This post was originally published on August 14, 2008. It was substantially revised and re-posted on August 4, 2014.
It’s summertime, and the perfect moment to examine this seasonal appellation.
Thanks to Arthur for suggesting August for today’s Baby Name of the Day.
August doesn’t feel like a grand name, but his origins are rather lofty.
Originally Augustus was a title for Octavian, the very first emperor of the mighty Roman Empire. It comes from the Latin augere – to increase, or possibly augur – as in one who sees the future. (Presumably the future is bright.) As a title, it meant exalted. Even today, the word august implies dignity and even nobility.
But August doesn’t carry all of that weight as a given name. It’s the height of summertime in the US, a month of cookouts and beach vacations. And August himself feels homespun, casual, relaxed.
Then again, the name in all of its forms has been worn by some quite venerable figures:
- Saint Augustine of Hippo, a 4th century theologian whose writing – especially Confessions and The City of God – remains influential more than fifteen centuries later. Fast forward 200 years and you’ll find Saint Augustine of Canterbury preaching to the Saxons in the late 500s.
- Three kings of Poland have answered to the name.
- You’ve probably heard of New York Times bestselling author Augusten Burroughs – though he was born Christopher.
- Acclaimed playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson.
- The visual arts give us famed sculptor Auguste Rodin and legendary Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir.
Through the late nineteenth century, August was a fairly common name in the US. He declined throughout the twentieth century, nearly dropping out of the popularity rankings by 1990.
But before August could disappear, he was rediscovered. In 2007, the name ranked #609. By 2013, he’d climbed to #319.
Some of that initial boost probably came from 2007’s sweet Romeo-and-Juliet tale, August Rush. He’s 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 under the assumed name August Rush.
Also credit a handful of celeb kids, including:
- Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hartigay’s August Miklos Friedrich.
- Casey Affleck and Summer Phoenix chose it as a middle name for their son, Indiana August.
- Dave Matthews has a son called August Oliver.
Another Law & Order alum, Elisabeth Rohm, used August as a middle name for her daughter, Easton. And back in 1994, Garth Brooks welcomed August Anna. Just like April, May, June, and January, it is perfectly possible to imagine a girl answering to this seasonal name.
And yet, so far August skews blue. Over 1,000 boys received the name in 2013, compared to just about 125 girls. Augustus and Augustine are on the rise, too, and Gus remains a friendly, upbeat nickname for a boy – less common than Jack or Max, but with that same throwback vibe.
It adds up to a name that has quite a bit to offer – a modern, word-name feel, but a long history of use. Style, but also quite a bit of meaning. His meaning is ambitious, but his vibe is ever so approachable. There are lots of good reasons this name is on the rise.
What do you think of August? Do you prefer one of the longer forms of the name? Would you shorten August to Gus, or use it in full?