Anglo-Saxon names, classic names, famous namesakes, fictional namesakes, germanic names, Latin names, name history, name meaning, name popularity, nicknames, royal names, saints names, Slavic names, Welsh names
An Anglo-Saxon name meaning “elf counsel”; possibly suggesting supernatural wisdom. The most famous historical Alfred is Alfred the Great, 9th century king of Wessex, who defended England against the Vikings. Famous for his love of learning, he encouraged education and reformed the legal system. Although not officially a saint, he does have his own memorial day in the Anglican Church. So great was his fame that Alfred continued to be used even after the Norman Conquest, when many Anglo-Saxon names were discarded. It dwindled after the Middle Ages, but had a revival in the 19th century, and was chosen as the name of one of Queen Victoria’s sons. It’s also the name of poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson – father-in-law of Lady Audrey Tennyson of South Australia. There is a plethora of great Aussie Alfreds, including former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, and World War I flying ace Alfred Seymour Shepherd. Alfred left the Top 100 in 1946, and hasn’t been there since. However, with nickname Alfie now reminding people of dishy Jude Law in the movie Alfie, rather than their great-grandfather, full name Alfred now looks like a viable option.
An Anglo-Saxon name meaning “rich friend”, it was the name of a 7th century king who was later venerated as a saint. The name sunk in popularity after the Norman Conquest, but was revived in the 19th century during the Victorian enthusiasm for early English names. Important Edwins from Australian history include Edwin Street, who founded the successful Streets Ice Cream Company, and Sir Edwin Marsden Tooth, a philanthropist who donated generously to medical research. Edwin didn’t make it into the Top 100 of 1938, and hasn’t become popular again. Edward is on the current Top 100, but I think Edwin has its own subtly different vibe; while Edward is classic and traditional, Edwin seems cool in a steampunk or even Gothic way. If you wanted the nickname Eddy or Eddie, and were loath to use vampiric Edward, Edwin might be right up your street.
Based on a Germanic name meaning “peaceful ruler”, this was the name of a 9th century German saint who was so unpopular that he was assassinated. The name was brought to England by the Normans after the Conquest, but it didn’t catch on. It was revived in the 18th century when the German House of Hanover inherited the British throne; Prince Frederick was the eldest son of King George II. It was a period when many names popular in Germany became standard English names for the first time. Fantastic Fredericks from our past include popular artist Frederick McCubbin, and Frederick Ashton, of Ashton’s Circus. Frederick managed to hang on to a spot in the Top 100 until 1953, when its popularity waned. I think Frederick is a handsome, usable name – it sounds distinguished and noble, yet has friendly nicknames like Fred, Freddy, Rick and Ricky. Other classic names like William and Thomas are at the top of the popularity charts, so why shouldn’t Frederick fit in just as well?
This is the medieval English form of Henry, and in fact Harry is much closer to the way Henry was originally pronounced when it was introduced by the Normans. It has long been familiar in Britain as a pet form of Henry used by royalty – in fact it’s being used by Prince Harry right now! Although there are more Harrys that were really Henrys or Harolds, it’s still possible to find conspicuous Australians with Harry as their full name. For example, Harry Lea, who founded the delicious Darrell Lea confectionery company, and Harry Harbord “Breaker” Morant – the Boer War soldier executed by the British for war crimes who became an Australian folk hero. Harry didn’t make it into the 1940 Top 100, but ever since author J.K. Rowling’s books on a certain boy wizard first began appearing in 1997, everyone’s been wild about Harry. Currently it’s #27 in New South Wales, #24 in Victoria, #27 in Queensland, #20 in South Australia, #33 in Western Australia, # 15 in Tasmania and #25 in the ACT.
From a Germanic word meaning “heart, mind, spirit”, this name was common amongst the French monarchy. The Normans brought it to England, where the name became common. It was given a boost by the popular Saint Hugh of Lincoln, a 12th century bishop known for his good works and love of animals. The name was often used in Ireland and Scotland to anglicise Gaelic names, and has a Welsh form. There are quite a few famous Hughs in Australia, and as a result I tend to think of a this as a rather typical Australian name. Hugh Michael Jackman, popular actor. Hugh Matheson Morgan, wealthy businessman. Hugh Evans, recent Young Australian of the Year. Hugh Mackay, social commentator. Hugh Sheridan, who was in the hit TV series Packed to the Rafters. Although Hugh disappeared from the Top 100 in 1941, it’s now #91 in the ACT. I think it’s a useful sort of name, because it manages to sound both affluent and man-of-the-people at the same time. If you want something upper-class yet unassuming, then Hugh is for you.
A Slavic form of John, it has been held by six tsars of Russia, including Ivan the Terrible. Its common use in the English-speaking world may come from its similarity to the Welsh form of John, Ifan. There are many really super men called Ivan in Australia; for example, I remember reading the young-adult novels of Ivan Francis Southall with some fondness as a teenager. Unfortunately, nobody gives a flying dingo’s kidney about that – the name is very strongly associated with serial killer Ivan Robert Marko Milat, linked with the grisly Backpacker Murders in the creepy Belanglo Forest during the 1990s. Although locked up in a maximum security super prison, and serving seven life sentences without parole, naturally his name tends to give people the willies. As bodies are still being discovered in the Forest, and as more people have been murdered there since, Milat’s incarceration has not brought us closure or peace of mind. Ivan lasted on the Top 100 until 1945, but I don’t see him making a come-back any time soon.
This is a pet form of John, derived from the medieval diminutive Jankin, which became Jackin, and finally Jack. It was used as an independent name from very early on, and so common that it was used as slang for “man”. You still sometimes hear the old-fashioned saying, “every man jack of us”, meaning “all of us, each person”. Its popularity also led to Jack becoming the Everyman hero of numerous fairytales and nursery rhymes. There are classic fictional Jacks in Australia, such as George Johnston’s novel My Brother Jack, and Grahame Bond’s comedy series The Aunty Jack Show. There are also many real life Australian Jacks, such as Jack Cowin, who founded the fast food franchise Hungry Jacks. Jack Absalom, artist and outback adventurer. Jack Heath, best-selling young-adult writer. Jack Yabsley, children’s TV presenter. Jack Levi, comedian who created Elliot Goblet. Jack was gone from the Top 100 by 1939, but returned in the 1980s and only increased in popularity. Currently it’s in the top 5 names in all states, and is #1 in three states.
A Latin name meaning “lion”, this was used amongst early Christians, probably because a lion was one of the symbols of Christ. There have been thirteen popes called Leo, and the name was popular in the Middle Ages. Apart from the Christian association, it also has connotations of bravery and kingship, and is the name of a zodiac sign representing the constellation. There are a few well-known Leos in Australia, although the obvious ones like actor Leo McKern or singer Leo Sayer, disconcertingly turn out to be really called Reginald or Gerard. But we have Leo “Lucky” Grills who played detective Bluey Hills on the 1970s cop show Bluey and then found himself reinvented for a new generation on ’90s comedy The Late Show, and racing driver Leo Geoghegan. Lion-like names seemed to be popular in the 1930s, as there was not only Leo, but also Leon, Leonard and Lionel in the Top 100. Leo wasn’t on the 1940 Top 100, but made a triumphant return in the late 2000s when O-ending names for boys became fashionable. It’s currently #81 in New South Wales, #65 in Victoria, and #72 in Western Australia.
This is the Latin word for “king”; it’s been in use as a personal name since the 19th century. There are several renowned Rexes in Australia. Rex Gilroy, who has made a career searching for the yowie and other unexplained phenomena. Rex Pemberton, the youngest Australian to climb Mt Everest at age 21. Rex Peers Mossop, legendary NRL player and commentator (recently deceased). Rex James Hunt, former AFL player who now has his own fishing show. Rex Goh, a rock guitarist who has recorded with the likes of Savage Garden, Tom Jones and Air Supply. Rex vanished from the Top 100 in 1942, but still seems very usable. It’s short and snappy, it ends in the fashionable X (like Max and Alex), it’s very masculine, and a name which bespeaks self-confidence.
From a Germanic name meaning “ruler of the army”; it was brought to England by the Normans and soon replaced its Old English version, Wealdhere. Mythologist Jacob Grimm theorised that the name may have originally been an epithet of one of the Germanic war gods, and be linked to the Norse god Tyr. There is a 12th century English saint called Walter, a Benedictine monk who became an abbot in France. Wonderful Walters from Australian history include Walter Burley Griffin, the architect who designed the national capital, Canberra, and Walter Vivian Harcourt Biddell, who founded the surf lifesaving movement at Bronte Beach. Walter was on the Top 100 until 1948, but to my mind, this name sounds old-fashioned, but not particularly dated. If you like vintage names like George and Henry, or unconventional classics like Theodore and Vincent, then Walter may be your cup of tea. Possible nicknames include Wat, Watty, Walt, Wal or Wally.
All names are from the Top 100 for the decade 1930-1939. The data used comes from the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
The image used is a photo of unemployed men preparing to do relief work on public works projects during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Harry and Jack have also been used on the list Boys Names from Songs.