You've seen them in funny countdown videos on YouTube. Or maybe you've even picked up a book of names. There are also hundreds of online databases you can search with common names and their frequency. But what is the most common name in the world? It depends on where in the world you are.
What Is the Most Common Name in the World?
The most common name in the world has to do with old-school professions. We're talking about last names like 'farmer' or 'banker' or 'cobbler:' words that delineating people's professions. But across the world, the different translation for the word 'smith' are the most common last name. For first names, "John" is another common name found in many cultures; but across borders each country has their own unique answer to the question 'what is the most common name in the world.'
For example, in the Middle East, or in predominantly Muslim countries, the most common name is Mohammed. If you're in Scotland, it's Cameron McDonald. In Denmark, the most common name is Jens Jensen; and even though it's a smaller country, you'll still find more people with that name than anyone else. Ultimately, if your answer to "what is the most common name in the world?" includes someone whose name means a common profession/practice, or who is named after a famous person from the largest religions or lines of royalty, you've got yourself an example of one of the most common names in the world.
Common Names: Cultural Analysis of the Top 10 Largest Countries
So now that we've gone over some examples of how the world's most common names, we'll break down each of the top ten most populated countries and the most common names that arises from the culture of each. We'll also explore why these names are so popular based on factors like cultural/religious values as well as social/political influences.
10. Japan - Population: 126,168,156
Japan is known for its distinctive architecture, aesthetics, and the invention of sushi. Japan's most common names relate to the sun, the air, and clothing. The most common last name is Satō, meaning "to assist." For men, the most common first name is Haruto, and for women it's Yui. The male name has a meaning that involves solar imagery and the act of flying, while with the female name has a meaning more closely linked with the act of binding and clothing.
The impact of the most common male name is knitted into the fabric of the culture. It's so ubiquitous that the rising sun itself is depicted in red on Japan's flag. As far as the most common female name and its clothing connotation, it could come from the fact that, until 1935, there were more female workers in Japanese factories than there were men; and one of Japan's chief exports was and still is textiles. It's not surprising that the name persists as Japan's most common.
9. Russia - Population: 142,122,776
The funny thing about Russia's most common name is that it translates into the most common name in the USA/UK, which is John Smith. This is why the argument can be made that John Smith is the answer to 'what is the most common name in the world.' In Russian, the name John Smith translates to Ivan Kuznetsov. The name John can be traced back to figures like John the Baptist, and the common trade of blacksmithing is what has given us the family name Smith.
8. Bangladesh - Population: 159,143,001
Bangladesh is a country almost entirely surrounded by India and Myanmar. Their most common first name here is Khan, with the most common last name being 'Islam.' These names primarily come from the fact that 90 percent of the citizens practice Islam. Also, Khan is a word meaning 'noble person.'
7. Nigeria - Population: 195,300,343
In Nigeria, the most common names are Emmanual (for boys) and Esther (for girls). These names derived from the religions and cultures common to the area and speak to the influence that outside peoples have had on Nigeria over thousands of years. Emmanual essentially means 'god with us' and shows up all over the Judeo-Christian landscape. The same goes for Esther; only the meaning of this name is 'star.'
6. Pakistan - Population: 207,862,518
In Pakistan, another predominately Muslim country, the most common male name is Abdul, while the most common female name is Aisha. These names mean 'the servant' and 'she who lives' respectively. One of the most common last names is Abbas, meaning 'stern' or 'the lion.'
The Top 5 Most Populous Countries and Their Most Common Names
As we go further and further down the list, the question of "what is the most common name in the world?" begins to have even more weight. This is because the cultures of these countries are so huge that the more common a name is here, the more likely that there are more people with this particular name than any other on the planet. Though there is no way to tell for sure, the closer you get to number one, the more likely you'll know what is the most common name in the world.
5. Brazil - Population: 208,846,892
Yes, they say everything's bigger in Brazil. But what about names? Well the most common male and female names are notedly Biblical. They are Jose and Maria, which are the Spanish transliterations of John and Mary. So in a way yes, these two figures are one of the most famous couples in history. The most common last name is Silva, which means 'forest or woodland.'
4. Indonesia - Population: 262,787,403
Indonesia is a melting pot of a southeast Asian nations and has a rich history of language and naming. For example, one of the most common names in this country is "Prasetya", meaning 'luck and destiny.' One of the most common last names is Sukarno, which is a merging of the Sanskrit word 'good' with the name of the first president of Indonesia.
3. United States of America - Population: 329,256,465
Another melting pot of a nation you just might have heard of: the United States. The most common name in America is 'John Smith,' but in recent years the names David and Robert have briefly held the title for males. For females it's either Mary or Maria, depending on your heritage. All of these names have Christian origins, except for Robert. This name has English/Germanic roots.
2. India - Population: 1,296,834,042
For the second most populous country on earth, the most common name for males is Arav, which means 'peaceful.' For women, the most common first name is Aadhya, meaning 'first power.' As far as last names go, the most common is 'Acharya' which means 'an influential teacher or mentor.' These names speak to the Indian ideals of lifelong learning and balance both in the material and the spiritual realms.
1. China - Population: 1,384,688,986
This is the world's most populous country and might just have the answer to the question "what is the most common name in the world?" Here, the most common names for men and women are Zhang Wei and Wang Fang, which mean 'great' and 'aromatic' respectively. And as for the most common last name? That would be Wang: a name shared by over 92 million people. And because in China there are 34 million more men than women, the answer to "what is the most common name in the world?" just might be 'Zhang Wei Wang.
Embracing the Opposite: World's Most Uncommon Names
So now that you know the most common names in the world, which ones might just be the most unique? Well there are many factors at play here. Names, like specie, can go extinct when the last member of that family bloodline dies out. This could have been for a variety of reasons, including disease, war, or even genocide. But some names have just barely been able to hold on. Here are some of the most unique ones we've selected.
Rare Female Names
Some of the most unique female names include words like Alabama, Arantxa, Bentlee, Chi Chi, Diem, Drishti, and Esma. While some of these names have meanings, some of them were imagined or given (most likely because parents like the way they sound).
Rare Male Names
As far as men are concerned, some uncommon names include Abbot, Bobo, Everest, Jedi, (yes Star Wars fans) Shepherd, Rufus, and Willis. Again, some of these names have special meanings that go deep into history, while others are a testament to memory and majesty (like the iconic Mount Everest).
So when it comes to names you might pick, what will you consider? Will you pick based on tradition? A beautiful image? A legendary person you admire? The good news is that the choice is entirely up to you.