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Pronunciation /ˈl.əm/ LEE-əm
Gender Male
Word/name France and Ireland
Meaning Desire, Guardian, Helmet, Protector, Boss
Region of origin France and Ireland
Other names
Related names William, Wilhelm, Will, Bill, Gwilym, Guillermo (Latin form)[1]

Liam is a short form of the Irish name "Uilliam", itself a derivative of the Frankish, "Willahelm". The original name was a merging of the Old German elements, vila[2] ("will" or "resolution") and helma ("helmet"), and therefore, means "helmet of will" and "Guardian".[3] When the Frankish Empire was divided into two parts, the name developed differently in each region. In the French half, Willahelm developed first into "Guilielm", and then into "Guillaume", while the German developed into "Wilhelm" and the English developed into William. Liam was one of the most popular names for boys in the United States in the early 2010s.


Although Willahelm and Guillaume were well known in England prior to 1066, through Saxon dealings with Guillaume, Duc de Normandie, it was viewed as a "foreign" name. The Norman Conquest had a dramatic effect on English names. Many, if not most Saxon names, such as Ethelred, died out under the massive influx of French ones. Since the Royal Court now rang with names such as Alain, Guy, Aeginald and William,[4] they were quickly adopted by the English, the Welsh, and eventually the Irish.

Within a generation, the "new" names had become so completely assimilated that they were regarded as homegrown, and variant forms evolved and thrived alongside one another. In Wales, both William and Gwilym became popular, as did the short forms Wil and Gwil, and almost every village had its own Gwilym Williams (the final "s" represented "son of" or "descendant of"). The Norman conquest of Ireland followed a similar pattern to that of England a century earlier. Within a generation, the Irish Uilliam was found alongside William, and the short form of both was Liam.[5]

Until the end of the 18th century, Liam was virtually unknown outside Ireland, but in the mid-1850s, over a million and a half people left Ireland to escape the catastrophic potato famine, and from then on, Irish names were heard everywhere. Liam as an independent name in England and Wales dates from 1932, but at this stage it was mainly confined to the families of Irish descent. By 1955, it was recorded for two boys in every 10,000, a figure it maintained until 1975, when it rose to four per 10,000.

Late 20th and early 21st century[edit]

By 1980, it was clear that Liam was becoming a vogue name in the general population in the United Kingdom, and that year it was recorded for 12 boys per 10,000 in the UK. It continued to gain ground, and in 1985, it stood at 20 per 10,000, and by 1990, it was recorded for 100 boys in every 10,000. In 1996, Liam peaked in popularity as the 10th most popular baby name for boys in England and Wales, according to the UK Office for National Statistics.[6]

Liam continued to remain in the top 33 most popular boys names in the UK throughout the first decade of the 21st century, but started to steadily decline in 1999. Meanwhile, according to the Social Security Administration, Liam had been steadily gaining in popularity in the United States and entered the top 50 names for the first time that same year at number 49. As Liam gained popularity in the US, climbing to number 2 by 2013, popularity in the UK plummeted, and it ranked 67th that same year.[7][8]

Year Rank in the US[7] Rank in the UK[8]
1994 360 17
1995 240 Not available
1996 184 10
1997 162 15
1998 155 24
1999 141 17
2000 140 19
2001 131 24
2002 113 23
2003 114 29
2004 112 30
2005 104 28
2006 98 32
2007 89 27
2008 75 22
2009 49 24
2010 30 33
2011 15 44
2012 6 50
2013 2 67
2014 2 Not available

In other languages[edit]

In Arabic, the word لِئْم, with a pronunciation equivalent to the Irish name Liam, means "harmony in opinion or feeling".[9]

In Persian, the word لیام is the name of a plant in southern part of Iran, means "protector and supporter".

In Hebrew, the name Liam can be spelled two different ways with the same meaning of "My Nation" or "My People": לִיעַם or לִיאַם.[10] לִיעַם is also an acronym for "לא ידע עמי מלחמה" meaning "My nation will not know war."[11] However, ליאם is most often used when referencing the more common English/Irish name, while ליעם is usually used when emphasising the Hebrew roots, but this isn't hard and fast.



  1. ^ Staff (2004–2012). "Guillaume". Think Baby Names. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2012). "helmet". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Sean Crist. "Search results". Germanic Lexicon Project. Germanic Lexicon Project. Retrieved 27 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  5. ^ A Revised History of Names in Britain
  6. ^ "Release Edition Reference Tables - ONS". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Popular Baby Names". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Baby Names, England and Wales". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Almaany Team. "Translation and Meaning of the word لئم in English Arabic Dictionary of terms Page 1". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "Jewish Top 10s: Baby Names". Shalom Life. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "משמעות השם ליעם". Shemli. Retrieved 28 May 2015.