Our name is the word people use to identify us – and that we use to identify ourselves. Whether we are given our name because it sounds nice; it has meaning for our parents; or it has been handed down from generation to generation through our family, the name we have is brimming with more meaning than we may realise.
Language Insight takes a look at some of the most popular names in the world right now, and what they mean.
The most popular boys name in France this year looks set to be Nathan. This is a name of Hebrew origin, which means ‘to give’.
Emma is predicted to be the most popular name in France for baby girls in 2013. It is a name of Germanic origin and means ‘whole’, and has also been popular in the UK since the reign of Edward the Confessor, whose mother was Emma of Normandy.
Jane Austen’s novel Emma has helped keep this name among the most popular for English girls for generations.
Derived from Benjamin, this Hebrew name is most famous for being the name the Hebrew Bible’s Jacob gave to his twelfth son. It has remained in popular culture due to the Michael Jackson single of the same name, the cartoon show Ben 10 and numerous famous men having the name.
Just like in France, Emma is an incredibly popular name for girls in Germany – but in 2012 it came second to Mia. This name is also becoming more popular in the UK, although its meaning is unknown and debated. While it is typically associated with the Italian word ‘mia’, meaning ‘mine’, it may also derive from the Egyptian word for ‘beloved’ – ‘myr’.
In 2012, the most popular boys name in India was Aarav. This is a name of Hindu origin and is derived from an Indian word for ‘peaceful’, although another meaning is ‘musical’.
The meaning of India’s most popular girls name during the same year is ‘unique’ and ‘peerless’.
In recent years, Ayilya Nair has become a popular Indian film actress who works under the stage name Ananya.
Greater Middle East
According to BabyCenter, the most popular name for new baby boys born in the Arab-speaking countries of the Middle East last year was Mohamed. This is a transliteration of Muhammad and there is evidence to suggest that this – along with its variants – is the most popular name in the world.
While Mohamed was the most popular boys name in Arab-speaking countries last year, the favourite girls name was Maryam. This name originates from the Greek Mariam, which became Maria in Latin and later Mary in English.
This is a Jewish name that is given to both boys and girls, and was the most popular moniker in Israel in 2012. That might be because it means ‘pleasantness’ – and who doesn’t want a pleasant child? The English version of the name is more popular among girls – Naomi.
Meanwhile, the actual most popular girls name in Israel last year was Noa, which looks similar to Noam but actually means ‘trembling’.
Derived from Jacob, this name is particularly popular in Hebrew culture. It has evolved from James, which means ‘supplanter’ – although few today would want to be thought of as this.
Poland’s most popular girls name in 2012 was Julia, which has evolved from the time of the Roman Empire and the powerful Julius family founded by Julus, King of Alba Longa. Because of this, its meaning is literally ‘descendent of Julus’.
Once Harry was the shortened version of Henry, and later it was the nickname given to those called Harold, but today it is a popular name in its own right. Indeed, it was the UK’s favourite boys name last year – which may have been helped by the popularity of Prince Harry, Harry Styles and, of course, Harry Potter.
Derived from the Germanic word for ‘work’, Amelia was the number one girls name in the UK in 2012. The choice illustrates the current trend for older and more classical baby names in Britain.
Last year in the States, Aiden was the most popular boys name. This is a name with both Irish and Scottish Gaelic roots, and it has become such a favourite it is even occasionally given to girls.
While the most popular boys name in the States originates from the UK and Ireland, the top girls name for 2012 had Greek heritage. Sophia is derived from the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, ‘σοφία’.
These are some of the most popular names around the world at the moment, but why not share your own favourites below?