Expert explains why Noah tops baby name list as parents face ‘uncertain times’

The most popular baby names of 2021 have been confirmed, and religious names have secured several of the top spots. Released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the annual list reveals the most common names given to children in England and Wales last year, and it looks like parents not only took inspiration from faith – but pop culture too.

Both Noah and Muhammad secured spots in the top ten boys’ names, with Noah being crowned the most popular name of all, and Muhammad emerging as the most popular boys’ name in four out of nine English regions. Elijah and Tobias, which both hold religious connotations, also rank in the top 100, to name further examples.

But while names rooted in religious meaning are on the rise, faith may not be the only factor; as popular TV shows seem to be inspiring parents to plump for certain names too. A combination of religion and pop culture references could explain why the name Noah ousted Oliver at the top of ONS’s list, according to experts at BabyCentre.

“Religious names could be on the rise as parents turn to their faith and spirituality in difficult and uncertain times, but TV and film could also be an influence,” an expert told The Mirror.

If this is the case, Netflix ’s cult classic Stranger Things may have played a part in changing trends, after actor Noah Schnapp rose to fame playing youngster Will Byers in hit show.

While the moniker Noah has enjoyed the top spot previously, ranking as the fourth most popular boys’ name in 2020, its surge to first place in 2021 was so powerful as to knock Oliver back to second place, after it sat in the top spot for eight years.

Meanwhile, on the girls’ list, top 100 names include Delilah, Eden, and Grace. And several saints’ names feature on both lists.

Sarah Redshaw, managing editor for BabyCentre UK, told the Mirror: “Biblical names is a term being searched for more and more and one of our most popular baby names articles that we’ve seen a rise in is Baby names from the Bible which shows parents are looking for strong, traditional names for their children.”

And Noah, of course, is celebrated is several sacred texts. Regardless of the reason, the rising popularity of the name cannot be denied, with BabyCentre also charting its upward trends.

Back in 2012, the name placed 14th on BabyCentre’s list of popular names. However, it has seen mostly steady growth ever since, jumping to second place in 2019 and holding the spot in both 2020 and 2021. So, while it is too early to say for certain, based on current trends, Noah may come out on top in 2022 too.