Actor Blair McDonough, and his wife Kristi, welcomed their first child on March 26 and have named their daughter Leni Rose [pictured]. Leni was born at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. Blair first gained fame in 2001 as runner-up on the first series of reality TV show, Big Brother. He went on to have a regular role on soap opera Neighbours, and later on Sea Patrol and Winners and Losers. He and Kristi married in Hawaii and relocated to the United States last year.
Nova radio host Tim Blackwell, and his wife Monique, welcomed their sonAlfie Hawthorn on May 2, a brother for their daughter Bo, aged 2; Bo’s birth was featured on the blog. Tim joked that the birth of Princess Charlotte on the same day as Alfie meant that they couldn’t get an exclusive magazine deal. Hawthorn is a suburb of Melbourne, and an Australian rules football club, giving this flower name a sporty boyish vibe.
I hope everyone had a very happy Mother’s Day! It’s expected that the new princess will increase the current trend for baby names inspired by royal traditions, so here are some names for girls from the House of Windsor. I’ve focused particularly on the names of some of the younger royals.
Alexandra is one of the most common girls’ names in the British royal family. It was introduced to it by Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII. A Danish royal, she was extremely popular with the British public, and much admired as a setter of fashion. After her, the name became a favourite to pass down, including to Queen Alexandra’s granddaughter, Lady Alexandra Duff, and her great-granddaughter, Princess Alexandra, the queen’s cousin; Alexandra is one of the queen’s middle names. Alexandra is the feminine form of Alexander, and unlike many other feminisations of masculine names, Alexandra seems to have come first. It was an epithet of the Greek goddess Hera in her role as protector, and can be understood as “she who saves warriors”. St Alexandra was a legendary martyr, and the name is traditional amongst European royalty. Alexandra was #239 in the 1900s, and dropped off the charts in the 1910s and ’20s. Returning in the 1930s, its popularity jumped in the 1950s, and it was Top 100 by the early 1970s. It peaked in 1995 at #14, and is currently #75. A dignified classic with a host of nickname options, including popular Lexi.
Lady Cosima Windsor is the daughter of the Earl of Ulster, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2010, she is 27th in line to the throne. Cosima is the feminine form of the Cosimo, the Italian form of Greek Cosmas, meaning “order” (related to the British name Cosmo). A famous musical namesake is Cosima Wagner, the daughter of Franz Liszt and wife of Richard Wagner. British socialite Countess Cosima von Bülow Pavoncelli has given the name a very fashionable air, and the name has been chosen for their daughters by celebrities Nigella Lawson, Sofia Coppola, and Claudia Schiffer. You may also remember young actress Cosima Littlewood, who played Adele in the mini-series Jane Eyre, while Australians will be reminded of Cosima De Vito, singer and Australian Idol contestant. Elegant and sophisticated, Cosima is an upper-class choice that works well multiculturally.
Eloise Taylor is the eldest daughter of Lady Helen Taylor, a granddaughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2003, she is 39th in line to the throne. Eloise is the English form of Éloïse, from the Old French Héloïse. It’s thought to be from the Germanic Helewidis, from name elements meaning “healthy, whole”, and “wood, forest”. The name became famous because of Héloïse, a brilliant medieval scholar and feminist, famous for her scandalous affair and secret marriage to her distinguished teacher, Pierre Abélard, who was castrated in punishment. Their tragic romance has captured people’s imaginations for centuries, and it is a tradition for lovers and the lovelorn to leave letters on their reputed grave in Paris. Eloise entered the charts in the 1970s, making #498. It was the same decade that 8-year-old Eloise Worledge was abducted from her home in Melbourne, with the case still unsolved. Eloise rose steeply in the 1990s, when the song Eloise featured at Eurovision, and joined the Top 100 in 2011. One of the fastest risers of 2013, this pretty, stylish name is currently #71 and still rising. I picked this name to be in the Top 10 by 2028.
Imogen Lascelles is a daughter of Mark Lascelles, and a great-great-granddaughter of George V; born in 1998, she is not in line to the throne as her father was born out of wedlock. Imogen is a name created by William Shakespeare for his romance Cymbeline: in the play, Imogen is a princess of ancient Britain, and a virtuous wife who is falsely accused of infidelity. The name is a variation Innogen, which comes from the Old Irish Ingen, meaning “maiden, daughter”; Innogen was a legendary British queen. Modern scholars consider that the substitution of Imogen for Innogen was a misprint, especially as Shakespeare already used the name Innogen in Much Ado About Nothing, so this would be a rare example of a name created from a printing error. Imogen first entered the charts in the 1970s, debuting at #724 for the decade, perhaps inspired by sexy English pin-up and actress Imogen Hassall. The name Imogen rose steeply during the 1990s, and entered the Top 100 in 2001. Currently Imogen is #34 and stable, and was one of the fastest-rising names in New South Wales for 2013. Chic and British with a superior literary heritage – not too shabby for a “made up” name!
Isla Isla Phillips is the daughter of Mark Phillips, a granddaughter of Princess Anne, and great-granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth; born in 2012, she is 15th in line to the throne. Isla is a Scottish name taken from an archaic spelling of the island of Islay in the Hebrides, which is said IE-luh, not IZ-lay. The island’s name is of unknown origin and meaning. Islay began as a male name in the 18th century, and Isla gradually became seen as a specifically feminine spelling of the name which overtook the male form in the 19th century (Islay is more commonly given to girls now too). Isla first entered in the charts in the 1990s, debuting at #891 for the decade – propelled there by actress Isla Fisher, who was then in popular soap opera Home and Away. The name zoomed up the charts during the 2000s when Fisher became a gossip mag staple as aspiring Hollywood actress and partner of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Isla entered the Top 100 in 2008 at #74 and is currently #13 and rising. I picked this name to be in the Top 5 by 2028.
Ophelia is one of the middle names of Lady Gabriella Windsor, a writer known professionally as Ella Windsor. She is the sister of Lord Frederick Windsor, who has been featured on the blog as a royal dad. Lady Gabriella is the daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1981, she is 45th in line to the throne. Ophelia is well known as the title character’s tragic love interest in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Shakespeare did not create the name, but took it from the Italian form Ofelia in Jacopo Sannazaro’s 1504 pastoral romance, Arcadia – Sannazaro was a huge influence on 16th century literature. The name Ophelia looks to be taken from the ancient Greek ophelus, meaning “help”, to suggest “assistant”. Sannazaro may have invented the name, but there are examples of men in ancient Greece with male forms of the name, such as Ophelion, so it seems plausible that the ancient Greeks could have used Ophelia as a female name. Beautiful and elaborate, Ophelia is rising in the UK, and this seems like a very hip alternative to popular Olivia.
Senna Lewis is the daughter of Lady Davina Lewis; she has received quite a bit of press in the Antipodes, because her father is a New Zealander, the first Maori to marry into the British royal family. Senna is a granddaughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and a great-great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 2010, she is 29th in line to the throne. Senna can be a variant of the Arabic name Sana, meaning “brilliance, radiance, splendour”; it is one of the five daily prayers in Islam. It can also be a nature name after the flowering senna plants, whose name has the same Arabic source and meaning. There are numerous varieties of senna, some of which are grown as ornamental trees and shrubs, but widely familiar as a herbal laxative. The name Senna was used for a minor character in the Twilight series, sparking recent interest in the name, but the name had been used several times previously in science-fiction and fantasy. It’s also associated with the Brazilian Formula 1 champion, Ayrton Senna, often considered the best of all time. Similar to popular Sienna, this unusual botanical name has potential.
Sophia is one of the middle names of Lady Amelia Windsor, a daughter of George Windsor, granddaughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and great-great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1995, she is 36th in line to the throne. Sophia of Hanover was the heiress to the throne of Great Britain, and mother of King George I, and only her descendants can be in the line of succession. It was a very popular name amongst Hanoverian royalty. Sophia is from the Greek for “wisdom”, a cardinal virtue of Greek philosophy that was taken up by Christian theologians, who have seen Holy Wisdom as a divine energy, and in Orthodox Christianity especially, the second person in the Trinity. In Christian legend, St Sophia was a martyr who had daughters named Faith, Hope, and Love – personifications of the chief Christian virtues. Sophia was #181 in the 1900s, and dropped off the charts in the 1930s and ’40s. It came back in the 1950s, the same decade Sophia Loren became an international film star, at #414. It charged up the charts in the 1980s and joined the Top 100 in 1997. Currently it is #16 and rising; when combined with the variant Sofia (climbing faster than Sophia), it is in the Top Ten at #7. Lovely and gracious with a wonderful meaning and history, expect Sophia to keep climbing.
Tanit Lascelles is a daughter of James Lascelles, and a great-granddaughter of King George V; born in 1981, she is not in the line of succession because she was born out of wedlock. Tanit is the name of a Punic and Phoenician goddess who was the chief deity of ancient Carthage, the equivalent of the goddess Astarte. She was a goddess of the sun, moon and stars, a goddess of war and civic protector, a mother goddess, patron of sailors, good luck figure, and fertility symbol. The meaning of her name is disputed – one theory is that it comes from the word for lament, and should be translated as “she who weeps”, perhaps to indicate that she mourns for a dying god, such as Adonis. Others translate her name as “serpent lady”, linking her with Tannin, the dragon-like sea monster of Near Eastern mythology (sometimes called Leviathan), and believe her name is one of the titles of Asherah, from the Bible. Pronounced TAN-it, this is an exotic and unusual name that fits in with Australian name trends.
Zenouska Mowatt is the daughter of Marina Ogilvy, a granddaughter of Princess Alexandra, and great-great-granddaughter of King George V. Born in 1990, she works for a luxury gifts company, and is 52nd in line to the throne. Zenouska is a name her parents created from putting sounds together – she uses Zen as a nickname, and it seems plausible that the inspiration was the Buddhist school of Zen. However, it sounds like a genuine Russian nickname, in the style of Anouska, and seems very suitable for someone of Russian heritage. Zenouska Mowatt is a great-granddaughter of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who was a granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. It just shows that a “made up” name can sometimes work very well.
(Picture shows Lady Amelia Sophia Theodora Mary Margaret Windsor, who made her début into society in Paris, 2013; photo from Le Journal des Femmes)
With a brand new baby girl in the British royal family, there’s a very princessy atmosphere at the moment. Looking back at my recent blog entries, I think I must have tuned into this vibe in some spooky sort of way, because this year I have already covered the names of three fairytale princesses who have featured in Disney films – Rapunzel, Aurora, and Melody.
While everyone’s in a princess-themed mood, I thought I’d cover one more, since we went to see the recent Disney film Cinderella in the school holidays a couple of weeks ago. It starred Australian film star Cate Blanchett as the elegantly wicked stepmother, Lady Tremaine, and Lily James in the title role. It’s a faithful old-school rendering of the fairytale, the 1950s animated version brought to life.
The story of Cinderella has deep roots, because an ancient Greek story tells of a Greco-Egyptian slave girl named Rhodopis (“rosy cheeks”). While she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals, flew to the city of Memphis, and dropped it into the lap of the king. The king, impressed by the beautiful shape of the sandal and the strangeness of the occurrence, sent his men in all directions to find the sandal’s owner, and when she had been located, Rhodopis was brought to the city to become his queen. This is the oldest known version of the Cinderella tale.
Rhodopis was a real person, a beautiful Thracian courtesan from the 6th century BC who was a fellow slave to the fable teller Aesop. Later she was taken to Egypt and freed for an enormous sum by the brother of the poet Sappho, who had fallen in love with her. Alas for romance, Sappho wrote a poem accusing Rhodopis of stealing from her brother – she calls her Doricha, which might have been her real name, and Rhodopis her professional name.
There are parallels to the Cinderella story in several cultures, where a good, hard-working girl is oppressed by her stepmother and at least one step-sister or half-sister. In China she is Ye Xian (“leaf edge”), in Indonesia and Malaysia she is Bawang Putih (“garlic”), in Vietnam she is Tam (“broken rice”), and in Korea she is Kongji (“sweet wisdom”). It is also reminiscent of the legend of the British queen Cordelia, and her horrible sisters.
The earliest of the modern European Cinderella stories comes from Giambattista Basile in 1684, set in Naples. The heroine is a princess named Zezolla, whose governess persuades her to murder her hated stepmother and beg her father to make the governess step-mama instead. All seems well until the governess sends for her hitherto-unknown six daughters from her previous marriage, who force Zezolla to work as their kitchen slave. Familiar touches are a fairy benefactress, and a lost slipper which brings about marriage to the king.
The stepsisters rename Zezolla as Gatta Cenerentola, with Gatta meaning “cat” to indicate she is as lowly as an animal, while Cenerentola means “little ashes” to describe her dirty, stained appearance (you could loosely translate it as Little Ash-cat). The name Zezolla may be from the common Italian place name Zolla, meaning “mound of earth”; in support of my theory, several of the stepsisters have names based on Italian places.
When Charles Perrault adapted the story into French in 1697, he dropped the cat part and translated Cenerentola as Cendrillon, as this can also be understood as “little ashes”. (Cendrillon is the younger stepsister’s name for the heroine; the older and meaner one calls her Culcendron, meaning “ash bum”, as she was forced to sit in the ashes and get a dirty bottom).
Perrault added a fairy godmother, pumpkin, and glass slippers to the story, but the biggest change he made was to Cendrillon’s personality. While Zezolla was a cunning murderess, Cendrillon was pretty, humble, patient, and sweet-tempered, so the happy ending seems like a reward for her virtue. Perrault’s fairytale is seen as the classic Cinderella story, and was the basis for the 1950 Disney film.
The Brothers Grimm adapted the story into German in 1812, naming the heroine Aschenputtel. It’s difficult to translate, but can be understood as “ash slut, ash wench”. In this darker story, the father joins in the abuse, and doesn’t acknowledge Aschenputtel as his own daughter, but rather his first wife’s child from her previous marriage, so she has a stepfather and stepmother both! The stepsisters are punished with blindness and mutiliation, rather than the forgiveness bestowed upon them in other versions.
It is striking that the heroine’s real name is never given, except in the Italian version, where it seems to be a bit of a joke. Modern adaptations of the story often say that her name is Ella (in the 2015 film it’s short for Eleanor), and Cinderella can therefore be understood as “Ella of the cinders”. Only in the 1950 Disney film is Cinderella the heroine’s actual name, chosen by her parents.
Perrault’s Cendrillon was first translated into English in 1729 by Robert Samber, and immediately became a classic. Cendrillon was Anglicised to Cinderilla, and changed to Cinderella in subsequent editions. Cinderella looks like a reasonably faithful English version of Cendrillon, but the meaning changes subtly during the translation process, as it now looks as if it means “little cinders” rather than “little ashes”.
This makes the name rather more attractive, because cinders are solid, rather than dusty like ashes, and do not have the same connotations of humiliation (“sackcloth and ashes”). Ashes symbolise death, but cinders are the embers of a fire, smouldering hot coals suggesting love and life waiting to be rekindled. I’ve often heard people suggest Ember as a girl’s name with beautiful symbolism, so Cinderella cannot be said to have a bad meaning.
Cinderella has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and was most common overall in the 19th century. It has been most popular in the United States, and currently there are more than a thousand adults in the US named Cinderella. It peaked in the US in 1951 at 23 baby girls, the year after the Disney film was released. I have found quite a few women named Cinderella in Australian records, and remarkably, nearly always as a first name, not in the middle.
Cinderella is a rare name, closely connected to the fairytale, and given wide public recognition by the Disney films. Although Cinderella is a sweet character who combines a kind heart with great resilience, and has all her dreams come true, the name and story are troubling in many ways. Cinderella was abused and victimised by her family, and her name is one created by bullies to further humiliate and degrade her.
However, it would be a rather fun middle name, and even as a first name is easily shortened to Cindy, Indie, or Ella. And remember what the Disney song said: Cinderella, you’re as lovely as your name!
The most popular girls names of the 1940s were Margaret, Patricia, Judith, and Helen, but what were the least popular names? Here are ten names which were only chosen once in any year between 1944 and 1949 in South Australia, making them unique names for their time and place. They continue to be rare, and some parents will still find them appealing.
Thought to be a Latinised form of the Germanic name Aveza, most likely a long form or elaboration of the familiar Ava. Introduced to England by the Normans, it was reasonably common in the Middle Ages, and quickly became associated with the Latin word avis, meaning “bird”. Avis Rent a Car was founded in the 1940s by Warren Avis, but did not become big in Australia for some time – it’s now quite difficult to disassociate the name Avis from the rental company, although it’s very much on trend and still seems contemporary and pretty. It was also a good fit in the 1940s, when names such as Avril and Averil were fashionable.
An old British term of endearment, dating back to perhaps the 17th century. In Scotland, buntin means “short and plump”, while in Wales, bontin means “the bottom, the rump” (a part of the body usually seen as quite plump). It’s interesting that in both Scottish and English dialect, bunt and bun refer to a rabbit’s tail, which recalls the bottom meaning. You probably remember the nursery rhyme, Bye Baby Bunting, where bunting meant “a plump little child”, and it’s amusing that they have “a rabbit skin to wrap the Baby Bunting in”, given the etymological connection between chubby babies and bunnies’ bottoms. By the 19th century, bunty was a country word for a lamb, because they bunt (or butt) with their heads, giving bunty another adorable baby-related association. The name Bunty was popularised by the Scottish comedy Bunty Pulls the Strings, which was a hit in 1911 in the West End and on Broadway (Bunty was a canny Highland lass). However, even before this, Bunty was used as a nickname, especially by the aristocracy. It was occasionally given to boys, and in Seven Little Australians, young John is called Bunty, because he is prone to be greedy and a bit overweight. In his case, the nickname literally meant “little fatty”, but Bunty can be understood as “cute wee bairn, bonny babe”. This could be a charming vintage-style nickname, and if you’re worried it’s too infantile, Babe and Baby were both used as names in the 1940s!
Cosette is one of the main characters in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the novel, Cosette is the daughter of Fantine, a poor girl who must leave her child in the care of some innkeepers, while she works to provide for her. Cosette is badly treated by her guardians, and becomes a Cinderella-like figure, but is rescued by the ex-convict Jean Valjean. They take refuge in a convent, where Cosette develops into a beautiful young girl, and eventually finds her happy ending. Cosette’s real name is Euphrasie (meaning “good cheer”), but her mother’s pet name for her is the one which sticks – Cosette is from the French word chosette, meaning “little thing”. Les Misérables was made into a successful film in 1935, with child star Marilyn Knowlden in the role of the young Cosette; this would have increased interest in the name. Les Misérables was made into an award-winning musical film in 2012, this time with British actress Isabelle Allen playing young Cosette. Her face was used for the publicity posters, and with her arresting blue eyes, this may bring Cosette into the baby name spotlight again.
Anglicised form of the Irish name Damhnait, meaning “fawn”. Saint Dymphna is a 7th century Irish saint with a truly disturbing story, because legend has it that when she was fourteen, her father went mad and developed an unnatural desire for her. She ran away and devoted herself to helping the sick and the poor, but her father discovered her whereabouts, and killed her in a rage. Called the Lily of Eire, Saint Dymphna is the patron of the mentally ill, as well as vctims of incest, and many miraculous cures have been claimed on her behalf. A famous namesake is the author Dymphna Cusack, and another is Dymphna Clark, married to the historian Manning Clark, so the name has strong Australian credentials. Despite this, and the pretty meaning, Saint Dymphna’s tragic life has probably not been a help. Said DIMF-na, Dymphna has a lovely sound though, like a quirkier Daphne.
According to superstition, a jinx is something, or someone, who brings bad luck, often without meaning to. The word is American English, first used in the context of baseball, and its origins are obscure. One suggestion is that it comes from the 1887 musical comedy Little Puck, which had a character named Jinks Hoodoo, who is a curse to everyone he meets, as well as to himself. Although Hoodoo is fairly obviously a “bad luck” word, Jinks is just a surname based on the name John, and not too unusual as a first name. Perhaps it was given with the phrase high jinks in mind, meaning “boisterous fun”. After the popular musical comedy, jinks and jinx seem to have rapidly come into use as slang terms to describe an unlucky person or object. Jinx was known as a girl’s name in the 1940s because of Jinx Falkenburg, one of the highest-paid cover-girls of the 1930s and ’40s – an early example of a supermodel. Considered one of the most beautiful and glamorous women of her time, she was also a talented sportswoman and Hollywood actress, and went on to have successful chat shows on radio and TV. Born Eugenia, her mother nicknamed her Jinx in the belief that it would bring her good luck – I’m not sure how that was meant to work, but Jinx did indeed have a fortunate life. Jinx has quite often been used as a name for (mostly female) fictional characters, from L’il Jinx from the Archie comics to Jinx Johnson in the James Bond film, played by Halle Berry. This is a playful modern nickname for the non-superstitious.
The flower name marigold is attached to several plants with yellow blooms, but usually refers to the Calendula or pot marigold – although sometimes called English marigold, the plant probably originated in southern Europe, but became widely naturalised elsewhere from an early date. The name seems to have been first used for the wildflower Caltha palustris, also known as marsh marigold and kingcup. Marigold literally means “Mary gold”, and the name came about because the spring wildflower was a favourite in medieval churches at Easter, a tribute to the Virgin Mary. Shakespeare refers to the “golden eyes” of “Marybuds” in his play Cymbeline, and the marsh marigold is one of the UK’s most ancient plants, being an Ice Age survivor. Marigold has been used as a name since the 19th century, when flower names were fashionable, and is a hip underused floral choice which could honour a Mary.
Rilla Blythe is the main character in L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside; the daughter of the famous Anne Shirley (later Anne Blythe), she is a carefree teenager who must grow up fast when World War I is declared. Rilla’s full name is Bertha Marilla, with her middle name in honour of Anne’s strict but loving adoptive mother, Marilla Cuthbert. Marilla may be a short form of Amaryllis or an elaboration of Mary, and it’s notable that the name Marilla was used more than once during the 1940s. Perhaps the wartime courage of Rilla Blythe struck a chord during World War II, or maybe the 1939 publication of Anne of Ingleside played a role, where Rilla is said to be sweetest baby of all, and shown as an adorably pretty and plump lisping toddler. Rilla is a trendy name from the wartime era that still seems cute, especially knowing Rilla Blythe was affectionately known as “Rilla, my Rilla”. One for Montgomery fans!
Thaïs of Athens was a famous Greek hetaera who accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns. Hetaera were high status courtesans; educated, influential, and sophisticated women who were paid companions to men – not just in the bedroom, but as stimulating conversationalists and talented musicians and dancers. Thaïs was the lover of Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander’s generals, and she is said to have been witty and entertaining company. After Alexander’s death, Ptolemy became the king of Egypt, and Thaïs was his wife, or at least a high ranking concubine, and mother of his children (he had other wives to provide him with heirs to the throne). Saint Thaïs was from 4th century Egypt, a beautiful and wealthy courtesan who repented of her life and converted to Christianity. It is hard not to wonder if her story was influenced by Thaïs of Athens, who also lived in Egypt during the 4th century. The saint inspired a novel by Anataloe France, and an opera by Massenet; as a result, Thaïs is a popular name in France. The Greek name Thaïs means “head band”, referring to the plain cloth bands that women in ancient Greece commonly wore to keep their hair in place. Like the hair covering, this name is both simple and sophisticated, with a fascinating historical namesake, and fits in with Australian name trends. The French pronunciation is rather like tah-EES, while English speakers may prefer TAY-is or ty-EES.
The word unity means “oneness”, familiar in both religious and political contexts, and used as a virtue name since at least the 17th century. It seems a rather strange choice for the 1940s, because Unity Mitford was an aristocratic English girl who was a rabid supporter of the Nazis and fervent devotee of Adolf Hitler, her close personal friend. When Britain declared war on Germany, Unity tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head, but survived, although permanently affected by her brain injuries. She died from an infection caused by the bullet in 1948, a controversial figure to the end. Unity Mitford was the inspiration behind evil Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series, and it’s interesting that J.K. Rowling named her eldest daughter after Jessica Mitford, a staunch Communist and Unity’s sister. If you can get over the connection to Unity Mitford, Unity is a rather attractive name, and similar in sound to Una, which still charted in the 1940s.
A large port city in Spain, famous for its vibrant culture and delicious cuisine. Founded as a Roman colony in the 2nd century, its name was originally Valentia, meaning “strength, valour”, in recognition of the bravery of former Roman soldiers who settled there. The name is closely related to the familiar Valentine. During the period of Muslim rule, Valencia was nicknamed Medina bu-Tarab, “City of Joy”. The name might remind you of Valencia oranges, grown in California but named after the Spanish city, which had a reputation for very sweet oranges. Valencia has long been used as a personal name in Spanish-speaking countries, but is not common in English-speaking ones. It may have got a boost from the 1926 romantic film Valencia, where the title character is an exotic Spanish dancer, played by Mae Murray. A box office success, its title song was one of the biggest hits of that year. Valencia fitted in with popular names of the 1940s such as Valerie, and still seems rather glamorous.
(Photo shows Australian author Dymphna Cusack in 1945: her play Red Sky At Morning was one of few produced during the war years, and was made into film in 1944)
Name in the News
On March 17, a rare aurora australis was seen over New Zealand and Australia, swirling across the late night skies in patterns of red, green, blue, and purple. Aurora australis is also known as the Southern Lights, the southern hemisphere equivalent of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.
An aurora event occurs when rapidly moving particles that originated from the sun come in and strike the upper atmosphere, more than 100 kilometres above the earth. The energy from the particles striking molecules in the atmosphere are released as light, and the colours that you see depend on which molecules are struck – green and red come from oxygen, while blue and purple are from nitrogen.
Aurora events sometimes happen when large solar flares and explosions of material come off the sun, which is what occurred this week, setting off a geomagnetic storm. An aurora australis is usually best viewed from Antarctica, but moderate ones can be seen from Tasmania. However, this week’s aurora was so bright that it was visible as far north as Canberra, and Goulburn and Kiama in New South Wales, while even in Brisbane there was a red tinge to the sky.
In Aboriginal mythology, the aurora australis was often seen as fire in the sky, and conjectured to be bushfires in the spirit world, campfires glowing in the land of the dead, or fires lit by evil spirits. It seems to have been generally seen as an ill omen, or a sign of a god’s displeasure. In south-west Queensland, where aurorae are uncommon and less spectacular, it was thought that the spirits were able to transmit messages through an aurora, allowing communication with the ancestors.
Rare, awe-inspiring, and staggeringly beautiful, an aurora is a celestial phenomenon not to be missed. Little wonder that in the past it was seen as something mysterious and otherworldly.
Name Information Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn, and her name literally means “dawn, sunrise, daybreak”. She is the equivalent of the Greek goddess Eos, and the Hindu goddess Ushas. The name comes from an ancient root meaning “shining one”, and is related to the English word east, as well as the Latin aurum, meaning “gold”. It has connotations of springtime, and the new year – all symbols of rebirth and new beginnings.
In Roman mythology, Aurora renews herself each morning and flies across the sky to announce the arrival of the sun, her brother. She often appears in poetry (Virgil describes her as having a “saffron bed”), and her beauty and desirability are such an important part of her image that it is thought she must originally have been a goddess of love, with the different aspects of dawn and eroticism becoming separated into Aurora and Venus.
One of her key myths involves her love affair with a Trojan prince named Tithonus. Wanting to be with Tithonus for all eternity, she asked Jupiter to make him immortal. He granted her request, but because Aurora did not ask for him to remain eternally youthful, he was doomed to be old forever. Aurora saved him from this fate by turning him into a grasshopper.
Although you may read of the goddess Aurora in Tennyson and Shakespeare, see paintings of her, and even hear of her from Bjork, the name is probably best known from the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty, where the comatose princess is called Aurora. In the movie, the king and queen choose the name because their daughter has “filled their lives with sunshine”.
In Charles Perrault’s version of the fairy tale, the Sleeping Beauty was not given a name, but she bears the Prince two children named L’Aurore (“the dawn”) and Le Jour (“the day”). Tchaikovsky’s ballet gives the daughter’s name to the mother, so the Sleeping Beauty is called Princess Aurora, and Disney followed this, as well as the TV series Once Upon a Time. (In the German version of the tale, she is called Briar Rose, which Disney used as Aurora’s code name, and in the earliest Italian one, Talia, who had children named Sun and Moon).
Aurora has been used as a name since the 17th century, and from the beginning was an international choice, showing up in records in England, Italy, and Scandinavia, and by the following century was used in countries all over the world, but especially in Europe.
Currently, Aurora is popular in Norway and most popular in Italy, where it is #3. In the United States, Aurora has been almost constantly on the Top 1000, and is now #145. It has been rising steadily since 1995 – the same year that Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was re-released in cinemas. In England/Wales, Aurora has been on the charts since 2011, and is rising steeply at #257. Amongst English-speaking countries, Aurora is most popular in New Zealand, where it has been Top 100 since 2013 and was #77 last year.
In Australia, Aurora is around the mid-100s, so has a similar popularity to that in the US. As it is rising in other countries, it is most likely rising here too. Around the world, Aurora is often given as a name in scientific contexts, and in Australia it is well known as an energy company. Aurora Point on Macquarie Island is named after the SY Aurora used on Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition, with the yacht itself named after the aurora australis.
Aurora is an internationally recognised name with a poetic meaning and many attractive associations – an alluring dawn goddess, a sunshiney fairy tale princess, an iridiscent light in the heavens. It’s elegant and enchanting, rich and frothy, a name that seems to shimmer with colour, shot through with the rosy pink and gold of daybreak. One drawback is that it not particularly easy to say, which is why Auroras nearly always seem to have a nickname, such as Aura, Auri, Rora, Rory, Ro, or Roo, adding a cute or tomboyish option to a flouncingly feminine name.
(Picture is of Aurora australis seen over the Forth River in Tasmania; photo taken by Julie Head and published in The Advocate).
Tomorrow it will be the 241st birthday of the English explorer Matthew Flinders, who was the first to circumnavigate Australia.
He’s a historical figure that Australia has taken to its heart, and it’s very difficult not to find him almost immediately endearing. As a schoolboy, he read Robinsoe Crusoe and became enamoured of a desire to go to sea; apparently against all advice, he joined the navy at the age of fifteen. He never lost his love for Defoe’s novel – one of the last letters he ever wrote was to order a copy of the new edition.
Matthew first came to New South Wales in 1795, as midshipman on the Reliance, where he made a good impression as navigator and cartographer, became excellent friends with the ship’s surgeon, George Bass, and gained a black and white cat. Born on the ship, the kitten fell overboard, but was able to swim back and climb a rope to safety. Matthew saw it was intelligent with a strong survival instinct, and named it Trim after the butler in Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, because of the cat’s faithful and affectionate nature.
Flinders and Bass made expeditions to Botany Bay and up the Georges River, from Port Jackson to Lake Illawarra, and to Moreton Bay, where their arrival on Coochiemudlo Island is still celebrated each year on Flinders Day.
The daring duo were sent to find a passage from the mainland to Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land). The passage they found is named Bass Strait, and its largest island is Flinders Island. Matthew charted all the islands, and he and George Bass were the first to circumnavigate Tasmania.
Matthew’s work gained the attention of the great scientists of the day, especially Sir Joseph Banks, who convinced the Admiralty to send Flinders to chart the entire coastline of New Holland. Matthew was promoted to commander, and given a slightly dilapidated ship called the Investigator (England was at war with France, and the navy was saving the really good ships for fighting).
Flinders wed his childhood friend Ann Chappell while in England (he named Mount Chappell Island in Bass Strait after her). Newly married, but with an expedition to command where women were strictly forbidden, he tried to smuggle Ann onto the Investigator. Sir Joseph Banks found out, and put an immediate stop to it. Ann was left at home: however, Matthew was allowed take Trim on the voyage.
The circumnavigation of Australia started on Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia, and continued eastward across the Great Australian Bight. Flinders ran into French explorer Nicolas Baudin in South Australia; although hostilities had temporarily ceased between England and France, both men thought their countries were still at war, but peacefully exchanged discoveries with each other. Matthew named the place where they met Encounter Bay.
Although circumnavigation was completed, it was not possible for Matthew to chart the entire coast, due to problems with the ship. Once back in Sydney in 1803, the Investigator was judged unseaworthy, and as he was unable to continue his work, Matthew set sail again on a ship called the Porpoise, which only made it as far as the Great Barrier Reef: the place was named Wreck Reef as a result. Flinders made it across open seas back to Sydney in the ship’s cutter, and (still accompanied by Trim), took command of the Cumberland to get home.
The Cumberland was also in poor condition, and Flinders was forced to put in at the Isle de France (now called Mauritius), just three months after Nicolas Baudin had died there. War had broken out with France again a few months previously, but Matthew Flinders thought that being on an important scientific mission, having a French passport, and knowing Nicolas Baudin would afford him diplomatic immunity.
The French governor disagreed, and detained Matthew there for years, even after Napoleon told him to release Flinders. Trim, who proved such a comfort to him, disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and the heartbroken Matthew believed he had been killed and eaten by the island’s slaves (not the first brave explorer to have met this fate, if true).
Finally, Matthew returned to England in 1810, his wife having waited more than nine years to see him again. Now in very poor health after his harsh imprisonment on Mauritius, he worked on completing his atlas.
It was during his voyages that Matthew Flinders began to use the name Australia to refer to the continent he was exploring. He wasn’t the first to use the name, but previously geographers used it for the whole South Pacific region.
Sir Joseph Banks, who had been such an interfering nuisance by not letting Ann accompany her husband Matthew on the Investigator, now turned out to disapprove of the name Australia. Despite Matthew’s objections, his book came out under the title A Voyage to Terra Australis. The final proofs came to him on his death bed, but by then he was unconscious; he died the day after his book was published, having never regained consciousness.
A Voyage to Terra Australis was the first book to use the name Australia for our continent, as Matthew Flinders was sure that there was no other great landmass in the area it could apply to. With his gift for nomenclature, he noted that the name Australia was “more agreeable to the ear” than any other. His chosen name stuck, and it was Governor Lachlan Macquarie who recommended that it be officially adopted, which took place in 1824.
Amongst all the places in Australia which Matthew charted, he never named one after himself, but that has been well and truly remedied, with more than a hundred places bearing the name Flinders – from the Flinders Ranges to Flinders Bay to the suburb of Flinders in Canberra, not to mention Melbourne’s Flinder’s Street, the Flinders Highway, and Adelaide’s Flinders University. There are more statues of Matthew Flinders in Australia than of any other man, and the only person to outdo him is Queen Victoria.
Even Trim the cat has not been forgotten, as he has a bronze statue at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, while the library has a cafe named after him, and sells a wide variety of Trim-related merchandise at their gift shop. Author Bryce Courtenay wrote a novel called Matthew Flinders’ Cat, in memory of the pet that Matthew Flinders called “the best and most illustrious of his race … and best of creatures … ever the delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers”.
Name Information Matthew is the English form of Matthaios, the Greek form of the Hebrew name Matityahu, meaning “gift of Yahweh”, and almost always translated as “gift of God”.
The name became common because of the Apostle Matthew. Matthew was one of the first to join Jesus’ ministry, and is described in the New Testament as a publican. In Roman times, this meant a public contractor, who was responsible for collecting duties and taxes. It’s possible that Matthew collected the taxes of the Hebrews on King Herod’s behalf.
Publicans were very unpopular – not only because nobody likes paying taxes, but because they were seen as traitors collaborating with the Roman Empire. It’s significant that Jesus chose a publican as one of his followers, because it suggests he was actively seeking out people on the fringes of Hebrew society, and those despised by others.
The New Testament mentions a tax collector named Levi who was called to join Jesus, and it is tempting to think that Levi and Matthew were the same person, but this is never made explicit. If so, he may have been born Levi, and taken (or been given) the name Matthew to symbolise his new life.
According to Christian tradition, Matthew was the author of The Gospel of Matthew; as a publican, he would probably have been literate enough to have written it. However, most modern scholars believe that the Gospel was written later, by someone who strove to emphasise that Jesus was part of Jewish tradition. This makes it seem as if it may have been written for a Jewish Christian community, to ensure that their Jewish laws were not lost in a church that was gradually losing touch with its Hebrew roots. It’s possible such a community would have venerated Matthew as a leader of a former generation, and kept records of his teachings and stories.
Tradition says that Matthew preached to Jewish communities in Judea, before travelling through other countries of the Middle East and eastern Europe: so many conflicting countries are mentioned that one wonders if he ever left Judea at all. He is regarded as a martyr, although no specific martyrdom is given for him, and many doubt this belief. Saint Matthew is the patron of accountants, bankers, tax collectors, and public servants (all important jobs which still don’t make you very popular).
Matthew has been in use as a name since the Middle Ages, and in Ireland has been used to Anglicise the Irish name Mathúin, meaning “bear”.
Never out of common use in the post-medieval era, Matthew is a classic which has remained on the charts since Federation, and never been out of the Top 200. It was #89 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 in the 1910s, reaching its lowest point in the 1940s at #161. It climbed steeply to re-join the Top 100 by the 1960s, and peaked in the 1980s as the #1 name of the decade. It has fallen very gradually since then, and is still in the Top 50. Currently it is #48 nationally, #41 in New South Wales, #56 in Victoria, #55 in Queensland, #35 in Western Australia, #83 in Tasmania, and #55 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Matthew is a popular name in all English-speaking countries, but most popular in Northern Ireland, where it is in the Top 10. Its popularity in Australia is very similar to that in New Zealand and England/Wales.
Matthew is not only a strong, handsome, timeless classic, it honours a man who was daring enough to follow a childhood dream, and courageous enough to sail through seas unknown. He had the determination and tenacity to see through painstaking, detailed scientific work, and endured shipwreck, starvation and attack on his voyage, as well as cruel imprisonment which shortened his life.
Most importantly, he was the man who named us – we could not be Australia without him, making Matthew one of the most Australian names possible for a boy.
It was International Women’s Day on Sunday, so this seems like a good chance to cover the name of a prominent and ground-breaking Australian woman.
Quentin Bryce (nee Strachan) was one of the first women admitted to the Queensland Bar, and became the first woman appointed as a faculty member of the law school where she had studied, at the University of Queensland. As well as her teaching role, she was appointed to the new National Women’s Advisory Council in 1978, becoming its convenor a few years later.
She went on to take up other key roles in women’s issues, such as becoming the first Director of the Queensland Women’s Information Service, and Queensland Director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. She served as Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner for five years, then became founding chair and CEO of the National Childcare Accreditation Council. A surprise move saw her become principal and CEO of the Women’s College at the University of Sydney, where she was able to combine her academic interests with her skills in administration.
In 2003 she was appointed Governor of Queensland by Premier Peter Beattie, only the second woman to take the role (the first was Leneen Forde, in the 1990s). Peter Beattie’s successor offered her an extension of her five-year term, but by then Dame Quentin had another appointment, and so she was succeeded as Governor of Queensland by Penelope Wensley – the first time a female governor of the state made way for another woman.
In 2008, the Queen approved Quentin’s appointment as Governor-General, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and so she became the 25th Governor-General of Australia, and the first female Governor-General of this country. The decision gained approval on all sides of politics, and was seen as a positive move by commentators. Towards the end of her term, she made headlines after giving the annual Boyer Lecture, when she implied that she looked forward to Australia becoming a republic, and legalising gay marriage.
When her term was completed last year, Quentin Bryce was made a Dame of the Order of Australia, on the recommendation of the current prime minister. Shortly afterwards, Dame Quentin was announced as the chair of a new task force to combat domestic violence in Queensland, so she continues her valuable work on behalf of Australian women.
French form of the Roman name Quintinus, derived from Quintus, meaning “fifth” in Latin, and traditionally given to a fifth child.
Saint Quentin is a 3rd century saint, and according to legend he was a Roman citizen who went to Gaul as a missionary, where he settled in Amiens in northern France. After performing many miracles, he was tortured and martyred before his body was thrown into the marshes of the Somme. By miraculous means, his body was later discovered and a shrine erected in his honour.
The cult of Saint Quentin was an important one in the Middle Ages, and Saint Quentin’s tomb was a major pilgrimage site, much favoured by the Carolingians. There are many places named after the saint in northern France. Because of the saint, the Normans introduced the name Quentin to England, where it may have contributed to the surname Quentin, although that could also come from Quinton in Warwickshire, meaning “the queen’s settlement” in Old English.
The name Quentin has been in use since medieval times, overwhelmingly as a male name. It is in the Top 500 in the United States, while in England/Wales, 17 baby boys were named Quentin in 2013. The name is most popular in France, where it is in the Top 50. There are not many Quentins in Australian historical records, and they are all male.
Besides Quentin Bryce, there are many famous Australians named Quentin in the media. Quentin Spedding was a journalist in the 1920s and 1930s, while ABC journalists include Quentin Dempster, Quentin McDermott, and Quentin Hull. There’s also film-maker and producer Quentin Kenihan, who first rose to fame as a little boy being interviewed on television.
You might also be reminded of American film director Quentin Tarantino, or British illustrator Quentin Blake. Homosexual author and performer Quentin Crisp changed his name to Quentin (born Denis Pratt), while Quentin Cook changed his name to Norman, and performed under the stage name Fatboy Slim.
These are all men named Quentin, but as a surname, Quentin refers to a queen, and even as a first name, Quentin could be used as a form of the female Roman name Quintina. I only know two people named Quentin, and they are both female, so the name seems very usable for girls to me, in addition to being a splendid choice for a boy.
Surname derived from the male name Brice. Saint Brice was a Bishop of Tours during the Dark Ages. Acccording to legend, he was an orphan rescued by Saint Martin and raised in an monastery as St Martin’s pupil. He took over as bishop from St Martin, but proved rather worldly, so he was exiled to Rome for seven years to have his sins absolved by the pope. When he returned, he was a changed man, and served with such humility that he was venerated as a saint.
He is remembered in England because his feast day is November 13, and on that day in 1002 there was a mass killing of the Danes living in England ordered by King Ethelred the Unready, who was fed up with England being ravaged in Viking raids each year. It is known as the St Brice’s Day Massacre.
The meaning of Brice is not known for sure, although it is assumed to be Celtic. It may come from the Gaulish word briccus, meaning “speckled”. As a surname, Bryce is particularly associated with Scotland, and is understood as meaning “follower of Saint Brice”.
The name is very well known in Australia because of best-selling author Bryce Courtenay, who was born in South Africa – his name was Arthur, but went by his middle name. Before becoming a published writer, Bryce worked in advertising, and headed many award-winning campaigns, including Louie the Fly, The Milkybar Kid, and It’s Time, on behalf of Gough Whitlam. His most famous work is his first novel, The Power of One, which has been made into a film.
Bryce entered the charts in the 1960s, debuting at #274 – its similarity to Bruce is so striking that you might suspect it was a replacement for the name, which was still popular in the ’60s, but falling steeply. Bryce rose into the Top 100 by the 1990s, just as Bryce Courtenay began his career as an author, and left the Top 100 in 2000. It is now around the 200s, so still fairly common.
It’s more popular in the US, where it has fallen much more slowly, and is not far out of the Top 100. It is least common in England/Wales, where 19 boys and 3 girls were named Bryce in 2013 (the second time that Bryce has charted as a female name in the UK, probably because of American actress Bryce Dallas Howard, who has recently been in the Twilight series and The Help).
Modern classic Bryce is still getting reasonable use, along with old favourites like Brock and Brody, and is also on trend, fitting in with fashionable rising choices like Byron. It’s a great way to honour a Bruce and a Bryan simultaneously, and I see this name more commonly in the middle, as it goes well with so many first names.
Two medieval French saints names – but which one do you like best?
Thank you to Brooke for requesting that the name Quentin be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda, and Dame Quentin Bryce be featured as part of the Famous Name series
(Picture shows Dame Quentin Bryce opening the Defence Museum in Darwin)
Breton name, common amongst aristocracy, introduced to England by the Normans, where it became one of the most popular names. The meaning is uncertain – the word alan was used in Brittany to mean “fox”, but evidence suggests it originally meant “deer”. The two meanings may both refer to someone with red hair, or to indicate speed. There is also an Irish name Ailin, meaning “little rock”, very similar to the Irish/Scots Gaelic word alainn, meaning “handsome”, while the Welsh Alun may mean either “nurturing” or “wandering”. When the Normans brought Alan with them, the name spread to Scotland as Breton lords gained lands there – perhaps partly because the Scots already had similar names. Another theory is that the name comes from the Alans, Indo-Iranian peoples who settled in parts of France and Brittany in the Middle Ages; their name has the same origin as Aryan, meaning “noble”. There are several saints named Alan. Alan is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #55 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1940s at #20, leaving the Top 100 in the 1980s. It has recently had a small rise in popularity, and is around the 300s. Surname variants Allan and Allen have also been popular; Allen is back on the charts, while Allan has disappeared. I have seen a few babies named Alan and Allen lately.
English form of the Roman family Caecilius. The Caecilii traced their ancestry back to the mythical figure Caeculus, a son of the smith god Vulcan. According to legend, Caeculus had mastery over fire, and was unharmed by it, although the smoke damaged his eyes, which were smaller than usual – his name means “little blind boy” in Latin. Another story is that the Caecilii were descended from Caecas, a follower of the legendary Roman hero Aeneas: his name means “blind” as well, although it also can be translated as “dark, secret”. Of course both these tales are just folklore. The name Cecil has been used since the Middle Ages, and it was also given in honour of the noble Cecil family, whose surname comes from the name Seisyll, Welsh form of the Roman name Sextilius, from Sextus, meaning “sixth”. Cecil was #18 in the 1900s, and was #89 in the 1940s. It left the Top 100 the following decade, and dropped off the charts in the 1970s. I recently saw a baby Cecil, and I think this name seems pretty hip.
English surname, from a village in Herefordshire meaning “ford at the cliff”. The Cliffords are a noble family who originally came over with the Normans, and were prominent in medieval England. One of their members was Rosamund Clifford, “The Fair Rosamund”, who was the mistress of Henry II. Clifford has been used as a first name since at least the 16th century. Clifford was #61 in the 1900s, peaking in the 1910s and 1920s at #59. It was #92 in the 1940s, left the Top 100 the following decade, and was off the charts by the 1990s. This name will remind many parents of the classic children’s book series, Clifford the Big Red Dog. It seems strong and solid.
Anglicised form of the Irish surname O’Deasmhumhnaigh, meaning “son of the man from Desmond”. Desmond is the original name for South-West Munster, and means “south Munster”. Munster means “land of Muma”; Muma was a goddess associated with writing. Desmond became prominent as an aristocratic title, as the Earls of Desmond were lords of Ireland, related to royal houses in England and France. Their family name was FitzGerald, and US President J.F. Kennedy is believed to have been descended from them. Desmond has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and originated outside Ireland. Desmond was #127 in the 1900s, joined the Top 100 in the 1920s, and peaked in the 1940s at #66. It left the Top 100 in the 1960s, and dropped off the charts in the early 2000s. This name is rising in popularity in the US, and I wonder if that could happen here too? Desmond Miles from the Assassin’sCreed video game series, and Desmond from Lost are contemporary namesakes.
From the Greek name Gregorios, meaning “watchful”. Because the Latin for “flock” is grex, it became understood as “shepherd”, the idea being that the shepherd would keep watch over his flock. Because of this, it became a popular name for monks and bishops to adopt, and there have been dozens of saints and 16 popes with the name Gregory. Pope Gregory I was known as Gregory the Great, and he is famous for sending Christian missionaries to England to covert the Anglo-Saxons, and for the Gregorian chant, which is attributed to and named after him. Because of him, Gregory has been a common English name since the Middle Ages. Gregory is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #143 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1930s. It was #34 in the 1940s, and peaked in the 1950s at #7 (when Gregory Peck was big in Hollywood). It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1990s, and is currently around the 600s and fairly stable. It may not be stylish, but this is a solid choice.
French form of Roman name Mauritius, derived from Maurus, meaning “man from Mauretania”. Mauretania was a region of the Roman Empire where north Africa is today, so the name is often understood as “dark-skinned”, and sometimes translated as “a Moor” (the old name for someone from northern Africa). The name became commonly used because of St Maurice, a 3rd century Egyptian who served in the Roman army. According to legend, he was part of a Christian legion who refused to kill other Christians, and were martyred together. As a Roman soldier, St Maurice was patron of the Holy Roman Emperors and many of the royal houses of Europe, so his name became used by royalty and nobility. Prince Maurice of Battenberg was Queen Victoria’s youngest grand-child; he was killed in action during World War I. Maurice was #71 in the 1900s and peaked in the 1920s at #52. It was #82 in the 1940s, and left the Top 100 the following decade; it dropped off the charts in the 1990s. Maurice has a rather nerdy image, although AFL fans may be reminded of footballing great Maurice Rioli. It can be said muh-REES or MOR-is, with Reese or Morrie as the nicknames.
Germanic nickname or surname meaning “north man”, referring to Vikings. The Normans were descendants of Vikings who had taken over and settled the region of northern France now known as Normandy. Later a Norman duke named William conquered England, so that the Normans became an important part of British history and culture. The name Norman or Normant was used in England even before the Conquest, and became more common after 1066, although dropped off again in the late Middle Ages. It never went out of use, but became much more popular in the 19th century, due to the Victorian love of anything antique-sounding. In Scotland, it was used to Anglicise the Norse/Gaelic name Tormod, meaning “courage of Thor”. Norman was #19 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1920s at #14. It was #46 in the 1940s, left the Top 100 in the 1960s, and disappeared from the charts in the 1990s. There are many Australian namesakes, from artist Norman Lindsay to comedian Norman Gunston to pop star Normie Rowe. Many people still remember Norm, from the Life. Be in it fitness campaign, representing a pot-bellied man as “the norm”.
The Germanic name Raginmund is composed of ragin, meaning “advice, counsel” and mund, “protection”; it is sometimes translated as “protected by good counsel”. The Normans introduced it to England in the form Reimund, where it became very common in the Middle Ages. It was a traditional name amongst medieval nobility, and there are several medieval saints called Raymond. Never out of use, Raymond is a classic name which has always remained on the charts. It was #33 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1940s at #9. It left the Top 100 in the 1990s, and hit its lowest point in 2009 at #326. Since then it has improved its popularity ranking, and is currently in the 200s. With Roy- names so fashionable, Ray- names cannot help getting a boost as well, and Raymond is not only a solid classic choice, but one which has recently gained some cachet. Plenty of parents love Raymond!
From a Germanic name meaning “famous spear”. The Normans introduced the name to England in the form Rogier, where it replaced the Anglo-Saxon form, Hroðgar or Hrothgar, which is found in the poem Beowulf as the name of a Danish king. The name was common in medieval England, heavily used by the aristocracy, and there are a couple of saints named Roger. It has never gone out of common use, even though roger was a slang term for “penis” – possibly because of the spear connection. More recently, roger has become understood as “to have sexual intercourse”. It has often been chosen for comic characters, such as the Beano‘s Roger the Dodger, Roger Ramjet, Roger Rabbit, Roger the alien from American Dad, and Roger the Shrubber from Monty Python’s Holy Grail (not to mention “Welease Woger” in The Life of Brian). Roger was #155 in the 1900s, joined the Top 100 in the 1930s and peaked in the 1940s at #57. It left the Top 100 in the 1970s, and dropped off the charts in the late 2000s, albeit with a sudden burst of use in 2009, when it got up to #384. Although perhaps too many jokes have been made at its expense, the pirate flag of the Jolly Roger, and radio procedure call of Roger give it a rollicking feel.
English form of the Greek name Stephanos, meaning “wreath, crown”, to denote the laurel wreath worn by those who achieved victory in contests. In the New Testament, St Stephen was a deacon of the early church who was martyred by stoning. As the first martyr, St Stephen’s name seems apt, and he is often said to have won his martyr’s crown. There are several other saints with the name, and nine popes. The name Stephen became more popular in England after the Norman Conquest, and although it is a common name for royalty in eastern Europe, there has only ever been one English king with the name. Stephen of Blois was a grandson of William the Conqueror who took the throne in controversial circumstances; his rule marked a period of anarchy as he fought the Empress Matilda for the right to rule. In the end he failed, and his name has never been used again for a British king. Never out of common use, Stephen is a classic name which has remained on the charts. It was #72 in the 1900s, was #36 in the 1940s, and peaked in the 1950s at #5. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the early 2000s, and is currently fairly stable around the 300s. The variant Steven, in use since the Middle Ages, is more popular than Stephen, around the 200s.
(Picture shows the famous “dancing man” from the joyous celebrations in the streets of Sydney which marked the end of World War II in August 1945)
Famous Namesake Australia Day is a day not just to celebrate, but to honour Australians for their achievements and service to the community. However, this year even the Australian of the Year was almost completely forgotten as everyone was swept up in a media maelstrom when Prince Philip was named a Knight of Australia.
Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam replaced the British honours system in 1975 with the Order of Australia, and Knights and Dames were added to it in 1976 by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Knights and Dames were then dumped by the Hawke government in 1986.
Last year Knights and Dames were re-instated by the current prime minister, who declared that they would celebrate pre-eminent Australians such as Governors-Generals, chief justices and the like. The prime minister didn’t consult his senior colleagues over the decision, which many felt to be a mistake which could come back to bite him. This is the moment it bit.
There are several reasons why declaring Prince Philip a Knight of Australia went down badly. For one thing, the prime minister didn’t consult any of his colleagues over the decision, which re-ignited fears of an arrogant leader making “captain’s calls” which could alienate his own cabinet. For another, Prince Philip wasn’t a pre-eminent Australian, so the appointment was outside the stated brief.
The prime minister’s decision has been widely criticised, and had scorn poured upon it. The decision has been described as “a time warp” and “ludicrous … cultural cringe” by some in the Opposition, while those on the prime minister’s own side labelled it “April Fool’s Day”, “total craziness”, and “a joke”. High profile supporters of the prime minister, such as conservative commentator Andrew Bolt and media baron Rupert Murdoch thought it was “pathetically stupid” and “an embarrassment”. No wonder the newspapers have dubbed it a “Knightmare“.
Comedian Adams Hillscommented that, “Giving a Knighthood to Prince Philip is like giving a Beyonce CD to Jay-Z. Surely he could just pick one up at home”. In fact, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, already has three British knighthoods, and has had knighthoods bestowed upon him numerous times by various countries, including Nepal, Peru, and a whole bunch of others you never knew cared.
So an Australian knighthood isn’t completely bizarre, and Prince Charles is already a Knight of Australia, while Prince Philip is a Companion of the Order of Australia. In fact, in Vanuatu Prince Philip is worshipped as a god, which makes a knighthood look pretty low-key in a “least we could do” sort of way.
The problem is that the prime minister was already floundering in a sea of unpopularity, and when you are in dangerous waters, you cannot afford to make a mistake. The knighthood to Prince Philip was the equivalent of a drowning swimmer cutting his leg open, and now (to continue this laboured metaphor), the sharks have the scent of blood and are circling in a menacing sort of way.
The Coalition have already lost the Victorian state election after only term, and after the Prince Philip debacle, it performed so dismally in the Queensland state election that it is predicted to have lost its majority from a seemingly unassailable 78 seats, and former premier Campbell Newman has lost his seat and left politics. Many pundits are now predicting a federal leadership spill.
Name Information Philip is the English form of the Greek name Philippos, meaning “friend of horses”. The name isn’t just about being an animal-lover – in ancient Greece, only the wealthiest people could afford to own horses, so the name proclaims a high status. (In the same way, knights are also high-status and connected with horses). Aptly, Prince Philip is a keen equestrian who still participates in carriage driving, a sport which he helped develop.
The name Philip was traditional in the Macedonian royal family, and Alexander the Great‘s father was named Philip. Because of this, it was a highly popular name in Macedonia, although common in the rest of the Hellenic world. Prince Philip was born in Greece to a prince of Greece and Denmark, so his royal Greek name is very suitable.
There are two saints named Philip from the New Testament. One is the Apostle Philip, who seems to have been a friend of Peter and Andrew; according to tradition, he was martyred by being crucified upside down. The other is Saint Philip the Evangelist, mentioned as being one of the deacons chosen to help care for the poor.
The name Philip came into common use in western Europe by the Middle Ages, and was a traditional name in several royal houses, including France, Spain, and Portugal. Philip was used in England from medieval times too, with a notable example being the Elizabethan courtier Sir Philip Sidney, who created the name Stella for a poem.
However, the name became less common for a time because of King Philip II of Spain, who tried to invade England, and whose Spanish Armada was famously defeated by the English in 1588. Philip had actually been king of England for a short time, due to his marriage to Mary I, and they hadn’t been a popular couple. However, under Philip’s rule Spain reached the peak of its power, and was called “the empire on which the sun never sets”. The Philippines is named after him.
By the 19th century, everyone was over the whole Spanish Armada thing, and Philip was completely rehabilitated, no doubt assisted by Phillip, the surname form of the name – which has an Australian link, thanks to Captain Arthur Phillip, the founder of Sydney (Phillip Island in Melbourne, and the suburb of Phillip in Canberra are named after him).
It’s not hard to think of famous Philips and Phillips, including poet Philip Larkin composer Philip Glass, self-help guru Dr Phil McGraw, novelist Philip Pullman, singer Phillip Everly from The Everly Brothers, actor Philip Seymour-Hoffman, and record producer Phil Spector, to name a few. Funnily enough, when I think of fictional Philips, most of them seem to be cartoons, such as Philip J. Fry from Futurama, Phillip Argyle from South Park, and Prince Phillip (!) from Sleeping Beauty.
Philip was #69 in the 1900s and Phillip was #95; they both peaked in the 1950s at #33 and #19 respectively. Philip left the Top 100 in 1989, while Phillip managed to last slightly longer, until 1996. Philip has fallen more dramatically, with not enough births since 2009 to show up in the records, while Phillip is around the 400s.
Philip is still getting reasonable use in the UK and US, but while Phillip has a similar popularity to Philip in the United States, in the 300s, Phillip (#709) is far less common in the UK than Philip (#288). One can only speculate why we all have taken a different position in regard to Philip and Phillip. Philip is most popular in Denmark and Norway.
As I already covered my brother Edward’s name, I will mention that Philip was the name my dad chose for my youngest brother, named for his cousin and best friend. Philip’s middle name is Andrew, after my mother’s favourite great-uncle, who was from the Scottish Highlands.
However, both these choices turned out to be superfluous, because almost as soon as Philip was brought home and settled into his cot, my dad said admiringly, “He’s so brown – like a little brown bear”, and from then on he was Little Brown Bear, and eventually just Bear. He never goes by Philip.
(I should probably add that my family are otherwise very fair skinned with light hair, so Philip’s handsome olive skin and dark hair seemed like an exciting novelty to us. This colouring turns up in many families of Cornish heritage, and legend has it that they are descendants of the Spanish Armada, or Moorish pirates, which is almost certainly complete fiction).
Philip is a classic name with ancient roots, a royal history, and a biblical heritage. It has become less common than its surname twin Phillip, although neither is used extensively. It has some great nicknames – if you’re not excited about Phil, there’s always Pip, the hero of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, while Philo, Flip and Pippin would also be possibilities.
(Picture shows Prince Philip with a friend at the Royal Windsor Horse Show last year; photo from The Express).
Some people say you should give your son the kind of name that will sound good on a prime minister. Here’s ten names borne by prime ministers, as either first names, middle names, or surnames. Maybe one of them is right for your child.
Joseph Aloysius Lyons was the 10th prime minister, swapping from the Labor Party to lead the conservative United Australia Party. Genial and laidback, he was one of the most popular of our prime ministers, and the nation mourned when he died suddenly in 1939, becoming the first PM to die in office. He is the only Tasmanian prime minister, and his widow Dame Enid Lyons became the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives. Aloysius is the Latin form of Aloys, an old Occitan form of Louis, used to Latinise the Italian form, Luigi. Aloysius Gonzaga is a 16th century Italian saint from a noble family, who lost his life caring for plague victims not long after becoming accepted as a Jesuit. Because of the saint, Aloysius is seen as a specifically Catholic name, and is more common in the middle position. It has strong scientific credentials, as Aloysius Lilius was the first to propose the Gregorian calendar, and Dr Aloysius Alzheimer identified the first case of the disease which bears his name. Rich and flamboyant, Aloysius is usually pronounced al-uh-WISH-us in Australia.
Andrew Fisher was the 5th prime minister, a Labor leader who served as PM three times. Originally from Scotland, he had a background working for the miner’s union. He was prime minister at the time of the Gallipoli campaign, and ultimately responsible for getting Australian troops out. Andrew is the English form of the Greek name Andreas, meaning “manly, brave”. The name came into common use because of Saint Andrew, one of the Apostles, and the brother of Saint Peter; Andrew was the first Apostle, who led the other disciples to Jesus. Tradition says Andrew preached around the Black Sea, and legend has it that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, now called the St Andrew’s cross, or saltire. Saint Andrew is the patron of Scotland, where his relics are supposed to have been taken in the 6th century. The place of their safekeeping was renamed St Andrews, and the saltire is on the Scottish flag. Andrew is a classic which has never left the charts. It was #56 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1970s at #4; it only left the Top 100 last year. A handsome classic with ties to Scotland, this name has had some recent bad publicity.
Earle Christmas Grafton Page was the 11th prime minister, and leader of the Country Party, the forerunner to the National Party. He is our longest-serving federal parliamentarian, spending nearly 42 years in parliament, but was only prime minister as caretaker for three weeks after the death of Joseph Lyons. Christmas is the holiday in honour of the birth of Jesus Christ, literally meaning “Christ’s mass”. Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century, with the December 25 date originating in Rome. While a Christian festival in origin, Christmas is commonly seen as a secular holiday that brings everyone together. Christmas has been given as a first name since at least the 16th century, and early examples were born around Christmas time. Originally Christmas was given fairly equally to boys and girls, but overall is historically much more common as a boy’s name. This may be because Christmas is also a surname, perhaps originally a nickname given to someone who organised Christmas festivities. A sweet middle name for a baby born during the Christmas season (although Earle Page was born in August), as a first name it can shorten to Chris, Christy, or Chrissie.
Alfred Deakin was a leader in the movement towards federation who became the 2nd prime minister, serving as PM three times. The founder of the Commonwealth Liberal Party, he is honoured as a founding father by the modern Liberal Party. A man liked and admired by almost everyone, he is almost certainly Australia’s most spiritual prime minister. A sincere spiritualist, his diaries show that he prayed constantly for divine guidance, read scriptures and mystical works, and wanted his influence on the world to be one of light and truth. The surname Deakin is a variant of Deacon, an occupational surname for someone who served in the church ranking just below a priest, and whose duties included assisting the priest and carrying out parish work; the word is ultimately from the Greek for “servant”. A very old surname, it originates from Suffolk, and possibly dates to before the Norman Conquest. I have quite often seen Australian boys named Deakin (far more than ones named Deacon), and the prime minister may well be an inspiration, although Deakin University means it could be after an alma mater.
Malcolm Fraser was the 22nd prime minister, who came to power after the controversial Dismissal of Gough Whitlam. He won three successive elections for the Liberal Party, and has had a distinguished retirement in roles for the UN and Care International. He is now estranged from the Liberal Party, and often speaks out on human rights issues. The Scottish Clan Fraser trace their origins to France, although the surname’s meaning is uncertain. One theory is that it is derived from a (now lost place name) La Frezeliere in Anjou. Another idea is that it comes from fraise, the French word for “strawberry”, and the Clan Fraser displays strawberries on its coat of arms. Although a charming notion, this is almost certainly folk etymology. Known for their skills as warriors, the Frasers fought with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and took part in the Battles of Bannockburn and Culloden; at the last, they were massacred in great numbers, and a great stone marks where the Frasers fell. This is a handsome name, popular in Scotland, that I quite often see in birth notices.
John Grey Gorton was the 19th prime minister and a Liberal leader, the only Senator to become PM. Although a popular man with a bit of a larrikin streak, he was a poor public speaker, and the media portrayed him as a buffoon, in contrast to the eloquent Opposition leader, Gough Whitlam. The surname Grey, a variant of Gray, could be a nickname given to someone with grey hair. It can also be a Norman name, coming from the place name Graye in Normandy; this is from the Gallo-Roman personal name Gratus, meaning “welcoming, pleasing”. This second origin seems to be the earliest, and comes from the north of England. Grey can also be given directly as a colour name – the colour grey is associated with modesty and humility, business and professional life, twilight and elves, and also ambiguity (shades of grey). The subdued Grey has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and is historically more common for boys, although it works well in the middle for either sex.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the 8th prime minister, a leader of the conservative Nationalist Party. He oversaw the transfer of the national capital to Canberra, became the first PM to live at The Lodge, and modernised federal government administration. He later became an excellent ambassador and highly influential in British politics, taking a key role at the League of Nations. He was eventually raised to the peerage; the royal family attended his memorial service in London, although his ashes are scattered over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and considered our cultural capital. In the 19th century, it became the richest city in the world, and the second-largest after London, gaining the moniker of “Marvellous Melbourne”. Stanley Bruce was from a wealthy Melbourne family, and born in the 1880s when the city was booming and bustling, so the name was a badge of pride. Founded by John Batman from Tasmania, Melbourne was originally called Batmania, but almost immediately someone re-named it after the British prime minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. A member of the Irish peerage, Lamb’s title was after his Derbyshire estate, Melbourne Hall; the nearby town of Melbourne means “mill stream”. A distinguished middle name, although Batmania has its attractions.
Paul Keating was the 24th prime minister, delivering a shock record fifth election victory for the Labor Party during the recession years of the 1990s. Cultured and intellectual with an acerbic wit and colourful range of insults, he loves Mahler and collects French antique clocks. Paul is the English form of the Roman name Paulus, meaning “small, humble” in Latin; it seems to have begun as a nickname, and gradually become accepted as a personal name. Although common in ancient Rome, the name has become widespread because of Saint Paul, the Apostle most responsible for spreading Christianity throughout the Western world. Both a Jew and a Roman citizen, the saint’s name was Saul, but his Roman name was Paulus. The New Testament tells of his dramatic conversion. A zealous persecutor of Christians, Saul had a vision on the road to Damascus where the resurrected Christ reproached him for his actions, leaving him temporarily blinded. From then on, he became an equally zealous Christian, and in the process, changed history. By tradition, Paul was martyred in Rome. Paul is a classic name which was #132 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1920s before peaking in 1967 at #3. It left the Top 100 in the early 2000s, and is currently in the mid-200s. A softer-sounding boy’s classic which works well as both a first and middle name.
Sir George Reid was the 4th prime minister, and leader of the conservative Free Trade Party. A humorous and entertaining orator, audiences flocked to his election meetings, although his enemies viewed him as a clown. After his term in office, he was appointed Australia’s first High Commissioner in London, where he made himself so popular that he was elected to the British House of Commons during World War I. The surname Reid is a variant of Read, Reade and Reed, and generally accepted as a Scottish form, as the reid spelling comes from Northumberland near the Scottish border. It is derived from read, the Old English word for “red”, and began as a nickname for someone with red hair or a ruddy complexion. Reid has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and was first used this way in Scotland. Strong, short and simple, I occasionally see this in birth notices, although more commonly as a middle name: I have even seen it chosen for a girl.
John Winston Howard was the 25th prime minister, winning a record number of seats for the Liberal Party at the 1996 election so that the party would have been able to govern in its own right. He served four terms as PM, spending almost twelve years in the role. The name Winston is strongly associated with inspirational wartime British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, who John Winston Howard is named for. Churchill was named after his 17th century ancestor Sir Winston Churchill, whose name was his mother’s maiden name: she was Sarah Winston, daughter of Sir Henry Winston of Gloucestershire. After this, the name became traditional in the Churchill family. There is an Anglo-Saxon personal name Wynstan, meaning “joy stone”, usually given as the origin of Winston. The Churchill’s Winston surname is probably from the village of Winstone in Gloucestershire, which means “Wynna’s stone”, with Wynna meaning “joy”, so having much the same meaning. However, if it ultimately comes from the village of Winston in Suffolk, it means “Wine’s settlement”, with Wine meaning “friend”, so “friend town”. Nice either way. This is fast becoming seen as a hip, sophisticated choice.