoo. 

"We don't love a 'dad' name like Graham and Andy - but a Grandparent or Great Grandparent name such as Percival is more free from 'real life' associations and we see names quickly go from Vintage Old to Vintage Gold when it gets to around 100 years after they last peaked."  

Beyond that, Strum believes we are currently seeing a lot of 'fast fashion' names - when once obscure names suddenly ping to the top of the charts. More often than not, these are usually influenced by popular culture. 

"Aria/Arya and Arthur both boomed after huge TV shows - Game Of Thrones and Peaky Blinders," she said. "Sex Education did a lot for Maeve. And Daphne is set for a huge rise after Bridgerton!" 

Other names become more common as parents - consciously or unconsciously - seek close alternatives to massively popular names. "Ottilie, Ophelia and Aurora are all booming while the very similar Olivia stays at number one in the charts," she explained.  

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It's clear, however, that recent decades have seen more unusual names become, well, more usual. You're far more likely to hear a parent calling out for an Arlo or a Willow in the park, for example, than a Luke or a Lucy. "Previously, parents were very influenced by religion and royals," explained Strum. "But the world is at our fingertips now, literally, with the boom of the internet." 

Old-fashioned names tend to come back in fashion after a while (Getty Images)
Old-fashioned names tend to come back in fashion after a while (Getty Images)

So what name trends can we expect to see in the near future? 

"There's a big trend for wild nature names right now," said Strum. "Post pandemic, we want our children to have freedom and adventure, which the 'new earth' trend picks up on. Names like Atlas, Ivy, Wren and Wilde are being picked more and more.  

"We're also seeing more 'spiritual names' - Bodhi, meaning enlightenment, is on nearly every list at the moment, as so many people are picking up mindfulness and yoga. Names like Pax, meaning peaceful, and Serena, meaning calm, are appealing to a lot of parents right now who are looking for a different kind of life." 

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