Traditional choices top list of most popular middle names

Surname Meanings
2 July 2014

Baby show. Courtesy of National Media Museum. No known copyright restrictions.

James, John, and William top the list of most popular boys’ middle names, with Louise, Rose, and Grace sitting atop of the chart for girls, according to new research.

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The findings, from Ancestry, map the most popular middle names and also show that most (55 per cent) are commemorative (selected to remember a well-loved family member) or have run in the family for generations (15 per cent).

Out of the ordinary

The list is notable for the absence of ‘modern’ names, with none of the current top 10 girls first names appearing in the list and just three (William, James, and Thomas) of today’s most popular boys names making the top 10.

There is also evidence that parents actively avoid the most common names when selecting their child’s second name, with half of parents (50 per cent) studying lists of top names, most often to avoid selecting more common choices.

Two—or more

Middle names are certainly more popular than they ever have been. Rewind more than a century and just one in three people (37 per cent) sported a middle name according to an audit of the 1911 census. Yet today, more than three-quarters of children are given second names (80 per cent) and one in 10 new babies (11 per cent) is given two or more middle names.

While most second names are commemorative, a small number of parents do opt to be more creative, with a significant minority (seven per cent) purposefully selecting more ‘colourful’ second names or taking inspiration from TV, film, music or modern culture by having their middle name taken from a celebrity, fictional character or royalty (five per cent).

When it comes to selecting the middle name, Dad is twice as likely to have a say with the middle name than the first name (14 per cent vs 8 per cent) although both are most commonly chosen equally.

Keeping it in the family

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry comments:

“It seems that middle names are a relatively new phenomenon, having only become the norm over the last hundred years—driven by the desire to commemorate well-loved ancestors.”

“This will have become particularly prominent in society following the two World Wars. These wars affected the entire country and resulted in millions of Britons commemorating their lost loved ones as new babies were born in the years following the conflicts.”

“As a result, middle names are less likely to follow popular culture and more likely reflect age-old traditions or names that were popular in our parents’ or grandparents’ generation—hence the very traditional makeup of today’s top 10 middle names.”

Top ten middle names:


Boys Girls
1 James 1 Louise
2 John 2 Rose
3 William 3 Grace
4 Thomas 4= Jane
5 David 4= Elizabeth
6 Robert 5 Anne/Ann
7 Edward 6 May / Mae
8= Peter 7 Marie
8= Lee 8 Mary
9= Christopher 9= Amy
9= Alexander 9= Catherine
10= Michael 10= Victoria
10= Daniel 10= Kate