Australian Culture

Naming

Naming Conventions

  • Australian names generally follow English naming conventions. Overseas-born Australians generally adapt their names to fit these conventions in formal documents.
  • English naming conventions arrange names as follows: [first given name] [middle given name(s)] [FAMILY NAME]. For example, Jack Samuel ADAMS (male) or Emily Claire TAYLOR (female).
  • One’s ‘first name’, known as a ‘personal name’ or ‘given name’, is chosen at birth as the individual’s personal identifier. It always comes before the family name. 
  • The ‘family name’, known as a ‘surname’ or ‘last name’, is inherited from one’s parents and shared with other members of the individual’s
  • Australian names are traditionally patrilineal, whereby children are given their father’s family name. However, this is not an enforced custom.
  • Some parents may choose to give their children a hyphenated surname that contains the family name of both parents (e.g. Jack Samuel WILSON-ADAMS).  
  • A child born to same-sex parents can be registered with the family name of either parent or both parents. 
  • A child born to unmarried parents will be registered using the birth mother’s surname, unless both parents agree to use another surname.1
  • It is traditional for women to adopt their husband’s family name at marriage. However, this practice is declining. 
  • Many Australians also have a ‘middle name’, which is a secondary personal name written between the person's first name and their family name. For example, Emily Claire TAYLOR’s middle name is ‘Claire’.
  • Middle names are optional and are rarely used in daily life. However, most Australians have one or multiple. 

 

Names

  • Most Australian parents choose their children’s personal names based on aesthetic appeal.
  • Many popular names have biblical roots, e.g. Joshua, Michael, Grace.
  • More recently, it has been the trend for Australians to choose names that they find unique. These are usually names that are less traditionally common in the English-speaking west and are hence seen as more unique. Sometimes they are variations of a western name with a different spelling.
  • The most popular first names for Australian children in 2020 were Charlotte, Olivia, Amelia, Isla, Mia (female) and Oliver, Noah, Jack, William, Leo (male).2
  • It is common for a child’s middle name to reflect the personal name of a close family member (such as a grandparent).
  • The most common Australian family names have a British origin, e.g. SMITH, JONES, WILLIAMS, BROWN, WILSON.
  • Other family names reflect the broad cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity of Australian families. For example, Jeremy SCHULTZ (German), Hannah NGUYEN (Vietnamese), Ashley MURPHY (Irish), Dylan WANG (Chinese).
  • Australian law requires names to be registered with English letters only. Therefore, some foreign names may have various spelling in the transliteration to the Roman alphabet.

 

Addressing Others

  • Australians generally address one another verbally by the first name alone. In formal situations, people may use a person’s title (e.g. Mr., Mrs., Ms., Doctor, etc.) followed by their family name.
  • Middle names are almost never used to address a person, unless quoted on formal/legal documentation.
  • Australians often form nicknames for each other by abbreviating the name to a minimal amount of syllables (e.g. Michael becomes Mike). 
  • It is common for people to be given an ‘Australianised’ nickname that turns their name into Australian slang (e.g. Barry becomes Baz, Andy becomes Ando). These are often used within close friendships to emphasise mateship. 
  • Australians may refer to others as “mate” (usually to men) or “love” (usually to women) without knowing them very closely.

 

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1 Australian Lawyers, 2021

2 McCrindle, 2021

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