The Muslim name Mohammed (meaning ‘one who is praiseworthy’) has become the most popular name for newborn boys in England and Wales, according to a reworking in today’s Daily Express and Daily Mail of 2009 data released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It moved up from third place in 2008 to supplant Jack, which had topped the list for the past fourteen years.
ONS actually has Mohammed in sixteenth position (up thirteen on 1999), with 3,300 babies given the name in 2009. However, this takes no account of the many different spellings of the name, each of which is ranked separately. By summing all twelve variations of the name in 2009, the newspapers produce a total of 7,549 occurrences of Mohammed, to head the list for the first time ever. This represents a 65% increase on the 1999 figure of 4,579.
In order of popularity, the variant spellings used during the year were: Mohammed, Muhammad (2,162 occurrences, in 36th place), Mohammad (1,073, in 62nd place), Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohamad, Muhamed, Mohammod, Mahamed, Muhamad, Mahammed, and Mohmmed.
There are widespread regional variations in the incidence of the name. For example, Mohammed alone (without the variants) came first in the West Midlands, fourth in London, and fifth in Yorkshire and the Humber. At the other end of the spectrum, it ranked 145th in the South-West.
Commenting on these findings, Murtaza Shibli, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he was not surprised that Mohammed had become the most popular boys’ name. ‘Parents choose it because of their love of the Prophet Mohammed and they believe the name will bring happiness and abundance. Also, there’s a belief they will follow the good example of the Prophet.’
In reality, too much should not perhaps be made of all this. Even including all the variants, Mohammed represented 2% of given names for newborn boys in 2009. It was just one of 26,800 different names used in all.
Also, Mohammed (without the variants) has been around in England and Wales for some considerable time. According to the ONS spreadsheets, it first entered the top one hundred chart for boys’ names as early as 1924, as number 91. It has remained there ever since, being joined from 1954 by Mohammod and Mohamed.
The most popular Muslim girls’ name in 2009 was Aisha, translating as ‘wife of the Prophet’. This was given to 541 babies, making it 101st on the list, up from 110th position in 2006.
The ONS data are available at:
The newspaper accounts can be found at: