Roald Dahl named his baby after $20

twenty dollar bill

Children’s author Roald Dahl — famous for books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda — was born to Norwegian immigrant parents in Wales in 1916. He was named after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

After serving as a fighter pilot during WWII (and creating the fifinella gremlin), Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal in 1953. They had a total of five children together.

Their first baby was named Olivia Twenty. Why a number as a middle name?

Olivia Twenty was born in New York on April 20, 1955, and named after her mother’s favorite Shakespearean heroine, the date of her birth, and the fact that Roald had $20 in his pocket when he came to visit Pat in the hospital.

(Sadly, Olivia Twenty died of the measles in late 1962, at the age of seven, before a reliable measles vaccine had been developed.)

Their second child, born in 1957, was named Chantal Sophia. Soon after she was born and christened, the Dahls realized that “Chantal” rhymed with “Dahl,” so they began calling her by the nickname Tessa.

The last three Dahl children were named Theo Matthew (b. 1960), Ophelia Magdalena (b. 1964), and Lucy Neal (b. 1965). The name Ophelia could be another Shakespearean reference, while the middle names Sophia and Magdalena likely come from Dahl’s mother, Sofie Magdalene.

P.S. In April of 1964, Patricia Neal won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work in the 1963 movie Hud.


  • Sturrock, Donald. Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  • Roald Dahl – Wikipedia

Image: Adapted from $20 Federal Reserve Bank Note (1929) (public domain)

[Latest update: June 2023]

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