Boxsets to Baby Names: how popular culture impacts how the UK names its children

Did Beyoncé and Jay Z manage to make the name 'Ivy' catch on? Did Game of Thrones really give us hundreds of 'Aryas'? And what about Harry Potter? Did the international success of everyone's favourite boy wizard lead to a new generation of baby 'Harrys'?

Using ONS data, we've analysed the UK's top 100 baby names for each year of the last decade, to see if pop culture trends really do have an impact on what we name our children.

Explore the above tool to see how pop culture has influenced baby names over the past decade. Use the options to filter your results by year or gender.

The top 10 biggest climbers in the last decade
BOYS

Jackson

90

Aiden

80

Arthur

73

Elijah

71

Teddy

61

Louie

57

Reuben

52

Caleb

50

Ahmad

48

Jude

47

GIRLS

Aria

83

Ivy

77

Darcie

76

Harper

74

Evelyn

66

Willow

66

Mila

57

Elsie

55

Esme

51

Thea

51

Which pop culture phenomenon had the biggest impact on baby names?

When we looked at the baby names which had the biggest increases in popularity over the last decade, we noticed some strong parallels with the worlds of TV, film, music and showbiz.

The single biggest influence of the last decade is...

The true monster TV hit of recent times, it's no surprise the names of Game of Thrones standout characters have climbed the ranks. Since the show debuted in 2011 its popularity has steadily risen with 16.5 million peple tuning in to the climax of series seven. It may well be why John has now re-entered the top 100 for the first time in five years to hit #56. Meanwhile, Arya or Aria now sits at #17 , from a position of total obscurity before the show began. The show has been so influential that even the names of its stars have seen a boost. Arya actress Maisie Williams saw her name jump up to #47, while Mother of Dragons actress Emilia Clarke's forename climbed 47 places over the decade.

[Game of Thrones influence graph]
[Game of Thrones influence graph]
Other influences include...
FROM TV
From Peaky Blinders to Sons of Anarchy

The BBC had a huge hit on their hands when Peaky Blinders began in 2013. That same year, lead character Arthur Shelby saw his forename break the boys top 50, climbing each year since then to reach #28. On-screen sister-in-law Esme fared well too, with her name jumping 20 places the year the show landed and remaining popular ever since. It also gave the name Annabelle a boost, with actress Annabelle Wallis staring as Grace in the show - Annabelle jumped 9 positions to #53 in 2014. Overall, Jackson was the decade's biggest climber, jumping 90 places, seeing its sharpest increase as TV smash Sons of Anarchy wrapped up and protanoist Jackson 'Jax' Teller's tale came to a close

FROM FILM
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

The long-awaited revival of the Star Wars franchise came in late 2015, as we were introduced to new lead character Finn. The following year, the name leapt into the top 100 boys' names for the first time ever, reaching #77. At the same time, Emma Stone landed an Academy Award for her role in box office smash La La Land, playing aspiring actress Mia. Emma's name subsequently climbed 16 places, from #53 to #37.

FROM MUSIC
Queen B reigns supreme

Jay Z and Beyoncé turned heads when they named their firstborn Blue Ivy. In their wake , Ivy broke into the top 100 in 2012 and climbed to a new peak of #24 in 2017. Even the couple's surname has been popular, with Carter entering the top 100 in 2015 and reaching #59 in 2017. Back on our shores, Florence and the Machine (led by singer Florence Welch) released their number one debut album 'Lungs' in July 2009. In the same year, the name Florence moved up 45 positions to #33. The name continues to grow in popularity and reached #20 in 2016 following a Glastonbury headline slot and the release of the band's third consecutive number one album 'How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful'.

FROM SHOWBIZ
Name it like Beckham

David and Victoria Beckham have been the face of celebrity Britain for almost two decades, and their influence is well-established. In 2011, Victoria chose to name her newborn daughter after her favourite author, Harper Lee. Many Brits followed suit, perhaps because the name resonated with a generation of parents who read ' To Kill a Mocking Bird' under the national curriculum, and the name Harper has steadily increased in popularity. It's risen to #27 since 2014, jumping inside the top 50 upon news of Harper Lee's passing in early 2016.

Are different aspects of pop culture impacting boys' and girls' names differently?

Looking to those names we've seen rise alongside their prevalence in pop culture, deeper analysis reveals a fascinating split between boys' and girls' names. Showbiz, TV and film played plenty of part in the upward trend of girls' names - just look to the name Bella which hopped from outside the top 100 to #43 as the Twilight Saga unfolded. Meanwhile, female names brought to prominence through sport barely made an impact.

On the other hand, parents seemingly couldn't get enough of male sports stars' names. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone with the name Jenson until Jenson Button's F1 win in 2009 catapulted the name to the top 100, where it now sits at #40. And since Rory Mcllroy announced himself to the world with a momentous victory at the 2011 US Open, later winning a host of major tournaments, awards and an MBE, his name has shot up the rankings. Rory entered the top 100 to reach #99, and had climbed as high as #78 by 2017.

The top 10 biggest fallers of the last decade
BOYS

Mohammed

85

Callum

74

Connor

60

Lewis

60

Cameron

55

Alex

54

Owen

53

Rhys

52

Tyler

49

Jamie

48

GIRLS

Megan

74

Katie

70

Brooke

60

Summer

58

Lily

56

Amy

54

Isabel

50

Bethany

48

Caitlin

43

Isobel

42

Looking ahead: which names will climb the most in 2018?

Knowing what we now know about how pop culture shapes baby name trends, is it possible to predict the future? By looking at the kind of events that made an impact in the past, here's a handful of baby names likely to recieve a boost in 2018.

[Meghan]

After their magical engagement in 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to marry in May. With the former actress's name just about everywhere, we're likely to see an increase in girls called Megan or Meghan.

[Friends]

90s sitcom Friends is having something of a moment, now it's returned to our screens via Netflix. With a new generation being introduced to the show, we might just see some of the character's names get a boost in 2018.

[Stormi]

Wherever you go, you can't escape the Kardashians. Historically, some parents have followed their often-unorthodox name choices, so there's no reason to believe the same won't happen in the wake of Kylie Jenner's newborn, Stormi.

[Michael & Lupita]

Superhero movie Black Panther has already made a massive impact on pop culture, leaving box office records in its wake. On the back of this, lead actors Michael B Jordan and Lupita Nyong'o could see their names fly into the top 100 in 2018.

[Eleven]

It might sound unlikely, but Game of Thrones has shown hit TV series can make even the most unusual and obscure of names popular. With the hype around Stranger Things set to follow the show into its third series, we might see standout star Eleven's name crawl into the top 100. Though parent's may opt for 'Elle' or 'Ellie', as a more familiar but still Stranger Things-inspired choice.

[Chris]

The latest Avengers film, Infinity War, will hit the big screen in 2018, and it's set to be massive. Its ensemble cast features an unlikely number of men called Chris; with Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans all taking lead roles. This may well give the name a boost.


[Frances]

Movie stars offer up a lot of inspiration. Frances McDormand's recent Oscar win and her 'Triple Crown of Acting' could well see Frances burst into the top 100. It's also a gender-neutral name, something that's becoming increasingly popular with parents-to-be.

[Louis]

With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's third child having arrived on 23rd April, and after plenty of speculation, the couple eventually settled on the name Louis Arthur Charles. If the newborn is to have the same impact on his name as his elder brother and sister did on theirs, we're likely to see a huge spike in the number of babies called Louis over the next couple of years.

There's no denying that the people we see on screen and magazines leave a lasting impression. It's only natural to take from the world around us, and pop-culture really does guide plenty of our choices, including the names we give to our children. While some names seem to be eternal, we can expect to see the rise and fall of plenty of famous names in the years to come.

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