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These names became noticeably more popular in Australia last year. If you are considering using any of them, don’t panic. Most are making solid progress rather than madly storming upward. It would be foolish to reject them based on their current popularity, and silly to fret if you chose one of these names in 2012.
The list indicates the diversity of girls’ names at present, with a mix of classic and modern; places and nature; Hollywood and royalty. There’s something for nearly everyone amongst these popular names.
Ivy was the fastest-rising girl’s name both nationally and in Western Australia last year, and made the top 5 fastest-rising names in South Australia, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. It became more popular across the board in 2012, and nationally rose 18 places. This is its second time around in the Top 100 – Ivy was #17 in the 1900s, and didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1940s. It vanished from the charts in the 1970s, but reappeared in the 1990s. Ivy soared during the 2000s, making the Top 100 by the end of that decade. It is currently #22 in Australia, #21 in NSW, #27 in Victoria, #25 in Queensland, #22 in SA, #28 in WA, #44 in Tasmania, and #30 in the ACT. Ivy is named for the plant, and like its namesake, is presently climbing; Beyonce‘s daughter Blue Ivy may have given the name publicity. Chances are we’ll be seeing more of this fresh, pretty retro name, which sounds similar to popular Ava, Eva and Evie.
Savannah was in the top 5 fastest-rising names in South Australia, went up 9 places nationally, and increased in popularity in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is currently #35 in Australia, #38 in NSW, #74 in Victoria, #28 in Queensland, #43 in SA, #35 in WA and #94 in Tasmania. Savannah first charted in the 1990s, and climbed until it reached the Top 100 at the end of the 2000s. Savannah is an alternate spelling of the word savanna, referring to grasslands that have scattered trees, or where the trees are open to the sky; large tracts of northern Australia are savanna. The word comes from the Spanish sabana, derived from the Arawak (Native American) word zabana, which originally meant a treeless grassy plain. Savannah is a place name in the United States, most famously the city in Georgia. The city’s name comes from the Savannah River, which may be derived from the Shawnee people, or from Native American words for “southerner” or “salt”. The city featured in 1990s soap, Savannah, which probably accounts for its début in the charts that decade. While I imagine Savannah originally got its foot in the door because it sounds like Susannah, here it fit in with those other hip names of the ’90s, Ava and Sienna. Like Harper, this is another American South-inspired name, but also a royal one, because the queen’s first great-granddaughter is named Savannah.
Harper was the fastest-rising name in Tasmania and Victoria, made the top 5 fastest-rising names in South Australia and Western Australia, and became more popular in every state. Currently it is #39 in Australia, #37 in NSW, #29 in Victoria, #36 in Queensland, #44 in SA, #29 in WA, and #31 in Tasmania. Harper began as a surname from the English word for a professional harp player. The surname originates from the west coast of Scotland, and is especially associated with the Clan Buchanan. The name also has Christian overtones, for heaven is said to be filled with the sound of harp music. Harper has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and was originally given to boys. The fame of (Nelle) Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, gave it a feminine slant. Harper only began charting in 2011, after David and Victoria Beckham welcomed their first daughter. Harper Beckham was named by her brothers after a character in Wizards of Waverley Place (although Victoria Beckham also happened to be working for Harper’s Bazaar at the time). The Beckhams said they wanted a name to honour their time in the United States, and chose this American-style name. Many Australians have followed in their footsteps.
Alice was the #1 fastest-rising name in South Australia, and has just joined the Top 20 in the Northern Territory, so it has gained popularity in central Australia. Intriguingly, the town of Alice Springs is in the middle of the Australia, offering food for thought. Alice also went up in popularity nationally, in Victoria, and in Tasmania. It is currently #43 in Australia, #49 in NSW, #34 in Victoria, #53 in Queensland, #34 in SA, #49 in WA, #41 in Tasmania, #20 in the NT and #43 in the ACT. Alice is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #4 in the 1900s, and just missed out on the Top 100 in the 1940s, at #105. It reached its lowest point in the 1960s at #265, then began climbing, reaching the Top 100 for the second time in the 1990s. Since the beginning of the 2000s it has made staid but steady progress up the charts, and become middle name de jour. Alice is from the Old French name Aalis, short for Adelais, which is a short form of the Germanic name Adelheidis, meaning “noble kind” (which Adelaide is based on). Alice became popular in the Middle Ages, and got a boost during the 19th century after Queen Victoria had a Princess Alice. It’s been a favourite in fiction ever since Lewis Carroll penned Alice in Wonderland, and is the name of a main character in the Twilight series. Sensible, yet with a touch of magic, sweet Alice is one to keep your eye on.
Willow was in the top 5 fastest-rising names in Western Australia, went up nationally, and increased in popularity in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. It is currently #44 in Australia, #43 in NSW, #33 in Victoria, #39 in Queensland, #32 in WA, #73 in Tasmania and #68 in the ACT. Willow first charted in the 1990s, and rose precipitously to make the Top 100 by the late 2000s. Willow is named for the genus of small trees and shrubs which symbolise both wisdom and deep loss. It has been used as a personal name since the 18th century, and was originally given equally to boys and girls. It has only ever charted for girls in Australia, but is still occasionally used for boys. The 1988 fantasy film Willow, which possibly played a role in Willow joining the charts in the ’90s, has a hero named Willow. In 2011, pop singer Pink welcomed a daughter named Willow, and that doesn’t seem to have done this name any harm. Flower names mostly didn’t do well in 2012; Ivy and Willow show that greenery is more appreciated than petals at present.
Mackenzie made the top 5 fastest-rising lists in New South Wales and Victoria, and increased its popularity in other states and the Australian Capital Territory. Currently it is #46 in Australia, #57 in NSW, #44 in Victoria, #45 in Queensland, #33 in SA, #37 in WA, #45 in Tasmania, and #48 in the ACT. Mackenzie has charted since the 1990s, and zoomed up the charts to make the Top 100 by the early 2000s. It dipped out of the Top 100 in 2009, but was back the next year. Mackenzie is a Scottish surname, an Anglicised form of of the Gaelic Mac Coinnich, meaning “son of Coinneach” (Coinneach is the original form of Kenneth). The Clan Mackenzie is from the Highlands, and of Celtic origin; they trace their clan name back to the pagan god Cernunnos. Mackenzie has been used as a first name since the 18th century in Scotland; it was nearly always given to boys in the beginning, but not exclusively so. Mackenzie first charted in the US as a female name, popularised by actress (Laura) Mackenzie Phillips, who was in American Graffiti. Since then there have been other Mackenzies on our screens; most recently, Mackenzie Foy played Renesmee in Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Audrey made the national Top 50 last year, and according to my estimate, rose almost as many places as Ivy. However, it’s harder to see where the gains were made than it is with Ivy, although Audrey made significant increases in New South Wales and Victoria, and modest ones in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. Currently it is #50 in Australia, #36 in NSW, #32 in Victoria, #55 in Queensland, #96 in Tasmania and #35 in the ACT. Like Ivy and Alice, Audrey has been Top 100 before. Although it was #156 in the 1900s, it made the Top 100 the following decade, and shot up to peak at #32 in the 1920s. It sank faster than it had risen, and was #197 in the 1940s, reaching its lowest point in the 1980s with a ranking of #0. Since then it has climbed, and reached the Top 100 again at the end of the 2000s. It looks likely to overtake its earlier peak, but Audrey seems to be under the radar at present. This is one of those names which is probably more popular than you think, and has an Australian connection, for the famous Skipping Girl Vinegar neon sign in Melbourne is affectionately known as Little Audrey.
Mila was the #1 fastest-rising name in the Australian Capital Territory, and grew more popular in New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is currently #59 in NSW, #46 in Victoria, #65 in Queensland, #44 in WA, #70 in Tasmania, and #48 in the ACT. Mila only began charting in 2011, so has been extremely successful in a brief space of time. The fame of Hollywood actress Mila Kunis must have had an impact; Mila entered the charts the year after Ms Kunis appeared in Black Swan. Mila is a short form of Slavic names containing the element mil, meaning “gracious, dear”. Mila Kunis’ full name is Milena, which is the feminine form of the Slavic name Milan, meaning something like “dear one”, and often translated as “sweetheart”. Mila sounds similar to other popular names such as Mia and Milla, and at the moment is doing very well.
Freya is a name just beginning to make an impression, for it joined the Top 100 in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory last year, and was in the top 5 fastest-rising names in Tasmania. Both these regions have small population sizes, so you can be forgiven for being a little sceptical; Freya is currently #174 in NSW and #129 in Victoria. Freya is the English spelling of the Old Norse goddess Freyja – her name means “lady”, and was originally an epithet. In Norse mythology, Freyja is a goddess of love, sex, beauty, fertility, sorcery, gold, war and death. Immensely beautiful and clever, she rules over a field in the afterlife. The name Freya has been popular in the UK for several years now, and is well known here due to Tasmanian actress Freya Stafford; it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that we should follow Britain’s lead, but we shall have to wait and see.
Josephine just managed to squeeze onto the Top 100 in New South Wales last year. That may not sound impressive, but the amount Josephine climbed was phenomenal – it went up 99 places, far outstripping Ivy’s mere 18. For that reason alone, it deserves a place on this list. Josephine is a solid classic which has never been off the charts, or left the Top 200; on the other hand it has never enjoyed high popularity either. It was #86 for the 1900s, and peaked the following decade at #76. It just failed to reach the Top 100 of the 1940s at #103, and dipped in the 1980s to make #172. Its progress has been up and down, but never too high or low, and it reached its lowest point in the charts in 2011, at #199. It has more than made up for this by getting back to the Top 100 in 2012, where it hasn’t been since the 1930s. Currently it is #100 in NSW and #105 in Tasmania. Josephine has recently made its mark as a royal and celebrity baby name, with Josephine chosen for the daughter of Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark, and also the grand-daughter of former prime minister Kevin Rudd. Will Josephine continue its ascent? Historically it’s unlikely, for Josephine seems most comfortable in the low to mid 100s, and may very well drop back this year. Stay tuned!
POLL RESULT: People’s favourite names were Alice, Ivy, and Freya, and their least favourite were Harper, Savannah, and Mackenzie.