What’s in a name? Arya, Daenerys and Rihanna oust Mari Carmen and Neymar, Zidane, Iker and Pau push out Antonio

babyFirst names in Spain are undergoing an ‘overhaul’ after literally centuries, and certainly decades – traditional, biblical names are going out of fashion and those of celebrities and TV characters gradually taking over.

Whilst Antonio and María Carmen , or Mari Carmen, remain the most-common first names on the census across the country, others which were practically unheard of 10 years ago are now becoming par for the course.

Baby boys called Neymar, after Barça FC’s star player from Brazil, and baby girls called Arya, after Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, are not unheard of nowadays.

‘María’ has been overwhelmingly the top first name for girls, in all its saintly formats – including María de los Dolores (‘Mary of the Pains’), typically shortened to ‘Lola’ or ‘Loli’; María de los Desamparados (‘Mary of the Helpless’), frequently known as ‘Amparo’; María del Pilar (‘Mary of the Pillar’), reduced to ‘Pilar’ or ‘Pili’; María de la Soledad (‘Mary of the Solitude’), shortened to Marisol; María del Mar (‘Mary of the Sea’) becoming simply ‘Mar’; María del Rosario (‘Mary of the Rosary’) turns into ‘Charo’ or ‘Rosa’; María de los Consuelos (‘Mary of the Consolation’), known as ‘Consuelo’ or ‘Chelo’, and others.

And María has, for decades, often been the standard and official first name with a ‘second’ first name by which the girl or woman is known, or the two are shortened and combined to create another altogether – María Teresa becomes Maite or Mayte; María Victoria or María Vicenta becomes Mavi; María Jesús becomes Chus – as in the late ‘Almodóvar Girl’, famous actress Chus Lampreave; María José often becomes ‘Pepa’, just as the boy’s name José (‘Joseph’) is often shortened to ‘Pepe’; María Francisca often turns into ‘Paca’ or ‘Paqui’; María Antonia is sometimes called ‘Toñi’, and the popular Spanish singer Malú is in fact María Luisa.

Other names with a biblical ‘ring’ to them which have stood the test of time include Salvadora (‘Saviour’, in the feminine), often shortened to ‘Dora’; Inmaculada (‘Immaculate’) and Concepción (‘Conception’), normally cut to ‘Inma’ and ‘Concha’; Asunción (‘Assumption’), shortened to ‘Asún’ or ‘Suni’, and Encarnación (‘Incarnation’), usually known as ‘Encarna’ or ‘Encarni’.

But the last 15 or 20 years has seen a complete departure and, for the first time, it is now almost possible to ascertain a woman’s or man’s age group from his or her name.

The average woman called Josefa is aged 66; Dolores, 65; Juana, 64; Francisca, Antonia and Concepción, 63, whilst the average woman named Paula is just 18, and Alba and Claudia are typically aged around 14.

Men named José are typically around the 60 mark; Francisco is an average of 56; Juan, 55; Manuel, 54, and towards the opposite end of the age scale, David is 28, Pablo and Sergio are 26, Alejandro is 24, Iván is 22, Álvaro is 20, Adrián is 17, and the name Hugo, practically never seen a decade ago, is associated with a boy aged around nine.

Very ‘elderly’ names, now rare and in danger of extinction, include Progreso, Frumencio and Eusiquicio for men, who would be aged on average about 76; and for women, the most ancient names are Prepedigna and Afrodisia, the holders of which would typically be aged 82; followed by Parmenia, aged 80 and Fraternidad aged 79.

Now in the second decade of the 21st century, the most popular name for a newborn boy is Daniel and, for a girl, Lucía.

Although still the most common names in Spain, for newborns Antonio has dropped to 25th, way behind the very un-Spanish names of Izán and Marc, and María Carmen – which was all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s – is not even in the top 50.

The most popular girl’s name of the 1980s, Laura, has now dropped to number 15.

María’ still hangs onto her second place, but catching up fast are Paula, Daniela, Sara, Carla and Martina, in that order.

After Daniel, the second-most popular name for a boy born in or after 2010 is Hugo, which was not even in the top 50 as recently as 1996.

Hugo is followed by Alejandro, a fashionable name in the 1990s and early 2000s, with Álvaro and Adrián fourth and fifth, and then David – the favourite name for boys born in the 1970s and 1980s – has fallen to sixth place.

Sports personalities have lent their names to boys born between the late 1990s and the present day – a total of 32 young Spanish males, with an average age of 17 years and 10 months, are called Zidane, coinciding with when the French World Cup hero ‘Zizou’ was signed up by Real Madrid; another 101 boys, who average just under the age of two, are called Neymar, and a growing minority of boys from babyhood to late teens are named Iker (after Spanish team goalkeeper Iker Casillas) and Pau (after Spanish NBA basketball champion brothers Pau and Marc Gasol).

Television characters and singers are more likely to be chosen for newborn baby girls’ names than for boys, and preferred for new daughters over sportspersons’ names.

At the moment, 124 Spanish girls, with an average age of just 18 months, are called Arya and another 23 of approximately the same age are named Daenerys, both characters on Game of Thrones.

And another 107 Spanish girls on the census are named Rihanna, after the Barbados-born R&B singer.

Published Think Spain 20 May 2016

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