Revealed: Durham’s most popular first names


In a freedom of information request to Durham University, Palatinate asked for the most common first names for students enrolled at Durham University across all year groups in this academic year. This includes the first name that most students will have given when they joined the University on Banner Self Service. 

The most chosen male name in this year’s cohort is Thomas, with 380 people sharing the same name; the name derives from a transliteration of the classic Syriac meaning ‘twin’. Somewhat surprisingly, the top six most popular male first names are more popular than the most common female name, as Emilys share their names with 236 other students. The name’s etymology derives from Aimilia, a great family of ancient Rome.

There was a more even distribution of female names than male names, meaning it is more likely male students will have a name featured on our list than female students, who have a greater variety of names.

In fact, there are enough people named Emily enrolled at Durham, that if they all lived in the same place, it would be about the same size as St. John’s College’s undergraduate accommodation.

Almost 1 in 50 students in Durham are called Thomas. If we sent all the people with the top six male names for a group study session, they would fill the Bill Bryson Library, and would have a larger combined population than St Davids, the UK’s smallest city.

According to census data from the Office for National Statistics in 2004, the closest birth year included in a census for the average Durham undergraduate, Jack was the most popular name given to boys, and Emily was the most popular name given to girls. Meaning Durham bucks the trend in mens names, but not in female names.

According to the BBC Future, having a rarer name makes individuals more likely to have an unusual career, and may even shape people into being more creative and open minded. However, “if [you] give a child a very common name, Male Names Female Names the child is likely to have an easier time being accepted and liked by others in the short term”, according to David Zhu, a professor who researches the psychology behind names.


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