From Mary to Olivia: Life Cycles of the #1 Girls Names in New South Wales


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Recently Abby from Appellation Mountain had a great article on the #1 girls names in the United States – such a good idea that I had to steal it! As we don’t have national data stretching back to the turn of the century, I’ve looked at the #1 girls names in New South Wales, since it is the most populous state, and has the best data. Annual data is only available from 1960, so until then the #1 names are for the decade only.

Mary 1900s and 1910s
The #1 name of the 1900s and 1910s (previous history unknown, but in the UK was #1 for the second half of the 19th century). Left the Top 10 in the 1940s, and the Top 100 in 2009. 2011 position was #101. Mary was the overall #1 girls’ name of the twentieth century.

Betty 1920s
Was #276 in the 1900s. Joined the Top 100 in the 1910s at #62 – sudden increase in popularity correlates with matinee idol Betty Blythe starting her film career. Shot up to #1 in the 1920s, the peak era for Blythe. Left the Top 10 in 1940, and the Top 100 in 1950. Left the charts in the 1990s.

Margaret 1930s and 1940s
Was #6 in the 1900s (previous history unknown, but in the UK had been stable in the Top 10 for the second half of the 19th century). Made #1 for both the 1930s and 1940s, coinciding with the early life of Princess Margaret. Left the Top 10 in the 1960s, and the Top 100 in 1970s; Princess Margaret attracted some controversy at this time. Failed to chart in 2010, but in 2011 was #428 – higher than before the drop. Margaret is the overall #1 girls’ name in Australian history.

Susan 1950s
Was #149 in the 1900s. Joined the Top 100 in the 1940s at #14 – sudden increase in popularity correlates with actress Susan Hayward starting her career. The #1 name of the 1950s, the peak of Susan Hayward’s career. Left the Top 10 in the 1970s, and the Top 100 in the 1980s. Although in steady use for many years, it failed to chart in 2011.

Jennifer 1960-62
Joined the charts and Top 100 in the 1930s at #75. Surged in popularity during the 1940s, correlating to career success of actress Jennifer Jones. Was #1 in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Left the Top 10 in 1970, and the Top 50 in 1995. Left the Top 100 in 2005. 2011 position was 260 and stable.

Karen 1963 to 1966
Joined the charts in the 1940s at #104 and the Top 100 in the 1950s at #13. By 1960 it was Top 10, and overall Karen was the most popular girls’ name of the 1960s. Left the Top 10 in 1977, and the Top 50 in 1983, leaving the Top 100 in 1987. Sudden drop in popularity correlates with the death of singer Karen Carpenter from anorexia nervosa, and the death of Karen Ann Quinlan, who had been in a long-term coma after a radical starvation diet. Left the charts in 2009, but made a slight recovery in 2011, ranking #631.

Michelle 1967-72 and 1974-75
First charted in the 1940s at #248 and joined the Top 100 in the 1950s at #52. By 1960 it had reached #18, and was in the Top 10 by 1961. Reached #1 in 1967, when The Beatles song Michelle won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. Michelle reached #1 again in the mid 1970s, the most popular girls’ name of that decade. Left the Top 10 in 1985, the Top 50 in 1995, and the Top 100 in 2003. 2011 position was 233 and stable.

Kylie 1973
Joined the charts and Top 100 in 1965 at #93. Reached the Top 50 in 1968, and the Top 10 in 1970. Left the Top 10 in 1982, but managed to get back into it in 1987, the year of Kylie Minogue’s onscreen wedding to Jason Donovan in soap opera Neighbours. Left the Top 50 in 1989 and the Top 100 in 1990 – sudden fall in popularity correlates with Mary-Anne Fahey appearing as grouchy schoolgirl Kylie Mole in The Comedy Company television show. Left the charts in the late 2000s.

Rebecca 1976 to 1982
Was #179 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1930s. Made a comeback in the 1940s at #366, the same decade that Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rebecca was released. Joined the Top 100 in 1966 at #93, and the Top 50 in 1969. Joined the Top 10 in 1972, and was #1 four years later, staying in the top spot for eight years. Left the Top 10 in 1998, and the Top 50 in 2004. Left the Top 100 in 2008 – sudden fall in popularity correlates with actress Rebecca “Bec” Cartright leaving soap opera Home and Away. 2011 position was 188 and stable.

Sarah 1983
Has been on the charts since the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1940s at #284. Began rising in the 1950s, and joined the Top 100 in 1964 at #98. Joined the Top 50 in 1970, and the Top 10 in 1976. Despite only being #1 for one year, Sarah was overall the most popular girls’ name of the 1980s. Left the Top 10 in 2005. Currently #44.

Jessica 1984-97 and 2000-01
Joined the charts in the 1960s at #437; similarity to Jennifer probably a major factor. Joined the Top 100 in 1976 at #97, and the Top 50 in 1979. Joined the Top 10 in 1982, spending thirteen consecutive years at #1 and managing to get there again at the start of the 2000s. Overall Jessica was the most popular girls’ name of the 1990s. Left the Top 10 in 2008. Currently #40.

Emily 1998-99 and 2002-2004
Has been on the charts since the 1900s, falling to its lowest level in the 1950s at #455. Began rising in the 1960s, and joined the Top 100 in 1977 at #77. Joined the Top 50 in 1981, and the Top 10 in 1989. Made #1 twice for a total of five years between 1998 and 2004, and was overall the most popular girls’ name of the 2000s. Currently #6.

Olivia 2005 and 2014
Joined the charts and Top 100 in 1978 at #65, the year that Newton-John starred as as Sandy in the movie Grease. Joined the Top 50 in 1990, and Top 10 in 1998. Currently #1 again, correlating with a busy period for actress Olivia Wilde.

Chloe 2006 and 2011
Joined the charts in the 1970s at #674, the decade when French fashion house Chloé was at its peak. Joined the Top 100 in 1985 at #98, the same year that actress Candice Bergen welcomed a daughter named Chloe. Joined the Top 50 in 1986 – sudden rise in popularity correlates with the birth of Olivia Newton-John’s daughter, Chloe Lattanzi. Joined the Top 10 in 1996 and was #1 ten years later. Made #1 again in 2011, a key year for young actress Chloe Moretz. Currently #7.

Isabella 2007 and 2009-10
Has been on the charts since the 1900s, dropping off in the 1950s and the 1970s. Came back in the 1980s at #499, after actress Isabella Rossellini began her career in American films. Joined the Top 100 in 1993 at #78 and the Top 50 in 1994 – sudden surge in popularity correlates with actress Nicole Kidman welcoming a daughter named Isabella by adoption. Joined the Top 10 in 1998. Reaching #1 in 2007, it was back again in 2009, the year after the first Twilight film, with Kristen Stewart as Isabella “Bella” Swan. Currently #9.

Mia 2008
Joined the charts in the 1960s at #464 for the decade, the era when Maria “Mia” Farrow, daughter of Australian director John Farrow, began her career on soap opera Peyton Place. It joined the Top 100 in 1997 and the Top 50 in 2003 – sudden massive surge in popularity correlates with The Princess Diaries being released on DVD, with Anne Hathaway as Princess Mia. Joined the Top 10 in 2005, and was #1 for one year. Currently #2.

Ruby 2012
Was #21 in the 1900s and left the charts in the 1950s. Came back in the 1980s, at 548, the decade comedian Ruby Wax began her career on British TV. Joined the Top 100 in 1996 at #100, and the Top 50 in 1998 – sudden surge in popularity correlates with Ruby Wax getting her own interview show. Joined the Top 10 in 2010, just after the name Ruby was chosen for a baby on hit drama series, Packed to the Rafters. Two years later it was #1. Currently #8.

Charlotte 2013
Was #96 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1940s. Came back in the 1960s at #513, just as actress Charlotte Rampling began her career. Joined the Top 100 in 1989 at #86, and the Top 50 in 1998. Joined the Top 10 in 2003, and was #1 a decade later. Charlotte is currently #3.

What do the #1 names have in common? They include classics and retro names, but many had never appeared on the charts before they began their ascent to the top.

The amount of time it took to go from obscurity to popularity varied. Some leaped straight from nowhere into the Top 100, while others took decades – Mia had around 30 years between appearing on the charts and joining the Top 100. The average was 13 years.

One thing that nearly all the names had in common was the swiftness with which they went from the bottom half of the Top 100 into the Top 50: the average amount of time it took was just four years, and some managed it in a single year. The longest was Olivia, which took 12 years to get into the Top 50.

Once in the Top 10, the longest any names took to reach #1 was ten years. It took them at least two years before they reached the #1 spot, with the fastest being Jessica and Ruby. The average was six years.

Having made #1, names tended to stay in the Top 10 for a while, an average of twelve years. It took Kylie 17 years to finally leave the Top 10 for good, while Jessica was gone in just seven.

After they left the Top 10, most names were fairly quick to depart the Top 100, except Jennifer, which had 35 years of further popularity. Kylie had just three. Most of the names remained in reasonable use, so #1 names don’t usually become horribly dated, unless they become associated with something unpleasant or comical.

Can we draw any inferences for the future? It’s apparent that the nature of the #1 name has changed – the days of one name being at the top for several years are over. The change set in around the mid-2000s, which is when we all became a lot more conscious about name popularity. Since then, it seems as if being #1 is a job-sharing position, with several Top 10 names taking it in turns to wear the crown.

Could other current Top 10 names get to #1? Ava reached the Top 10 in 2008 and Amelia in 2009, so they still have until 2018 and 2019 to make the ten year deadline. However, Sophie joined in 2004, so time has run out – she should have been #1 last year if we accept a ten-year time-frame.

Speed of rising is a predictor of potential #1 success. If we look at names currently rising, Aria and Evelyn look like possibilities for the future, taking just 2 years to go from the bottom of the Top 100 to the Top 50. Harper, Isla and Ivy seem even more likely, as they took only one year.

Maybe that’s making parents of Arias and Islas feel a little nervous, but there’s one thing to remember: out of all the names given to babies in New South Wales since 1900, most didn’t get to #1. In other words, whatever name you love, the odds are on your side that it will never become the most popular name of the year.

What Would You Call a Brother or Sister to Lucas in an H-Free Zone?


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Tessa and Patrick are expecting their second child in a few weeks, a sibling for their son Lucas. They already have middle names picked out – Marguerite for a girl, and Philip for a boy. These are both family names, and Lucas has a family name for his middle name too.

Tessa loves lots of names which start with the letter H, but the family surname also begins an H eg Howitt. She thinks names such as Henry Howitt or Hannah Howitt sound very sing-songy and she doesn’t like them at all. This has made choosing baby names a bit more challenging for her.

So far their name lists look like this:

Gemma (front runner)
Jemima (Tessa loves this name but Patrick doesn’t)

Felix (front runner)

Tessa wants to know what people think of their name lists, and if they can suggest any other names they might like that sound nice with Lucas and don’t start with H.

* * * * * * * * * *

Bad luck with the surname issue, which can indeed change what names you decide upon (my husband outlawed anything ending in S or X). Luckily there are 25 other letters in the alphabet, leaving you with plenty of choice.


Very pretty (Gemma Marguerite is lovely), and it sounds like a great match with Lucas. It also seems like an excellent compromise for a couple where one person loves the name Jemima and the other doesn’t.

I also love this name (so stylish), and feel sad you’re not allowed to use it. I’ve noticed dads often can’t get into the name Jemima.

I like Zoe Marguerite a lot, and Lucas and Zoe make for quite a modern-sounding sibset.

Imogen and Lucas are wonderful together. Somehow this reminds me of both Gemma and Jemima, so it almost seems like another good compromise choice.


I love this name, and like how it sounds with your surname, and with Lucas. However, if you don’t like alliteration, how do you feel about Felix Philip?

This actually sounds really good with Lucas, even though Milo is a bit more daring. To me Milo sounds like a very energetic young boy – maybe because you “go and go and go with Milo”, or because his initials would be MPH (miles per hour). Pretty cool.

You’ve picked another winner as a match with Lucas, because Lucas and Toby just sound brilliant together.

Adore this with your surname – it just sounds so breezy, yet competent and trustworthy. Amazingly I couldn’t find any examples of people using it online, so even though it sounds completely normal, it doesn’t appear to be common.

I like Oscar Philip as a name combination, and I like that it’s an Irish name, like Patrick’s.

Other Names You Might Like


Jasper or Casper
Jonah (it means “dove” like Jemima)
Rafferty (if Rafe seems too stuttery next to Philip)

These names all seem stylish, yet are simple and fuss-free, which I think might be what you and Patrick are looking for. Although I think you have a nice shortlist already, and with only a few weeks to go, adding more names to the list may not be what you really need at this point.

Readers, which names do you prefer for Lucas’ sister or brother? And are there any other names you think Tessa and Patrick would like?

Lilith and Zoryn




Anastasia (Jenny, Kay)
Amity Louise
Andi Dawn
Ariah Turangawaewae (Savannah)
Asha Ellen (Ruby, Jorja)
Avalee Rose (Maya)
Bridget Laurel
Clara Elizabeth (Emilia, Hayden)
Elena (Corey, Damon, Adara)
Eliza Scarlett (Amelia)
Estelle Amerie
Faith Patricia
Gabrielle Elise (Isabella, Maddison)
Georgie Marea
Jade Jordanna (Kimberley, Bradley)
Kelsey Adrienne Rachel
Lilith Amanda Freda (Skye, Cade, Paige)
Makayla Ashley (Macauley)
Margot Mary (Rosie)
Millie-Belle Diamond
Olivia Margaret
Phoebe Lily
Poppy Joan
Remi Joy (Tehya)
Roxanne Courtney
Safia Ifet (Lukas)
Scarlett Marion
Sophie Veda
Stella Carmel (Ruby, Charlotte)
Zahli May (Callen, Sienna)

Alby Edward (Renee, Lillian)
Alyxander Barry Joseph (Aydan, Damyn)
Ari Peter (Isaac)
Benjamin Jo (Ryker, Finley, Jojo)
Caleb Zhe-Yi
Chad Lester
Dustyn Luke (Kody, Tahlia, Deakin)
Easton James (Arabella)
Ethan Weng Ming
Flynn Sydney Maxwell
Freddie Dave (Archie, Larry, Sam)
George Alfred
Grayson Terence John
Harlan Mitchell (Imarni)
Jack Howard Lincoln
Jagger Michael (Cruize)
Jasper Stanley (Alexia, Kallum, Chayse)
Jed Tyson (Sophie)
Jovi Ramon (Blair, Seth, Axel)
Lachlan Neale (Riley, Hudson, Connor, Patrick, Rachel)
Lucas Harvey Raymond (Archer)
Max Erich Graham (Monique, Mikayla)
Nathaniel Ernest
Oliver Henry
Peter Anthony (Will)
Sebastian Philip
Silas Ethan
Theo Hudson (Hunter)
William Thomas Meurant
Zoryn Levi (Corbyn, Bohdi, Tristyn, Soraya)

(Wind farm through fog at Blayney, NSW)

Vote For Your Favourite Names in June


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Twins: Frankie and Oscar (girl/boy)
Girls: Primrose Alice
Boys: Leo Montgomery
Sibsets: Charlotte, Henry and Annabelle

Famous Name: Atlas


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Name in the News
A Sydney publisher has put Australia (and the rest of the world) on the map after bringing out the world’s largest atlas. The happily-named Gordon Cheers first dreamed up the atlas 25 years ago, after seeing the huge Klencke Atlas at the British Library, presented to King Charles II in 1660.

The Earth Platinum atlas weighs 150 kg, is 1.8 metres tall and 2.7 metres across when it is open; it is 128 pages long, and each page needs two people to turn it. There are 61 pages of maps compiled by a team of 88 cartographers, showing maps of the continents and oceans, and very detailed regional maps.

As well as a double-page layout of the world’s flags, there are 27 photographic image of famous locations. One of them also broke the record for the world’s largest image in a book – it’s a picture of the Shanghai skyline made from over 12 000 photos. Last year the Earth Platinum atlas was recognised by the International Map Industry Association, and it has also entered the Guinness Book of World Records.

Only 31 copies of the limited edition atlas were produced, each one costing $100 000. One copy belongs to the British Library, who plans to exhibit it for six days each year. Officially launched on June 26, the only copy of Earth Platinum in Australia can be seen at the State Library of New South Wales until July 19.

Name Information
In Greek mythology, Atlas was one of the Titans, the ancient gods who preceded the Olympians, and who were the children and grandchildren of the earth goddess Gaia, and the sky god Uranus. The younger generation of gods, led by Zeus, waged war against their elders, and eventually prevailed, gaining dominion over the world.

Atlas was one of the leaders of the Titans during the war, and was given a special punishment – for all eternity, he was condemned to stand at the western edge of the earth (Gaia) and hold up the heavens (Uranus) on his shoulders, so that the twain should never meet.

Once the sky was able to lie upon the earth each night and mate with her, and from these couplings were born the Titans: now Zeus demanded that Atlas keep them separated forever, so that they could conceive no further gods. In other words, Atlas was to be used as a contraceptive device for deities.

Another tale tells of a giant named Atlas who tried to drive away the hero Perseus, fearing that he would steal the golden apples from Atlas’ garden. For this he was turned to stone by the head of the Medusa, becoming the Atlas Mountains in northern Africa.

This contradicts another story, where the hero Heracles had to fetch the golden apples from Hera’s garden, which was tended by Atlas’ daughters, the nymphs called the Hesperides. Heracles asked Atlas to fetch him the apples, offering to hold the sky up while he ran the errand. Atlas tried to trick Heracles into taking on the job permanently, but Heracles asked Atlas if he could just hold up the sky for a few minutes while he arranged his cloak as padding for his shoulders. Once Atlas took the heavens again, Heracles grabbed the golden apples and hoofed it, leaving Atlas holding the baby.

There is a nicer ending to the story, where Heracles built the Pillars of Hercules, the peaks flanking the Strait of Gibraltar near Spain; one of the pillars is the Rock of Gibraltar. Heracles told Atlas that from now on, the Pillars would hold up the heavens, liberating Atlas from his burdensome task.

It is not certain what the name Atlas means. The Roman poet Virgil translated it as related to “enduring”, possibly because he knew that a local name for the Atlas Mountains was Douris. Etymologists tend to interpret it as meaning “uphold, support”, although the name may actually be pre-Greek. The name of the Atlas Mountains is thought to be derived from a Berber word simply meaning “mountain”.

The Atlantic Ocean is named after Atlas, because it was seen as the western edge of the world. The mythical doomed Atlantis, vaguely located beyond the Pillars of Hercules in the Atlantic Ocean, means “island of Atlas”.

Plato says that the first king of Atlantis was named Atlas (not the Titan, but a son of Poseidon), and some believe that he based him on a legendary North African king named Atlas, a skilled astronomer and inventor of the first celestial globe, which mapped the constellations. The connection with North Africa and the heavens suggests the legendary king was inspired by the Titan.

It was 16th century geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator who first used the word atlas to mean a collection of maps, dedicating his own atlas to honour King Atlas, the legendary African astronomer. However, he conflated the king with the Titan Atlas, and even before that it had become traditional to show Atlas holding up the celestial spehere on early maps. Because of the connection with maps, we sometimes think of Atlas as holding up a globe of the world, although it is a puzzle how Atlas could stand on the earth while holding up the world.

Atlas has further connections to the heavens, because it is a star system in the constellation of the Pleiades, which is often called the Seven Sisters. The Titan Atlas was the father of seven sea-nymphs, and after he was sent off to carry the heavens, there was nobody around to take care of his daughters. The girls were pursued by the hunter Orion, so Zeus first turned them into doves, and then into stars so their father might see them in the sky and be comforted.

Another story is that the sisters committed suicide in despair at their father’s fate, and were immortalised as stars. Because astronomy places Atlas in the constellation as well, it seems he truly was liberated by Heracles, and can now be with his daughters for all time, protecting them from Orion, who you may still see pursuing the sisters across the night sky.

One of Saturn’s moons is named Atlas, because it appears to hold up the rings of Saturn, as if carrying them on its shoulders. It was decided that the major moons of Saturn would be given the names of Titans, as Saturn is the Roman name for Cronos, the head of the Titans. The name Atlas has also been given to one of the craters on our own moon (it’s right near Hercules).

Atlas has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and became more common in the 19th century, especially in the United States. There are quite a few Atlases in Australian records, both male and female, and used as a first and middle name fairly equally.

Atlas made a couple of appearances on the US Top 1000 in the 19th century, and began charting again in 2013; it is currently #646 and rising. Actress Anne Heche welcomed a son Atlas in 2009, which seems to have increased interest in the name. In 2013, 12 baby boys were named Atlas in the UK, the name rising steeply since 2011. There is evidence that the name Atlas is growing in popularity in Australia too, although like the UK, still in rare use.

Atlas is a powerful, indeed a Titanic name, reminding us of famous strongman Charles Atlas. It suggests the brawn to hold up the heavens, and the fortitude to carry a load on his shoulders without complaining. However, not only are mythological names on trend, we are more comfortable now bestowing big names on little babies, and giving them something to aspire to.

And Atlas isn’t just a dumb muscle man – he’s a philosopher king who studied the cosmos, and glittering stars in one of the most familiar of our summer constellations. The name Atlas has also been chosen for several comic book and video game characters, giving it a bit of geek chic.

In short, if you are among the growing number of parents who are drawn to Atlas, you will be getting a strong yet simple name with a mountain of history, a world of legend, and an ocean of science behind it. Not to mention one heck of a lot of geography!

Celebrity Baby News: Celebrity Round Up


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Editor Jamila Rizvi, and her husband Jeremy Smith, welcomed their first child on June 2 and have named their son Rafi Fileborn [pictured]. Rafi is an Arabic name meaning “noble”, while Fileborn is also Jeremy’s middle name, and is Jeremy’s mother’s maiden name – it’s German. Jamila is editor-in-chief of the Mamamia website.

Perth socialites Sophia and Troy Barbagallo welcomed their daughter Madison Mia almost a year ago, a sister for Troy’s teenaged son Dom. The couple are expecting another child this year, and Troy predicts it will be a girl again – apparently he has some kind of gender-predicting superpower, as he is never wrong when he guesses. Sophia is a former Miss World WA, and she and Troy are the organisers for Miss Universe WA and Toybox International.

Councillor Belinda Murphy, and her husband Wayne, welcomed their son Liam last October, a brother for Madeline. Belinda is the mayor of McKinlay Shire, which is in north-western Queensland, centred around the town of Julia Creek. She became the shire’s first female mayor in 2012, and was elected unopposed. An experienced pilot, Belinda runs a cattle transport and earthmoving business with Wayne. She is currently taking part in a campaign to run seven marathons in seven days in six different states to raise money for Bravehearts.

Human rights advocate Gillian Triggs became a grandmother this year when her son, Paris-based lawyer James Brown, and his partner Marie, welcomed a daughter named Sia. A specialist in international law, Gillian is currently the President of the Human Rights Commission. She is married to former diplomat Alan Brown.

Waltzing With … Victoria


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Famous Namesake
July 1 will mark the 164th anniversary of the independence of Victoria. When the British settled Australia in 1788, they claimed the entire eastern side of Australia as the Colony of New South Wales. The area now known as Victoria was first settled in 1803, partly due to French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who had spent several weeks surveying Bass Strait.

Governor Philip Gidley King got nervous that the French could be planning to establish their own settlement and challenge the British claim to Australia. Rather than risk a future where we might say Bonjour over a croissant or ride clean, efficient trains, the British formed a settlement at Port Phillip. It didn’t work out, and a year later they all nicked off to Tasmania. They tried again in 1826 (after another French explorer started hovering around), but that only lasted a year as well.

Paranoid government had failed, so it was capitalism’s turn to give it a go. Entrepreneurs arrived from Tasmania in 1834-35 to form settlements at Portland and Port Phillip (later Melbourne), which soon became prosperous, thriving communities, although at a devastating cost to the Indigenous inhabitants. Wealthy pastoralists took possession of vast tracts of fertile land, and soon Melbourne was the centre of Australia’s wool trade.

With such power and influence behind it, the Port Phillip District began lobbying for independence by 1840. In 1850 the colony was separated from New South Wales, and named Victoria, after Queen Victoria, and officially founded on July 1 1851. That same year, gold was discovered around Ballarat and Bendigo, sparking one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen. Wealth was about to begin pouring into its coffers, and Melbourne to become one of the great cities of the world.

The colony was off to a flying start, soon to to become the state we all know and love. The most beautiful state in Australia, ranging from lush pasture to snowy mountain ranges to golden beaches, it has charming country towns and a sophisticated, quirky capital. You can even get excellent croissants there. Viva la Victoria!

Name Information
Victoria was the Roman personification of victory in battle; her name is the Latin word for “victory”. In her older form, she was known as the goddess Vica Pota, translated by the Romans as meaning “conquering and gaining mastery”.

Victoria symbolised victory over death, and she chose who would be successful on the battlefield, so it was very important to get on her good side. Because of this, she was a popular goddess with many temples in her honour, worshipped by those who returned from war in triumph. She can often be seen on Roman coins and jewellery, and it is common to depict Victoria driving a chariot, probably because Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, was the charioteer for Zeus when he went into battle.

Victoria (or Nike) was depicted as a beautiful woman in flowing garments with large wings sprouting from her shoulders, so that she could fly over battlefields, giving encouragement to the conqueror and proclaiming messages of glory from on high. Statues of her in this mode are called winged victories, such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Later this image became Christianised, as it became the rule to portray angels, especially in church architecture, as graceful women with wings, a direct inspiration from the winged victories.

Victoria is also the feminine form of the Roman name Victor, meaning “victor, conqueror”. Like Victor, it was a popular choice for early Christians, symbolising victory over sin and death, and there are quite a few Christian martyrs named Victoria. Some are identified as women of the nobility, and others as servants, so it seems to have been used by all classes in the Roman Empire.

The name Victoria has long had a particular association with Spain, because it also one of the titles of the Virgin Mary: Nuestra Señora de Victoria, or Our Lady of Victory. In 1571, Pope Pius V instituted a feast day for Our Lady of Victory, after a coalition of southern European forces, led by Spain, defeated the fleet of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto.

Although well used in Continental Europe and popular in Spain, Victoria didn’t become common in Britain until the 19th century, when Queen Victoria took the throne in 1937 – there was an enormous jump in use between the 1820s and the 1840s, although it still wasn’t a popular name in England during Victoria’s reign.

Victoria is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #124 in the 1900s, and sunk until it reached its lowest level ever in the 1930s, at #0. Victoria came back strongly, and was already #155 in the 1940s – perhaps the war era made the idea of commemorating victory very appealing. Victoria made the Top 100 in 1960 at #97, but for most of the 1960s and ’70s was just outside the Top 100. It made good headway in the 1980s, and peaked in 1991 at #49. It left the Top 100 in 2008, but remained within close reach, and was back again in 2010.

Currently it is #80 nationally, #59 in New South Wales, #74 in Victoria, and #85 in the Australian Capital Territory. It appears very stable – it hasn’t been far outside since the Top 100 since the 1950s, and has only once made it into the Top 50. That makes it a safe choice which has never been highly popular, yet has remained common for more than half a century.

Victoria is a popular name around the world, but is most popular in the US at #19. Its popularity in the UK is similar to that in Australia. Not just popular in English-speaking countries, Victoria is a Top 100 name in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia; still a favourite in Spain, it is also popular in Latin America. Meanwhile international variants such as Viktoria, Victorija, Victorie, Victoire, Vitoria, and Vittoria are popular in a host of countries. That makes Victoria an internationally recognised name that works cross-culturally.

Victoria is a classic traditional girl’s name that’s popular, but not too popular. It’s a long, feminine name that doesn’t seem frilly or elaborate, but clean and professional. It’s well known internationally without seeming exotic. It has a strong meaning connecting it to power and success, which is quite unusual for a girl’s name.

Victoria is a goddess, an angel, a saint, and a winner of battles. Many people will connect her with a queen, and there’s no doubt that Victoria is royal to her fingertips. She’s classy, and every inch a lady, but Victoria’s Secret makes her seem rather sexy too. A fun nickname would be Plum, from the Victoria Plum, like the writer Plum Sykes. My preference is for the lively Vita, inspired by another author from Kent, Vita Sackville-West.

(Photo shows Portland, the first permanent European settlement in Victoria)

Luna Marianne and Zephyr Charles


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Jonty Kevin and Connor Robert (Jackson, Cooper)

Annabelle Mary
Camilla Jane
Carys Louise (Hannah)
Dixie Mae (Lacey)
Ellie Ostrup
Emilia Eve Rebecca (Hannah)
Esther Rose (Owen)
Grace Victoria (Henry)
Imogen Adalita
Kalani Elise (Jett)
Kira Indie
Lexi Neisha (Nate)
Lucia (Molly, Siobhan)
Luna Marianne
Maggie Willow (Ruby)
Mahalia-Joy Amparo
Myla Jade (Dakota, Alexis)
Olive Allegra (Poppie, Lola)
Phoebe Kate (Abigail, Lily, Samuel, Bethany, Naomi)
Poppy Ida
Reese Maree (Bennett, Harvey)
Siobhan Ailia
Stephanie June (Lauren, Sarah)
Sydney Elizabeth (Kinley)
Zaafyrah Norma Lily

Alexander Philip (Jacob, Christian)
Alfie Gregory William
Augustus James Arkell (Henry)
Calen Archer
Eddie Raymond (Thomas, Charlie)
Emilio Joseph (Monique)
Fergus David (Isabelle, George)
George Matthew (Barnaby, Lucy, Oliver)
Harper Chase (Laekyn, Bailey, Cohen)
Isaac Lucas Han Sien (Noah, Anneliese)
Jesse Dean (Joshua)
Jose Cedric (Mari)
Jye Desmond (Brodie, Shiloh)
Leo Maurice (Scarlett, Tarq, Sophia)
MacKail Darrin John (Tyberius)
Mahmood Sultan (Sultan)
Rafe Benjamin
Riccardo Domenico
Romeo Antonio
Savvas (Dimitrios)
Seth Warwick
Sisco Roy Edward (Eilish, James, Hunter)
Tommy Wayne (Tegan, Calin, Brandan)
William Patrick Israel
Zephyr Charles

(Moon rise and sunset over the Central Australian outback; photo from The Age)

Famous Names: Jedda and Rosalie


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Last month the Australian film Jedda returned to the Cannes film festival, sixty years after it was first shown there in 1955. Jedda was the work of distinguished film-makers Charles and Elsa Chauvel; the first Australian feature film to be shot in colour, and the first to have Aboriginal actors in lead roles.

In the film, Jedda is an Aboriginal girl who is brought up by a white couple on a cattle station after her mother dies. She is raised in European ways, and forbidden to learn about her own culture, kept separated from the other Aborigines on the station.

When she gets older, Jedda finds herself strangely drawn to an Aboriginal man living in the bush, and following the traditional ways of his people. He abducts her, but when they come to his tribal lands, Jedda finds that their relationship is forbidden by Aboriginal law. It’s a Romeo and Juliet scenario, and as with Shakespeare’s tale, it ends in tragedy for the star-crossed lovers.

The role of Jedda was given to Rosalie Kunoth, an Aboriginal teenager from the Northern Territory, who was studying in Alice Springs. The Chauvels gave her the screen name Ngarla for the film, which they thought looked more “authentic”. Ngarla was the name of Rosalie’s mother’s people – the Ngarla are from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. This was distressing to Rosalie, as it was culturally inappropriate.

The filming was challenging for Rosalie in many ways, and when she attended the premiere (sitting in the white section of a segregated cinema), was horrified by the film’s eroticism. Rosalie was an Anglican nun for ten years; she then left the order, married, and eventually returned to the Northern Territory. Now a respected Aboriginal elder, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks has spent her life working as an Indigenous activist, taking on leadership roles in her community. She has a daughter named Ngarla.

Jedda was a groundbreaking film in Australian cinema history, especially significant as it gained international attention and respect at a time when Australian cinema was practically nonexistent. As well as its other “firsts”, it was the first Australian film to be shown at Cannes, and nominated for the Palme d’Or.

Although it has dated in some ways, it remains a powerful and heartbreaking story. Jedda was created in opposition to the assimilationist policies of the 1950s, and the film is still relevant in light of the Stolen Generations. It helped inspire Indigenous film-maker Tracey Moffatt, whose Night Cries is a re-imagined “what might have been” sequel to Jedda.

In the movie Jedda, Aboriginal servants name the baby Jedda when she arrives, because she “flies in” like a “jedda bird”. Jedda appears to be from the Noongar word djida or jida, meaning “bird” (more specifically a wren), even though Noongar people are from south-west Western Australia, and the film is set in the Northern Territory. In the film, the identification with Jedda as a bird connects her to flight, to freedom and capture, and also to the spirit world.

Australian records show the name Jedda in sporadic use as far back as the 19th century, including by Indigenous Australians. I can only speculate as to where their names might have come from; in the case of Europeans, maybe as a variant of the name Jetta. It is possible that Indigenous women born before the film was made took (or were given) the name Jedda after its release. In addition, I have seen Indigenous women named Djida and Jida.

Jedda is also a plant name, as the jedda bush is native to the Cape York Peninsula region of far north Queensland. It is named after Jedda Creek, which is where it was first found, but I have not been able to discover the origin of the creek’s name – it may even have been named after the film.

Jedda is in use as a personal name for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and is a popular name for homes, businesses, and streets. It is often used as a name for animals too, and in particular I have encountered quite a few horses named Jedda. This may be why in the children’s novel, Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein, the heroine’s sister Jedda pretends she is a horse. I’ve seen the name given to a boy, and it does have a bit of a unisex vibe, as it shortens to Jed.

Jedda is an Australian name made famous by a classic film, and appealing to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous parents. Although traditionally female, it could even be used for both sexes. It tends to be seen as slightly dated, yet it has never been common and is similar to Gemma, Jenna, Jed, and Jett.

French form of the Latin name Rosalia, derived from rosa, meaning “rose”. Saint Rosalia was a medieval hermit who tradition says was a Norman noblewoman led by angels to live in a cave in Sicily. The saint became known in 1624, when she is supposed to have miraculously cured a plague. The saint’s name Rosalie was given to a young nun named Jeanne-Marie Rendu, and she became Blessed Sister Rosalie, who performed a lifetime of charity in the slums of 19th century Paris, and was mourned by the city when she died.

The name Rosalie came into common use in the 18th century, and was especially used in France, Germany, and Central Europe. It only became common in the English-speaking world in the 19th century, possibly because of the French courtesan Rosalie Duthé, who became the mistress of French kings and aristocrats. As a young woman she moved to London to escape the French Revolution, and gained the immensely rich George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont, as a lover. Beautiful and golden-tressed, Rosalie was apparently not overburdened with brains, and it is theorised that she is the originator of the “dumb blonde” stereotype.

The name Rosalie first joined the charts in the 1910s, debuting at #268. The name peaked in the 1940s at #141, probably because of the 1937 movie Rosalie, starring Eleanor Powell as a princess in disguise: Cole Porter’s song Rosalie is from the movie. Rosalie dropped off the charts in the early 2000s, but returned in 2009 at #519, the year after the first Twilight film was released, with Nikki Reed in the role of Rosalie Hale. Rosalie is described as being “the most beautiful person in the world”, which must have been a drawcard. The name Rosalie is apparently now in rare use again.

In the US, Rosalie returned to the Top 1000 in 2009, under the influence of Twilight. It is now #310 and rising. In the UK, the name Rosalie suddenly began rising steeply in 2009, and is now #394. Rosalie is also in the 300s in France, and is a popular name in The Netherlands, at #79.

Rosalie is a pretty, charming, European-style name with that touch of fairy-tale magic which has seen it chosen in films for a student princess and a vampire beauty. As Rose- names are becoming increasingly fashionable, it is a bit surprising that Australia seems to to be lagging behind the international trends – although it might just be that our data-collection is lagging.

I have seen quite a few birth notices for baby girls named Rosalee, Rosaleigh, Rosa-Lee and so on, and wonder if the spelling is an issue for some parents. Perhaps they worry that Rosalie will be said with the end rhyming with Lorelei, or just don’t like the idea of a name that ends in -lie. This makes me wonder if there are more Rosalies out there than meets the eye. A fantastic underused traditional choice, in any case.

Uncommon Boys Names from the Birth Announcements of 2011-12


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The Emperor Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first emperor; the month of August was named after him. His reign initiated the Pax Romana, a relatively conflict-free period which lasted for more than two centuries. Born Gaius Octavius, he was granted the title of Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, meaning “Military Commander and Caesar, the Son of God, the Venerable”, with the Augustus part meaning “venerable”, from the Latin augeo, meaning “increase, growth, honour”. Before it became an imperial title, Augustus was an epithet used to signal something that was sacred, and the title was adopted by the Holy Roman Emperors in the Middle Ages. Augustus has been a favourite name amongst European royalty, and traditionally used by the Hanoverians in the British monarchy. Hazel has shot into the Top 100 since The Fault in Our Stars, and I wonder if it could also boost regal Augustus, as this is the name of Hazel’s love interest? The name is already rising in the US, so maybe. Gus is a popular short form, although I have seen a lot of interest in Augie because of the Australian rock band Augie March, named for a character in a Saul Bellow novel.

Scottish surname referring to someone from the village of Brisco in Cumbria, once part of the Strathclyde kingdom of Scotland. The place name comes from the Old Norse for “wood of the Britons”. Also an extremely rare Italian surname which is probably from the Germanic brakia, meaning “struggle”, used as a nickname. The name is well known because of the undercover alias Donnie Brasco used by FBI agent Joseph Pistone during the 1970s: his autobiography inspired the movie Donnie Brasco, with Johnny Depp in the title role. It has an unfortunate meaning in Australia, as brasco is slang for “toilet”, from the manufacturer Brass Co. Brasco is an extremely cool-sounding name, and as for the toilet association – better tell everyone to just forget about it!

Latinised form of the Polish name Kazimierz, from the Slavic for “to destroy fame”, referring to someone who annihilates their opponent in battle so completely that they lose all honour. Four medieval rulers of Poland have been named Casimir, and St Casimir, the son of Casimir IV, is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. Kazimierz is a reasonably popular name in Poland, but Casimir is rare around the world, even in countries with high immigration from Poland. However, this is a handsome heritage choice, not so different from fashionable Casper and hip Caspian, with Caz as the obvious nickname, although Cass and even Cash seem possible.

Irish name thought to mean “white fire”. In Irish mythology, Fintan mac Bóchra was a seer who accompanied Noah’s grand-daughter to Ireland before the Great Flood. When the floodwaters hit, his family were all drowned, but Fintan managed to survive under the sea in the form of a salmon for a year; he also lived as an eagle and a hawk before returning to human form. He lived for more than 5000 years after the Deluge, becoming the repository of all wisdom. Once Christianity arrived in Ireland, Fintan decided to leave the world of mortals with a magical hawk who was born at the same time as he. There are a staggering 74 Irish saints named Fintan, which shows what a common name it must have been, and it is still in regular use in Ireland. The popular boy’s name Finn, and all the similar names, such as Finlay and Finnian, make this seem on trend.

English surname which can be related to the word gauge, meaning “measure”, and would have started as an occupational surname for someone who checked weights and measures. It can also be an occupational surname for a moneylender, as gage meant “pledge” – that which the person would put up as surety against the money loaned (as when objects are pawned). Its related to the words wage and mortgage, and also to the word engage: when you get engaged to someone, you make a pledge to them. Gage is an aristocratic surname; Sir William Gage first introduced the plum-like greengage into England in the 18th century, which is where its English name comes from. Gage has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, originating in the west country. It first joined the US charts in 1989, the same year that Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was made into a horror film; the protagonist’s toddler son is named Gage, played by Miko Hughes (from Full House). Although Gage takes on a particularly macabre role in the story, the cuteness of little blond Miko must have had an effect. Still in fairly common use in the US, Gage is a rare name in Australia and the UK – its similarity to the word gauge, used in the context of guns, makes this an on-trend weaponry name.

In Norse mythology, Loki is a mysterious figure, sometimes depicted as a trickster or god of deceit. Other times he is a troublemaker, or commits outright evil. Although said to be one of the giant folk, he is sometimes numbered amongst the gods, and seems to have been on friendly terms with them at some point. However, after many acts of mischief and malice, they punished him by having him bound by the entrails of one of his sons, with a serpent dripping venom on him, making him writhe in pain, which causes earthquakes. It is foretold that at the end of the world, he will slip free from his bonds and fight against the gods on the side of the giants, and be slain. Fittingly for such an enigmatic character, the meaning of Loki isn’t known. However, he is also called Lopt, meaning “air”, suggesting he was associated with that element. In Scandinavian folklore, the phenomenon where the air shimmers on a hot day is said to be caused by Loki. The name has been used more often since the Marvel comics world was brought to life on film, with Loki as a super-villain played by Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston portrays a complex, vulnerable, intelligent character whose charisma and style has won him legions of fans. Not only a cute-sounding mischievous name, Loki is quite similar to popular names like Luca and Lachlan, so it doesn’t seem strange.

Biblical place name; in the New Testament it is described as the home town of Jesus and his family. It’s also a title, because Jesus is often called Jesus of Nazareth. In early times, Christians were called Nazarenes (“people of Nazareth”) by non-Christians, and the modern Jewish word for Christians is notzrim, while in the Quran Christians are known as naṣārā – all coming from the name Nazareth. Archaeologists think that Nazareth would have been a small, insignificant village at the time of Jesus; today it is a city in northern Israel with most of its citizens Arabs, both Muslim and Christian. A place of Christian pilgrimage, it also has several sites of Islamic significance. The meaning of the city’s name is uncertain – it may come from the Hebrew for “branch”, or “watch, guard, keep”, implying it was originally on a hill, or protected in a secluded spot. Nazareth has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and is of Puritan origin. Originally used mostly for girls, overall it has been given fairly evenly to both sexes, and has never been very common. An unusual Biblical name which is overtly Christian.

Derived from the Germanic name Hruodland, translated as “famous land”, or perhaps “fame of his country”. Roland was an 8th century Frankish military leader under Charlemagne, responsible for defending France against the Bretons. It is recorded that he was killed at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in northern Spain by a group of rebel Basques. He became a major figure in medieval legend, and his death an epic tale of a Christian hero slain in battle against Muslims (the real Roland was killed by Christians, although Charlemagne was engaged in a war against Islamic forces in Spain). The 11th century La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) describes Roland fighting a rearguard action against thousands of Muslims with a magical sword given to Charlemagne by an angel. Against the sensible advice of his best friend Oliver, Roland proudly refuses to call for reinforcements until it is too late, then dies a martyr’s death before angels take his soul to Paradise. In an English fairy tale based on a Scottish ballad, Childe Rowland is a prince who rescues his sister from the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland; the story is mentioned in Shakespeare’s King Lear. It helped inspire the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning, and in turn this informed Stephen King’s fantasy series, The Dark Tower, with Roland Deschain as the flawed hero. Roland was #107 in the 1900s and continued falling until it left the charts altogether in the 1990s. This is a traditional underused name which is heroic and noble.

English surname referring to someone who worked with slate, especially in laying slate roof tiles. The surname comes from Derbyshire, and although it is of Norman-French origin, possibly existed before the Conquest. It has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, and from the beginning was associated with Derbyshire and the Midlands, which has a long history as a centre for slate quarrying. An unfortunate association in Australia is that slater is another word for a wood louse. The surname has several sporting namesakes, including former cricketer and media personality Michael Slater, rugby league star Billy Slater, and American surfing champion Kelly Slater. That probably helps explain use of the name Slater at present, and it seems like a tougher, edgier version of Tyler.

English surname after a village in Lincolnshire, meaning “homestead by the willows, settlement by the willows”. Willoughby’s main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of John Smith, who was one of the leaders of the Virginia Colony in early colonial America, and connected with the Native American girl known as Pocahontas. Willoughby is an aristocratic surname connected with several baronies; the family trace their lineage to a Norman knight who was granted land in Lincolnshire by William the Conqueror. Since the 17th century, the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby has been associated with the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain, who has charge of the royal apartments and hall at Westminster Palace, and plays a major role at coronations: the current baroness was one of the maids of honour at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Willoughby is also a suburb of Sydney on the Lower North Shore, first settled as farmland under Captain Arthur Phillip. Some people believe Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell chose the suburb’s name in honour of Sir James Willoughby Gordon, whom he had served under during the Peninsular War. In use as a personal name since the 17th century, Willoughby is a hip boy’s name which seems like a spin on popular William, while also boosted by looking like a masculine form of Willow. Will is the obvious nickname.

Thank you to Leah for suggesting the name Willoughby be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.

(Photo of Billy Slater from the Herald Sun)


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