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King David and the death of Karen: Scotland’s baby name trends for past 50 years

A picture of a baby hand surrounded by letters and dummies

Picking the right baby name for their new bundle of joy is arguably one of the most important decisions a parent can make.

Baby names have come and gone out of fashion over the years – many deeply impacted by pop culture trends.

We delved into the data to pull out these trends and provide an in depth look at baby naming in Scotland. Using records from National Records of Scotland we’ve analysed all of the available data going back to 1974.

Baby names in Scotland: Who reigns supreme?

If you live in Scotland and your name is Emma or David, then you have the bragging rights of being the most popular name on record.

Since 1974, the name Emma has been used 23,884 times which is nothing on the number of Davids at a whopping 40,362 baby boys.

David was the most popular boys’ name in Scotland for 19 consecutive years – from 1974 to 1992 – but has since fallen from favour. It left the top 25 for the first time in 2005 and has since fallen to 78th most popular in 2020.

Emma first hit the top of the charts in 1990 and kept its position until 1994. It resurfaced at the top of the charts in 1996, 1997, 2003 and 2004 and has been declining in popularity since then, ranking 44th in Scotland in 2020 with 93 baby girls named Emma.

What about names at the less popular end of the scale?

The unfortunate decline of Karen

The curious case of the Kardashians

The Kardashian clan rose to prominence in 2007, with the start of the reality TV series following their family – Keeping up with the Kardashians.

The family famously all have names beginning with the letter K.

Kim Kardashian West and Khloe Kardashian
Kim Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian (left)

Unquestionably the most famous member of the clan is Kim. So what effect did the family have on Scottish baby naming trends?

Despite Kim being the linchpin of the family, her fame actually appears to have had a negative impact on her moniker, with the names Kim, Kimberly and Kimberley all falling out of favour.

Showing the opposite of this trend are the relatively unsung Khloe and Kourtney. Prior to the show airing their names were almost unheard of in Scotland, but baby girls named Khloe peaked in Scotland in 2011 at 35.

The younger siblings also had a small influence, however the name Kylie never did reach the dizzying peaks it saw in 1988 during the Minogue era.

What about the impact of the second generation? Have the names Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney given to their children had an impact on the naming trends in Scotland?

Interestingly enough, the trend for the Kardashian babies follows a similar pattern to their mums, with Kourtney showing much more influence than Kim.

Kourtney has had the biggest Scottish influence, making her the ultimate momager.

At the other end of the scale – the names Kim gave to her offspring have made barely a dent in the naming trends in Scotland.

No Scottish parents have paid homage to either North or Chicago West, but Saint and Psalm saw very small upticks.

Name it like Beckham

Victoria and David Beckham are largely credited with starting a trend for naming children after famous global locations after naming their son Brooklyn after where he was conceived.

David and Victoria Beckham with son Brooklyn.
David and Victoria Beckham with son Brooklyn.

Some baby names that are shared by cities are so popular it would be hard to untangle what came first, the place name or the baby name.

The name Florence, for example, is a relatively popular girls’ name registered to more than 500 babies since 1974. After a certain point, it could just as easily be given because of its popularity as a name, rather than association with the historic Italian city.

According to Find My Past, the famous nurse, data visualisation pioneer and the first woman to be admitted into the Royal Statistical Society, Florence Nightingale, was named after her birthplace, however, and may have influenced her name’s increasing popularity.

A baby named Aberdeen, on the other hand, is likely to be named with the north-east city in mind. One girl has been registered with this name in Scotland, in 2017.

You can use the map below to explore Scottish baby names that share a tie with geographical locations.

Royal baby names

Every new parent thinks their little tyke is a little prince or princess but does a name chosen by a member of the Royal Family impact on baby naming trends in Scotland?

The Royal Family famously hold a photocall after babies are born to show them off to the world and they have a strong tie with the north-east, often found at Balmoral.

Prince William with Kate Middleton and their son Louis shortly after he was born.
The Earl and Countess of Strathearn with baby Louis

Between 2013 and 2020, there were four royal babies born. Meghan and Harry’s second baby was born in 2021.

George, Charlotte and Louis are the kids of Kate and William, the Earl and Countess of Strathearn, while Archie and Lilibet are the children of Meghan and Harry, Earl and Countess of Dumbarton.

After each child was born, there was a slight increase in the number of children using that name. However, there has been no upward trend, and each name – with the exception of Archie – has seen a decrease in use since.

George has been declining in popularity since the 70s, while Archie only began getting popular in the 2000s. Charlotte peaked in 2017, two years after Kate and William’s daughter was born, and had been generally getting more used since the 70s. However, the name began to drop in popularity after 2017.

Louis had been getting steadily more popular until 2004 when it went into a decline, picking up again in the 2010s.

Like the children, the popularity of older members of the Royal Family’s names has also been waning. Once popular, the use of Elizabeth, Philip, Charles and William have all been falling as the years have gone on.

Harry is the only name that has become more popular in recent years, although even that has been lessening since 2011. At its peak, 345 baby boys were given the name.

Although William is at the lowest levels it has been since 1974, it still remains one of the most popular royal names. In 1974, 777 babies were called William, compared to 126 in 2020, the lowest year.

Camilla has never been a very popular name in Scotland, and peaked in 1985 and 1991, where 11 baby girls were given the name in both years. In 2017, nine babies were named Camilla, followed by eight the year before. Between 1993 and 2017 however, numbers had been relatively low.

Lady Rona

There aren’t many datasets that haven’t been affected by the pandemic and the baby name list is no exception.

Rona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides and the moniker has been given to a handful of baby girls in Scotland every year from 1974. The name had seen a slight surge in popularity in 2018 and 2019, with eight baby girl Rona’s in Scotland each year.

This dropped to one solitary Rona in 2020 – no doubt affected by Rona being used as a colloquial term for the pandemic.

Boozy baby names

Whilst no data exists on the number of babies in Scotland conceived fuelled by alcohol, we do have data on the number of babies with alcohol-adjacent names.

The name Stella has been given to at least one girl in Scotland every year since 1974, peaking in 2006 at 31 girls. Though it has links to the popular lager, its popularity means it has outgrown its alcohol association and is not unusual as a given name in its own right.

The same might not be said for some other alcohol related names on Scotland’s registers. For example, Jack-Daniel, registered to one boy in 2008 or Tequila-Paris, registered to a girl in 1995.

Spring in their step

Some months are more popular than others when it comes to baby names.

April, May and June have made regular appearances as girls’ names over the years, while August has been registered occasionally to both boys and girls.

January, March, July, September and November, though less popular, have all also been registered at least once in Scotland since 1974 (all were girls).

No babies have been registered with the names October, December or February. These months have, however, all made one appearance as part of a hyphenated girls’ name.

February-Rose was given as a name in 2012 and October-Lily in 2014; while December-Lee was registered in 2015.

Summer has been the most popular seasonal themed name in Scotland overall, with 1,652 babies registered. The majority of babies given this name were girls, while one was a boy.

The second most popular season is Autumn, at 308 babies registered (all girls), while Winter has been registered to 65 girls and 3 boys.

No babies have been named Spring – neither as a standalone name or as part of a hyphenated name.

A political choice

Politics is a divisive subject. Is it something that inspires Scottish parents when naming their children?

There are not many names in Scotland inspired by political parties. The Alba party was formed prior to the 2021 Scottish elections, and was already a relatively common baby name, with 385 baby girls and three baby boys since 1974.

Will Alex Salmond’s Alba party have a positive or negative impact on the name? One to watch out for in the 2021 data, due to be released in April.

Meanwhile Tory, a shortened name for the Conservative Party, has also been used as a name three times in 1991, 2009 and 2010, for baby boys.

More from our baby names series

From Angus to Isla-Skye: Baby names inspired by Scottish places

Do you have a unique name? Or an interesting story behind why you picked the name for your baby? Get in touch with us if you’re interested in being featured in future articles in this series –

All of the data behind this series can be found on the data team Github page.

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