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Is Oliver the new Lucas? Does Isabella now outrank Hanna? Euronews Culture consults various statistical institutes to find out which are the most popular names across Europe.
The names given to newborns speak of the societies in which they will grow up, with names either reflecting deeply rooted in traditions or current trends.
Many sites specialise in guiding or inspiring parents’ choices, all often basing their choices on similar sources: national statistic offices which list the first names registered in civil registers each year.
All EU Member States publish them except Germany, where there is no national census of first names. As for Greece and Cyprus, the data dates from the 2011 population census, while Romania’s data is not dated and their statistics institute did not respond to our requests for clarification.
Euronews Culture has consulted these statistical institutes one by one in order to draw up the official map of the most popular first names in 2021* in the EU, much in the same way we did in 2017.
Most popular boy names in the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, England & Wales in 2021
For boys, Noah is the most given first name in the largest number of countries.
It is at the top of the list in six countries, almost all of which border each other: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, but also Switzerland and England and Wales combined.
Two other names lead in more than one country: Jakub in the Czech Republic, Norway (Jakob) and Slovakia, while George isthe most given name in Greece and Bulgaria with local variants (Georgi / Georgios).
Most popular girl names in the EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland, England & Wales in 2021
For girls, Maria is the top name in the most countries.
Four scattered countries – Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland and Portugal – have seen more Marias born than any other country.
To these countries we could add Greece with Maria and Romania with the compound name Ana-Maria.
Then comes Emma in Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands (and Ema in Slovakia); Mia, the most popular name in three countries – Croatia, Estonia and Switzerland; and Sofija in Latvia and Lithuania.
Expanding to the Russian city of Moscow, we find a variant of Sophia at the top of the list for girls. For boys, Alexander continues to be the most popular name for the past 30 years, with the exception of Artem in 2012.
The most common first names in Europe
It is difficult to define the name given to the largest number of babies in the European Union.
The various national statistical institutes do not provide the same data. They range from 1,625 names with the number of births in Belgium to only the top 5 (without the number of births) in Greece.
Another difficulty is the variation in the spelling of the same name from one country to another – even within the same country in some cases, such as Alexander, Aleksander, Alexender or Jasmine, Yasmina, Jasmin, Yasmeen.
On the other hand, it is possible to count the number of times a given name appears in the official lists of all the countries observed (European Union, Norway, Switzerland, England and Wales).
Euronews Culture compiled the spellings of the same first name and counted the number of times it appeared in the lists, in order to establish which are the most recurrent first names in Europe.
As each variant is counted for one occurrence, and a given name may appear more times than there are countries. This is the case for the two most common first names for each gender: Lucas appears 42 times under all its variants, and Sofia appears 56 times under its various spellings. We have kept the most common spelling in our top list below.
Amongst boys, we note the large recurrence of the name Matthew. Due todifferent variants despite a common root (Matteo, Matias, Mattia, Matthew, Matej, Matti, Mats, Matwij, Mattis, Matto, Mattes, Matt, Mathieu, Matas), the name holds 101 occurrences.
Here is the Top 10 list for the most common boys’ names in Europe:
Lucas – 42
Alexander – 30
Oliver / Olivier – 23
Mohammed – 22
Noah – 21
Elias – 21
Matteo – 20
Gabriel – 18
Daniel, Liam, Benjamin – 17
Ryan, Martin, David, Leo, Adam, Theodor, Viktor – 16
Here is the Top 10 list for the most common girls’ names in Europe:
Sofia – 56
Hanna – 51
Maria – 34
Isabella – 33
Amelia – 30
Jasmina – 29
Emma – 27
Emilia – 27
Sara – 26
Elisabeth – 25
The 10 most popular baby names for boys and girls per country
With the exception of Greece, Euronews Culture was able to obtain the 10 or more most given names in each country.
When it comes to more original names, often considered as such depending on the origin of the reader, they are absent from these Top 10 lists, which are, in the end, quite classic in the cycle of name trends.
You have to take the time to look through the thousands of names in the Top 100 or more to find, for example, a Cézanne, Toulouse, Heaven, Castor, Mon, Fré, Fé or Africa.
We also note the presence of diminutives of more classic first names that have become first names themselves, such as the now common Tom or Sam for boys, or the widely used but lesser known diminutives for girls, like Isa or Flo.
Sometimes these diminutives are spelt in an unusual way, as if to make people forget that they are related to the name from which they are derived, such as Jaxx or Jax as a diminutive of Jackson.
Some compound names also dare to use unconventional combinations, such as Billie-Lou, or the Czechs’ Rosie Elaine Antoinette, Oliver Kai or Daniel Raymond. However, compound names are still rare in most lists of given names, except in the Czech Republic.
Finally, it is not fashionable for both genders to have popular epicene (unisex) names at the same time. Only four of the thirty countries studied have mixed names in the lists for girls and boys. There are six in the Czech Republic (Alex, Eda, Michaela, Misheel, Nikol, Šanel), five in Germany (Elia, Isa, Janne, Mika, Toni), two in France (Camille and Charlie) and one in Poland (Ilia).
Of all the names surveyed, the Netherlands is the country that favours short names the most (four letters for boys, five for girls), while Greece, Italy and Cyprus prefer long names (eight or seven for boys, six or seven for girls).
Check in with us later this year to see changes in trends, as the most popular names of 2022 will have been published in all the countries studied.
* The data is from 2021, except for the following countries:
- 2011: Greece and Cyprus
- 2019 : Czech Republic
- 2020 : Latvia
- 1st half of 2022: Poland
- 2022 : Lithuania
- Undated: Romania
Additional sources • Vincent Coste, Artem Aslanian