Muhammad is the most popular boys’ name in the UK

Young Prince George has yet to make his mark on baby-naming.
Young Prince George has yet to make his mark on baby-naming.
Image: Reuters/Marty Melville/Pool
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This post has been updated.

This year, the traditional British boys’ names Oliver and Jack appear to have been surpassed by Muhammad—which a British website is calling the most popular boys’ baby name, up from the 28th spot in 2013.

BabyCentre, a website offering advice and resources for new parents, compiled the names its users listed for 56,157 newborns born in the UK in 2014. Of course, this is far from a full count—for comparison, there were 698,512 babies born in England and Wales in 2013. As Buzzfeed has pointed out in a piece questioning BabyCentre’s conclusion, the UK Office for National Statistics put Mohammed in the 15th spot for 2013. (If all the spellings of the name were combined, it would be in the No. 1 spot, Buzzfeed concedes—but only if other common variations of names such as Oliver/Ollie, Jake/Jacob were not combined.)

Update, 3pm Dec. 1: In response to questions raised about its methodology, BabyCentre sent the following statement to the Guardian:

BabyCentre’s annual baby name data has been created to give an indication of naming trends across the UK, provided by our members. Currently this is based on 56,157 babies named this year. The top 100 boys’ and girls’ names charts combine names that sound the same but have different spellings, giving a measure of baby name popularity. We have found, in the past, that this is a good indicator of the ONS statistics that are released the following year.

Quartz has reached out to BabyCentre and will update this quote if we hear back.

Mohammad (in all its varied spellings) is the name of Islam’s prophet, and one of the most popular names in the world. “Traditionally, Muhammad is often the name given to the first-born boy in Muslim families,” said Sarah Redshaw, the managing editor for BabyCentre, in the initial release of the report. Sophia, which BabyCentre listed as the most popular girls’ name, is Greek for wisdom. (A variation, Sophie, took the number nine spot.)

The girls’ name Nur (or Noor), which means “light” in Arabic, entered the top-100 chart at number 29. Maryam (the Aramaic name for the biblical character Mary) moved up 59 notches to take the number 35 spot. For boys, Ibrahim, Ali, and Omar were new entries to the list. ”With the increase of Arabic names, plus Aarav, an Indian boy’s name, the top 100 shows the ever-increasing diversity of the UK today,” Redshaw said.

The surge in Arabic names for British babies is consistent with an analysis of the 2011 UK Census figures (paywall) that showed that almost a tenth of babies born in England and Wales are Muslim. The same analysis found that the percentage of children under the age of 5 in Muslim families is almost twice that of Muslims in the general population, likely because the UK’s Muslim population skews much younger than other groups’. (Some have called reporting on this analysis “alarmist,” and also pointed out that numbers on the religious affiliation of children are far from complete, since many parents do not state their toddlers’ religion.)

This was not the only trend that BabyCentre noted: Parents are also influenced by celebrities in naming their newborns. The name Eric quadrupled in popularity after the English reality television star Simon Cowell chose the name for his baby son. Blue (like Blue Ivy, Beyonce and Jay-Z’s daughter) has entered the rankings. And Buzz gained traction after the pop rock subgroup McBusted’s singer Tom Fetcher named his son Buzz, inspired by the Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear (who was in turn named for the Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin).

Fictional characters’ from TV shows also seem to be inspiring parents, with the rising popularity of Piper (of the Netflix show Orange is the New Black) as well as Daenerys and Tyrion (of HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Disney heroines such as Elsa from Frozen. Even the outlandish drug-fueled frenzy of the AMC show Breaking Bad has influenced baby-naming, with Skyler, Jesse and Walter all increasing in popularity.

On the outs was the girls’ name Miley, which saw a drop in popularity following singer Miley Cyrus’ controversial twerking incident at an MTV awards show last year. And despite royal baby fever, the popularity of the name George diminished after Britain’s future king was born in 2013. Though it still remains in the top 20, the name fell 12 places in two years.