The Emperor Augustus was the founder of the Roman Empire and its first emperor; the month of August was named after him. His reign initiated the Pax Romana, a relatively conflict-free period which lasted for more than two centuries. Born Gaius Octavius, he was granted the title of Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, meaning “Military Commander and Caesar, the Son of God, the Venerable”, with the Augustus part meaning “venerable”, from the Latin augeo, meaning “increase, growth, honour”. Before it became an imperial title, Augustus was an epithet used to signal something that was sacred, and the title was adopted by the Holy Roman Emperors in the Middle Ages. Augustus has been a favourite name amongst European royalty, and traditionally used by the Hanoverians in the British monarchy. Hazel has shot into the Top 100 since The Fault in Our Stars, and I wonder if it could also boost regal Augustus, as this is the name of Hazel’s love interest? The name is already rising in the US, so maybe. Gus is a popular short form, although I have seen a lot of interest in Augie because of the Australian rock band Augie March, named for a character in a Saul Bellow novel.
Scottish surname referring to someone from the village of Brisco in Cumbria, once part of the Strathclyde kingdom of Scotland. The place name comes from the Old Norse for “wood of the Britons”. Also an extremely rare Italian surname which is probably from the Germanic brakia, meaning “struggle”, used as a nickname. The name is well known because of the undercover alias Donnie Brasco used by FBI agent Joseph Pistone during the 1970s: his autobiography inspired the movie Donnie Brasco, with Johnny Depp in the title role. It has an unfortunate meaning in Australia, as brasco is slang for “toilet”, from the manufacturer Brass Co. Brasco is an extremely cool-sounding name, and as for the toilet association – better tell everyone to just forget about it!
Latinised form of the Polish name Kazimierz, from the Slavic for “to destroy fame”, referring to someone who annihilates their opponent in battle so completely that they lose all honour. Four medieval rulers of Poland have been named Casimir, and St Casimir, the son of Casimir IV, is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania. Kazimierz is a reasonably popular name in Poland, but Casimir is rare around the world, even in countries with high immigration from Poland. However, this is a handsome heritage choice, not so different from fashionable Casper and hip Caspian, with Caz as the obvious nickname, although Cass and even Cash seem possible.
Irish name thought to mean “white fire”. In Irish mythology, Fintan mac Bóchra was a seer who accompanied Noah’s granddaughter to Ireland before the Great Flood. When the floodwaters hit, his family were all drowned, but Fintan managed to survive under the sea in the form of a salmon for a year; he also lived as an eagle and a hawk before returning to human form. He lived for more than 5000 years after the Deluge, becoming the repository of all wisdom. Once Christianity arrived in Ireland, Fintan decided to leave the world of mortals with a magical hawk who was born at the same time as he. There are a staggering 74 Irish saints named Fintan, which shows what a common name it must have been, and it is still in regular use in Ireland. The popular boy’s name Finn, and all the similar names, such as Finlay and Finnian, make this seem on trend.
English surname which can be related to the word gauge, meaning “measure”, and would have started as an occupational surname for someone who checked weights and measures. It can also be an occupational surname for a moneylender, as gage meant “pledge” – that which the person would put up as surety against the money loaned (as when objects are pawned). Its related to the words wage and mortgage, and also to the word engage: when you get engaged to someone, you make a pledge to them. Gage is an aristocratic surname; Sir William Gage first introduced the plum-like greengage into England in the 18th century, which is where its English name comes from. Gage has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, originating in the west country. It first joined the US charts in 1989, the same year that Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was made into a horror film; the protagonist’s toddler son is named Gage, played by Miko Hughes (from Full House). Although Gage takes on a particularly macabre role in the story, the cuteness of little blond Miko must have had an effect. Still in fairly common use in the US, Gage is a rare name in Australia and the UK – its similarity to the word gauge, used in the context of guns, makes this an on-trend weaponry name.
In Norse mythology, Loki is a mysterious figure, sometimes depicted as a trickster or god of deceit. Other times he is a troublemaker, or commits outright evil. Although said to be one of the giant folk, he is sometimes numbered amongst the gods, and seems to have been on friendly terms with them at some point. However, after many acts of mischief and malice, they punished him by having him bound by the entrails of one of his sons, with a serpent dripping venom on him, making him writhe in pain, which causes earthquakes. It is foretold that at the end of the world, he will slip free from his bonds and fight against the gods on the side of the giants, and be slain. Fittingly for such an enigmatic character, the meaning of Loki isn’t known. However, he is also called Lopt, meaning “air”, suggesting he was associated with that element. In Scandinavian folklore, the phenomenon where the air shimmers on a hot day is said to be caused by Loki. The name has been used more often since the Marvel comics world was brought to life on film, with Loki as a super-villain played by Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston portrays a complex, vulnerable, intelligent character whose charisma and style has won him legions of fans. Not only a cute-sounding mischievous name, Loki is quite similar to popular names like Luca and Lachlan, so it doesn’t seem strange.
Biblical place name; in the New Testament it is described as the home town of Jesus and his family. It’s also a title, because Jesus is often called Jesus of Nazareth. In early times, Christians were called Nazarenes (“people of Nazareth”) by non-Christians, and the modern Jewish word for Christians is notzrim, while in the Quran Christians are known as naṣārā – all coming from the name Nazareth. Archaeologists think that Nazareth would have been a small, insignificant village at the time of Jesus; today it is a city in northern Israel with most of its citizens Arabs, both Muslim and Christian. A place of Christian pilgrimage, it also has several sites of Islamic significance. The meaning of the city’s name is uncertain – it may come from the Hebrew for “branch”, or “watch, guard, keep”, implying it was originally on a hill, or protected in a secluded spot. Nazareth has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and is of Puritan origin. Originally used mostly for girls, overall it has been given fairly evenly to both sexes, and has never been very common. An unusual Biblical name which is overtly Christian.
Derived from the Germanic name Hruodland, translated as “famous land”, or perhaps “fame of his country”. Roland was an 8th century Frankish military leader under Charlemagne, responsible for defending France against the Bretons. It is recorded that he was killed at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in northern Spain by a group of rebel Basques. He became a major figure in medieval legend, and his death an epic tale of a Christian hero slain in battle against Muslims (the real Roland was killed by Christians, although Charlemagne was engaged in a war against Islamic forces in Spain). The 11th century La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland) describes Roland fighting a rearguard action against thousands of Muslims with a magical sword given to Charlemagne by an angel. Against the sensible advice of his best friend Oliver, Roland proudly refuses to call for reinforcements until it is too late, then dies a martyr’s death before angels take his soul to Paradise. In an English fairy tale based on a Scottish ballad, Childe Rowland is a prince who rescues his sister from the Dark Tower of the King of Elfland; the story is mentioned in Shakespeare’s King Lear. It helped inspire the poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning, and in turn this informed Stephen King’s fantasy series, The Dark Tower, with Roland Deschain as the flawed hero. Roland was #107 in the 1900s and continued falling until it left the charts altogether in the 1990s. This is a traditional underused name which is heroic and noble.
English surname referring to someone who worked with slate, especially in laying slate roof tiles. The surname comes from Derbyshire, and although it is of Norman-French origin, possibly existed before the Conquest. It has been used as a personal name since the 17th century, and from the beginning was associated with Derbyshire and the Midlands, which has a long history as a centre for slate quarrying. An unfortunate association in Australia is that slater is another word for a wood louse. The surname has several sporting namesakes, including former cricketer and media personality Michael Slater, rugby league star Billy Slater, and American surfing champion Kelly Slater. That probably helps explain use of the name Slater at present, and it seems like a tougher, edgier version of Tyler.
English surname after a village in Lincolnshire, meaning “homestead by the willows, settlement by the willows”. Willoughby’s main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of John Smith, who was one of the leaders of the Virginia Colony in early colonial America, and connected with the Native American girl known as Pocahontas. Willoughby is an aristocratic surname connected with several baronies; the family trace their lineage to a Norman knight who was granted land in Lincolnshire by William the Conqueror. Since the 17th century, the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby has been associated with the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain, who has charge of the royal apartments and hall at Westminster Palace, and plays a major role at coronations: the current baroness was one of the maids of honour at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Willoughby is also a suburb of Sydney on the Lower North Shore, first settled as farmland under Captain Arthur Phillip. Some people believe Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell chose the suburb’s name in honour of Sir James Willoughby Gordon, whom he had served under during the Peninsular War. In use as a personal name since the 17th century, Willoughby is a hip boy’s name which seems like a spin on popular William, while also boosted by looking like a masculine form of Willow. Will is the obvious nickname.
Thank you to Leah for suggesting the name Willoughby be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.
People’s favourite names were Augustus, Willoughby and Fintan, and their least favourite were Nazareth, Brasco and Slater.
(Photo of Billy Slater from the Herald Sun)