AUGUSTUS, the pater familias of the group, actually started out as an honorific rather than a name. It was first applied to Octavius, the adopted son—actually a great-nephew– of Julius Caesar when he became the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. The Senate decreed him the title Augustus, corresponding to Majesty and meaning great, magnificent, venerable. It was after him that the month was named.
Augustus then became the official designation of every Roman Emperor who followed, but was never used as a personal name until 1526, when it was given to Augustus of Saxony, at a time when German royalty was imitating everything Roman, from palaces to sculpture, dress and wigs—and impressive Roman names.
Seen now as somewhat fusty (but really no fustier than Atticus or Maximus), Augustus is now #797 on the Social Security list, having peaked in the early 1900s, but it could find favor with parents looking for a path to Gus, and/or who like venerable Latin names. It has several literary namesakes, in books ranging from The Pickwick Papers and Martin Chuzzlewit to Lonesome Dove to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter.
It also dates back to that ancient time when those Roman emperors were assuming the title Augustus upon their accession; Augusta became the honorific bestowed on their wives, daughters and other female relatives. It was introduced to England in the 18th century by the German Princess Augusta, the future mother of King George III. Well used in the US in the 1920s, it’s rarely heard today—except in the guise of yet another Harry Potter character and the formidible Aunt Augusta in the P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves stories.
AGUSTINA, the Spanish version, is very popular in South America—ranking #5 in Uruguay. It’s also spelled AGOSTINA.
AUGUSTINE, the English and French form of Augustus is largely associated with the great thinker, teacher and doctor, St. Augustine of Hippo, and with his namesake who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. AUGUSTIN is the German and Spanish spelling—used by model Linda Evangelista; the Italian AGOSTINO is now 892 on the US list.
AUGUST, currently 433 in the US and rising, is a perennial Scandinavian favorite– it’s now #39 in Denmark, 76 in Sweden, and 112 in Norway. It’s also been picked up by several celebs, including, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Lena Olin, and Mariska Hargitay, while Garth Brooks used it for his daughter. Elizabeth Rohm has an Easton August and Summer Phoenix and Casey Affleck named their daughter Indiana August. And there are two great playwright namesakes—Strindberg and Wilson
GUS is a possible nickname for any and all of the above, one we’ve always expect to get more popular—à la Max– than it has. Famous Guses include director Van Sant, astronaut Grissom, and a number of baseball players. Dixie Chick Emily Robison’s boy Charles Augustus is known as Gus
GUSSIE was #265 in the 1900s, but is nowhere now. The other nickname, AUGIE, long identified with the Saul Bellow novel The Adventures of Augie March, hasn’t hopped onto the Archie-Alfie bandwagon, even in the UK.
AUSTEN/AUSTIN, the medieval contraction of Augustine, is the one August name that has caught fire in modern America, peaking inthe mid-90s when it was in the top 10 from 1995-98, fueled in part by the popularity of other western place names like Dallas, Dakota, Cheyenne, et al. It has now slipped to #63, with the Austen spelling way down at 929—possibly still suffering from the damage inflicted by Austin Powers.