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This blog post was first published on May 22 2011, and substantially revised and updated on May 14 2015.

Auburn is in Sydney’s western suburbs. The commercial district contains many Middle Eastern and Asian shops and restaurants, and is a focal point for migrant groups. Auburn has the oldest Hindu temple in Australia, which opened in 1977, and one of its busiest mosques – the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, built by the Turkish community in honour of the Gallipoli conflict of 1915. Auburn is named after an Irish village in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Deserted Village; the first line of the poem is, Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain. Auburn was a tiny place near Athlone in Westmeath, and doesn’t seem to exist any more – perhaps it was too deserted. Auburn simply means “red-brown”, and usually refers to dark red hair colours. Auburn has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, more often given to boys. It sounds similar to Aubrey, Aubin, and Auberon, and seems quite distinguished, while its literary ancestor gives it a sentimental air.

Bexley is a suburb in Sydney’s south, in the St George area. It was originally a land grant to Thomas Sylvester in the 1810s, who sold it to James Chandler in 1822. Lydham Hall, the oldest residence in the area, was part of the 1822 sale. Chandler got fed up with the bushrangers, escaped convicts and other undesirables who infested his personal paradise, and sold it to Charles Tindell. By 1856 Tindell was subdividing the land into lots for homes, and by the late 19th century, Bexley was a thriving town. Its best days are behind it, for this suburb has been on the decline since the 1980s. James Chandler named it Bexley after his birthplace in London; the name comes from the Old English, meaning “box tree meadow”. In uncommon use as a personal name since the 16th century, mostly for boys, Bexley has the fashionable X-factor.

Camden is a historic town in the Macarthur Region, in the far south of Sydney. It’s pretty and semi-rural with a “gentleman farmer” atmosphere. The Camden area originally belonged to the Gandangara people; European explorers first arrived in 1795. In 1805, Governor King rather begrudgingly gave 5000 acres to John Macarthur, who had been promised land by Secretary of State, Lord Camden. (The descendants of John Macarthur still live in their ancestral home at Camden Park). Macarthur’s wool industry was so successful, a town was necessary in order to support it. Founded in 1840, by the 1880s it was a thriving concern. Camden was named after its sponsor, Lord Camden – his title is from a Gloucestershire place name meaning either “enclosed valley” or “valley of encampments” in Old English. In use since the 17th century, Camden sounds like familiar choices such as Cameron and Caden, while retaining a hint of its aristocratic past. It is in the Top 100 in the US, and I am seeing it more frequently in birth notices here.

Carlton is the next suburb to Bexley. It is most famous for being the home of the St George Illawarra Dragons National Rugby League team. Carlton was originally heavily timbered, and given as a land grant to Captain John Towson in 1808. When the railway opened in 1884, the land was subdivided and people began moving to the area. Carlton is named after a suburb of Nottingham; I’m not sure why, but assume that it was Captain Towson’s birthplace. The place name Charlton is very common in the UK, and is a linguistic mix of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse meaning “settlement of free men”. In use since the 17th century, this is a spin on classic Charles, and a variant of Charlton, that I have seen a bit of lately. Like popular Cooper, it is the name of an Australian brewery.

Colebee is a fairly new suburb in Sydney’s far west. It is named after an Aboriginal guide, the son of a tribal chief, who assisted William Cox when he surveyed the land across the Blue Mountains. Colebee also tried to bring a peaceful resolution to the years of conflict that existed between Aborigines and white settlers in the area. For his efforts as a geographer and diplomat, he received the first grant of land that the British made to an indigenous person. He received 30 acres on the South Creek; an area which would later become known as Blacktown, and the location of the suburb of Colebee. The meaning of Colebee is not certain, but I have read a theory that it came from the local word for sea eagle (gulbi). Europeans were struck by the fact it sounded exactly like the English name Colby. If you are considering the name Colby, this spelling not only gives the nickname Cole, but is an important part of Sydney’s history.

Kyle Bay is a tiny picturesque suburb in Sydney’s south, in the St George area, and takes its name from the bay on the north shore of the Georges River. It is named after local shipbuilder Robert Kyle, who was granted land here in 1853. Kyle is a Scottish surname from the district of Kyle in Ayrshire. The name is from a common place name, usually translated as from the Gaelic word caol, meaning “narrows, channel, strait”. As there are no channels or straits in this district, the name may come instead from the legendary British king Coel Hen (“Coel the Old”), otherwise known as Old King Cole. His name is possibly from the Old Welsh coel, meaning “belief, omen”. In use as a personal name since the 18th century at least, it was originally given to both sexes in its native Scotland, but is now considered to be a male name. Kyle first charted in the 1960s, debuting at #233; its use seems to be heavily influenced by the female name Kylie, which was popular in that decade. Rising swiftly, Kyle was a Top 100 name by 1980, peaked at #27 in 1998, and left the Top 100 in 2006 – the year after obnoxious shock jock Kyle Sandilands became a judge on Australian Idol. It’s now around the 200s, so it’s a modern classic still in reasonable use.

Miller is a south-west suburb in the Liverpool area. It was part of the Green Valley Housing Estate built in the 1960s, and the suburb was established in 1965. It is named after Peter Miller, an Irish immigrant who was one of the first settlers in the Green Valley area. His surname of Miller is an occupational one, indicating the bearer worked at or managed a corn mill. In use as a first name since at least the 16th century, it has mostly been given to boys, although I have occasionally seen it given to girls because it is a homophone of the popular girls’ name Milla. Miller is around the mid-200s for boys, so not an unusual choice as a name, although not common either, meaning it might very well hit that sweet spot between “too strange” and “too popular”.

Nelson is a suburb in the north-west of Sydney, in the affluent Hills District. Governor William Bligh received a land grant in this area, and the suburb is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, as Bligh served under his command during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. Just in case he hadn’t made it clear enough how much he admired Nelson, he called his property Copenhagen Farm in his further honour. Either Nelson had really impressed him, or he was a total crawler. The surname Nelson means “son of Neil” – Neil being from a Gaelic name which may mean either “champion” or “cloud”. It has been in use as a name for boys since at least the 16th century, but Horatio Nelson helped give the name a boost in the 19th. World leader Nelson Mandela and philanthropist Nelson Rockefeller give this heroic name a lot of clout.

Oran Park is a suburb of Camden, once the colonial estate of John Douglas Campbell, and for many years the home of the Oran Park Raceway, which regularly hosted major motorsport events. Since 2011 it has been developed for residential housing. Oran Park is named after the village of Oran in Scotland; its name comes from the Scottish Gaelic word for “song”. Oran is also an Anglicised form of the Irish boys’ name Odhran, meaning “sallow, pale green”. Saint Odhran was a follower of St Columba, associated with the island of Iona. There is a strange legend which says he willingly allowed himself to be sacrificed by being buried alive, in what sounds like a pagan ceremony to ensure a chapel could be built, and then popped his head out to tell everyone there was no heaven or hell! St Columba hastily covered Odhran more securely in earth before he gave any more alarming information about the afterlife, or lack thereof. Said like Orange without the ge (OR-an), this attractive Scottish or Irish heritage choice may appeal to nostalgic motorsport fans.

Richmond is a historic town to the north-west of Sydney, on the Hawkesbury River flats near the foot of the Blue Mountains. The Darug people lived in this area when Europeans arrived in 1788; in 1789 it was explored by the British. The first settlers came to live here in 1794, and by 1799 it was providing half the grain produced in the colony. Because of its long history, Richmond has many heritage-listed buildings, and the University of Western Sydney dates back to 1891. Richmond was named by Governor Phillip, in honour of Charles Lennox, the Duke of Richmond, who was Master General of Ordance in the British government. His title comes from a town in Yorkshire, which was named after the town of Richemont in Normandy; its name simply means “rich hill”. Similar to both Richard and Edmond, this name has a casually expensive feel, and works well in the middle position.

People’s favourite names were Miller, Camden and Nelson, and their least favourites were Colebee, Kyle and Carlton.

(Photo is of the waterfront at Kyle Bay)