What’s In a Name, Part II, by Bronwen Chisholm

What’s In a Name, Part II, by Bronwen Chisholm

One of the first blogs I did after joining Austen Authors was on names and their meanings. (You can read it if you click on that first sentence.) I looked at the names Jane Austen used in her books, the meanings of those names, and the possible inspirations. Well, I have been at it again and have a couple new names to introduce you to and, possibly, beg your forgiveness for.

There was a post some time ago on Colonel Fitzwilliam’s name (I thought it was on Austen Authors, but was unable to find it, most likely because my memory is too short regarding who wrote it, when, and what the title was). Jane Austen did not provide a Christian name for him, but most JAFF writers tend to default to Richard (me included until recently). In that old post, the author noted that when Jane Austen did use the name Richard, it was not a favorable character. So, let’s dive into that a bit.

Richard means “brave ruler,” but Jane Austen had a tendency to call these characters Dick, more precisely poor Dick (Richard Musgrove, Persuasion). Apparently, the publisher who purchased the rights to Northanger Abbey but never published it was named Richard Crosby. She even went so far as to write to Cassandra saying, “Mr. Richard Harvey’s match is put off till he has got a better Christian name, of which he has great hopes.” [Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 10, Letter 6]

For this reason, I have made the decision not to call our beloved Colonel Fitzwilliam Richard anymore (unless of course he plays the part accordingly). Instead, I have fallen in love with the name Phillip for him, meaning “lover of horses.” As many authors tend to place him in the cavalry, it seems most appropriate to me. I apologize to anyone who is positive he is a Richard. (And yes, it did take me a bit of time to become accustomed to it.)

One down. Now, how about the Colonel’s older brother? In my next book which (if everything stays on schedule) will be out in June, I named him Ashton. Being completely honest on this one, I went with the idea that it is a family tradition to name the eldest son after the mother’s family name, so Ashton means “ash tree town.” Moving on . . .




(I know these are supposed to be Mr. and Miss Bingley, but just go with it. 😉 )

I mentioned a few times that the next book was to be just one, but Ashton hijacked it and it is now the first in a series. The second book introduces a character that I think everyone will love. She is an American (gasp) from Virginia. (Did I mention I named this the Defying Propriety Series?) Her name is Adsila Carrington (pronounced ahd-SEE-lah) and it means “blossom.” I can’t wait to introduce her to you, but that is going to have to wait for another day as I need to get back to writing to meet the deadlines.

There are a few others you will meet such as Uncle Henry (“ruler of the home”), Aunt Esther (“star” or “myrtle leaf”), Cara Gallagher (“dear one” or “beloved” and her last name means “friend and lover of foreigners”), and her granddaughter, Sinead (“God is gracious”). Lots of new characters for you to fall in love with in a few months. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this little bit of background on them.

Stay safe and well and keep reading!

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Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
May 8, 2021 10:10 PM

Fascinating post, Bronwen!

May 6, 2021 6:37 PM

I remember reading the previous post as well and it made me reconsider liking the name Richard for the Colonel as I was convinced Jane Austen would not have used that name for the Colonel. I find though that it has become kind of ingrained for me as I do a bit of a double-take when his name is different. Perhaps as I read more stories that use other names, I’ll get used to it. I like all the choices of names you mentioned and look forward to meeting these characters.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
May 5, 2021 3:47 PM

I think Philip is a good name for the Colonel! Some of the other names you chose are pretty too.

Jann Rowland
May 5, 2021 9:52 AM

I think the post you’re referring to was mine, ironically with the same title. The link is below. You know, now that I think of it, I don’t really get any comments about names before, though there was one reviewer in particular who used to mention it in EVERY SINGLE REVIEW. Either they got bored mentioning the same thing or they don’t read my books anymore. It is what it is, I suppose.


Riana Everly
May 5, 2021 9:05 AM

So far I have kept to the expected Fandom names. My logic is Why reinvent the wheel?
That said, the only Richard I knew growing up was not a great person. He probably turned out just fine, but he was a total brat as a kid.
I happen to really like the name Philip, so I approve of that wholeheartedly. Looking forward to your novel when it’s ready.

Regina Jeffers
May 5, 2021 7:19 AM

I do not use “Richard” for my stories. From my first book onward, I have named the colonel “Edward,” my father’s name. I enjoy consistency in my books, for they provide a reader a familiarity to the story before it begins. I keep the servant names the same, etc.

As to choosing character names based on their meaning, I do so quite often. One of my favorites is “Aoife,” which means “beauty” from the Irish word aoibh, Old Irish óeb. In Irish legend, Aoife was a warrior princess, who was defeated in single combat by the hero Cúchulainn. This name is sometimes used as a Gaelic form of Eve or Eva. She is the heroine of my tale “His Irish Eve.” The hero is Adam Lawrence, who made his first appearance of nine times he plays parts in my stories in “The Phantom of Pemberley.” Get it? Adam and Eve. LOL! “His Irish Eve” is Adam’s story of happiness. By the way, “Aoife” happens to be the name of my favorite Captain Wentworth’s (Ciarán Hinds) daughter, who is also an actress.

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