Jane Austen Names
I still remember my first Jane Austen experience. I was turning twelve, on the cusp of becoming a teenager, when my mother bought me a collector’s box of Austen novels. As I read my fresh copy of Pride and Prejudice – well worn and loved by now! – I was captivated by Miss Austen’s eloquence, truth, and charming wit. But, I soon learned that Jane’s books were a treasure trove of another kind. Beneath the tales of heartache and true love lay another gem – the names!
The first names chosen by Austen are very much reflective of the early 19th century England. These names embody the traditional, conservative styles preferred by Englishmen at this time, and they convey a sense of strength, sophistication, and substance. Monikers used by Austen continue to thrive on today’s popularity charts, yet, like Austen’s novels, they will always be regarded as classics.
Handsome, sturdy choices for boys include Charles, Henry, James, John, Thomas, and William. Names with a slightly more vintage sound include Edward, Edmund, Frederick, and George. All of these names, in addition to sounding distinguished and elegant, come with immense nickname potential. Tired of Freddie? Your little Frederick could just as easily become Red or Fritz.
Some of the names chosen by Austen reflect the growing trend towards using nicknames as names. Most notably, perhaps, is Mansfield Park’s Fanny Price. Not so keen on using Fanny as a full name? Try its longer form – Frances! Other nickname names for girls include Kitty and Lizzy, for the lovely Bennet girls of Pride and Prejudice. Moving on from these shortened forms, we enter a world of demure sophistication and understated feminine charm in the form of classic names for girls.
However, Miss Austen doesn’t disappoint in the vintage naming department, offering up a glamorous selection of names that might just be perfect for the Eliza Bennet’s of today’s world! Whereas some – Emma, Isabella, Sophia – have already risen to the top of our charts, others are waiting to be dusted off…
But, a true discussion of the novel names of Jane Austen would be sorely incomplete without mentioning the true treasures – the surnames! What better way to pay tribute to your favorite literary heroes and heroines than by naming a child after him or her? If you can name your son Bentley, why not Benwick or Bingley? If you can name your son William, why not Fitzwilliam or Willoughby. Some of the freshest choices – with the coolest nicknames! – for boys include:
And, when applied to a girl, a once-tired boys’ name takes on new life.
Lauren Miller aka Lemon is a student at Washington University in St. Louis studying psychology, neuroscience, and public health. As evidenced by this blog topic, though, she also loves literature, particularly that of the nineteenth century British variety, and sometimes wishes she’d wake up in the middle of an Austen novel. However, she’s glad to be a part of the 21st century where communities like Nameberry exist. In addition to psychology and literature, Lauren‘s passions include animals, tennis, European history, and, of course, names!
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Charlotte Vera Said
on April 13th, 2010 at 2:15 am
Brilliant blog post! I’ve always been fascinated by the names Austen chose for her novels, and if you delve into her juvenilia you find an even greater selection of wonderful names including:
Cassandra (Jane’s sister’s name)
I’ve always admired Austen’s choice of the last name “Knightly” for the hero of Emma, but I’d never before considered using it as a given name. The use of Darcy on a boy as a tribute to P&P is a bit tired, so the idea of using the surnames of some of Austen’s other characters as first names — for both girls and boys — is decidedly refreshing!
Finally, I’d like to point out that in Austen’s time Maria would have been pronounced “Mah-RY-ah” ala Mariah Carey.
on April 13th, 2010 at 4:23 am
^So would Sophia be [so-FYE-a] (which I find much prettier than the more common pronunciation).
All Regency names are lovely, but I’m particulary fond of Charlotte, Elizabeth, and Georgiana.
on April 13th, 2010 at 6:54 am
What a great blog, Lauren (Lemon)! I too, admire many of Jane Austen’s character’s names, and wish I could wake up in one of her novels OR in a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, which also have many wonderful names!
on April 13th, 2010 at 8:46 am
Rita — Maria and Sophia were both pronounced mah-RYE-ah and so-FYE-ah respectively in Regency England.
These pronunciations are still sometimes used amongst the upper-crust Brits (e.g. those who prn Ralph “rayf”).
I think the change in pronunciation came later when there was more of a European influence. Even so E.G. Withycombe’s ‘Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names’ in the 1950s still list the prn as ‘so-FYE-ah’.
on April 13th, 2010 at 9:39 am
Wonderful blog, Lemon! Can’t help but mention how so many of those names you listed might also make great Steampunk names. 😉 Especially the wicked Wickham!
on April 13th, 2010 at 9:40 am
Elea — I’ve read that in Regency England Louisa was pronounced similarly to Maria and Sophia, as Lou WHY sah. (I checked Withycombe, but she gives no pronunciation for Louisa.)
In Iowa, Louisa County, formed in 1836, was named after Louisa Massey. Louisa is pronounced in this case as Lou-WHY-zuh or low-WHY-zuh.
Looking for confirmation about the 18th to early 19th century pronunciation of Louisa, I came across an interesting comment about the pronunciation of Sophia at that time and, on another website, an explanation of how we know how these names were pronounced:
“Sophia is generally pronounced Sophaiya in “period” pieces, though quite how one knows how they said it in the 17 -18th c I don’t know!”
“Spelling was not standardized. Writers would spell words differently in different documents or even within a single document. … Like many other informal writers of her time, Martha often spelled her words phonetically, using the way the words sounded as a guide. Although challenging to read, such spelling tells us much about pronunciation before sound recordings existed.”
Thanks for an interesting post, Lauren! I love Jane Austen’s novels and her names.
on April 13th, 2010 at 10:41 am
I am absolutely in love with Henrietta, and think the nickname Etta makes it a viable choice. I am trying to convince the hubster to see it my way…
on April 13th, 2010 at 10:51 am
Lemon! You are amazing!
I love Georgiana, and all things Elizabeth!
on April 13th, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Great blog, Lauren!
on April 13th, 2010 at 1:01 pm
I’m glad you all are enjoying the blog! I’d love to see more of these names – especially the vintage choices for girls and surname choices for boys – in circulation today!
I must say, although I am a huge 19th Century “Brit Lit” fan, my favorite classic novel is ‘The Age of Innocence,’ written by American Edith Wharton. I’d love to write about her names – they are amazing! – but her body of work is much larger than Ms. Austen’s was…
Thanks for the praise, and happy naming, friends!
on April 13th, 2010 at 2:56 pm
This is so odd! I’m sitting in a class on Jane Austen right now, and we’re talking about Emma. I got on Facebook to look up the name Frank (Churchill, that is), and THIS was on the side. Very weird, but very cool. I’ve been admiring her names all semester. Thanks, Lemon!
on April 13th, 2010 at 3:19 pm
Oh, Lemon! I love love love Jane Austen and some of these names are just great! I especially love the ideas od Bennet and Willoughby for boys!
on April 13th, 2010 at 4:48 pm
Love your blog, Lemon! I didn’t know that you were at Wash U – I met my dh as an undergrad there…
on April 13th, 2010 at 6:11 pm
I have my own Eliza thanks largely to the inspiration of Jane Austen’s Eliza(beth) Bennett 🙂 Maybe one day she’ll meet a true life Darcy or Knightley!
on April 13th, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Great blog, Lemon! I love Jane Austen. I’m thinking about using the name Fitzwilliam for a future baby boy. William is a family name and I love long names.
on April 13th, 2010 at 6:53 pm
I love this blog, Lemon! Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and I love so many of the names she chose for her characters. Among my favorites are: Eliza(beth), Jane, Georgiana, Lydia, Louisa, Margaret, Eleanor, Caroline and Charlotte for girls. For boys, I love most of them, like Charles, William, Frederick, Edward, Edmund, George, James, Henry and John. There were so many classical gems in the Regency period!
on April 13th, 2010 at 6:59 pm
I was quite pleasurably surprised to get on NB and find a post on Jane Austen names. (I’m listening to the new Emma soundtrack right now!) She is definitely tied for the spot of my favorite classic author; the other is J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the names Jane used! My favorites are:
Anne (mostly for the character)
I also love Frederick and Edmund for her heroes names.
on April 13th, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Oh, and I also was quite young when I read my first Austen (Pride and Prejudice). I was bored so I picked it up and read it in three days a liked it so much. That’s a cool story about getting the box set.
on April 13th, 2010 at 8:07 pm
OMG! Jane Austen! I’m a super fan of Jane Austen’s and love anything Austen! This was so intresting, I really love the surname choices, Bingley (my favorite Jane Austen hero), Benwick, Willoughby and many more are great! I plan on naming my first daughter Jane after Jane Bennet, my all time favorite heroine.
Charlotte Vera Said
on April 14th, 2010 at 3:25 am
“I must say, although I am a huge 19th Century “Brit Lit” fan, my favorite classic novel is ‘The Age of Innocence,’ written by American Edith Wharton.”
Love, love, LOVE The Age of Innocence! I’d be thrilled to meet a Newland :o)
on April 14th, 2010 at 7:00 am
I read “Pride and Prejudice” when I was twelve and loved it so much. Perhaps the reason I love names such as Elizabeth, Jane, Charles, and (Fitz)William is because of “Pride and Prejudice”. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my daughter has an antique ceramic lamp in her room with two very fancy women and two very fancy men sitting and standing. We have named the figurines after the four main characters in “Pride and Prejudice”. The blonde ones are Jane and Charles, while the brunette ones are Jane and Fitzwilliam. She also has a lamp with just one man on it, and we have named him George, after George Washington.
on April 14th, 2010 at 3:01 pm
Great blog post! We named our second child Elinore–I always loved the name since reading Sense and Sensibility when I was a girl. Elinor was always one of my favorite literary characters. However, my husband insisted on the extra “e” on the end…and I acquiesced because he had compromised over the spelling of our older girl’s name (he is part Dutch, and wanted to spell it “Anneke”–whereas I insisted it be spelled “Annika,” as I was sure no one in the United States would no how to pronounce or spell “Anneke”).
on April 15th, 2010 at 11:19 pm
Great article, Lemon! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!
Austenacious » Jane Austen Names for Your Baby? Said
on April 16th, 2010 at 2:40 am
[…] Miller, posting over at nameberry, a baby names site, sounds like someone we’d like to know: she’s a true Austen […]
Mrs. Fitzpatrick Said
on April 16th, 2010 at 4:18 pm
Hi Lemon, I love Jane Austen too, and appreciate seeing her names come in vogue again – though I do think one should think twice before naming a girl Price, for example! I actually posted a response to this post over at my Jane Austen blog: austenacious.com. Come check it out!
on April 16th, 2010 at 11:03 pm
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, thanks for your insightful blog post! I just got through reading it…
In response to the Price issue, I totally agree with you about the first name issue. But, I never said it had to be a first name! And, perhaps I’m biased, as it happens to be my sister’s middle name. So, that’s that for ya!
And, I agree with you about Wickham. Not only is he despicable, but saying Wickham out loud really doesn’t conjure up the best images, now does it? But, there are worse names people use, and I wanted to be thorough. I really intended this blog to more stir up interest and inspiration.
Many people responding to your blog noted that Grey and Tilney were seemingly unacceptable choices. I happen to know a Grey – boy, actually! – and even though it isn’t my style for a first name, it would make a fine middle name, I think. And, if you can name your child Tenley (of The Bachelor fame), then Tilney is certainly an appropriate choice, right? You have to appeal to the masses…
As a final note to you, though Lydia Bennet is a goofball who runs her family into a mess of shame with her childish antics, I actually find her spunk rather hilarious and I find it adds a bit of whimsy and drama to the novel as a whole. It doesn’t taint my view of the name at all – in fact, it is my favorite name for a girl!
Thanks for posting! Fun to exchange views…
on April 16th, 2010 at 11:12 pm
Well, I thought I’d replied to you, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, but the post seems to be missing!
I understand many of these names come with a caveat, but I aim to appeal to the masses of different naming styles – I, myself, am not much of a surname name fan, either.
That being said, many of these names make fine middle names; for example, my own sister has the middle name Price! Grey would be great, too, I think – I prefer to look at it as more of a balance of light and dark rather than a metaphor for the dreariness of things.
And, I totally support your view of not naming children after despicable characters, like Wickham, but somebody could really be into that sort of thing, I suppose! Also, for the record, I find Lydia Bennet’s childish antics – that lead her family to humiliation and despair – a tad bit deplorable, but overall I find that her silliness adds a bit of extra excitement to the already brilliant tale of love. Lydia happens to be my favorite name, though, so perhaps I’m biased…
Rebecca E. Said
on April 29th, 2010 at 4:58 pm
I actually have a female friend name Tilney. I think it’s a lovely name for a girl. Much better, in fact, than it is for a boy.
on May 5th, 2010 at 1:18 am
I am a huge Jane Austen fan. All of her books take me on an amazing voyage of long, long ago and I truly enjoy the journey.
I have always loved the names she picked for her books, so it was fun to find this website.
My fav book…Sense and Sensibility!
Jermaine Gardenas Said
on October 22nd, 2010 at 1:43 am
i know i’m a little off topic, but i just wanted to say i love the layout of your blog. i’m new to the blogegine platform, so any suggestions on getting my blog looking nice would be appreciated.
Doreen Austen Said
on December 4th, 2010 at 9:40 pm
I was born Doreen Austen in Basingstoke in 1962, my father was John william edwin Austen, I have been told we are related to Jane Austen, but the old one have past on in my family now. I am a Author too, i have writen 2 books under the name of Doreen Haggard, it would be nice that there is a bit of Jane Austen in me, how can i find this out.
on January 3rd, 2011 at 3:30 am
I’m related to Jane austan too! My great, great etc. grandfather was her uncle! I think his name was Edward Austan Knight.
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