Official stats reveal most popular baby names in England and Wales

Expectant parents are influenced in a number of ways when choosing a name for their baby - and obviously, how the name sounds is a big contributing factor.

Baby name website My 1st Years has partnered with Dr Bodo Winter, Associate Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of Birmingham to analyse hundreds of baby names in the UK and US to discover the most beautiful sounding names.

This research is based on sound symbolism where some words sound better than others due to the close connection between the sound and meaning of a word along with other sensory aspects such as touch and smell.

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In the UK, Zayn was top of the list for the most beautiful-sounding boys’ name, with One Direction member Zayn Malik causing the name to rise in popularity a decade ago.

Jesse and Charlie followed in second and third along with Louie, William, Freddie, George, Ali, Daniel and Riley making the top 10.

For the UK girl's names, there was a clear pattern as ones with strong "ee" sounds made the top ten with Sophia topping the list, Zoe in second, Rosie in third, Sophie in fourth, followed by Ivy, Phoebe, Violet, Willow, Hannah, and Ellie.

Across the pond, America had some differences when it came to most beautiful sounding names.

Matthew was the top boy's name on the US list which literally means "gift of God” and scored highly due to many positive connotations associated with it when spoken aloud.

Julian, William, Isaiah and Leo completed the top five, while Levi, Joseph, Theo Isaac and Samuel made it in the top ten.

Similar to the UK, the US also had the name Sophia in first place - which derives from Greece in the fourth century and means ‘wisdom as well as Zoe in second, proving the "ee" sound was also popular in this country too.

Strong "E" sounds also feature such as Ellie, Emily, Evelyn, Eva and Elena ranking in spots nine to thirteen.

The US girl names are pretty similar to the UK list, with the exception of Everly, Riley, Paisley, and Emily.

Dr Bodo Winter explains: “There are a lot of things that affect name choice, and several of these have been explored in research. For example, research by Stephanie Shih shows that parents try to avoid choosing first names that would clash with their family names.”

“If your family name starts with ‘S’, such as Scott, Smith, Saunders, or Sullivan, it may be advisable not to have a first name that ends in ‘s’, such as Marcus, Charles, or Nicolas – because the two ‘s’ sounds will blend into each other.

"Shih’s research has used data from Facebook account names to show that there is indeed a small tendency for parents to prefer names without ‘s’ when their last name starts with ‘s’.”

Dr Winter also referred to a recent paper by Berger and colleagues (2012) that discovered a "surprising result" when looking at 100 years of baby name data that shows"when there are major hurricanes in the US, the next generation of babies will be more likely to feature sounds that occur in the name of the hurricane, such as Katie after Hurricane Katrina."

This is because the names of often mentioned repeatedly in the media, according to Dr Winter who explained that "this means that we are exposed more to the same sounds, and it is known from psychological research that things that are more familiar to us are generally liked more, a phenomenon known as the “mere exposure effect.”

Though the researchers noted how factors such as country, culture, accent, family history, and gender contribute to how nice a name sounds.

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