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What are old money names?

What are old money names?

Old money names refer to surnames and first names traditionally associated with wealthy, established families, particularly those with so-called ‘old money’ built up over multiple generations. These names tend to have an elite, sophisticated aura about them and signal a privileged background and upbringing. While pop culture depictions often associate old money names with the East Coast establishment, families all over the world may have names with old money connotations in their cultural context.

What makes a name an ‘old money’ name?

Some key factors that give names ‘old money’ associations include:

  • Prominence among early upper-class families – Names like Astor, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller clearly derive from famous American business dynasties.
  • Origins in aristocracy or gentry – Surnames like Windsor, Spencer and Montgomery have royal or noble links.
  • Prestigious Ivy League pedigree – Ivy League surnames abound among old establishment families, think Cabot, Lowell, Winthrop.
  • Anglo-Saxon language origins – Many old money names have Anglo-Saxon linguistic roots harking back to the early aristocracy of Britain.
  • Distinctive spelling or consonance – Names with a sophisticated, unique ring like Constantijn, Augustin, Tatnall or Cadwalader scream old money.

Additionally, traditional ‘rich people’ first names like Reginald, Winston or Bartholomew impart an old money image. Biblical names popular among Puritans or early Protestant settlers like Jeremiah and Abigail also have old money associations, as do tributes to royalty like Victoria or Elizabeth.

Old money surnames in the U.S.

Many prominent American families have surnames that connote ‘old money’ status and pedigree. Here are some classic examples:

  • Du Pont – French surname derived from a noble family in France, founders of the prominent chemical company.
  • Winthrop – Name of early Puritan settlers in New England, includes many political figures.
  • Cabot – Old Boston Brahmin family descended from early settlers, associated with Harvard.
  • Guggenheim – Swiss name referring to ‘gold mine’, famous for amassing wealth in mining and smelting.
  • Whitney – Distinguished English surname of numerous American politicians and businesspeople.
  • Sterling – Associated with the famous New York City department store company.
  • Beekman – Prominent Dutch family name from New York, tied to landownership and politics.
  • Stryker – Name connected to medicine, business and politics in New Jersey history.
  • Terry – Linked to old money families and plantations in Virginia and the South.
  • Chapin – Aristocratic New England surname associated with politics and academia.

Old money first names in the U.S.

Traditional first names favored among American old money families include:

  • Reginald
  • Winston
  • Wallace
  • Tatnall
  • Augustin
  • Bartholomew
  • Cadwalader
  • Chauncey
  • Chester
  • Crawford
  • Egerton
  • Fitzhugh
  • Gardiner
  • Griswold
  • Horatio
  • Jeremiah

For women:

  • Abigail
  • Araminta
  • Arabella
  • Augusta
  • Betsy
  • Bunny
  • Constance
  • Edith
  • Eliza
  • Eugenia
  • Frances
  • Henrietta
  • Mildred
  • Violet

Old money names in Britain

The British upper class has family names denoting pedigree. Some examples:

  • Montgomery – Anglo-Norman surname originally of nobles from Normandy.
  • Fitzroy – Referring to illegitimate sons of the king, like the Duke of Grafton.
  • Spencer – Aristocratic name of Princess Diana’s family, the Earls Spencer.
  • Churchill – Famous surname of the dukes of Marlborough, including Winston Churchill.
  • Berkeley – Name of aristocratic families holding titles like Earl of Berkeley.
  • Percy – Noble name of the dukes of Northumberland and earls of Percy.
  • Seymour – Name of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, and her prominent family.
  • Cavendish – Surname of the dukes of Devonshire, one of England’s wealthiest families.
  • Howard – Name of the famous noble Howard family, including Catherine Howard.
  • Mann – Rich business dynasty behind the Mann Egerton company.

First names like Augustus, Ezekiel, Cuthbert, Jocelyn, Giles and Archibald also evoke British aristocratic traditions.

Old money names elsewhere

Prominent surnames with old money resonances include:

  • Australia – Syme, Baillieu, Myer
  • Brazil – Safra, Marcílio, Matarazzo
  • Canada – Richardson, Timmins, Irving
  • China – Du, Zhong, Chen
  • France – Rothschild, Dassault, Michelin
  • Germany – Quandt, Porsche, Klatten
  • Hong Kong – Lee, Cheng, Kwok
  • India – Birla, Ambani, Godrej
  • Italy – Agnelli, Benetton, Moratti
  • Japan – Yanai, Maezawa, Mori
  • Mexico – Slim, Beckmann, Diez
  • Russia – Potanin, Alekperov, Mikhelson
  • Saudi Arabia – Al Saud, Al Jaber, Al Rajhi
  • South Korea – Chung, Shin, Chey
  • Sweden – Persson, Kamprad, Rausing


Old money names evoke generations of wealth, privilege and elite connections. Though perceptions around such names can be controversial in an increasingly equitable world, they remain cultural shorthand for signaling historically privileged backgrounds, particularly among old establishments like the American Northeast or British upper classes. With societal attitudes evolving, the status conferred by such names may diminish, but they will likely long retain historic cultural cachet.