A number of articles describe how Muhammad is the most popular name in the UK for baby boys, topping William and other names.

A few links for reference:

  • 2016 Independent article

    Muhammad has replaced William in the top ten most popular boys' names in England and Wales.

  • 2009 Telegraph

    The Islamic name [(Mohammed)] overtook traditional choices like Jack, Thomas and Daniel to become the number one name in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the North West, as well as in the capital, in 2008.

Both articles also state that various spellings of the name are included.

Is this true?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sklivvz Jun 29 '18 at 20:30

These are the official statistics for boys names in England & Wales, which contains everything we need to discuss those two articles.

The following is based on the 2016 data, the latest available at time of writing.

In England & Wales as a whole, not grouping names, the top name was "Oliver" (1.855%). The top spelling of "Muhammad" was "Muhammad", 1.095%.

Grouping, however, is hard. You need to decide what you're considering groups (do we group Oliver, Ollie, Olly? probably yes, but what about the cognate French Olivier?).

That said, a quick look at the data makes it seem entirely plausible that if you group all variant transliterations of Mohammad would come out top. Counting all variants of ??hamm?d* and ??ham?d* (which should catch all spellings of Mohammad and double-barrel names starting with it) gives 2.284%.

By way of comparison, Olivier, Ollie, Olly, Olivier sum to 2.236%.

As for London specifically (by residence of mother), without grouping, Muhammad is the top name (1.23%), second is Oliver (1.02%).

It's also worth pointing out there are plenty of people whose first name is Mohammad but who are known by their second name, hence judging things based on first names is not necessarily representative of what people are actually known as. (While there are plenty of others who go by the second name, first names are more often family dependent.) [citation needed, though]

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    Would ham?d also count Hamid? – muru Jun 25 '18 at 1:24
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    @gsnedders Wikipedia says Hamid, Hamed and Mohammed are all from the same root, but I don't think they can be considered abbreviations the way, say Ollie and Oliver can be. They're more like Jesus and Joshua. – muru Jun 25 '18 at 4:31
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    Many Muslims have Mohammed as one of their first names, in fact so many that they use their other names instead. Compare this to the way every little girl in Spain used to be called Maria. So many that they all used their second names of Dolores (pain) or Magdalena or whatever. – RedSonja Jun 25 '18 at 6:18
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    Why would you wildcard M? Are there variations of Mohammad that don't start with M? – Azor Ahai Jun 25 '18 at 6:57
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    @Shaamaan what does this fact check give you when it reveals that the truth depends on comparing 2.284% to 2.236%? Or in other words, the next newborn boy could change the answer? If you know the agenda of those who made the claim, you know that the intended impression of UK being overrun by people called Muhammad is wrong. “the most popular name” still is a small minority of the entirety of given names. Since this makes the question entirely obsolete, but you asked it anyway, it’s good that this answer clarifies this. – Holger Jun 26 '18 at 11:14

Variant spellings of Mohammed overtook Oliver as the most popular boys name in 2011 but only one variant has individually made it into the top 10

Update with 2017 data

The problem with judging this is that there are a lot of variant spelling of Muhammad (since written arabic is an abjad–so doesn't have written vowels–transliterating the Arab original to the Latin alphabet gives, effectively MHMD with freedom to fill in whatever vowels seem closest to the pronunciation). And some other names should also possibly be grouped (as the other answer says is Ollie the same as Olly?). On the other hand all the variant spelling of Mohammed represent a single arabic word whereas the "related" English names are deliberately chosen variants.

And the ONS name data shows a lot of variant ways to transliterate the arab name:

scaled word cloud of variant spellings in ONS data

The top variants in this picture were used this often in 2017:

  • Muhammad (3,691)
  • Mohammed (1,982)
  • Mohammad (837)
  • Muhammed (450)

with all the others adding a little over 300 more uses.

This picture shows the recent trend if we group the top variants of the Arab name:

ONS top name counts with grouped Muhammad variants

So, if we group the major variants then Muhammad is the most popular boys name. But only one of those variants has made it into the top 10 names. This chart shows the rankings of individual names in each year from 2012 to 2017:

ONS name rankings from 2012 to 2017

In 2016 the variant Muhammad appears as 8th most popular and in 2017 the 10th most popular boys name.

So it looks plausible that if we could agree a single transliteration of the name Muhammad, it would be the most popular name for boys in the UK. To put this in perspective the listed variants of Muhammad constitute about 2.5% of all boys names in 2016 but this may account for between 25% and 50% of all Muslim boys born in England and Wales (the muslim population is about 5% of the population but perhaps twice that of all births). The high frequency of the name is as much a consequence of the lack of variety of male names in the Muslim community as a it is of a large number of Muslims in the population.

The source for this data is the ONS annual release of baby names for England and Wales.

You can explore features for yourself interactively here. An alternative data explorer is here with data to 2016 but you will have to do some extra calculations yourself. Or you could just download the dataset and check.

Mohammed variants are highly concentrated geographically in England and Wales. The ONS released local authority popularity data for the top 100 names with its 2017 update and this can be explored interactively here.

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    Re: transliteration differences: Arabic script is an abjad where only consonants are recorded, so that (e.g.) Mehmed, Mohammad, Muhammad, Muhammed, etc. are the same name. Transliteration into English creates/picks up dialectical differences that aren't dealbreakers to the original culture. Same thing with Chinese names that can be Chen, Chan, &c. because Chinese script barely deals with modern pronunciation at all. – lly Jun 25 '18 at 10:51
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    +1 for pointing the lack of diversity of Muslim names (vs. the larger present diversity of names of Christian origin). – Pere Jun 25 '18 at 13:06
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    The graph is a bit misleading because 1. It starts as 3000+ scale to make the differente looks greater 2. It does not show other english names has a increasing trend like Noah or Freedie – jean Jun 25 '18 at 13:32
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    A side remark: according to this chart, if we regroup "Jack" and "Jacob" (which I believe share the same root in Christian and Jewish spellings - please prove me wrong if I am), the combination "Jack+Jacob" is still above "Muhammad (7 spellings combined)" in 2016, but the trends suggest it may change in the next couple of years. (even if I've no idea how all this is relevant to whatever) – Evargalo Jun 25 '18 at 15:04
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    @Evargalo Some people would group Jack with John and Jake with Jacob. Going by Hebrew roots, James and Jacob ought to be grouped. – Damian Yerrick Jun 25 '18 at 16:53

There are two reasonable answers to this already, but it's worth noting that there was an article discussing this exact question in the Guardian in 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/dec/01/muhammad-not-most-popular-boys-name-in-britain

The key finding was:

The proportion of the population that is Muslim is 4.8%, while the most popular boys name in England and Wales (Oliver) was given to just 1% of babies that year. Muhammad’s 15th place is a demonstration of the lower variance of names within the Muslim community compared to others.

The alternative take on this – that Muhammad tops the chart – was one given by the Daily Mail in their reporting of the official statistics earlier this year. Their reasoning was as follows:

When all the variations are added together, including Muhammad, Mohammed and Mohammad, the name comes out top with 7,445 counts.

If you do that though, it’s only fair to add together the variations of other names. For example, Oliver and Ollie (7,749) or Harry and Henry (9,136). We can only wonder why the Daily Mail didn’t.

This is a couple of years out of date now, though.

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    Good find. The fact that many Muslim boys are given the name mohammed (however spelt) is a big factor and I hadn't realised it had been discussed previously. Also the language problem isn't clear cut: the simple Mohammed variants are clearly different transliterations on a single arabic name, whereas the variant English names are not. Ollie is not the same name as Oliver and Jack is not the same name as John, though they may, historically, be derived from the same root. The comparisons are not simple. – matt_black Jun 26 '18 at 8:11

The overwhelming "elephant in the room" is that:

In many/most mulsim countries, the "first name" Mohammed is not a "first name". It is a type of honorific.

i.e. quite simply males get "Mohammed" as a sort of first name, and then their actual name follows.

(Rather as in "Mac-Surname", we notice that "every!" compound surname has "Mac" as the first surname.)

It's totally remarkable that this hasn't been mentioned.

It's also remarkable that the many media articles which rabbit on about the various spellings of Mohammed (which is an irrelevant, obvious, uninteresting issue) don't mention this, the main issue.

If you have never before heard of this everyday, ubiquitous, naming tradition in Muslim lands, some articles ...

"He explains that the name is symbolically included as a first name, but it is not used in the way a Christian name would be – in Pakistan, for instance, a second name is often used as a “given” name."

Muhammad: the truth about Britain’s most misunderstood name

"In some Muslim countries, almost all males take a religious name, either Mohammed or one of the prophet's other names, Ahmed, Mahmoud, or Mustafa. Out of reverence for the prophet and also out of practicality, men and boys named Mohammed often go by another first name instead. In Egypt, the ubiquity of these compound names caused a major administrative problem in the mid-20th century,..."

When Can Muslims Use the Name Mohammed?

"This is not a title like 'Mr.' nor is a first name as western people understand..."

"Md. stands for Muhammad or Mohammed. Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims (male) use Md., the shorter form of Muhammad, before their names. This is not a title like 'Mr.' nor is a first name as western people understand. Although Md. is part of one's name, people never call anyone by this name. For example..."

English term or phrase: Md. NAME SURNAME (from the leading professional translation technical talk site)

Note that the "political thrust" of the observation seems to be simply "there are very many Muslim people in the UK now". That is probably correct in whatever relative terms are meant. But the observation

  • "everyone is named Mohammed!"

would be as naive as pointing out that

  • "Everyone in Scotland and Eireland has the surname Mac-!"

or that

  • "All these professors have an honorific PhD!"

or that

  • "In Japan they accidentally have their first and last names reversed!"

or that

  • "In Iceland everyone's surname is dottir!"

It's a (trivial) misunderstanding of the structure of naming concepts.

  • There was actually an answer that stated this, but it was unfortunately deleted earlier today because the answerer couldn't/wouldn't provide any sources other than "I am a Muslim". Upvoting this for making the same point and providing sources. – F1Krazy Jun 28 '18 at 15:09
  • It's good that you cited your soucres, but you should try to use actual clickable links in your post instead of just plaintext. I was about to flag your post for deletion because I couldn't make out where the sourcing was from a quick glance. I'm not going to flag it, but you should really fix it to help out people looking at your answer. – DenisS Jun 28 '18 at 16:24
  • hi @DenisS, thanks, TBH I don't know how to do that on this site, perhaps someone who can will edit. Cheers – Fattie Jun 28 '18 at 16:45
  • @Fattie I made the edit, additionally using the title as the text for each link. Links must start with either http:// or https:// to be parsed as such. – Laurel Jun 28 '18 at 17:14
  • This is very useful information that does not answer the question. Just saying. – Carsten S Jul 1 '18 at 9:55

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