Baby Emma, David or Elizabeth? Not for American parents Caitlin and Luke McNeal.
Instead of naming their children after grandparents, biblical figures, or the British monarchy, the couple chose the names of places that hold meaningful travel memories for them.
“Kinsale was when we lived in Ireland, we went to Kinsale on vacation and we fell in love,” Caitlin said. “Keeneland is from Kentucky, the first place we vacationed together to watch horse racing.”
And finally there’s Sabi, “from Sabi Sands in South Africa, where we spent our first solo holiday without Kinsale.”
The McNeals are part of a growing trend of choosing baby names based on travel destinations.
The McNeal family: Keeneland, Luke, Sabi, Caitlin, and Kinsale.
Source: Caitlin McNeal
The popularity of “travel-inspired” names increased 14% between 2000 and 2020, according to a study by luggage storage app Bounce. The company compared a short list of destination names and travel-related words with data from the US Census Bureau and the UK Office for National Statistics, it said.
The results show overlap in the choice of baby names in both countries. However, the tendency to name children after countries and cities is more pronounced in the United States than in the United Kingdom, even after accounting for differences in population size, the study shows.
The most popular baby names related to travel
Preston, Israel, Phoenix and Orlando appear on both lists, but Preston, which means town of priests, is the most popular overall.
Baby website The Bump calls the name “old-fashioned and rather quirky… Although some may see it as a title reserved for the wealthy, Preston is the name of a northern English town once known for its role in the industrial Revolution. .”
American parents of baby boys tended to prefer domestic city names, while British parents tended to look abroad, with names like Milan, Orlando and Rome topping their list.
Sydney made the “Top 10” lists for girls’ names in both the US and UK, but is much more popular with American parents. It is the only name that has been chosen more than 100,000 times in the 20-year period analyzed in the study.
However, Sydney’s popularity is declining in the United States. After peaking in 2002, the name fell from the 23rd most popular spot that year to the 249th spot in 2021, according to the US Social Security Administration.
Historically, baby names have been inspired by literary characters, biblical figures, and the British monarchy. Now, there is a growing trend to add travel destinations to the list.
Source: Ria Hoban
London also made the top 10 American baby name charts for both boys and girls, but it may be too close to home for British parents. He was elected just 220 times in the UK between 2000 and 2020, compared to 44,556 times in the US, according to the study.
Of all the names in the study, Atlas grew the most in popularity, according to Cody Candee, CEO of Bounce. There were only eight babies named Atlas in 2000, but almost 2,175 in 2020, an increase of more than 27,000%, he said.
“This may be due to parents preferring more unique and meaningful names, with Atlas originating from Greek mythology and meaning ‘to endure,'” he said.
“On the other hand, there are some names that have lost popularity,” he added. In fact, there were 11 that disappeared completely, the biggest of which was Montreal, which went from 23 to 0.
Baby names that match country names
Ria and Connor Hoban with their children (from left) Bruno, Joaquin, Bode and India.
Source: Ria Hoban
“Indo is feminine for river,” said Ria Hoban. “I had my elements read by chance during a night out when I found out I was pregnant and was told I was a water element.”
“Also, Connor and I honeymooned in India: Delhi, North and South Goa, and Rajasthan, and I’ve always been taken aback by the region. I’ve also always loved the regalia of the name and [I’m] fan of India Hick’s design,” he said, referring to the British designer and relative of the British royal family.
In both the US and the UK, the trend of naming babies after countries is much more common for daughters. With the exception of Israel, Trinidad, and Cuba, the names on both lists were exclusive or much more popular choices for girls.
Baby names that match city names
Although London, Kingston (named after singers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s eldest son), and Paris dominate the charts, one name is notably absent from this list: Brooklyn.
That’s because the study didn’t include names of suburbs or districts, Candee said.
Brooklyn’s popularity soared after Victoria and David Beckham chose her for their firstborn in 1999, Candee said.
If the name were included, Brooklyn would be the “second most popular travel-inspired name for girls in the US, with 75,948 girls named Brooklyn in the last 20 years,” she said. However, the name is less popular with boys, she said: It was chosen just 1,412 times for boys in the US during the same period.
Candee also said several names were excluded from the analysis as being too common for travel inspiration. These names include Jordan, Madison, Austin and Charlotte, she said.
It is unknown to what extent other names were inspired by travel or some other association the parents might have made with the names.
An example is Hamilton. Although there are towns and cities named Hamilton in Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, the popular Broadway play “Hamilton” or Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton may have inspired some parents to choose the name for their children.
Similarly, it is unknown to what extent the parents who named their babies Paris were inspired by the French capital, the high-society Hilton, or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” or something else entirely.