According to Statistics Sweden (SCB), the most popular baby names in the country in 2018 were Alice and William.
Here are Sweden’s top 10 girl names and top 10 boy names of 2018:
Alice, 765 baby girls
William, 863 baby boys
In the girls’ top 10, Maja, Alma and Elsa replace Saga (now 11th), Freja (12th), and Alicia (13th). One source mentioned that Saga’s decline corresponds with the conclusion of the popular Swedish TV show The Bridge (2011-2018), which featured a main character named Saga.
The boys’ top 10 includes the same 10 names, but in a different order.
The names in the top 100 that rose the fastest from 2017 to 2018 were Hailey and Lias (a short form of Elias). The names that dropped the fastest were Cornelia and Oscar. I also noticed that the ninth-fastest dropping girl name was Siri.
In 2017, the top two names in Sweden were the same.
If 1 is the loneliest number, then U is definitely the loneliest letter. Because, ever since I started looking at first letter frequency in baby names, U has always been the least-used.
Currently just four U-names are in in the boys’ top 1,000, and exactly zero are in the girls’ top 1,000. And those four boy names — Uriel, Uriah, Ulises, and Urijah — make up a sizable chunk of what little U-usage there happens to be.
Does this anti-U trend signify something about modern society, do you think?
So is this individualism also being reflected in first the letters/sounds we choose? After all, a handful of I-names (Isabella/Isabelle/Isabel, Isla, Isaac, Isaiah) have become prominent lately. So have a pair of “me” names (Mia, Mila).
Meanwhile, the humble U remains at the bottom of the heap. Is it because no one wants to open a name with a letter that reminds them of “you”?
If you’re interested in giving U-names a boost, here are 7 under-the-radar options to consider:
We’re all familiar with Ursula. She’s a sea-witch, a Bond girl, and a Catholic saint. In other words, Ursula has some strong associations.
Not so with Ursa, the word upon which Ursula was based. Ursa doesn’t have any strong human/character associations — just a couple of celestial ones: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
Ursa is based on the Latin word ursus, meaning “bear.” (Bear is itself a trendy choice among celebs these days.) And even though four-letter, vowel-bounded girl names (like Emma, Ella, Aria, Isla, Ayla, and Elsa) are trendy right now, Ursa remains rare.
Upton & Upson
Many toponymic surnames — from Milton and Clifton 100 years ago to Easton and Ashton today — have gone on to become popular baby names. But not Upton and Upson, which are uncommon despite their optimistic sound (up!).
The surnames stem from any of several similar place names that, in most cases, can be traced back to a pair of Old English words meaning “upper, above” (in terms of either altitude or status) and “farm, settlement.”
The most famous Upton was muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, whose best-known work, a 1906 exposé of the meatpacking industry called The Jungle, led to the passage of both the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act (which, eventually, gave rise to the FDA).
We all know an Amber. Maybe even an Ember. But how many of us know an Umber? Probably not many of us, as the name is so rare that it’s only appeared in the SSA data one time (in 1995, when 5 baby girls were named Umber).
You know how ombre hair color is fashionable right now? The words ombre and umber are related — both can be traced back to the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow.”
Along with Ochre and Sienna, Umber is an “earth pigment” — a naturally occurring mineral used by humans since prehistoric times (i.e., for coloring cave walls, clothing, tools, even skin). The color ranges from brown to reddish-brown. Many famous historical artists, including Caravaggio and Rembrandt, used umber in their paintings.
Uriah is a Biblical name. So are Josiah, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Obadiah, and many other names with that telltale “-iah” ending. Sounds like Ukiah should be part of this group, right? But it isn’t.
Ukiah is the name of a place in California. It’s based on Yokaya, which comes from Rancho Yokaya — the name of the mid-19th century Mexican land grant that encompassed what is now the Ukiah Valley. The word yokaya means “south valley” in the language of the Pomo people, the original inhabitants of the region.
In 1973, the California-based band The Doobie Brothers released a song about Ukiah.
Though Ukiah has always been rare as a baby name, usage has picked up slightly since the turn of the century.
Unity & Union
Unique is the most self-focused U-name I’m aware of. And now that thousands of people have been named Unique, well, the name just isn’t very unique anymore.
Want to really stand out in the world of baby names today? Choose a name that emphasizes the oneness of the whole as opposed to the oneness of the self.
The names Unity and Union could be seen as opposites of the name Unique. And yet all three are ultimately derived from the same Latin word: unus, meaning “one.”
Unity is given to a couple dozen baby girls per year these days, but Union hasn’t appeared in the SSA data since the 1920s.
Do you like any of the U-names above? What other U-names would you recommend?
On the girls’ list, Alice replaces Elsa as the #1 name.
In the top 10, Alicia replaces Saga. Alicia’s rise from 21st in 2015 to 6th last year was inspired by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in early 2016 for her role in The Danish Girl (2015).
Overall, the girl name that saw the sharpest increase in usage was Chloe. The girl name that saw the sharpest drop in usage was Elsa.
On the boys’ side, Oscar replaces William as the #1 name.
In the top 10, Alexander and Noah replace Axel and Vincent.
Overall, that boy name that saw the sharpest rise in usage was Nicolas (followed by Frans, boosted by Swedish singer-songwriter Frans, who represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016). The boy name that saw the steepest decrease in usage was Anton.
It should be noted that Sweden does combine spelling variants to come up with national rankings, though I don’t know to what degree. The single example that Statistics Sweden offered was Vilma (159 baby girls) being counted with Wilma (421 baby girls). For that 10th-place total of 587, though, there would need to be at least one more variant in the mix. (I did notice “Whilma” in the database.)