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Image / Self / Parenthood

The top baby names of 2021 have been revealed and there are a few surprising additions


By Sarah Finnan
01st Dec 2021

Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

The top baby names of 2021 have been revealed and there are a few surprising additions

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...

The top baby names of the year have been revealed and there are a few unexpected additions in there. Doing the research so you don’t have to, BabyCentre compiled their findings under a few different headings with categories such as “new dawn names”, “tiny superheroes and other TV/film names” and “sporting heroes of 2021 baby names” all featuring. 

So which names ranked supreme? 2021 saw Olivia return as the most popular girls’ name of the year (bumped up from its second-place position of 2020), while Muhammad and Noah held strong for another year in the number one and two spots yet again. 

Trends, trends, trends

Baby naming trends varied hugely over the past 12 months, with inspiration coming from a wide range of diverse sources. There was also a greater move towards gender neutrality this year, according to the experts, who observed a surge in parents choosing unisex names for their children. “Parents also looked to hopes of a new beginning and dreams of travel after a year that started with lockdown,” the research noted. 

“New dawn names” were a particular favourite with this category dominated by names that symbolised new beginnings. “With schools closed, travel banned, hospitals at full capacity, and the cold weather extending the January blues way into March, the hope of a new dawn was reflected in name choices,” a post on the BabyCentre website states. Nova and Neo (both meaning “new”) were popular for girls and boys respectively, as was Phoenix. Aurora and Eden dropped slightly on the list, but still held strong within the top 100 inspiring parents with their meanings of “dawn” and “paradise”. 

Sarah came in at number 42 on the girls’ list (up five places from last year), with its popularity attributed largely to Professor Sarah Gilbert, the British vaccinologist who helped to co-create the Oxford vaccine. 

Pop culture, baby

As always, pop culture was often the first starting point for new parents who looked to their preferred shows, movies, and even superheroes for ideas. Superhero names “went flying up” the list this year due to Marvel and DC films dominating the box office. Loki apparently doubled in registrations outside the top 100, while Sylvie (a female character in the Loki series) also climbed the list of girls’ names. Tony (Ironman), Steve (Captain America), Scott (Antman), and Thor all triumphed outside the top 100 and there was even one registration for supervillain Thanos – the first time it had been registered as a name in the UK. 

Other entertainment-inspired names included Luca, Raya (both Pixar or Disney animated characters), Penelope (courtesy of Bridgerton’s Penelope Featherington), Abdul (Squid Game), and several others drawn from the hit Netflix series Sex Education (eg. Otis, Eric, and Maeve – the latter of which burst in as a new entry at number 76). Seven Made in Chelsea stars’ names featured on the list too… quite the honour if you ask us. 

Aside from the TV and film world, travel proved to be quite popular too with both place names and names that were reminiscent of going on holiday becoming much more common. Take Devon, Skye, Rio, Jordan, and Jett, for example. Afrika also had its first appearance this year. 

Between the Euros and the Olympics both taking place this past year, it’s no surprise that sporting heroes were fresh in people’s minds and many suggested names based on their athletic idols as a result. From Gareth Southgate to Marcus Rashford and women’s BMX champion Bethany Shriever, there were plenty of heroes to take inspiration from and the list of names definitely reflected this.

What gender-neutral names did people lean towards? 

As previously mentioned, there was a huge uptake of gender-neutral names in 2021. Willow went up four places to land within the top 20 on the girls’ list – ranking just outside the top 100 for boys too. Blake, Harper, and Reign were other notable choices. 

Pulling all the above information together into two neat little lists, the experts have made things extremely easy for us all and have since published the top 100 boys’ and girls’ names of the year – ranked in order of popularity, of course. First on the boys’ list was Muhammad which was joined by Noah, Oliver, George, and Leo to complete the top five. Meanwhile, the girls’ list saw Olivia take the crown with Sophia, Lily, Amelia, and Ava following directly after.  

Top 10 boys’ names

  1. Muhammad
  2. Noah
  3. Oliver
  4. George
  5. Leo
  6. Theo
  7. Freddie
  8. Harry
  9. Jack
  10. Arthur

Top 10 girls’ names

  1. Olivia
  2. Sophia
  3. Lily 
  4. Amelia
  5. Ava
  6. Mia
  7. Isla
  8. Freya
  9. Ella 
  10. Rosie

You may not need these lists just yet, but they’re handy to have for future reference… if even just for naming new characters while playing Sims. You can read the full list of names over on the BabyCentre website.