These were the most popular German baby names in 2021

Popular German baby names offered a surprise winner in the boy's category in 2021, a new winner in the girl's category, while a Covid-related name also enjoyed an inexplicable bump in popularity.

Babies at a hospital in Saxony-Anhalt
Babies at a hospital in Saxony-Anhalt in 2017. Photo: dpa | Waltraud Grubitzsch

Emilia and Matteo were the most popular names given to German babies in 2021, both of them reaching the top of the rankings for the first time.

A list compiled by amateur researcher Knud Bielefeld was published on Thursday after his small team sifted through around a third of all the birth certificates issued this year.

Emilia has been slowly climbing through the rankings, meaning its win wasn’t such a surprise, Bielefeld said.

“Matteo, on the other hand, has gone very steeply uphill. He wasn’t even in the top ten two years ago and now he’s already at number one, which is very unusual,” he added.

Both names fit well into the German naming landscape, Bielefeld said.

“Especially with Emilia, many similar names come to mind. Ella, Emma, Emily. Matteo also has many similar names that we’ve known for a while. Mattis, Matthias or Mats. The names are already very familiar, but also have a little something new,” he explained.

But Bielefeld struggled to explain the quick rise of Matteo.

“I haven’t found any event. I’m also not aware of any particular role model in radio, television, media or sports,” he said.

The other names in the top tens held few surprises. Among girls, Emilia was followed by Hannah, Mia, Emma and Sophia. Among the boys, Noah, Leon, Finn and Elias made up the top 5.

“These are all the names that have been in the top 10 for a while,” said Bielefeld.

One interesting inclusion though was the name Luca.

“Luca is interesting,” Bielefeld said, adding that he questioned whether parents would stop naming their children Luca because of the Luca app, which millions of Germans currently use to check in at restaurants for contact tracing purposes.

Smartphone with Covid apps

A smartphone screen shows a number of Covid-related apps. The name Luca has remained a popular boy’s name, despite the unpleasant associations of the Luca app. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Dernbach

“But that hasn’t happened. If anything, the name has become even more popular this year.”

This year, Luca landed at number eight, up from 12 or 13 in previous years. The summer also saw the release of an animated film from Pixar Studios called “Luca” on the Disney+ streaming service.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to bring up a child in Germany?

In contrast, the popularity of Greta has slumped. The name, famously that of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, no longer seems to have the attraction it once had.

“The year before last, Greta was still at number 30. It plummeted to 130th last year and this year it went even further downhill. Greta is down to number 200.”

Basic trends regarding parents’ choice of names in the different regions of Germany have remained the same.

“In southern Germany, names that are actually out of fashion are more common,” Bielefeld explained. The reason for this, he says, is that names are more often passed down from generation to generation in the south. Examples include Annika, Nina, Franziska, Sebastian, Matthias and Dominik.

In northern Germany, Scandinavian and Frisian names such as Ava, Jetta, Lena, Jonte, Joris and Piet are over-represented.

According to Bielefeld, there are two trends in eastern Germany.

“On the one hand, retro names are popular there. And the other trend is English and American names,” he says.

SEE ALSO: How much does it cost to bring up a child in Germany?

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New fathers in Germany to receive paid paternity leave ‘starting in 2024’

For the first time, fathers in Germany will receive two weeks guaranteed paid time off work following the birth of their child, said Family Minister Lisa Paus.

New fathers in Germany to receive paid paternity leave 'starting in 2024'

Starting in 2024, fathers in Germany will automatically receive paid Vaterschaftsurlaub (paternity leave) for two weeks following the birth of their child. Previously they had no guaranteed time off, except for the day of the birth itself.

Germany’s coalition government had already discussed writing paternity leave into law in 2023, but put the plans on hold, “due to the difficult situation for small and medium-sized businesses,” said Family Minister Lisa Paus from the Greens on Monday. 

The new rule will be part of the Mutterschutzgesetz (Maternity Protection Act), which guarantees new mothers six weeks of paid leave before the birth of a child, and two months afterwards.

Especially in the period following the birth, it is important “that parents have time for each other and the baby,” Paus said. 

She added that the paid time off is “another important building block for the compatibility of family and career.”

Fathers in Germany already have the option to take ‘Elternzeit’, or parental leave. When both parents apply for the benefit, they can take a total of 14 months of leave paid at 65 percent of their salary.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about parental leave in Germany

In 2020, 25 percent of new fathers in Germany applied for leave and took an average of 3.7 months off from work. On the other hand, all new mothers in Germany took an average of 14.5 months of Elternzeit, as the total time (including unpaid leave) is available for up to 36 months. 

In July, the European Union already passed a directive that all fathers be entitled to two weeks off following the birth of their child. Germany’s coalition government then began discussing when to implement the measure.