By Linda Rosenkrantz
August is here, and while it might not have as many related names as June or July, it still deserves its due. August may be hot and humid, and bring with it tropical storms and hurricanes, but it’s also a time for holidays and getaways–and some distinguished baby names.
Before it was renamed it in honor of the Emperor Augustus for the Julian calendar, it was known as Sextilis, as it was the sixth month of the Roman calendar—but we’ll let that one alone as we examine some other month-related names for your August babe.
August—This has become the most popular month name for boys, now at Number 333; it was as high as 175 at the end of the nineteenth century. Always popular in Scandinavia, August is currently 28 in Denmark, and it’s been chosen for their sons by such celebs as Mariska Hargitay and Dave Matthews. Garth Brooks used it for his daughter, but that seems to have been something of an anomaly, at least so far. Its use as a word name—with the accent on the second syllable—lends August a dignified, upstanding element. Namesakes include two notable playwrights: August Strindberg and August Wilson. And it comes with a choice of two friendly nicknames: Augie or Gus.
Augustus, meaning venerated, originated as an honorific title given to Octavian, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, and later was used as a royal middle name in England. Now at Number 696, it’s made surprisingly frequent appearances on the pop list, as high as Number 175 in 1880, with literary bearers including Augustus Snodgrass in Pickwick Papers, Augustus McCrae in Lonesome Dove and Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Could make an interesting and imposing middle.
Augustine is the diminutive form of Augustus and is largely associated with the illustrious and influential fourth century St. Augustine of Hippo. The name of George Washington’s father and a middle name of James Joyce, it reappeared on the US Top 1000 list this year for the first time since the eighties.
Augustin—This is a French version of the name, now Number 92 in that country, as is Auguste, borne by artists Renoir and Rodin. In Spanish, it’s Augusto or Agustin—the latter used by Linda Evangelista for her son—and in Italian Agostino. The Running With Scissors author Augusten Burroughs was born Christopher Robbins.
Austin—This was actually the usual contacted form of Augustus in the middle ages. Austin was a big hit in the early 2000’s, because of—or despite—Austin Powers; it’s still Number 58. Because of its association with the Texas capital city, it has something of a Southwestern feel as well.
Augusta—the one feminine version of the August clan was first bestowed on Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus, and continued to be used by ladies in Roman imperial families; it was later a British royal name via the mother, sister and daughter of King George III. Although it does seem to be the quintessential great-great-aunt name it has a decided fussy charm and could join the revived Adeline and Amelia.
Augie—This nickname became familiar via the protagonist of the 1953 Saul Bellow novel The Adventure of Augie March, whose full name was August. Later, the name Augie March was taken up by an Australian rock band, in honor of Bellow’s complex, poetic prose. Archie and Alfie have been hits in the UK—so why not Augie?
Gus—Gus is a homey, slightly grizzled grandpa name we’ve long been expecting to join the likes of Max and Jake, but it’s never quite happened. Gus can also be short for August, Augustus, Augustine, Angus and Gustave (and in Cats for Asparagus). Namesakes include the second man in space—Gus (born Virgil) Grissom– and director Gus Van Sant.
Gussie—Is Gussie too gussied up? Maybe not the prettiest of vintage nickname names, but she actually appeared on the SSA list from 1890 to 1947. Tennis champ Gussie Moran, born Gertrude Augusta and known as “Gorgeous Gussie,” caused a sensation in 1949 when she wore a short tennis skirt revealing lacy undies. There have been male Gussies as well, including brewing magnate Augustus Anheiser Busch and Augustus Fink-Nottle, friend of Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves books.
Peridot—is the gem of the month: a vibrant green mineral, said to be good for helping people put the past behind them, and an interesting, undiscovered jewel name; and regarded in ancient times as the symbol of the sun.
And finally, a few well named namesakes born in August.
Giada de Laurentiis
So what’s your favorite of all of these? If you’re expecting a baby this month, would you consider any of these?