Let’s hear it for Auntie Name!

Today being National Aunts and Uncles Day (who knew, right?), here’s a shout-out to some of the most memorable aunts in both literature and pop culture– the sweet and the sour, the doting and the demanding, the over-indulgent and the overbearing—with, in literature at least, the unfortunate majority being the more domineering.

Especially in Victorian literature, with its plethora of poor orphans, aunts would often step in as surrogate moms.  Unfortunately, some of the more notable ones are known to us by their surnames only.

Here are some of the most memorable, from sources as varied as from novels to comics.

AdaAunt Ada Doom, in Cold Comfort Farm, who very much lives up to her surname.

AgathaIn P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories fearsome Aunt Agatha is Bertie Wooster’s demeaning and demanding nemesis, known as ‘the nephew crusher.’  Batman’s Bruce Wayne also has an Aunt Agatha, who is equally overbearing.

AlexandraIn To Kill a Mockingbird Scout and Jem’s Aunt Alexandra Hancock, the sister of Atticus Finch, is another somewhat opinionated and judgmental aunt, who moves in with the Finch family.

Augusta(Yet another common Aunt name beginning and ending in ‘a’.) In Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, Aunt Augusta, aka Lady Bracknell, is Algernon’s –once again—snobbish and domineering aunt, whereas the eponymous Aunt Augusta featured in Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt is a dynamic romantic

BeatriceBeverly Cleary’s character Ramona Quimby has an Aunt Beatrice, nn Bea, who is the namesake of Ramona‘s sister, nicknamed Beezus–Beatrice in baby talk.

BeeBeatrice Taylor is everybody’s Aunt (pron. ain’t) Bee on The Andy Griffith Show/Mayberry RFD–busy cooking, pickling and offering sage advice. More and more modern parents are beginning to opt for the Bee spelling over Bea.

Beru—This may be a little off target, but in Star Wars, Beru Whitesun Lars is the aunt who raised Luke Skywalker after the fall of the Galactic Republic.

BetseyIn David Copperfield, Betsey Trotwood is David‘s eccentric great-aunt, who takes him in when he runs away from his factory job. This is the more unusual spelling of Betsy.

CatherineLady Catherine de Bourgh is Fitzwilliam and Georgiana Darcy’s snobbish and meddlesome aunt in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

ClaraAunt Clara is a kindly, absent-minded character on Bewitched; Samantha’s less visible other aunts were Entrantra and Hagatha.

DahliaThe opposite of her sister Agatha in the Jeeves stories is Bertie Wooster’s beloved Aunt Dahlia, described as being constructed along the lines of Mae West.

EdnaCrochety old Aunt Edna is foisted upon the Griswald family in National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was Aunt Bethany who appeared in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Em/EmilyDorothy Gale’s Aunty Em is her surrogate mother on the Kansas farm in the Oz books, one of the people she misses most on her adventures—in fact her command to the magical Silver Shoes is “Take me home to Aunt Em!”

Esther—On Sanford & Son, the Bible-toting Aunt Esther Anderson is the bane of Fred Sanford’s existence”

HarrietIn Batman, Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet Cooper first appears on the scene upon the death of Bruce Wayne‘s butler Alfred, announcing her intention to move into Wayne Manor and take care of Bruce and Dick.

HildaIn Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Aunt Hildegarde AntoinetteHilda” Spellman is a 642-year-old European witch who is a bit of a worrywart.

LaviniaAunt Lavinia Penniman, Henry James’s Washington Square, is another of literature’s eccentric, meddlesome, melodramatic aunts.

Léonie—In Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, the religious, bedridden Aunt Léonie, based on the author’s own Aunt Élisabeth, figures largely in his remembrances of things past.

LydiaIn Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady, Isabel Archer is taken under the wing of her maternal Aunt Lydia Touchett after her father’s death, and is taken by her to Europe.

MamePatrick Dennis’s Auntie Mame is the personification of the word ‘madcap,’ her expacades seen on the printed page, the movie screen and the Broadway stage.

MatildaAunt Matilda Crawley is a favorite, very wealthy, aunt of the Crawley family in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.

MaudIn Henry James’s Wings of the Dove, Maud Lowder is Kate Croy’s domineering aunt.

MayIn the story of Spiderman, Peter Parker’s Aunt May takes him in, becoming like a parent to him, a source of strength and wisdom.

Patty and Selma Bouvier are Marge Simpson‘s’s cigarette smoking, raspy voiced, older twin sisters, who treat poor brother-in-law Homer with total hostility and disdain.

PetuniaHarry Potter’s Aunt Petunia Dursley is essentially an outsider, with little knowledge of the wizarding world.

Pittypat—Aunt Pittypat Hamilton in GWTW, born Sarah Jane Hamilton, acquired her childhood nickname from the way she walked on her tiny feet. She raised niece and nephew Melanie and Charles Hamilton after their father died, and provided a refuge for Scarlett O’Hara as well.

PollyTom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly is one of the quintessential American fictional aunts, a caring but disciplined, naïve but generous mother figure.  Also, in the eponymous children’s classic Pollyanna, the young orphan girl goes to live with her stern Aunt Polly.

VivianIn Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Professor Vivian Banks is the wealthy (she does live in Bel Air, after all), no-nonsense, career-minded aunt of streetwise nephew Will Smith.

Zerelda, aka Zelda—In Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Zelda Spellman is Sabrina‘s brainy aunt who is continually engaged in new scientific experiments. (Sabrina also had Great Aunts Irma, Beulah and Dorma.)

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Which other aunts’ names would you add?  Do you have a favorite fictional aunt—either character or name?

 

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34 Responses to “Let’s hear it for Auntie Name!”

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starophie Says:

July 25th, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Hilda, Zelda, Em, and Mame – what more could you ask for in a post? Awesome!

Lena Says:

July 25th, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Aunts Evy and Sissy from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In fact, the entire novel is filled with gorgeous names!

CountryLizB Says:

July 25th, 2012 at 11:49 pm

What about Martha from Arsenic and Old Lace?

Rosamund Says:

July 25th, 2012 at 11:50 pm

So happy to see this posted today because I’m going to be an aunt tomorrow for the first time!
Two other Aunt names from “Gone with the Wind” are Scarlett’s aunties Eulalie and Pauline.

Mara_lyn86 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 12:46 am

Oh not Agatha or Augusta! Those are two of my options for our next little girl. Luckily a lot of people hate the name Agatha (at least outside of nameberry) so I would be surprised if it shot up in popularity. (crosses fingers)
Others in this post I love are Lavinia and Matilda. My hubby hates Lavinia though, so will have to use for a beloved pet someday. 🙂
Here are some funny Aunt names that will never come into use but are funny to add:
Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge from James and the Giant Peach.

linda Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 1:05 am

All great additions!

Poppy528 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 1:09 am

I can’t think of a single Auntie to add … but these names are all delightful. Very nice post. These names are all on my fave names list, in one form or another (yes even Beulah).

titch Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 1:25 am

We have an Agatha and Aunt Agatha (of PG Wodehouse fame) is one of the reasons we love it so much. I am also thrilled to see the name of my next daughter (should I be lucky enough to have one) on this list – who knew I liked “Aunt” names?! Great post, thanks!

heimarmene Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 1:47 am

Love this post, but just wanted to point out that Mr. Darcy’s sister’s name is actually Georgiana! 🙂

Xiao Noelle Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 2:00 am

She’s not from literature or the screen, but who could forget Aunt Jemima? One of my favorite names. My husband and I recently reviewed our ancestry in search of a name for our baby on the way, and I was thrilled to discover we both had G-G-grandmothers named Jemima!

thompssn Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 2:10 am

Aunt Fran and Aunt Effie from Mama’s Family. Lots of good names on that show! 🙂

doodle Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 3:04 am

Wasn’t Aunt March’s name in Little Women also Josephine? There’s an Aunt Josephine in the Lemony Snicket series, too.

cilla Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 4:30 am

in Matilda Miss Honeys Aunt Is Agatha Trunchbull (Miss Trunchbull)

aunt_ning Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 6:42 am

Actually Aunt March did have a name. Her name is Josephine, which is why Jo was named Josephine, and Aunt March left the house to her.

chilly9296 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 7:53 am

From the movie Practical Magic (one of my favs!) – Aunt Frances “Fran” and Aunt Bridget “Jet” plus you have the names Sally and Gillian and the little girls – Kylie and Antonia

L in Boston Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 8:34 am

From Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, you’ve got Aunt Miranda and Aunt Jane Sawyer. (There’s a book where imaginative naming is a huge theme!)

pam Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 8:36 am

Amazing roundup, Linda. My favorite aunt was Aunt Jeanne, short for Eugenia which was also my grandmother’s middle name and a name I thought was HORRIBLE growing up. Definitely evidence of the four generation rule i.e. one generation’s horrible is the next generation’s cool.

saraallison Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 9:24 am

Great post! @Lena, love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and the names! That book made me love Francie! I love a lot of these names. Personally I have a very dear aunt Rosemary. If we have any more kiddos, I would love to use her name!

jame1881 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 9:28 am

Aunt Rosamund – coming from a Downton Abbey nerd 🙂
I think authors give aunts the coolest names because who cares what you name a secondary character only seen a few times?

abelle2 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 9:36 am

Not to knit-pick, but I believe Dorothy had magical ruby shoes, not silver.

Mcdonak1 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 10:45 am

They were silver in the book, changed to ruby for the movie.

Mcdonak1 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 10:47 am

They were silver in the book, changed to ruby for the movie. It was all about monetary policy and the author’s disdain for the gold standard (yellow brick road led to a fake, when Dorothy’s salvation was actually in silver, etc.). I think that the ruby slippers were just to show off the new color technology.

hjteni Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 11:55 am

I love Augusta solely because of the Importance of Being Earnest! I think it would be adorable on a little girl; she could go by Gussie! Also love that you included Aunt Pittypat—Gone with the Wind is my favorite book. Very cool post!

Mara_lyn86 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I already made a comment but wanted to add one more thought. Zelda is a beautiful name but I don’t think people will get past the Legend of Zelda connotations until that game series is no longer being made. It will probably get more attention in our children’s generation.

namelover77 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Thank you, L in Boston! I was just going to mention aunts Jane & Miranda. Love those names!

shinysarah11 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

You forgot Aunt Dimity! She’s the “heroine” of a series of mystery books about a woman in England who solves crimes and odd situations through the advice of her deceased aunt Dimity through a magical journal. The books are by Nancy Atherton and they are quick, cute reads. I really like the name Dimity, as it’s hidden old fashioned gem waiting to be discovered.

The only other time I’ve heard Dimity used was as a minor character in my fav book, Gone with the Wind. Dimity Munroe was the name, I believe.

Why isn’t Dimity in the Nameberry dictionary? I can’t seem to find it!

The only

miloowen Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Yes, Aunt March was Josephine, which is why Jo was named Josephine.

Also, Aunt Alexandra may have started out as a termagant but by the end of the novel, Jean-Louise is able to see her aunt as a woman of great conviction and a worthy model of womanhood.

Not only did I have some great “aunt” names in my family — Edith, Maud, Eleanor — I was also lucky enough to have “tantes” too, the Norwegian members of my family, whose names certainly qualify as well: Berentine, Gudrun, Anna, Solveig, and Berte.

Saracita00 Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Also there is Diana Barry’s Aunt Josephine in Anne of Green Gables, who seems crotchety at first but becomes great friends with the “Anne-girl.” There seem to be plenty of Aunt Josephines!

Emily Ila Says:

July 26th, 2012 at 8:57 pm

I have an Aunt who I love named Carleen. I found out a few years ago that her mother is named Lurleen. Ah, Texas!

My other favorite Aunt has a very basic name, Lynn, but I will love the name forever because it reminds me of her 🙂

ssister Says:

October 6th, 2012 at 8:19 am

I sister is having a girl and she is looking for something French. I know that we have a great aunt named Francine and that has always reminded me of a French Princess. I also like Monique. Are there any other names that I can suggest to her?

AnaJo Says:

October 7th, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Monique is very pretty. Here are some other suggestions.

Antoinette
Charisse
Lorraine
Renee
Noemie
Pierrette

ImpossibleDream91 Says:

November 20th, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Oh, how could you forget Aunt Marge? From Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter)? Shame. I do happen to love Alexandra and Beatrice, though.
I have an Aunty Helgrid – she’s from Germany. I’ve never heard her name on anyone else (at least not in Canada or the US)

Jennai Says:

April 4th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Monika, Elvi (short for Elvira), Lieschen (nn of Elisabeth). All of my favourite aunts. 🙂

kerryberry Says:

September 3rd, 2013 at 4:58 am

My real-life great aunts all had formidable names –
eva gladys
mavis myrtle
nancy amy irene
hilda phoebe
they would all be howling with laughter (they all detested their own names)and would be totally incredulous that these “old aunt names” are now being used again

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