Audrey: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on June 24, 2013

audrey hepburn

Photo credit: fred baby

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 26, 2009.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on June 24, 2013.

The most famous bearer of this name is a style icon and a noted humanitarian, too.

Thanks to JNE for suggesting Audrey as Name of the Day – and to C in DC for pointing out that the post needed a refresh!

Sixty years after her star-making turn as princess-on-the-lam Ann/Anya in Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn remains the face that many of us picture when we hear her first name.

But there have been plenty of others.  Audrey has ranked in the Top 300 names for girls throughout the twentieth century.  In the 1920s and 30s she made the US Top 100.  Since 2002, she’s returned to to the Top 100, this time reaching an all-time high of #41 in 2012.

And why not?

Besides the Hollywood connection, Audrey fits right in with borrowed-from-the-boys choices like Ashley, Avery and Aubrey. 

But there’s something ladylike about her, too.  Audrey could be a sister for Emily or Mary.

Her history runs deep, all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon name Æthelthryt, from elements meaning noble and strength.  She’s also recorded as Etheldred and Etheldreda.

Saint Æthelthryt was a seventh-century princess longing for the religious life. She agreed to a political marriage instead, but when things went whopperjawed, she ended her days at an abbey in Cambridgeshire.  Visit London and you can tour England’s oldest Roman Catholic Church, St. Ethelreda’s, built in 1290.

Æthelthryt was her formal name, but the princess might have answered to Awdrey.  Or maybe Awdrey evolved from Ethelred over time, like Maud from Matilda.

Either way, the annual fair near Æthelthryt’s abbey became known as St. Awdrey’s Fair.  The inexpensive lace goods – St. Audrey’s lace – on offer at the Fair are the origin of the word tawdry – cheap.

All versions of the name become rare after the Norman invasion, though a few uses remain:

  • Shakespeare’s Audrey in 1599’s As You Like It, a ditzy goat-herd in the Forest of Arden.
  • An illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII was born in the 1520s, and served as one of the future Queen Elizabeth’s attendants.

Then came Mary Johnston’s 1902 novel Audrey. It became a silent film in 1916.  She may not be a household name today, but Johnston was a bestselling author at the turn of the twentieth century.  She also penned the hit 1900 novel To Have and to Hold.

The name jumped from #251 in 1901 to #176 in 1903, suggesting that Audrey inspired plenty of parents.

Actresses and fictional figures include:

  • Actress Audrey Meadows, best remembered as Alice on television’s The Honeymooners.
  • French actress Audrey Tatou, known for her turn as Sophie in The Da Vinci Code and the title character in 2001’s Amélie.
  • Some of today’s parents could’ve been influenced by Sherilyn Fenn’s wicked Audrey Horne on Twin Peaks.
  • There’s also Kim Raver’s Audrey Raines from 24.

Audrey manages to be both current and timeless, more enduring than Kylie, less granny chic than Agnes.  She’s a great compromise choice for parents after a straightforward, nickname-proof feminine name with history.  Ms. Hepburn lends the name tremendous style, too.  The only possible hesitation is that Audrey is very popular in 2013, and your daughter may have to share her stylish name with another Audrey or two.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonquil July 4, 2013 at 6:47 AM

The snobbish Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (played by Penelope Keith) was the main female character in the British television sitcom “To The Manor Born”. Her best friend Marjorie always called her “Aud” – which is quite dreadful.
Audrey’s a name that reminds me of golden syrup – quite delectable.

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C in DC July 3, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Audrey is also the name of the girlfriend and the plants in Little Shop of Horrors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Shop_of_Horrors_%28musical%29

(When I get asked about naming my LO this name, I’m either asked about Hepburn or the plants.)

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Josie June 24, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Dislike. The sound of Audrey seems drilling, nasal, and harsh to me. I do like the actress, but as names go I far prefer her character Sabrina. I always thought it was Katharine who had the far better name. Golden Age of Hollywood names seem to run to extremes for me – nothing between love and hate.

And I’ll give it “current” but not “timeless.” It is one that peaks and drops. Nothing wrong with that, I like a lot of names that do that, but I would not say it is at all evergreen.

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Natsmom June 24, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I’m 34 weeks pregnant and going back and forth daily on whether to name this little girl Audrey, so to see it featured today was a welcome surprise, maybe even a sign? (at this point I’m desperate for anything to help make this decision!) I’m not big into name meanings- many are obscure or made-up- but I do think that the meaning of Audrey- noble strength- is one of the best, in terms of what I would wish for my daughter. It certainly adds to the reasons to choose it other than “we just liked the name.”

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ladyisabella January 2, 2013 at 7:58 PM

which sounds better and classy?

Audrey Isabella or
Isabella Audrey

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Jonquil July 4, 2013 at 6:43 AM

Audrey Isabella imo

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Bewildertrix August 29, 2009 at 8:22 PM

No, no fond of it. Not when ‘tawdry’ precedes it in my mind and I have visions of a Coronation Street Audrey. I’ve never been fond of Audrey Hepburn as an actress either. *prepares to be pelted with rotten fruit*

It’s a familial name, my great-aunt’s, but even that does little to help with appeal.

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Jodi August 28, 2009 at 8:27 PM

I love Audrey! It will likely be our next daughter’s middle name, should we have another girl. It never really did much for me until I met my husband’s great aunt when we were dating. Auntie Audrey is a feisty, sparkly Queen Elizabeth look-alike who, at 83, has more spunk in her little finger that most twenty-year-olds :) She’s already had one or two namesakes in the family from her middle name, Eleanor, but we’re all about using the Audrey – love it!

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blissfully caffeinated August 27, 2009 at 3:44 PM

I heard of a sibset recently, two girls named Ava and Audrey. While I’m not a huge Audrey fan I thought the set was adorable, and very glam.

Audra always brings Audra Lindley to mind, for me. AKA Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company. So I can’t go there.

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Allison August 27, 2009 at 6:49 PM

That is a great sibset of names! I think Audrey’s gorgeous, but as JNE pionts out, the lack of a nickname is a bit of a stumbling block.

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appellationmountain August 27, 2009 at 12:53 PM

Not Linda Gray, Linda EVANS. Yikes!

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appellationmountain August 27, 2009 at 12:53 PM

I like Audra, too, Sebastiane – she was the daughter on 1960s tv western The Big Valley – played by a young Linda Gray. I didn’t realize there was a Lithuanian connection – I always think of Audra as a cowgirl!

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Lulu Bee August 27, 2009 at 4:08 AM

I love Audrey! One of my favorite students was named Audrey Faye, and I called her by her full name most of the time. I actually think it’s one of the best names. I think it’s too popular for me, but I really do love it.

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Sebastiane August 27, 2009 at 3:12 AM

Audrey has never really thrilled me, she is nice enough, but a bit dull for my tastes. I prefer the Lithuanian Audra, which is also the word for storm. Speaking of which, I have actually been to the St. Etheldreda Church in London. Its really pretty.

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JNE August 26, 2009 at 8:38 PM

Thanks, Verity, for covering Audrey. This was definitely on the list for girls, but it looked like it wouldn’t have made the top three. My biggest issue with it was the lack of nicknames. I know a few Audreys and usually I hear their name shortened to Aud, which is not really that nice in my ears. I’d prefer Dree to Aud, but that’s not that appealing either. Any negative associations have been overshadowed by the positive one with Hepburn and Audreys I’ve known. While the currently popular Aubrey puts me off the name a bit, I can certainly see why Audrey is such a well-used name!

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