NRS released the lists of all babies’ first names registered in Scotland in 2018 this morning. We told you that Olivia and Jack headed up the lists for 2018, but how do we know this? How did we compile all this information?

A lot of things have to happen behind the scenes before we can identify the top names and release our most popular statistics publication.

How do we get the babies’ information?

It all starts when registrars around Scotland key newly registered babies’ details into their computer systems.

The details of over 50,000 births annually are transmitted to our NRS central database. Staff in our “Vital Events” area of the organisation add codes for (eg) health board, council, and other types of area of residence, to make it easier to analyse all the information we receive.

Graph charting progress of the name Olivia in top baby names

Different naming scenarios

We’re seeing an ever-increasing range of baby names used in Scotland – nearly 7,500 annually. For example, the number of unique boys’ names is nearly double what it was 20 years ago. That means our computer systems need to handle lots of different naming scenarios.

Hyphens can pose a problem. However, our system can tell us that the correct forename of a girl registered as “Mary Frances Adriné” is “Mary”, whilst someone registered as “Mary-Frances Adriné” will be “Mary-Frances”.

Different spellings of the same name are counted separately, so “Stephen” and “Steven” are regarded as completely different names, as are “Ben” and “Benjamin”. However, accents on names are ignored, so “Chloé”, “Chloë”. “Chloè” and “Chlöe” are all counted as being the same name: “Chloe”.

A baby may be given several forenames and we allow up to 200 characters for this.

Graph charting progress of the name Jack in top baby names

Analysing the data

Once the birth registration data are coded, the information is available to our statisticians for the analysis to start.

So how do we get to the facts and figures that so many people are interested in?

We count how many births there were with each first forename, find out its ranking for this year and compare it to how it did last year.

We then produce tables including:

  • the top 100 names for each sex for Scotland as a whole
  • the top ten names for each sex for each local authority area
  • the numbers of different first forenames
  • the numbers of babies of each sex given a first forename that was unique

Our programs identify, for example:

  • entrants to the top ten
  • the fastest rising within the top twenty
  • dropouts from the top fifty
  • big falls within the top 100

Lower down the rankings you can usually spot social and cultural changes being reflected in the name choices.

Aria, a derivation of Arya – a character from the popular TV show “Game of Thrones”, is now the 9th most popular girls name in Scotland. There were only 11 Arias registered in Scotland when the show debuted in 2011, yet there were 272 in 2018.

Also, the name Harper has dramatically risen in popularity for girls since David and Victoria Beckham’s daughter was born in 2011. There was only one girl registered in Scotland in 2010 named Harper, but it’s now the 17th most popular baby girl’s name – 191 girls were named Harper in 2018.

Scotland’s Top Baby Names app

Our baby names app is hugely popular – you can now compare the popularity of two names over the years. Have you tried it yet? Make sure you pass it along to anyone you know expecting a baby!

National Records of Scotland's Baby Names web app

Find out more

We have lots of information about Scotand’s baby first names here so have a look!

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