August sounds like high summer, but this name traces its history back into the ancient world.
Thanks to Arthur for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
August brings to mind the height of summer – cookouts and barefoot walks on the beach. But make no mistake, this name is rather lofty.
The very first emperor of the might Roman Empire answered to Octavian. Born the great-nephew of Julius Caesar, he never actually claimed the title emperor. The Roman Senate called him Augustus. It comes from either the Latin augere – to increase, or possibly augur – to see the future. It means venerable or grand. All these centuries later, it still projects nobility.
And accomplishment, too. Octavian would reign for four decades, doubling the size of the empire, both by conquest and alliance. By the end of his life, Rome ruled territory from Britain to India.
Saints and Kings
As if the emperor wasn’t enough, the name has been popular with saints and kings.
The fourth century theologian, Augustine of Hippo, penned Confessions, The City of God, and more works still influential today. He’s not the only saint by the name.
Three kings of Poland make it even more regal.
More recent history gives us bestselling author Augusten Burroughs, and acclaimed playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson. Plus France adds two Augustes to the list: sculptor Rodin and painter Renoir.
By the Numbers
Through the late nineteenth century, this name appeared in steady use, in the Top 100 in the 1880s, fading to the Top 200, and so on. By the 1970s, it nearly slipped out of the Top 1000 rankings entirely.
But then the name was rediscovered.
2007’s sweet Romeo-and-Juliet tale August Rush gave the name a boost. It’s the story of Rush, the musical genius love child of a classical cellist mama and a rock-and-roll daddy. Through a series of improbable events, neither of his parents know their son exists until he ends up, a presumed orphan, enrolled at Juilliard on a scholarship.
It’s the given name of the hero in Wonder, though RJ Palacio’s character answers to Auggie. So does the son of Cory and Topanga on Girl Meets World.
Back to the Top 100?
Like River and Rowan and so many names borrowed from the natural world, it can potentially be unisex. And since month names like May and June belong to girls, you might expect to hear this one on girls, too. That’s true – but the numbers overwhelmingly put Auggie on Team Blue.
One more intriguing fact: just Gus recently debuted in the US Top 1000. Since Gus is another go-to nickname possibility, it’s further evidence that parents are wild about this group of names.
In 2013, more than 1,000 boys received the name. As of 2018, that number had more than doubled to 2,264 births – just counting boys, and only for this form of the name.
And why not? It all adds up to a name that has quite a bit to offer – a modern, word-name feel, combined with a long history of use. The name feels style, but also comes with quite a bit of meaning. Sure, that meaning seems ambitious, but this name’s vibe is ever so down-to-earth.
It makes a great name for a son born during the summer – or any other time of year!
What do you think of August? Do you prefer one of the longer forms of the name? Would you shorten it to Auggie, Gus, or use it in full?
First published on August 14, 2008, this post was revised substantially and re-published on August 4, 2014 and again on July 18, 2019.