The Most Common Middle Names

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.

Source: blogs.ancestry.co.uk/cm/traditional-choices-top-list-of-most-popular-middle-names

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.

Source: www.namenerds.com/uucn/midsurvey.html

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.

Source: The-most-common-middle-names-from-the-last-12-decades

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.

Where did your or your child’s middle name originate from?

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her world julieWritten 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”

9 Comments

  1. Alezandra 03/08/2019 at 10:26 pm

    Now middle names get the highlight. It looks like the names are more common sounding though for middle names. The trend nowadays include even 3 names and it just gets harder and harder. My son’s middle name isn’t from his heritage though and it was more of a preference.

  2. SarahBlair 02/08/2019 at 3:56 pm

    My middle name is Anne, so is my four sisters and my mum, my grandmas middle name is Annie and her mum… for 7 generations they all have Anne or a varient of that as a middle name, I think its my family that got it so high on the popularity charts!! My kids dont have Anne… My other middle name, I have two, is Piri, I was the first child in my family to be born in New Zealand so I got a Maori middle name, which is great but a girls name might have been better!

  3. MuddledUpMolly 30/07/2019 at 9:29 pm

    I’ve never really thought about the strange trend that is middle names ūüėõ Our son has his name in the top lost for boys in the UK, but our girls who both have top trending first names for their year of birth haven’t shown up in either of the lists.

  4. Shorrty4life1 27/07/2019 at 9:32 pm

    Wowee both my kids middle names were in the top 10 UK middle names. That’s interesting to know. My daughters middle name is Rose which is the same as my middle name which my mum gave my from my grandma as that was her middle name too so it has been passed down the line which is pretty cool. My son has Thomas Blake as his middle names. We chose Thomas as his dads middle name is Thomas and Blake was just another name that we liked when picking names so we added it to the mix.

  5. candyjanenz 26/07/2019 at 4:50 pm

    With our first both me and my husband chose a name that we both liked. For our second we each chose a name to commemorate someone in our family. We found with both that it was easier to decide and agree on the middle names than the first names.

  6. Mands1980 25/07/2019 at 8:25 pm

    We named our first sons middle names James as it is on both sides of our families as a long history. Our second born a girl her middle name was Rose but there was no family history we just liked the name. Our 3rd a boy was William and again this was on my husbands side of the family and my husbands middle name too. I see they are still popular names too in the USA and UK.

  7. Jen_Wiig 25/07/2019 at 6:02 pm

    I have 2 middle names, with the 1st I’m not too sure where it came from but all of us females on my Mums side have it as a middle name, my 2nd one is my Grandmother’s name but when I was born she was still alive so was proberly an honour thing for my Mum?
    My boys all have middle names and each with different reasons and names… Not exactly family tradition but named in honour of a family member on their Dads side…other than my eldest they are pretty common and “boring” which always makes me laugh as they have unusual first names, pretty cool and different surname (Dads not mine) and then here we are with a Mark and Paul hahaha

  8. Micht 25/07/2019 at 11:39 am

    We decided not to give our kids middle names… my husband and his brothers all had middle names but my brother and i did not…my parents didn’t see the point… Now that im married and my husbands surname is 13 letters…i didnt think it would be fair or practical to give them middle names as well which they would have to fill in on forms and documents and at school which would take them ages and probably wont fit either… so we kept it simple..

  9. Bevik1971 24/07/2019 at 3:49 pm

    My son’s middle name (he is now 25) is Edwin and is from my Uncle so a family name. My 6 year old daughter has 2 middle names Margaret (after her Dad’s Grandmother) and Denise (after my second Mum and also my partner’s Mum), so family names also. Funnily enough my middle name Ann is number 5 on the UK list and 2 on the US list hahaha

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