Aussie Names: Big there, not here

In her guest blog, Anna Otto, of the popular site Waltzing More Than Matilda, introduces names particular to the land of Oz, explains their origins  and tells us why we might consider importing them.

Australia and the United States share many popular names and name trends, but here are some examples familiar to us that have never made the US Top 1000. A few are popular in Australia, several are fashionable, rising in popularity, or well-used, and a couple are notable for becoming the choice of hip parents. But can any of these names make it in America?  Some might just need a bit more exposure, while others are probably not as usable. Which do you feel strangely drawn to, and which simply bewilder you? 


Allegra: Long a fashionable favourite, but in the United States the name of the allergy medication puts many people off – the same brand is called Telfast here. Luckily nobody wants to call their daughter Telfast.

Allira (a-LEER-ah): Aboriginal name meaning “quartz,” is rapidly gaining popularity. It might remind you of Mira, Aurora, Alyssa, Amelia or Aaliyah; either way, it may not sound too unfamiliar.

Bridie: A pet form of Bridget, very familiar to us through popular actress Bridie Carter and in steady use. It doesn’t seem to have gained much affection elsewhere, perhaps due to concerns that it sounds like the word for a tiny bride.

Eadie (EE-dee): Not a variant of Edie, but a surname; starting to become fashionable after being chosen as a celebrity baby name. This could seem hard to pronounce, or too much like a nickname.

Freya (FRAY-ah): Already in the Top 100 in England/Wales, this Norse goddess name is fashionable here, and would be a hip choice in the United States.

Imogen: As in the UK, this is a Top 100 name here, but it’s never managed to make the US Top 1000, with Americans preferring the more accent-friendly Imogene.

Kirrily (KIR-uh-lee): A modern Australasian name borne by several popular celebrities. Sounding similar to Keira and Kimberley, I’ve had very positive feedback from overseas about this name.

Milla: This short form of Camilla is only popular in Australia and Norway, yet it’s pretty and simple, and not so different from Mila.

Nerida (NEHR-uh-dah): An Aboriginal name meaning “waterlily,” from a romantic legend. Although a little dated in Australia, it might seem not too different from Disney princess, Merida.

Zali (ZAH-lee): Zali Steggall is our most successful alpine skier, and as far as I know, her name was created for her. It’s been hugely popular, and has brought forth numerous variants. It has the  same “exotic yet accessible” feel as Zara.


Banjo: This has garnered much interest since Australian actress Rachel Griffiths chose it for her son’s name, in honour of our beloved national poet, Banjo Paterson. It probably sounds crazy to non-Australians.  Okay, it even sounds alittle crazy to us sometimes.

Bede (BEED): Might remind you of the Anglo-Saxon saint and scholar, Venerable Bede; in Australia, it reminds us of rising surfer, Bede Durbidge. Very cool name with a long history of use here.

Digby: This is fast becoming a hip name, managing to be cute, clunky, and dignified all at once. Do you dig it, or does this name seem a little too doggy?

Fergus: This is just starting to become a hip name for parents who don’t want to use long-time popular Angus. S-enders are fashionable right now, so this might have some appeal in America, where it brings the vintage nickname Gus.

Hamish (HAY-mish): The name of a popular comedian, Hamish Blake; it’s been Top 100 since the early 2000’s, and is also Top 100 in Scotland. Elsewhere, it may seem almost too comically Caledonian to be usable.

Jonty: A short form of Jonathan best known to us through the South African cricketer, Jonty Rhodes. A popular variant is Jonte. I feel this may be perceived as “feminine” in the US.

Lachlan (LOK-luhn): Governor Lachlan Macquarie is known as “The Father of Australia”, and his name has been in the Top 5 since the early 2000s. As Declan is rapidly climbing the US charts, perhaps Lachlan has a chance too.

Quade: A Gaelic surname meaning “son of Walter“; well known to us as the name of rugby union star, Quade Cooper. If you can get the image of Randy Quaid out of your mind, this could not only honour a family connection named Walter, but sounds like Cade, only more quool.

Rafferty: This raffish Irish surname honours iconic Australian screen legend “Chips” Rafferty, and has become a favourite as a celebrity baby name. Names starting with Raf- are currently quite big in Australia.

Tasman (TAZ-muhn): Dutch explorer Abel Tasman lent his name to Tasmania, and the Tasman Sea, and this name, long in use, has recently begun appearing everywhere. It’s a little like Thomas, and has the jazzy nickname Taz. What’s not to love?

Anna Otto is the blogger at Waltzing More Than Matilda, which examines Australian history and culture through its names. Much gratitude goes to Angela Mastrodonato, blogger at Upswing Baby Names, for contributing an American viewpoint on many of these names. 





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44 Responses to “Aussie Names: Big there, not here”

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Rin Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I’m in NZ, so most of these are pretty familiar. I admit I was surprised to see Digby — it’s one of my favourites that seems to gather little love from those I’ve mentioned it to! In fact, my partner thought I was joking when I brought it up…

ellieberry Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I love Bridie, Imogen, Hamish, Lachlan, Quade, & Rafferty. Fun post!

AvieGrace Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 9:44 pm

My mom’s family is all from AU or NZ so most of these names are familiar. I have always liked Hamish, but my American friends think I’m joking when I say that my mom has a couple cousins named Hamish and several of her Aussie friends have sons named Hamish. To them, Hamish is the weirdest name around!

Arlina Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Im an aussie but Ive only ever met girls called Jonty! I have to say I loathe the names kirrily & bridie and I think they have been associated with a certain class of people for so long that the association will be hard to shake. My childhood bestfriend was Freya, we are 24 now and its nice to see such a beautiful name finally being appreciated – we were the freaks with weird names as kids!

rollo Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 11:03 pm

As an Aussie I can assure you that the only name on these lists that is in common use is the handsome boy’s name Lachlan.

Allegra has had some press in the last few years since a tv presenter used this name for her child.

Imogen is far and away the most popular girls name on this list. We love it here and for the last three years has started to take off.

Eadie is absolutely unheard of.

Freya would be an unusual choice but I love it.

Nerida I heard of one girl with this name over 30 years ago.

If you named a child Digby here you would be laughed at.

Rafferty may have a revival, not sure,the younger generation will have no knowledge of Chips Rafferty though.


rollo Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I forgot to mention that Kirrily was a name that was used for a time around 25 years ago but is seen as very dated now.

emelis Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I’m an Aussie and I remember some American girls who came out being taken aback by the names Lachlan and Hamish (both extremely popular here!) Hamish is actually a variation of James. I personally know a girl named every name on the list, except for Eadie.

I love all the boys names on the list. A comedian just named her child Digby, I can’t remember who though. She does make a joke about it being a dogs name though.

stripedsocks Says:

October 24th, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I am in NSW and I know several Imogens. I really like it.

I’ve seen Allira and Allegra a good bit. I have seen Freya but I think Freya’s mum was British.

Guest Blogging at Nameberry « Waltzing More Than Matilda Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 2:35 am

[…] have a guest post at Nameberry up today, which has been entitled Aussie Names – Big there, not here. It takes a look at what names are common or familiar in Australia, but are little used or unknown […]

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 2:51 am

@Rin: Digby is one of my favourite names, so I’m very biased. It’s too hip to have gained widespread acceptance yet, which is why you get those very strong opinions.

@ Fellow Aussies! Just a reminder that these names won’t be boring or dated or unclassy in other countries where they don’t know them.

@ Rollo: Many of these are in the Top 100 or are rapidly heading there, and I have seen babies with all these names in recent birth announcements, so they are not as uncommon as you think. Eadie was a celebrity baby name this year, and there’s been tons in birth announcements.

@AvieGrace and Emelis: I was surprised too at how Hamish is viewed in the US.

upswingbabynames Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 4:53 am

For girls, Allegra is growing on me.

I really love the boy list. Rafferty is my favorite, but Digby is growing on me. I agree with Anna’s description for Digby that it manages to be clunky and dignified at the same time.

taataysauce Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 5:03 am

I like most of these names, but, at least where I’m from in Sydney, none of them are particularly popular or well-known. I hven’t even heard of Zali, Quade or Rafferty. I think alot of these names where put here not because they’re especially big ovr here, but because they fit with the Australian theme.

Bridie Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 5:12 am

Maybe Digby is becoming more popular because of Digby Ioane. I daresay Quade might have even dropped in popularity here in NZ solely because of Quade Cooper! Allegra is somewhat popular in NZ too, but I adore Allira. And I’m still more partial to Angus than Fergus. Being a Bridie, I haven’t met many others in Aus! I always remember meeting many Hamishes though.

sarah15 Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 5:33 am

As a fellow Aussie, I concur that most of these names are very familiar and I personally know an Allira, Imogen, Nerida, Fergus, Hamish, Lachlan and Tasman – but they are all in their 20s and 30s, so their folks were obviously ahead of their time! I have not heard of Eadie though. Don’t forget that John Butler’s (of John Butler Trio) daughter is named Banjo, so it’s not just a boy’s name. It was Cal Wilson that named her son Digby. I love Freya, it has been on my list for many years.

mmljar1 Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 6:49 am

Also an Australian,

I personally know young children named Allegra, Bridie, Freya, Imogen, Kirilly (different spelling), Fergus, Hamish, Lachlan and Rafe.

All these kids are at my sons’ school and kinder. I live in a tiny country town as well! I think this post is spot on.

Great to see an Aussie perspective. I often ponder the names that are considered unusual on the forums which are in our top 100 (Isla is #623 in USA but #29 in Queensland and there are other examples).

Samantha-Bianca Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 7:10 am

Aussie here, too!

I always feel like Kirrily (and Kirralee et. al) were to bogans in the 80’s what Kylie was in the 70’s! There were a few in my generation and it was a name I was never fond of. But I can see why it might be popular in the US and I’m quite surprised to hear that it isn’t.

At my school, a year or two ahead of me, there was a Nerida AND Allira…I always quite liked both names and wondered why I could never find either on baby name databases!

And I didn’t even know Zali wasn’t a legit name. My PE teacher from high school had a daughter (this was about ten years ago!) and they called her Zali. It’s a rather sweet name. Maybe some parents could start using that instead of Ruby? Getting a little tired of Ruby, which is a shame…

R_J Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 8:26 am

I like Kirrily, but I have a soft spot for the name Kiri which seems too much of a nickname. (I’m in the U.S.)

JaneyBB Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 9:45 am

Another Aussie (now living in North America) and yes I see these names and others as pretty much Australian only. Definitely knew Bridie’s and Kirrily’s (as well as Keira’s) as a kid. Lots of names which have been popular for ages in Australia, like Hayden or Welsh name, I’m now seeing more of over here.
I’m planning on using an underused name of an old famous Australian for my second boy. It will be seen as unusual here, but probably would back home as well.

Mischa Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 9:58 am

I’ve always had a soft spot for the name Bede. I visited Venerable Bebe’s shrine in the gorgeous Durham Cathedral in England years ago.

NameNerdShack Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 10:46 am

My little sister’s name is Bridget with the nick name Bridie and I have always loved it!
Imogen is number 2 on my girls list!
Hamish is a lovely name!
I am American/Canadian and everyone thinks my favorite names are horrible. I think I should have been born in England!

GrecianErn Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 11:04 am

As an American, I loved this blog.
I’ve always loved Allegra (darned allergy meds) but I hoped that the character of Allegra Cole in Hitch would help… so far it’s not working.

I also like Lachlan and Refferty, but I think in my midwestern world they would be thought of as pretentious.

And I can’t get past the Venerable part of Bede – but I wonder if it could work like Bode (bo-dee) does here? A cool surfer name, with cool parents? I like the sound of it.

niteowl13 Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 11:40 am

Tasman is too feminine. Tasmin is super cute for a girl!
I love Bridie! It’s Bree-dee or Bree-da, right? Too bad about the spelling/pronunciation issues. Bree names are very appealing to me. <3

mermuse Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Ooh! Never heard of Quade before. Could be great middle name to honor my beloved grandfather Walter!

Beautiful_Haiku Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Wow! I never thought ANYONE would like Quade other than myself. Good to know it’s popular somewhere lol

I’m in the States and I cannot tell you how much it bothers me that Allegra was ruined by the allergy medication. They could have called it ANYTHING but such a beautiful name. Grrrrrr

Anyways, I like many of these names-
Quade (my ultimate love)
Digby (love this!)


For me, Imogen is like Saskia- I try hard to like it, but… I don’t know… It just never sounds good when I say it aloud.

Beautiful_Haiku Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Oh I wanted to say that I envision Freya and Imogen getting popular here in the US. We seem to follow behind the UK name trends, so if those two names are popular in the UK now, then they will surely cross the pond in a few years.

Also, Aussies have great style. Thanks for the post!

dayjoysky2815 Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Love Freya, Milla, Imogen, and Tasmin. Very sweet.

milasmama Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Here in New Zealand I associate the name Fergus with a character who used to be on a popular soap here.

I have a daughter Mila (not Milla) who is 2.5. The name was 372 in 2009 – latest stats when we named her in 2010. Now it’s a top 100! Rah.

I know about a million (slight exaggeration ;)) Lachlans and a few Freyas, Hamishes and Imogens. The name Tasman is kind of cool but Taz just reminds me of the bugs bunny cartoon! Love Rafferty, Digby and Quade – never met one IRL though.

alexandramae Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 7:00 pm

My friend is from NZ (currently living in OZ) and I always thought her and her siblings’ names were great, especially hers.

Chauncey (friend), Cree (brother), Bridie (sister).

March Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I’m in NZ and have a Hamish. One of the things I like about his name is that it reflects where he comes from, as the name is really only heard down-under and in Scotland.

jazz1509 Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 7:44 pm

I’m an Aussie and some of the names on the list surprised me. Digby for example is a popular name here for dogs but kids? I have only met girls named Tasmin but not boys names Tasman. I have never even heard of the name Bede! The name Rafferty reminds me of the brand of baby food and I have never heard of Quade…

Other names like Hamish and Lachlan are very accepted here and are definatly popular. Kirrily was popular in the 80s but I don’t know about now!

Ireland Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I know of a little girl Eadie and a mid-20’s Allira. I also know a little boy called Jonty. I was surprised that Reef didn’t make the list of boys names (the Aussie version of River?). I know a Reef and it doesn’t seem too out there now.

ebenezer.scrouge Says:

October 25th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I am Australian (as you know :))

I know so many Lachlans it is annoying (causing in my hatred of the name), a Jonty (who is half South African), an Imogen, a Freya and a Zarlee. I have heard of a Kirrily on the kids game show Go Go Stop but I know a 2 Keira’s and 3 Ciara’s pronounced the same. I think Hamish Blake may have something to do with the popularity of Hamish. Eadie and Milla are Shelly Craft’s children and Eadie was only born this year so give it a while and it will explode like Milla did. Bridie is also a celebrity name as in Bridie Carter from McLeods Daughters.

With Zali there are so many other variations: Zarlee, Zarly, Zaly, Zaylee, Zarli, Zaylie, Zayly and Zayli kind of like Charlie. Also Kirrily has Kirralee, Kirraly etc and so does Allira. The variant spellings are countied in our national rankings.

ebenezer.scrouge Says:

October 26th, 2012 at 4:49 am

@niteowl13 it is pronounced Bry-dee

IndianRuby Says:

October 26th, 2012 at 6:00 am

I’m Australian as well. They all seem quite popular to me as well. I’ve known several Allegra’s and Imogen’s. I love Rafferty and could imagine that it’s rising in popularity. Dave Hughes, a comedian here, has a little boy named Rafferty. Cal Wilson, another comedian, has a boy named Digby. I know loads of Lachlan’s and Hamish’s. I also know a Bridie and Kirrily. I know quite a few baby Milla’s as well. Appart from that I don’t think I’ve met anyone with the other names. I’ve heard of an Allira, though. Have never seen Eadie before, but I’ve seen Edie a lot in birth announcements.

Kibby Says:

October 26th, 2012 at 8:25 am

Lachlan barely registers where I live, (Alberta, Canada) only 17 born last year out of over 50,000 babies, it will be my future sons name. Love it!!! Also love Allegra and Rafferty, nn Rafe.

Famous Name: Bede « Waltzing More Than Matilda Says:

November 7th, 2012 at 2:43 am

[…] list, one name stuck out because it has been in my Request file for ages, and I briefly covered it in my article at Nameberry a short time ago. So it was quite an easy choice for me to select Bede as this week’s Famous […]

HerMajesty Says:

December 28th, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I really like some of these. My brothers Grandmas name is Imogen, and we call my cousin, Josiah Benjiman Amos-Joel, Banjo for short (It is also an instrument). I have heard or seen most of these before, some are new though.

sarahmezz Says:

January 10th, 2013 at 1:29 am

I know a Digby. When he was born, everyone thought his name was so weird, especially since his older siblings were (very normally) named Benjamin and Laura. He was born in about 1995, so I guess we’ve gotten a lot more used to the name now! (But I still don’t like it!)

Myth: Commercialism Ruins Baby Names | Upswing Baby Names Says:

January 15th, 2013 at 6:41 am

[…] it for an allergy medicine. In Australia, where the same product exists under a different name, Allegra is a stylish choice. While Allegra is outside the U.S. top 1000, there were 75 American families who didn’t care […]

Nickelini Says:

January 17th, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I didn’t realize that Hamish was odd, although here in Canada I don’t actually know any. I thought it was another from the Celtic name trend. I predict it will enjoy some popularity because of the Hunger Games.

My teenage daughter goes to school with a Lachlan. He’s a real character–bright red hair and a big personality. His older genius brother is Alistar, and he has a sister named Bronwyn.

Happy Second Birthday, Waltzing More Than Matilda! « Waltzing More Than Matilda Says:

February 13th, 2013 at 3:04 am

[…] Linda at Nameberry for giving me the opportunity to contribute my article, Aussie Names – Big there, not here. Thanks also to Angie at Upswing Baby Names, who was kind enough to provide an American perspective […]

ktp Says:

February 26th, 2013 at 7:08 am

I’m an Australian late 70’s Kirrily. I’ve never met another, but of course know of the fashion designer and the actress with the same spelling.
Funnily enough my Mum got the name while watching an American kids show on tv (with my older sister) and they had a list of birthdays – Kirrily was one of them. My Dad, a surfer, calls me Kirra after the beach on the Gold Coast.
I know of one baby born last year with the name Kirrily.

Bede is my old butcher, never heard of it on a child.

I know two Rafferty’s under the age of 5, and see it all the time on birth announcements. It’s a great name that I think will be very popular.

Digby is my Dad’s nn (from Douglas) and Tasman is my father in law’s middle name.

Milla was my number one girl’s name, but it is way too popular now. It’s everywhere – Mila, Milla or Miller!

Khoury.jk Says:

May 24th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

A little late to this blog.. but I love to see the Aussie names being mentioned!

Another couple of Aussie names worth considering:

Byron (boy) – for the beautiful Byron Bay in northern NSW.
Tasma (girl) – for Tasma Walton actress married to our beloved comedian Rove McManus.

montdidier Says:

January 17th, 2014 at 2:07 am

Kirrily was a popular baby name in the 70s. i.e X-gen-ers. Most Kirrily’s being of that era. It does crop up occasionally since but does not enjoy the popularity it used to. It is an anglicised Australian Aboriginal name brought into common use by Kirrily Nolan, an actress of Aboriginal descent, who had a brief flash of celebrity back in the day. I know two Kirrilys personally, and know of a number of others within the community. My wife is one. It is one of the most uniquely Australian names.

@rollo The name Kirrily certainly hasn’t been used much since that decade. Of coursed “dated” is largely a value judgement.
@Samantha-Bianca. I can’t vouch for the Kirrilys you know but of the two I know – both are classy, professional, well educated women.

Most of the Digbys I know are either from the country and/or baby boomers.

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