Upper-Class Baby Names: Aussie style

By Anna Otto, Waltzing More Than Matilda

While Australia does have a class system, it’s a flattened-out one, with fewer social divisions, and a large middle ground. Class is more fluid and less structured here than some other places. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are free of all status markers and snobbery – including name snobbery.

So if we don’t have an upper class, do we have upper class baby names? I don’t think so, because any particular name is used by a wider variety of people than you might suppose. Although in our imaginations, poor people have children named Jaidyn and Tayylah, and rich people send Agatha and Lucius off to St Barnaby’s or the Kindergarten of Higher Consciousness, in real life it is a lot less stereotypical.

When you register your baby name, the registry doesn’t ask for your family tree or your bank balance. They won’t ever say, Look, I think Peregrine is out of your price range. Might I suggest something more affordable, like Cooper? All names are equal, because they cost the same amount to register. No matter how humble your circumstances, you can give your baby any name you want – elegant, serious, trendy, sassy, bold, or eye-raising.

And because all names are equal, they won’t make any difference to your own social position, or to your child’s. A poverty-stricken family won’t receive an invitation to join the Yacht Club just because their daughter is named Agatha, and a Jaidyn born into wealth will have just as privileged a life as if his name had been Lucius.

Although some people fret that their baby’s name needs to sound like a doctor, a judge, a professor, or a prime minister for them to succeed, in real life surgeons are named Kellee, chief justices are named Wayne, academics are named Tiffany and Brandy, and prime ministers are named Kevin. Not only does your name not indicate where you came from, it doesn’t indicate where you are going either.

However, it’s fair to say that some names have an upper class image. I don’t think Australia is significantly different from other English-speaking countries when it comes to what names may be perceived as upper class.

Names Which May Be Seen as Upper Class

Here are just a few ideas as to what I think sounds “upper class,” what others may perceive as upper class, or that I have noticed upper-middle class people choosing. I am not recommending these styles of name, or suggesting you use them.

–  Classic English-style names eg Thomas and Lucy

–   Anglo-Saxon type names eg Alfred and Edith

–   Names from European royalty eg Leopold and Adelaide

–   Latin and Latinate names eg Rufus and Aurelia; Hugo and Miranda

–   Classical names eg Leander and Hermione

–   Retro names eg Arthur and Florence

–   So old-fashioned that they’re hip eg Reginald and Gertrude

–  Vintage-style nicknames as full names eg Monty and Lottie

–   Names that have remained in use while never becoming popular eg Theodore and Susannah

–   Uncommon Scottish-style names for boys eg Cormac and Fergus

–   Uncommon flower names for girls eg Dahlia and Saffron

–   Historical surname names for boys eg Forbes and Monash

–   Whimsical names eg Huckleberry and Tuppence (while putting the whimsical name in the middle is the prudently middle class thing to do)

–   Fashionable “arty” names eg Ziggy and Coco (strike me as more aspirational middle class for some reason)

–   Literary names eg Caspian and Evangeline (these definitely seem middle class, as the middle class is keenest on reading)

Names Not Obviously One Class or Another

Many names that have been highly popular for a length of time – by their nature, popular names are “of the people”; it’s easier for a name to remain very popular if many groups of people use them. Names like Charlotte, William, Chloe and Lachlan could belong to almost anyone, and do.

–  Hickster names – those that are fashionable-sounding yet slightly countrified, like Mayella and Elroy. Even after reading the birth notices carefully, looking for clues as to which kind of families choose these names, I still don’t know.

–  Uncommon nature names – names like Leaf or Snow are hard to place, I think. I have seen these names on children from absolutely everywhere on the social spectrum.

–   Extremely rare or obscure but genuine names – due to the fact they are almost never heard of, they don’t have any social context to put them into. You may only meet one Harmon in your whole life – so how can you generalise about the name?

 What names do you think have an upper class image? And do you think there is any such thing as an upper-class name?

This was adapted for Nameberry from a blog in Waltzing More Than Matilda.

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10 Responses to “Upper-Class Baby Names: Aussie style”

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indiefendi Says:

August 5th, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Cordelia (people see this name as too upper-crusty but I think it’s very beautiful and wearable) and Margaret are the first names that come to mind.

grackym Says:

August 5th, 2014 at 11:35 pm

I love the Australian posts! I find them a lot easier to relate to, being Australian, and enjoy reading about the trends etc in our country!

marypoppins Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 4:47 am

I agree with some of these (my husband wouldn’t consider Hugo because he thought it was “too posh”), though I’d put Thomas and Lucy in the same ‘neither here nor there’ group as William and Charlotte. And of course in Scotland Fergus is not uncommon, I know quite a few. Though I’ve never met a Cormac in person.

tfzolghadr Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 5:14 am

I get your point, but Tiffany being an academic and Kellee being a surgeon is also due to the fact that these names may have belonged to a different class 30 years ago when said people were born. Also, people can change their socioeconomic status… but yes, there are people with names where the perceptions of the name don’t match their socioeconomic status. For me, I’d break it down…
Lower class: Cr8tive spellings, names containing large quantities of unnecessary y’s, and names containing lots of high value scrabble letters (x, z, etc.)
Middle class: Gender bending, vintage, hipster, nature, cowboy, etc.
Upper class: Latinate names
But I tend to think the middle/ upper class names are often more fluid than lower class… Like I’d be a bit surprised to meet a Kymburleygh from an upper class family… but meeting a poor Augustine might not be quite as surprising…

LexieM Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 8:57 am

“When you register your baby name, the registry doesn’t ask for your family tree or your bank balance. They won’t ever say, Look, I think Peregrine is out of your price range. Might I suggest something more affordable, like Cooper?”

This made me laugh… so well but. Thank you for sharing your observations!

NaomiNY Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I don’t think there is such a thing as an upper-class name, but here are some names that come to mind:


Basically, names I would pick.

» Upper-Class Baby Names: Aussie style Baby Name Suggestion Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

[…] Anna Otto analyzes the sometimes tricky concept of class in baby names from her Australian perspective. Wdyt? Do her assessments apply to the US as well? Do you think there are upper and lower-class names? Nameberry – Baby Name Blog […]

clairels Says:

August 6th, 2014 at 9:15 pm

@NaomiNY. Ha ha, I get it. Names for a better breed of person, i.e., ME.

PrudenceA Says:

August 20th, 2017 at 3:22 pm

What has happened to Anna Otto? She has stooped writing her blog and just disappeared.

linda Says:

August 20th, 2017 at 8:24 pm

@PrudenceA. Yes, we haven’t heard from her in a long time and we’ve missed her!

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