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Germans have lived in Australia since the beginning of European settlement in 1788, and at least 73 of the convicts were German. Many more came to Australia as free settlers during the 19th century, often fleeing revolution or increased militarism in their homeland. By 1900, Germans were the fourth largest ethnic group in Australia, behind English, Irish, and Scots. Today almost a million Australians classify themselves as having German ancestry, about 4.5% of the population. That’s only a little less than the number of Australians with Italian ancestry, yet it is far more common to see Italian names in birth notices than German ones. Two world wars didn’t help, and neither does the clunkiness of some traditional German names, which are out of date in their country of origin. Yet here clunky is beginning to be cool again, and there are many cute and spunky German short forms that are right on trend.

Amalia
Latinised form of the name Amala, a short form of names beginning with the German element amal, meaning “vigour, courage”, with connotations of hard work and fertility. It is thus an older or more obviously German variant of Amelia. The name was traditional among German aristocracy and royalty, and is still used by modern European royals: Prince Felix of Luxembourg had a daughter named Princess Amalia last year. Although a popular name in Continental Europe since the Middle Ages, Amalia only became commonly used in Britain in the 18th century once Amelia had been introduced by the Hanoverian rulers. Amalia is around the 300s and seems to be gaining more use; it’s not only an alternative to popular Amelia, but is boosted by the trend for names such as Mahli and Mahlia. Rising in the US, Amalia is only just outside the Top 100 in Germany, and feels as if it is going places. It’s said the same way in Germany as here: ah-MAH-lee-uh.

Anneliese
Combination of the names Anna and Liese, a short form of Elisabeth. It’s been in use since the 18th century in Germany, and came into common use in the English-speaking world in the 20th century. A famous Australian namesake is the model Anneliese Seubert, who was born in Germany and moved here as a child; Anneliese has been a celebrity mum on the blog. Anneliese doesn’t chart in Australia, with parents preferring Annalise, which is around the 300s – the same spelling as the Australian model Annalise Braakensiek. The name has numerous spelling variants, including the name of the famous wartime diarist Annelies “Anne” Frank. This name is very pretty, and would be a good alternative to popular names like Anna and Annabelle, while also suitable for honouring an Anne and an Elizabeth at the same time. Germans say this name ah-na-LEE-zuh, but Australians may prefer AN-uh-lees or AN-uh-leez.

Gretel
Pet form of Grete, short for Margarete, a German form of Margaret. It’s probably best known from the Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In the story, Hansel and Gretel are brother and sister whose impoverished father and stepmother abandon them in the woods. The hungry children are caught by a witch once they start nibbling her yummy-looking gingerbread house, and Gretel rescues her brother from being eaten with cleverness and courage. There’s been a recent reboot in the horror movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, with Gemma Arteron as Gretel. A famous Australian namesake is heiress Gretel Packer, the sister of James Packer; Gretel is named after her grandmother, wife of media mogul Sir Frank Packer (Sir Frank entered yachts named Gretel in the America’s Cup in his wife’s honour). Another namesake is television presenter Gretel Killeen, who writes children’s books. Gretel seems like a cute yet sophisticated choice.

Leni
Short form of Helene or Magdalena. A famous namesake is the pioneering German film director Helene “Leni” Riefenstahl who made propaganda films for the Nazis during the 1930s. German supermodel Heidi Klum has a young daughter named Helene, who is called Leni. Leni is a popular name in Germany, and around the 300s here. It’s very much on trend, fitting in with cute short names like Evie, and L names like Layla. English-speakers tend to pronounce the name LAY-nee, which isn’t too different to how Germans say it: Laney and Lainey are variant spellings. It can be used as a nickname for names such as Eleni and Elena. Some parents pronounce it LEN-ee, and treat it as a feminine form of the male name Lenny.

Lulu
Pet form of Luise, the German form of Louise. It’s also an Arabic name meaning “pearls”, which may be written Lu’lu and is sometimes given as a nickname. Lulu is the main character in two plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind often combined into one called Lulu; they inspired the silent film Pandora’s Box with Louise Brooks as Lulu, the opera Lulu by Alban Berg, and was made into a film again in Germany in the 1960s. In the stories, Lulu is a prostitute and femme fatale. Lulu is often chosen as a stage name, such as the Scottish singer Lulu (born Marie Lawrie), or a nickname, such as Australian china painter Lucie “Lulu” Shorter. However, singer-songwriter Lulu Simon, daughter of Paul Simon, has Lulu as her full name. Lulu is around the 200s here – a cute, sexy, hip little name that gives Lola a run for its money. Can be used as a nickname for any name with a LU sound in it, from Lucinda to Eloise.

Mitzi
Pet form of Maria. Famous namesakes include Hollywood star Mitzi Gaynor (born Francesca Gerber), and child star Mitzi Green (born Elizabeth Keno), who was in the 1932 version of Little Orphan Annie. A famous Australian namesake is teenage actress Mitzi Ruhlmann from Home and Away and Dance Academy. Although in Germany Mitzi is more popular for cats and dogs than humans, itsy-bitsy Mitzi is a bright vintage charmer that will appeal to those wanting something a little different while still fitting in with current trends.

Ottilie
Modern form of the ancient Germanic name Odilia. This is often said to be a feminine form of Otto, but may actually be from the Germanic odal, meaning “fatherland”. There is a medieval Saint Odilia (one of those long-suffering young girl saints who are given a disturbingly hard time by their horrible fathers), and Ottilie was a traditional name among the German aristocracy during the Middle Ages. The name has been something of a favourite in fiction, being chosen by the authors Goethe, Truman Capote, John Wyndham, and Robert Louis Stevenson – in all these works, the woman named Ottilie is an object of desire in some way. You can say Ottilie in various ways, but OT-uh-lee and o-TILL-ee are probably the most common in Australia, and Tilly is a favoured nickname here. The German pronunciation is more like o-TEE-lee-uh.

Thea
Short form of Dorothea or Theodora. Famous German namesakes include Thea von Harbou, who wrote the screenplay for the silent film classic Metropolis, and Thea Rasche, Germany’s first female aerobatics pilot. Famous Australian namesakes include author Thea Astley, and artist Althea “Thea” Proctor, both distinguished in their respective fields. You might also know of Thea Slatyer, a retired footballer who played for the Matildas, and Dame Thea Muldoon, wife of New Zealand prime minister Sir Robert Muldoon. Simple yet substantial, Thea is gaining in popularity around the world. Just outside the Top 100 in Germany, Thea is popular in Scandinavia and New Zealand, and rising sharply elsewhere in the English-speaking world. It has been boosted here by a celebrity baby, daughter of model Kelly Landry. Usually said THEE-uh in Australia, but the German pronunciation is TEE-uh.

Wilhelmina
Feminine form of Wilhelm, the German equivalent of William. In the form Wilhelmine this was a traditional name amongst German royalty. A famous Australian namesake is Wilhelmina “Mina” Wylie, one of Australia’s first two female swimmers in the Olympics; she won silver in 1912, and received 115 swimming champion titles in all. Another is Wilhelmina “Mina” Rawson, who wrote books on cooking and household management, and was also the first swimming teacher in central Queensland. A great name for swimmers! For many years this name has been seen as too clunky, but popular Willow helps make it seem a lot more usable. Dignified yet quirky, Wilhelmina has a host of adorable nicknames, including Billie, Willa, Mina, Minnie, and Minka. This is a favourite name of Ebony from Babynameobsessed, and as she is a teenage name enthusiast, it bodes well for Wilhelmina’s future.

Zella
Short form of Marcella, a feminine form of the name Marcus. There are several famous musical namesakes from America: singer-songwriter Zella Day, country singer Zella Lehr, and gospel singer Zella Jackson Price. In the late 19th century, Zella fitted in with other names from that era, such as Zelda and Zelie; today it sounds like Zoe + Ella, or perhaps Zahli + Stella. A vintage name which now blends in seamlessly with current trends.

POLL RESULTS
People’s favourite names were Thea, Ottilie and Anneliese, and their least favourite were Gretel, Lulu and Mitzi.

(Picture shows an illustration from Hansel and Gretel by Felicitas Kuhn-Klapschy)

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