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Traditional British Names Abandoned

Percy, Norman, Edna and Gertrude are just a few of the classic British names that could soon be consigned to history.

That's the verdict of a compelling new study which suggests that many popular baby names of years gone by are quite literally disappearing with the passing of an older generation.

The study found that Norman and Gertrude are the top male and female baby names that have fallen victim to the passing of time. Gertrude failed to register at all in recent years (a 100% decline since 1907) whilst Norman has recorded a decline in popularity of a staggering 99.85% over the last century putting it top of the boys endangered names list.

The traditional British baby names that have witnessed the largest falls in popularity are listed as follows:

Boys % decline in popularity since 1907

1 Norman 99.85%
2 Walter 99.43%
3 Percy 99.37%
4 Harold 99.27%
5 Ernest 97.81%
6 Herbert 97.78%
7 Clifford 95.92%
8 Frank 93.64%
9 Arnold 93.60%
10 Leonard 92.84%

Girls % decline in popularity since 1907

1 Gertrude 100%
2 Edna 99.83%
3 Ethel 99.70%
4 Irene 98.17%
5 Ada 98.12%
6 Norah 97.78%
7 Olive 96.98%
8 Agnes 96.82%
9 Elsie 95.70%
10 Mabel 95.52%

The results reveal a clear generational shift - suggesting that names like Norman, which can be traced back to the Norman conquest of 1066, and Gertrude, the name of a Seventh Century Saint, could soon be lost forever. Names that just missed out on top ten placings include Albert, Sidney and Fred on the boys side and Margaret, Annie and Florence for the girls.

Perhaps one of the most surprising results was the fact that Richard which was the UK's most popular name 200 years ago, could soon be heading the same way as Norman and Percy. The report notes that the name is 19th on the boys' endangered list, having witnessed a steady decline over the last century and shows no sign of regaining popularity.

The fashion for unique and experimental baby names was also cited as a factor in the decline of many traditional names. Traditionally children were often named after their grandparents or godparents who would have been carefully chosen for their higher socio-economic status. However, today an increasing number of parents are following the lead of celebrities by giving their children ever more unique names.

As for the names which have bucked fashion trends, Thomas takes pole position as the UK's favourite name of the last century. Thomas remains a top 5 boys name now and was also amongst the top 5 British names 100 and 200 years ago. The only name that can compete with Thomas for long-lasting popularity is William, which was the second most popular boys name 200 years ago, the most popular 100 years ago and has only fallen to the 9th most popular boys name in the years since 2000. For the girls, Elizabeth has proven the most hardy, ranking among the top 10 both 100 and 200 years ago and still proving popular today.

It would seem that the Royal family may also have an influence. The names Elizabeth, Philip and Charles have remained consistently popular over the last 100 years while the male Royal grandchildren - William and Harry - both have names that have featured in the top ten for the past three years. Biblical names are also still in fashion and whilst the likes of Abraham and Jeremiah may be on the wane, Joshua, Joseph and James still feature in the most popular lists today

December 2008
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