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Baby Boy Names - Its All About Tradition

Aug 17, 2007
So, it's a healthy, bouncing baby boy....now what are you going to name him?

Well, if you want him to grow up to become a rough, tough icon of manliness, I suppose you could call him "Marion" - at least that's what John Wayne's parents did!

But seriously, if you are an American, there is a big chance that the baby boy name you choose will be something biblical. My own name, "Michael" was the most popular baby boy name in America every decade from the 1960s through to the end of the century. I supposed I'm biased, but I love the name. The literal meaning is "Who is like God"; Michael was one of the original archangels and the leader of God's armies. Pretty powerful stuff for all the rest of us Michaels to live up to, eh?

Since the start of the new century, Michael has been at number 2 in the list of American baby boy names, beaten into first place by Jacob - another biblical name meaning "Held by the heel". 3rd in the list is Joshua ("God is salvation") - the biblical figure who led the Israelites into the promised land, and 4th is Matthew ("A gift of God") - one of the 12 Apostles. With Andrew ("Manly, courageous") and Daniel ("God is my judge") also in the top 10 baby boy names, it is clear that Christianity is alive and well in America - at least in the baby boy names!

The evidence is that Americans are quite conservative in choosing baby boy names - much more so than with girls. The UK is a little less conservative - over the last 5 years, the most popular baby boy name has been Jack. Interestingly, this name has no special meaning and is just a derivative of the biblical name John ("God is merciful"), which now seems to have fallen out of favor.

This trend towards less conservative names in the UK is increasing; at the beginning of the century, 7 out of the top 10 baby boy names were biblical names. This has now reduced to 5, while at the same time, the names William ("Valiant, protector") and Harry (derivative of the traditional name Harold) have both entered the top 10 - anything to do with a certain pair of Princes perhaps??

Part of the trend away from traditional boy names is the tendency to use names that are more modern - or "modern-sounding" - derivatives of traditional names. As shown, Jack is the ultimate example of this and Harry is the other derivative name in the UK top 10. And there are a host of other derivative names in the top 100, including Jake (from Jacob), Charlie (Charles), Alfie (Alfred), Joe (Joseph), Billy (William) and Freddie (Frederick).

But is there any evidence of a move towards much more unique or unusual baby boy names? Well, sadly, the answer is No. In the UK the most unusual names in the top 100 list last year were Kian at number 65, Kai ("Sea, willow tree") at 67 and the Italian name Luca ("bringer of light") at 83. Meanwhile, over in the US, Angel ("Angelic) at number 44, Hunter at 49 and Jayden/Jaden ("God has heard") at 62 and 83 respectively, were the only slightly unusual names.

The overall evidence is that, when it comes to baby boy names, we tend to keep it traditional. Probably this has something to do with our expectations of the roles of males in society and the need for them to be respected. This is understandable, but perhaps we should be thinking a little creatively about how we name our baby boys. Mr and Mrs Morrison did when they called their son "Marion" - and look what happened to him..!
About the Author
Michael Barrows' website has great info on baby names and lots of baby resources. Get your lists of baby names and a free ebook packed with baby tips for new parents, visit the baby boy name website.
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