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The Name Emma: Why is it that popular?

Emma has been a top ten name among expectant parents for more than one decade. In the United Kingdom, it was also once very popular in the last century. Something seems to excite people about this name. But what is it that draws mothers and fathers to name their child Emma every year?

What does the name Emma sound like?

Everybody loves Emma. Why do we make this assertion? Because it’s true! It tranks the first place for girls in the SmartGenius statistics. In the last ten years, 1.2% of all American parents named their daughter Emma. That means that over 20,000 babies each year receive this popular name. Have you ever wondered why that is?

On the one hand it could due to its meaning. Emma means ‘the great’ or ‘the all-embracing’. Originally Emma comes from the Old High German words ‘irmina’ and ‘ermana’ signifying ‘whole’ or ‘universal’. On the other hand parents might love the name Emma because of its sounding. It is easy to understand and contains only the soft consonant ‘m’ – the first consonant babies learn during language acquisition, just think of the word ‘Mom.’ Coincidentally, the name Emma sounds almost as familiar as the nickname for the mother.

At any rate, Emma sounds harmonious and not harsh at all. Moreover, it should be easy to understand and pronounce in almost any language. For some people, a distinct gender attribution is also important. This is very obvious in the name Emma because of the ending on the vowel ‘a’, which pleases many parents. Some researchers even think that Emma is a derivative of the name Irmgard or Emanuela. That, in turn, would fit the trend that short names have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Who is called Emma?

By the way, this does not only apply to the USA. Also in Europe, the name Emma, as well as the tendency to shorter names, lines with the trend for about 20 years. In the United Kingdom, Emma once before experienced a great wave of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. There where also historical personalities who already bore this name, as you can see with the English model, dancer, and actress Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765–1815). In the U.S. in particular, however, the name didn’t really take off among parents until the 2000s. Maybe the name became that popular only then because there are so many celebrities called Emma: Emma Watson, Emma Bunton, Emma Thompson, Emma  Roberts or Emma Stone.

Emma Watson, who portrayed Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, could have had an influence on the popularity curve in particular. With resounding success, she was an integral part of the cinema scene for ten years in the 2000s and also delighted fans with her social commitment: Since 2014, she has been a UN Special Ambassador for Women’s and Girls’ Rights and a high-profile feminist. Many of her fans might have become parents in recent years.

Former Spice Girl Emma Bunton has also certainly won over many former followers of the girl band. Many who attended their concerts in the late 90s and early 2000s had children during the 2010s and remembered their idol ‘Baby Spice.’ And that brings us to the point of what people associate with the name. Of course, the more common a name is, the more people relate to it.

What do people associate with the name Emma?

However, there are also names that do not only give rise to positive feelings. This may be because they are labeled as ‘old-fashioned’ or simply ‘too complicated’. Of course, there are also names that are associated with people who have not left such a good image in society. Things are different for our Emma: the melodic sound, the soft consonant, the uncomplicated name structure and her many, good-looking, talented, successful and clever namesakes strongly contribute to the fact that people associate good feelings with Emma.

It is probably for the same reason that names related to Emma are so popular such as Emily or Emilia. If you also like the name Emma, but you don’t want to give your child such a common name, you might also consider these less familiar variations: Emmabelle, Emmabeth, Emmaclaire, Emmalea, Emmaleigh, Emmarose, Emme, Emmey, Emmi, Emmy or Emony for example. Emma also works as a diminutive for the names Emmeline, Amelia or Amelie.