Following this month’s 10 Girls’ Names post, we thought it only right to give the boys a look in too. We’ll come across plenty of royalty, some Vikings and a couple of bizarre silent letters in our top 10 most popular names!
1. Oliver /ˈɒlɪvə/
Top of the list since 2011, Oliver /ˈɒlɪvə/ originates from the French name Olivier. It is derived from the word ‘olive’, which symbolises peace. The letter < o > is pronounced as /ɒ/, the furthest back vowel you can make in English. Don’t forget to open your jaw and round your lips as you make this sound. The < r > in this name is silent. < er > should be pronounced as the neutral unstressed vowel sound, the schwa /ə/.
Common diminutives: Oli or Ollie /ɒli/.
2. Jack /dʒæk/
Before being superseded by Oliver, Jack was the most popular name in the UK. The < j > is a combination of two sounds. Start by making a /d/ sound by putting your tongue on your alveolar ridge (the place behind your front teeth). Glide from this position to the /ʒ/ sound as in the < s > in Asia /eɪʒə/. Don’t forget to open your jaw and spread your lips for the front vowel /æ/ when pronouncing the < a > in Jack /dʒæk/.
A common diminutive is: Jackie /dʒæki/.
3. Harry /ˈhæri/
Although it is now considered a name in its own right, Harry is a diminutive of Henry /ˈhenri/ and Harold /ˈhærəɫd/. One meaning of the name is ‘army commander’, a fact Prince Harry would surely have been aware of when he became Captain Wales in the British Army! The < h > should be pronounced very breathily. Imagine the sound you might make if you were breathing on a mirror to clean it. This name contains a pronounced < r > sound. Don’t forget to pull your tongue back as you make this sound.
No known diminutives.
4. Jacob /ˈdʒeɪkəb/
Jacob is a common first name and surname in the UK. It is equally popular in the USA. Like James (number 9 on this list), it derives from the Latin name Iacobus. The original Hebrew meaning was ‘to heel’ or ‘follow behind’. Pronounce the < j > as you would in Jack. The diphthong /eɪ/ can be quite tricky. Try to put more emphasis on the first sound /e/ before gliding to the /ɪ/ sound.
A common diminutive is: Jake /dʒeɪk/
5. Charlie /ˈtʃɑ:li/
Another popular name with the Royal Family, this name is of course derived from Charles /ˈtʃa:ɫz/. It can also be a girls’ name although it’s nowhere near as popular, ranking just 331. The < ch > is pronounced like the < j > in Jacob and Jack, but it is voiceless (the vocal cords do not vibrate). Many students struggle with the vowel sound /ɑ:/. Relax your lips and try opening your mouth very wide. Keep your tongue in mid-back position.
No known diminutives
6. Thomas /ˈtɒməs/
Like Thames /temz/ and Thyme /taɪm/, Thomas is one of the few instances in British English where ‘th’ spelling is pronounced as /t/. Pronounced on the alveolar ridge (in the same place as /d/), the /t/ has strong aspiration (a puff of air released as you make the sound). The < o > is pronounced the same as it is in Oliver. Pronounce the < a > as you would ‘er’ in Oliver.
A common diminutive is: Tom /tɒm/
7. Oscar /ˈɒskə/
In the last twenty years the name Oscar has become increasingly popular in the UK. The origin of the name is highly disputed, although it is thought that it may have been brought to Ireland by the Vikings. Pronounce the < o > as you would the < o > in Oliver. Again, pronounce < ar > as you would the < er > in Oliver.
No known diminutives.
8. William /ˈwɪliəm/
The third prince’s name on our list, William also ranks high in Australia, the USA, Norway and Denmark. It comes from the Germanic name Willahelm, ‘Wil’ meaning ‘will’ or ‘desire’ and ‘helm’ meaning ‘helmet’ or ‘protection’. The first < i > in William should be pronounced with relaxed lips, with the tongue at the front of the mouth. Don’t forget to keep your jaw fairly closed. Pronounce < ia > as a schwa (see Oliver).
Common diminutives are Willy /wɪli/ and Will /wɪɫ/.
9. James /dʒeɪmz/
See Jacob for meaning. Pronounce the < j > and the < a > as you would for Jacob. Try to pronounce the < s > as the /z/ sound in ‘zoo’, by placing your tongue on the alveolar ridge (the space behind your front teeth).
A common diminutive is Jamie /ˈdʒeɪmi/.
10. George /dʒɔ:dʒ/
The fourth prince’s name on this list, George comes from the Greek word georgos meaning ‘work’. The letters < eo > should be pronounced as one sound. Round your lips and put your tongue to the back of your mouth. The jaw should be mid-open. This sound is not quite as open as the < o > in Oscar.
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