Do middle names follow the trends that the most popular first names set?
Each year the top baby names are announced and, while there are a few that have been popular for some time or have made a resurgence, often the lists are very different to what was popular when you were born. They can even be quite different to the most common names that were around when your children were born, especially if their age is into double figures. However, middle names, seem to have a tendency to stick around.
The introduction of middle names
If you were born over a century ago, it’s unlikely that your parents would have bothered choosing a middle name for you. According to the 1911 census in the UK, just 37 percent of people had a middle name.
Adding a middle name only became a “thing” over the last century, mainly as a way of commemorating a family member. Whether this in recognition of a parent or grandparent, or, as in many cases following the two World Wars, a way of acknowledging someone lost too soon, middle names have become so popular that now 80% of children are given a midde name and 10% are given two or more.
Not following the trends
A study conducted by Ancestry.com discovered that many middle names are chosen based on heritage, rather than following the latest name trends, with 55 percent of parents saying that they chose their child’s middle name in honour of a family member. So, it is unsurprising that the most popular middle names have tended to stick around for generations and we often share a middle name with a lot of others. Do a quick ask around your friends and you will find the same middle names popping up again and again!
The Ancestry.com top 10 list of middle names contains none of the current top 10 girls first names and only three make an appearance from the boys list. There is still a creative side to choosing middle names though. Some parents reportedly selected a name after taking inspiration from TV, film, music, royalty, or modern culture.
Most popular middle names
The most popular middle names from the Ancestry.com study (in the UK) are below.
|Girls – UK||Boys – UK|
|1. Louise||1. James|
|2. Rose||2. John|
|3. Grace||3. William|
|4. Jane, Elizabeth (4th equal)||4. Thomas|
|5. Anne/Ann||5. David|
|6. May/Mae||6. Robert|
|7. Marie||7. Edward|
|8. Mary||8. Peter, Lee (8th equal)|
|9. Amy, Catherine (9th equal)||9. Christopher, Alexander (9th equal)|
|10. Victoria, Kate (10th equal)||10. Michael, Daniel (10th equal)|
The top middle names in the USA, as per a study by website Namenerds.com, are below.
Most commonly, middle names were chosen as they were commemorating a grandparent, the mother or father (or their middle name), a family name, an aunt or uncle, or a great grandparent.
|Girls – USA||Boys – USA|
|1. Marie/Maree||1. Alan|
|2. Anne/Ann||2. Michael|
|3. Lynn||3. James|
|4. Elizabeth||4. William|
|5. Lee/Leigh||5. Lee|
|6. Nicole||6. John|
|7. Louise||7. Robert|
|8. Michelle||8. Andrew|
|9. Renee||9. David|
|10. Jean||10. Joseph|
Whilst I was unable to find any NZ studies of middle names, anecdotal evidence shows that we also tend to choose traditional names for our middle monikers.
Are middle names changing with the times?
Genealogy website, MooseRoots, has revealed the most common middle names in the US by decade. Back in 1900 to 1909, the most popular female middle names were Mae, Marie, and Elizabeth. For males, it was William, Joseph, and Edward. By the 1950s, the most popular were Ann, Marie, and Lynn, along with Lee, Edward, and Allen. By the 1980s not much had changed and the top names for females were Marie, Ann, and Lynn. For males it was Michael, Lee, and James. Finally, for the 2010s, the most common middle names were Marie, Grace, and Rose along with James, Lee, and Michael.
Across the ditch, BabyCenter Australia did a survey to find out the most popular middle names for babies born in 2010. It revealed similar trends with Rose, Grace, Jane, Louise, and Jade topping the list for the girls and James, John, William, Thomas, and Alexander leading the list for the boys.
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”