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.
“It was Kinsale 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 vacationed together to watch horse racing.”
And finally, there’s Sabi – “from the Sabi Sands in South Africa, where we took 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 has increased by 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’s Office for National Statistics, he said.
The results show an overlap in baby name choices in the two countries. However, the tendency to name children after countries and cities is more pronounced in the US than in the UK, even after accounting for differences in population size, the study found.
Most Popular “Travel Related” Baby Names
Preston, Israel, Phoenix and Orlando feature on both lists, but Preston – meaning Priest’s City – 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 town in northern England once known for his role in the industrial revolution.
American parents of baby boys tended to prefer domestic city names, while British parents showed a propensity to look abroad, with names like Milan, Orlando and Rome topping their list.
Sydney was on the “top 10” baby girl name lists in the US and UK, but is far more popular with American parents. It is the only name to have been chosen more than 100,000 times during the 20-year period analyzed in the study.
However, Sydney’s popularity is declining in the United States. After peaking in 2002, the name went from the 23rd most popular name that year to 249th in 2021, according to the US Social Security Administration.
Historically, baby names have been inspired by literary characters, biblical characters, and the British monarchy. Now there is a growing trend of adding travel destinations to the list.
Source: Ria Hoban
London also made the top 10 lists of American baby names – for both boys and girls – but perhaps a bit too close to home for British parents. He was picked just 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 study, Atlas has gained the most popularity, according to Cody Candee, CEO of Bounce. 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 because parents prefer more unique and meaningful names, with Atlas coming from Greek mythology and meaning ‘to endure,'” he said.
“On the other hand, there are a few names that have gone down in popularity,” he added. “In fact, there were 11 that disappeared completely, the biggest of which was Montreal going 23-0.”
Baby names that match country names
Ria and Connor Hoban with their children, (left to right) Bruno, Joaquin, Bode and India.
Source: Ria Hoban
“Indus is woman for river,” said Ria Hoban. “I had my elements read by chance at a party 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 mystified by the area. I’ve also always loved the treat of the name and [I’m] fan of India Hick’s design,” she said, referring to the British designer and relative to the British Royal Family.
In the US and UK, the trend of naming babies after countries is much more common for girls. With the exception of Israel, Trinidad and Cuba, the names on both lists were either exclusively or much more popular choices for girls.
Baby names that match city names
If London, Kingston (named after singers Gwen Stefani and eldest son of Gavin Rossdale) and Paris dominate the lists, one name is notoriously absent from this list: Brooklyn.
That’s because the study didn’t include the names of suburbs or boroughs, Candee said.
Brooklyn’s popularity skyrocketed after Victoria and David Beckham chose it for their eldest son in 1999, Candee said.
If the name were included, Brooklyn would be the “second most popular travel name for girls in the United States, 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 1,412 times for boys in the United States during the same period.
Candee also said several names were excluded from the analysis because they were too commonly used to be inspired by travel. Those names include Jordan, Madison, Austin and Charlotte, he said.
It is unclear to what extent other names were inspired by travel or other association parents may have done with the names.
Hamilton is an example. Although there are towns and cities named Hamilton in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the popular Broadway play “Hamilton” or Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton may have inspired some parents to choose names for their children.
Likewise, it’s unclear to what extent the parents who named their babies Paris were inspired by the French capital, the socialite Hilton or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” – or something else entirely.