Namerology.com often focuses on the dramatic changes in US baby naming. But the name revolution doesn’t stop at the border.
When I wrote about the declining relevance of American top-10 name lists, reader Letterkenny asked:
“Has the percentage of children receiving a Top 10 or Top 100 name declined in the same way in other countries that publish their baby name stats, or is this a particularly American phenomenon?”
In answer, I’m swinging the spotlight to Austria. That country’s Federal Statistical Office now publishes an interactive “Atlas der Vornamen” exploring baby name popularity. You can graph a name’s popularity over time and see which regions of Austria use it most.
The Austrian statistics only go back to 1984, well after the kickoff of the modern naming era in the US. Even so, the change evident in the data is dramatic. I tallied the popularity of the Austrian top 10 from 1984 to today and found a familiar rapid shrinking with a vanishing gender gap.
The names at the top of the charts have changed in kind as well as frequency. Just like their American counterparts, Austrian parents have moved away from consonant-dense local classics and toward lighter international choices, notably Old Testament Bible names. Compare the style of Austria’s current top 10 boys’ names to a more classic top 10: the names of Viennese schoolchildren in 1900 as reported by Knud Bielefeld.
The exact shape of the name revolution varies from place to place. Language, religion, and laws restricting name choices all play a part. But the fundamental shifts—toward seeing names as statements of fashion and personality, and wanting your children’s names to stand out—are sweeping the globe.
Thanks for the great response Laura! The Austrian Name Atlas is a great find, and loads of fun to explore. For those who want to check it out but don’t know any German… just click on the link, enter any name to search for it, and – once you get on the main page with the map – click on “Deutsch” in the upper right corner to switch the language to English.