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More babies named Boris were born last year in the UK, new data show

Adam Rasmi
London's Mayor Boris Johnson greets a man with a baby whilst campaigning for the local Conservative candidate in Finchley, north London, April 21, 2015.

Some parents stick to the classic baby names of kings and queens. Others prefer their children to have names that are a little more current.

Evidence of that came to bear with new data about 2018’s most popular baby names, published today (Aug. 29) by the UK’s Office for National Statistics. Even here, politics are unavoidable—47 boys were named Boris last year in England and Wales, the highest number since at least 1996. It’s still an uncommon name in the UK, but has grown in popularity since the 1990s.

Its most famous bearer is now prime minister, though Boris Johnson has been a household name since first appearing on the BBC quiz show Have I Got News For You in 1998.

The name Boris, derived from the Slavic “to fight,” is common in eastern Europe. The increase in number of people from that part of the world in the UK likely plays a factor in its growth. (Vladimir has also increased in popularity, probably for the same reason and not because more are suddenly inspired by Russia’s longtime leader.)

The UK prime minister’s full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. But since “Alexander” has been popular for decades, and most people don’t associate the current British PM with that name, it’s unlikely that his rise to prominence has had a direct and measurable impact on the name’s prevalence.

Though Boris is growing more popular, it’s nowhere near the most popular baby name in England and Wales, which hasn’t changed much in the past decade. Oliver took the top spot for boys this year, as it has since 2013, and Olivia is also again at the top of the list, for the third year in a row.

There were some new favorites, and pop culture might offer a reason why. Arthur made it into the top 10 for the first time in decades, and Ada in the top 100 for the first time in a century. Both are characters in the hit TV series Peaky Blinders, set in Birmingham, England in the 1920s.

In the US, 2018 marked the second time in a row Liam was the most common boys name. Emma took the top spot for girls’ names for the fifth time, according to data published in May.

 

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