How to choose an English name


Many international students choose an English nick name when they come to the UK. Lots of the names are conventional, though others are not. Devil, Pizza, Ketchup, Batman, Cheese — you name it, we’ve heard it.

The trend for choosing an English name is nothing new. Adopting an English name shows a willingness to integrate into British life, bridging the gap between two cultures. However, the process of choosing a name is open to unintended consequences which can result in involuntarily funny names.


Do not choose an old name

Many students choose old fashioned, unusual names which they may have read in an old book or seen in an old film. Trends in names change over time, so if you choose a name which is not commonly used today it will sound strange and out of place. For English people, the names ‘Mildred’ (most popular in 1913) and ‘Gertrude’ (most popular in 1896) conjure up images of old ladies in cardigans with curly white hair. The names ‘Norman’ (most popular in 1931) and ‘Clyde’ (most popular in 1904) suggest old men with walking sticks and flat caps.


Be cautious when naming yourself after a fictional character

Whilst the idea is nice in theory, ‘Dumbledore’ and ‘Snow White’ are not common names in England. Aside from being amusing to an English person, choosing such a name has associated risks. For example, by calling yourself ‘Dumbledore’ people may assume that you are associated with the magical and mystical. Calling yourself ‘Snow White’ can be quite evocative as it is urban slang for a common illegal substance. Names such as ‘Harry’ from Harry Potter or ‘Tom’ from Tom and Jerry are fine because they are common English names. If you like the idea of naming yourself after a fictional character, just check that is a commonly used English name before you commit.


Do not name yourself after an inanimate object

Another trend we have seen is students naming themselves after inanimate objects such as food items. Even if you really love food, the names ‘Pizza’ or ‘Cheese’ are totally inappropriate, not least because your taste in food may change as you get older! Naming yourself after a food item also carries association risks. Sugary sounding names such as ‘Candy’ or ‘Sweetie’ are most likely chosen because they sound cute however in the UK they are quite suggestive names, often associated with porn stars and drag acts.


Do not choose a random word as a name

English words such as ‘easy’ or ‘yes’ do not make good names. Apart from being unconventional, ‘easy’ is a word sometimes used to describe females in a derogatory fashion. Calling yourself ‘Yes’ leaves you open to many confused conversations where you are unsure whether people are agreeing with you or addressing you!


Finally, make sure that your name matches your gender

We were really looking forward to meeting Christina – when Christina arrived he was a six foot male with a pubescent moustache whose favourite hobby was building robots. Don’t make the same mistake as Christina.


Remember, you don’t have to choose an English name. If you prefer to use the name you were born with, stick with it. The world is becoming an increasingly cosmopolitan playing field. It may take English people a few attempts to learn your name if the pronunciation is very different from English, but they will get there.

If you decide to choose an English name, do some research. Try typing phrases such as ‘common English girl’s names’ into search engines; there are lots of websites where you can find out which English names were popular in the year you were born. If you do want some extra advice, contact us. We have lots of experience helping students choose a suitable English name and we are always very happy to help.


Rebecca (1)
Rebecca Duggan, Marketing Manager at Study Links