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Pronunciation/ˈləm/ LEE-əm
Irish: [l̻ʲiəmˠ]
MeaningDesire, Guardian, Helmet, Protector, Boss
Region of originIreland
Other names
Related namesWilhelm, William, Gwilym, Will, Bill, Guillaume (French form), Guillermo (Spanish form)[1]

Liam is a short form of the Irish name "Uilliam".


The original name was a merging of two Old German elements: willa[2] ("will" or "resolution"); and helma ("helmet"). The juxtaposition of these elements effectively means "helmet of will" or "guardian".[3]

When the Frankish Empire was divided, the name developed differently in each region. In Northern Francia, Willahelm developed first into "Willelm" and then into "Willaume" in Norman and Picard, and "Guillaume" in Ile-de-France French. The Norman form was further developed by the English into the familiar modern form "William".[4]


Although the names Willahelm and Guillaume were well known in England before 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, Reginald and William,[5] they were quickly adopted by the English, the Welsh, and eventually the Irish.[citation needed]

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.[6]

Until the end of the 18th century, Liam was virtually unknown outside Ireland. In the mid-1850s, over a million and a half people left Ireland to escape the catastrophic great famine and, from then on, Irish names were heard everywhere. Liam as an independent name in England and Wales dates from 1932, but 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.[citation needed]

Late 20th and early 21st centuries[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. It continued to gain ground. 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.[7]

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 2009.

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 in 2009 at number 49. As Liam gained popularity in the US, climbing to number two by 2013, popularity in the UK plummeted, and it ranked 67th that same year.[8][9] In Canada, Liam has been the most popular boys name since 2013.[10][11][12]

Year Rank in the US[8] Rank in the UK[9]
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 76
2015 2 81



  1. ^ Staff (2004–2012). "Guillaume". Think Baby Names. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2012). "helmet". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  3. ^ Sean Crist. "Search results". Germanic Lexicon Project. Germanic Lexicon Project. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  4. ^ François d'Eudemare (1626). "Search results". Histoire excellente et héroique du roy Willaume le bastard, jadis roy d'Angleterre & duc de Normandie.
  5. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  6. ^ A Revised History of Names in Britain
  7. ^ "Release Edition Reference Tables - ONS". Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  8. ^ a b "Popular Baby Names". Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  9. ^ a b "Baby Names, England and Wales". Retrieved 2015-11-28.
  10. ^ "Top 100 Baby Names in Canada 2013 - Today's Parent". Today's Parent. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  11. ^ "Top 100 Baby Names in Canada 2014 - Today's Parent". Today's Parent. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Top 100 Baby Names in Canada 2015 - Today's Parent". Today's Parent. Retrieved 24 March 2016.