Happy Father’s Day! Because dads mean the world to us, today we’ll be looking at names that are popular in many parts of the world.
While some people shy away from popular names, there’s a lot to be said for having a name that is familiar in many countries. It makes travel and working overseas that little bit easier, and if you have a particular cultural background, it’s nice to know relatives in your country of origin will be easily able to understand your child’s name. Even if your child never leaves Australia’s shores, it’s a global village, and they will most likely meet, study, and work with people who have come here from other countries.
To me, a name with high international recognition needed to be popular in as many regions as possible, so that as a mimimum, it needed to be Top 100 in the English-speaking countries of Australia, New Zealand, England/Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Canada, and the USA. It also needed to be popular in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Northern Europe (Scandinavia).
I’ve included common and popular international variants of names, as long as I thought an English-speaker could easily identify them, and short forms as well. You need to remember that even in cases where the name is spelled identically, it probably won’t be said in exactly the same way, but most people are fine with that. In many countries, my name is said AHN-ah, rather than AN-a, and to me this is not only perfectly comprehensible, but makes my name sound warmer and more exotic.
I have treated these variants as the same name, because certain countries regard them so in their popularity charts. This means that Alexander is popular in the English-speaking world, as well as in Western Europe, including Austria and the Netherlands. It is a favourite in Eastern Europe, solidly popular across most of Scandinavia, and a familiar name in South America. Alexander is Top 10 in Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Iceland, Malta, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and the USA, and most popular in Russia, where it is #2. So far so good, but what makes Alexander such an international winner is the widespread popularity of its short forms and variants. Just look at Alex, which is popular in Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, England/Wales, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Slovenia, South America, Spain, and Sweden, and Top 10 in Armenia and Catalonia, while Xander is popular in Belgium. Alejandro is popular in Catalonia and South America, and Top 10 in Spain. Alexandre is popular in Belgium and France, and Alessandro Top 10 in Italy and Switzerland. Further east, Alexandru is Top 10 in Moldova, while Iskander and Eskandar are familiar names in Iran and Arabic countries. Credit Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world more than 2000 years ago, and whose name is famous in both east and west.
As well as being popular in the English-speaking world, all-rounder Daniel is popular right across Europe, where it performs well in Eastern Europe, and is Top 100 in every Scandinavian country. It’s also a popular name in South America. Daniel is Top 10 in Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Russia, Scotland, South America, and the USA, and is the #1 name in Spain. Short form Danny is popular in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Danijel is popular in Croatia, while Daniil, the Russian form, is Top 10 in Belarus.
David is popular in the English-speaking world, and widely across Western Europe, including Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. It also does well in Eastern Europe, and is popular in two Scandinavian countries, Norway and Sweden. Furthermore, it is a popular name in South America. David is Top 10 in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Spain, and Switzerland, and most popular in Moldova and Brazil, making #2 in two hemispheres. When it comes to international variants, Dawid is popular in Poland, Davide is Top 10 in Italy, while Davit is the #1 name in Armenia.
Being the oldest name in the Book does give you widespread recognisability, which is why you can find Adam fairly evenly through the English-speaking world, and in many countries of Western, Eastern, and Northern Europe. Adam is Top 10 in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Ireland, and is most popular in Malaysia at #3. The Turkish form Adem is popular in Turkey, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Samuel is popular in the English-speaking, and widely across Western Europe, including Austria, France, Malta, the Netherlands, and Spain. In Eastern Europe it’s popular in the Cezch Republic and Hungary, while in Scandinavia Samuel is popular in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Samuel is Top 10 in New Zealand and South America as a whole, and most popular in Canada, where it is #5. Short form Sam is popular in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden. Of its international variants, Samuele is Top 10 in Switzerland, and Samvel is Top 10 in Armenia.
Runners-up: Benjamin, Oliver, and Liam.
I have treated Sophia and Sofia as one name, since several countries do so when calculating their most popular names – including Australia. Sophia/Sofia is the queen of international names; poular around the globe, and familiar in a host of countries. As well as the English-speaking world, it is popular right across Europe, the whole of South America, and in Malaysia as well. Sophia/Sofia is a Top 10 name in Australia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Moldova, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland, and is the #1 name in Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Russia, South America as a whole, and the USA. Furthermore, it has several international variants, such as Zsofia, which is Top 10 in Hungary, and Zofia, which is Top 10 in Poland. It sounds similar to the unrelated Arabic name Saafiya, giving it a very high recognition factor.
Emma is popular in the English-speaking world, and across the whole of Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. It charts in several Eastern European countries and is Top 100 in every part of Scandinavia. It is also highly popular in South America. Emma is Top 10 in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, South America as a whole, and the USA, and is # 1 in Belgium, Finland, France, Norway, and Switzerland. Its international variant Ema, often pronounced exactly the same way as Emma, is popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Czech Republic, and Top 10 in Croatia and Slovenia.
Popular in the English-speaking world, and in Western Europe, where it charts in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Anna also does well in Scandinavia, and is a particular favourite in Eastern Europe. Top 10 in Armenia, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, and Russia, it makes #1 in Austria. The international variant Ana is popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Catalonia, Spain, and South America as a whole, and is Top 10 in Croatia and Slovenia. The many international variants and pet forms give this a high recognition factor, and there are several similar-sounding names in Arabic and Asian languages as well.
Ella is popular in the English-speaking world, and in Europe, including Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Demark. It is Top 10 in Canada, Finland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, and Sweden, and #1 in Malta. The similar Ela, often pronounced the same way, is popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia, as well in Turkey, where it means “hazel-coloured, honey-brown”.
Eva is popular in the English-speaking world, and in several European countries, including Austria, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, Iceland, and Norway. It is a Top 10 name in Northern Ireland and Switzerland, and most popular in Slovenia, at #2.
Runners-up: Mia, Olivia, and Sarah/Sara
Looking at the names, you can see certain themes at work. The big tip to finding an internationally popular girls name seems to be something short and simple that is easily pronounced in a variety of languages and accents. For boys’ names, the Bible is a unifying factor. In her recent interview at Baby Names from the Bible, Clare noted that one of the appealing things about biblical names is that so many people around the world share in a tradition of names handed down for thousands of years.
POLL RESULTS: People’s favourite international names were Alexander and Anna. Alexander received more than 50% of the vote, while Anna received more than 30% of the vote.