Baby Emma, David or Elizabeth? Not for American parents Caitlin and Luke McNeal.
Rather than 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, and we vacationed in Kinsale and fell in love with it,” Caitlin said. “Keeneland is from Kentucky, the first place we ever vacationed together to watch the horse races.”
And finally there’s Sabi – “from the Sabi Sands in South Africa, where we took our first solo vacation 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 rose 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.
The results show overlap in the choice of baby names in both countries. However, the trend of naming children after countries and cities is more pronounced in the United States than in the United Kingdom, even when differences in population size are taken into account, the study shows.
Most Popular ‘Travel Related’ Baby Names
Preston, Israel, Phoenix, and Orlando appear on both lists, but Preston—meaning priest city—is generally the most popular.
Baby website The Bump calls the name “old-fashioned and rather quirky…While some may see it as a reserved title for the wealthy, Preston is the name-place of a northern English town once known for its role in the industrial revolution. “
American parents of baby boys preferred domestic city names, while British parents tended to look abroad, with names like Milan, Orlando and Rome at the top of their list.
Sydney made the “top 10” lists for baby girl names in both the US and UK, but is much more popular with US parents. It is the only name 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 dropped from 23rd most popular that year to 249th in 2021, according to the U.S. 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 US baby names – for both boys and girls – but may be a little too close to home for British parents. It was chosen only 220 times in the UK from 2000 to 2020, compared to 44,556 times in the US, according to the study.
Of all the names in the survey, Atlas rose in popularity the most, according to Bounce CEO Cody Candee. There were only eight babies named Atlas in 2000, but nearly 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 coming from Greek mythology and meaning ‘tolerable,'” he said.
“On the other hand, there are a few names that have declined in popularity,” he added. “In fact, there were 11 that completely disappeared, 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
“Indus is feminine for river,” said Ria Hoban. “I accidentally had my Elements read on a night out when I found out I was pregnant and was told I was a Water Element.”
“In addition, Connor and I honeymooned in India – Delhi, North and South Goa and Rajasthan, and I have always been stunned by the region. I have also always loved the regale of the name and [I’m] a fan of India Hick’s design,” she said, referring to the British designer and relative of the British Royal Family.
In both the US and UK, the trend of naming babies after countries is much more common among daughters. With the exception of Israel, Trinidad and Cuba, the names on both lists were either exclusive or much more popular with girls.
Baby Names That Match Place Names
While London, Kingston (the name of singers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s eldest son) and Paris dominate the lists, one name is notably missing from this list: Brooklyn.
That’s because the study didn’t include names of suburbs or boroughs, Candee said.
Brooklyn’s popularity skyrocketed after Victoria and David Beckham chose it for their firstborn son 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 over the past 20 years,” he said. However, the name is less popular for boys, he said — it was only chosen 1412 times for boys in the US during the same period.
Candee also said several names were excluded from the analysis because they are used too often to be inspired by travel. These names include Jordan, Madison, Austin and Charlotte, he said.
It is not known to what extent other names were inspired by travel or any other association parents made with the names.
An example is Hamilton. While there are towns and cities called 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 adopt the name for their children. select.
Likewise, it’s unknown to what extent parents who named their babies Paris were inspired by the French capital, the Hilton socialite, or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” — or something else entirely.