Ever wondered what your name means? Or are you looking for the meanings behind popular baby names like Olivia or James? You’ll find all you need to know in our handy guide.
Sometimes parents give their children a name because of what it means. This is often true for those who are named after a figure in the Bible or from history, however it also could be because the name meaning signifies strength or confidence.
Everyone knows what names like Lily and Poppy mean, being associated with flowers. But what about the more traditional names of Margaret and Arthur? In this baby name meaning round-up we explore the origins of common first names, celebrity baby names and unusual baby names.
What does my name mean?
- Meaning: Noble, exalted
- Famous people called Alice: Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Alice Cooper.
- Nowadays the name Alicia has become more popular than the traditional variant of Alice. Famous Alicias include Alicia Keys and the actress Alicia Silverstone.
- Meaning: work, hard-working and fertile
- Famous people called Amelia: Amelia Earhart (American aviator), Amelia ‘Minnie’ Driver (English actress).
- Amelia was the number one baby name for girls in England and Wales between 2011 and 2015, according to research by ONS (Office of National Statistics).
Ann or Anne
- Meaning: Grace or favour
- Famous people called Ann/Anne: Anne Hathaway, Anne Boleyn, Anne Frank, Ann Widdecombe.
- Ann is the English spelling of Anne, which is the French version of the name Hannah. These days Ann is commonly used as a middle name.
- Meaning: Grace, favour
- Famous people called Annie: Annie Lebowitz (famous photographer), Annie Lennox.
- Everyone has seen the musical ‘Annie’, the rags-to-riches tail about the red-haired orphan based in New York and the name was the inspiration for Woody Allen’s film ‘Annie Hall’ starring Diane Keaton.
- Meaning: Free man or petite
- Famous people called Charlotte: Charlotte Church, Charlotte Crosby, Charlotte Riley.
- Charlotte comes from the male name Charlot, otherwise known as Charles and dates from the 1300s.
What does the name Chloe mean?
- Meaning: Blooming or fertility
- Famous people called Chloe: Chloe Grace Moretz, Chloe Sevigny, Chloe Katz.
- Despite being around since the time of the ancient Greeks, the name Chloe only became popular in the UK in the late 1990s as it was one of the top girls’ names from 1995 to 2002.
- Meaning: God is my oath
- Famous people called Elizabeth: Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Hurley.
- Since 1837 over 1.6 million baby girls have been called Elizabeth and many, many women to this day have Elizabeth as a middle name. Popular modern versions of this traditional name are Beth and Liz
- Meaning: Beautiful, fairy maiden or goddess
- Famous people called Ella: Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Henderson, Ella Eyre.
- The name Ella comes from Greek mythology but it also has Germanic and Hebrew roots.
- Meaning: Sun ray or shining light
- Famous people called Ellen: Ellen DeGeneres, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Ellen Pompeo.
- We were a little surprised to see Ellen in the top ten most common names, but lo and behold over half a million people have been called Ellen. It’s is a version of the Greek name Helen.
What does the name Emily mean?
- Meaning: To strive or excel
- Famous people called Emily: actress Emily Blunt, Emily Dickinson, model Emily Ratajkowski.
- ONS research revealed Emily was the third most popular girls name in 2013. And indeed it’s been a favourite since the 1700s, when the German Hanover family came to the throne.
What does the name Emma mean?
- Meaning: Whole or universal
- Famous people called Emma: Emma Watson, Emma Stone, Emma Roberts, Emma Thompson.
- For the past ten years, the name Emma has been popular all around the world – from the USA, Canada, Russia and Australia to Spain, Denmark and Germany.
What does the name Grace mean?
- Meaning: Gracious
- Famous people called Grace: Grace Kelly, Princess Grace, Grace Jones, Grace Helbig.
- Taken from the Latin name Gratia, the name Grace has changed forms so many times over the years. It was Gracia in the Middle Ages before changing to Grace with Christian influence.
- According to data by NIRSA (Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency), Grace was the top girl’s name born in Northern Ireland in 2019.
- Meaning: Like a dove
- Famous people called Holly: Holly Willoughby, Holly Davidson, Holly Holm.
- Holly, just like Noel, is one of the most popular names for children born around Christmas time.
- Meaning: God has given/God’s grace
- Famous people called Jane: Jane Austen, Jane Fonda, Jane Seymour.
- Originally the name Jane was a form of John and it was also the name of the main character in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre all the way back in the 19th century but it’s been around much longer than that, the name Jane has been used since the seventh century.
What does the name Jessica mean?
- Meaning: God beholds
- Famous people called Jessica: Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jessica Simpson.
- The earliest reference to the name Jessica is in Shakespeare’s work, The Merchant of Venice.
- Meaning: Pure or innocent
- Famous people called Katie: Katie Price, Katie Holmes.
- Katie, while it is sometimes given as a full name, is often a nickname given to those called Catherine or Katherine.
- Meaning: Laurel tree, wisdom or sweet of honour
- Famous people called Lauren: Lauren Goodger, Lauren London.
- The name Lauren was most popular in the US, peaking in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Meaning: Pure, passion or rebirth
- Famous people called Lily: Lily James, Lily Collins, Lily Rose-Depp, Lily Allen.
- The name Lily joins the likes of Rose and Poppy in being flower names given to girls.
- Freya and Lily replaced Emily and Ella in the top 10 most popular baby names in 2019.
- Meaning: Star of the sea, wished-for child, sea of bitterness and rebellion
- Famous people called Mary: Mary J Blige, Mary-Kate Olsen.
- This was the name of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, and so has been an extremely popular name throughout the years. It’s a classic that has never really gone out of fashion.
- Meaning: This name is a combination of Mary (see above) and Ann which means favoured grace
- Famous people called Mary Ann: We couldn’t find any famous people called Mary Ann but over 700,000 non-famous people have been called Mary Ann over the years!
- Meaning: Pearl
- Famous people called Margaret: Margaret Thatcher, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone with the Wind)
- Everyone knows someone called Margaret and it’s no wonder as well over half a million people have been named it in the last 170 years.
- According to historical baby name data by the ONS, it was the top name of choice for three decades in the 1900s: 1924, 1934 and 1944.
What does the name Mia mean?
- Meaning: Beloved
- Famous people called Mia: Mia Farrow, Mia Wasikowska, Mia Kirshner.
- The name Mia has risen in popularity over the years, from the early 1990s to 2015.
- Meaning: Star of the sea
- Famous people with the name Molly: Molly Ringwald, Molly Mae Hague.
- The name Molly also comes from the English name Mary and women with names such as Margaret and Martha have been known to shorten it to Molly.
What does the name Olivia mean?
- Meaning: Olive
- Famous people called Olivia: Olivia Wilde, Olivia Newton-John, Olivia Colman.
- Much like the name Jessica, the name Olivia was first made popular by William Shakespeare in the play Twelfth Night but actually, the name was first used in England in the 13th century.
- Olivia is the most popular girls’ name of 2019, and has held the top spot since 2016 – according to research by the ONS.
- Meaning: Red or the gemstone ruby
- Famous people called Ruby: Ruby Rose, Ruby Dee
- Along with other jewel-inspired name like Sapphire, the name Ruby became popular in the Victorian times. It comes from the Latin word for red, ‘ruber’.
- Meaning: Princess
- Famous people called Sarah: Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Ferguson – the Duchess of York, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
- It’s no wonder Sarah has become such a popular name, it originally comes from the biblical character who was described as being exceptionally beautiful even when she was old.
- Interestingly Sarah was the most popular girls’ name for ten years running – between 1974 and 1984, according to ONS data.
What does my name mean?
- Meaning: Noble or bear
- Famous people called Arthur: King Arthur and of course Arthur Fowler from Eastenders!
- This name may not be quite so popular these days and seems old-fashioned, but since 1837 over half a million little boys have been lovingly named Arthur. We think it’s quite cute!
- Arthur is having a comeback of late. With the ONS’s 2019 baby names research placing it as the fourth most popular boys’ name – it’s highest position since records began in 1904.
- Meaning: Free man
- Famous people called Charles: Prince Charles, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Charlie Sheen
- These days people are more likely to call their child Charlie as a stand alone name but Charles is still sitting pretty at number nine in the top ten boys’ names.
What does the name Daniel mean?
- Meaning: God is my judge
- Famous people called Daniel: Daniel Craig, Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Day-Lewis.
- The name Daniel is one of those names that many people have as a surname as well. This is because it’s a patronymic surname, meaning that someone down the line’s father was called Daniel and therefore, they were given it as a surname. The most common form is with an ‘s’, Daniels.
- Meaning: Beloved
- Famous people called David: David Beckham, David Cameron, David Bowie, David Tennant
- There are so many famous Davids, we don’t know where to start. First there’s St David, the patron saint of Wales, then there’s the iconic sculpture by Michelangelo and then obviously there’s our very own Golden Balls!
- Meaning: Farmer or earth worker
- Famous people called George: George Clooney, George Bush, George Michael, George Foreman
- George is a Greek name and over one million people have been called George in the last 170 years. Well, if it’s good enough for Clooney…
- The ONS report that alongside Harry, George has remained as the second or third most popular boys name in England and Wales since 2016/
- Meaning: Home ruler or protector
- Famous people called Harry: Prince Harry, Harry Styles, Harry Redknapp.
- Whilst Harry is a popular boys’ name on it’s own – it’s also commonly used as a nickname for those called Henry too.
What does the name Jack mean?
- Meaning: God is gracious or supplanter
- Famous people called Jack: Jack Nicholson, Jack Johnson, Jack Fincham, Pirates of the Caribbean character Jack Sparrow.
- Traditionally in Irish, Jack is a diminutive of the name John but in other languages such as French, it comes from Jacques.
- According to research from the National Records of Scotland, Jack was the most popular first name for boys registered in 2020.
- Meaning: The supplanter
- Famous people called James: James Dean, James Nesbitt, James Brown, James McAvoy, James Bond
- James is such a popular name that six US presidents have been called James. Variations are Jamie, Jimmy and Jim.
- In Scotland, James was the second most popular boys name between 2010-2019. It’s also been in the top 5 boys names for the last four decades according to a study by the NRS.
- Meaning: God’s grace.
- Famous people called John: John Lennon, John Travolta, John Terry.
- There have been 2 million baby boys named John since records began in 183, making it the most popular name of the last 170 years.
- Meaning: God will increase/He will enlarge
- Famous people called Joseph: Joe Wicks, Joseph Fiennes, Joe Calzagh, Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers
- The name Joseph has proved its staying power and it still appears near the top of popular baby names lists. Joseph can be shortened to Joe, Jo, Joey or JoJo if you’re feeling silly!
What does the name Mark mean?
- Meaning: To be warlike or of Mars (the ancient Roman war god)
- Famous people called Mark: Mark Twain, Mark Zuckerberg.
- Mark is one of the most popular men’s names today but it was so very popular in ancient Roman times, where one in three men had the name Marcus – where the name Mark comes from.
What does the name Michael mean?
- Meaning: Who is like God
- Famous people called Michael: Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Michael Sheen, Michael Gove.
- Michael is one of the most common names in the whole world! In the US, it was the most popular male name in the 20th century.
- Meaning: Olive, or ancestors descendant (in English Norse)
- Famous people called Oliver: Oliver Proudlock (Made in Chelsea), Oliver Stone (Film director), Oliver Cromwell.
- Data from ONS shows that Oliver has been the top boys name in England and Wales since 2013.
- Meaning: Bright/famous
- Famous people called Robert: Robert Redford, Robert Downey Jr, Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson
- Some of the most handsome and successful men in showbiz have been called Robert and we’re predicting a boom in the name following the sudden rise to fame of a certain Twilight heartthrob!
- Meaning: Twin
- Famous people called Thomas: Thomas (Tom) Cruise, Thomas Hardy, Thomas John Woodward aka Tom Jones, Tom Hanks and of course Thomas the Tank Engine!
- The name Thomas has biblical roots as it comes from the apostle who doubted the resurrection of Christ. It’s where the modern phrase ‘doubting Thomas’ comes from.
- ONS research reveals that Thomas was in the top five boy names in England and Wales in both 2006 and 2016.
- Meaning: Determined protector
- Famous people called William: Prince William, William Shakespeare, Will Smith.
- The name William, which is often shortened to Bill or Will, had a surge in popularity in 1982 when Princess Diana named her baby boy William. The name has been going strong ever since then thanks to the dashing Prince.
Baby name books:
Best Baby Names 2021 – Siobhan Thomas
This book, new for 2021, has thousands of names to inspire your choice. From classic to modern names, there’s sure to be one from the 9,000 options that appeal.
The Penguin Dictionary of First Names
Impending arrival or not, this dictionary of first names is perfect for discovring names meaning, boasting 150 entries. It’s advertised as “essential reading for expectant parents and for anyone who is intrigued by the story attached to each name”.
Inspired Baby Names from Around the World – Neala Shane
Discover the spiritual, historical, and cultural contexts of names popular across all corners of the globe. From the traditional or religious to the made up and even controversial, expect an encyclapaedia of names that are all fully explained.
The Origin of Names, Words and Everything in Between – Patrick Foote
Another book for those curious about name origins – this NameExplain book delves into the history of words and answers questions like why are Austrain and Australian names so similar?
100,000 + Baby Names (Revised) – Bruce Lansky
Bruce Lansky is infamous for his many books on baby names and this revised 2019 edition is perfect for parents-to-be. Expect hundreds of thousands of name suggestions plus up-to-date trends, advice, and fascinating facts.