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The Ancient Meaning Of Baby Names

Nov 16, 2007
Serving dual interests is my interest this month. Here's a list I hope will appeal to both prospective parents and writers who are stumped for some good character names. The focus is on names used between the Norman Conquest and the year 1300 in England, names that have in some cases been out of circulation for many years, but might now safely be revived.

Finding appropriate period names can be a real challenge for a writer. While medieval England is not the most common story timeframe, medieval names certainly hold more surprises than a later period might offer. In trying to serve the dual interests of writer and parent, I've selected those names I think are most appealing to the modern ear. There are some names, like Nest, for a girl, or Godelot, for a boy, which probably just don't stand the test of time.

For a wider selection of medieval names, visit The Medieval Naming Guide, which has a vast selection of names and the dates in which they were used.

Masculine Names Adémar
Aimery (uncertain) Perhaps a form of Emery
Amaury (French form of a Germanic name) "powerful labor"
Anselm (Germanic) ans, "god", and selm, "protection, helmet"
Benedict (Latin) "blessed"
Bertran (Germanic) "bright raven"
Clement (Latin) "gentle, merciful"
Etienne (French) French form of Stephen, "crown"
Everard (Germanic) "brave boar"
Frederick (Germanic) "peaceful ruler"
Geoffrey (Germanic) The first element, geof is of uncertain meaning, but the second, frey, comes from frid, meaning "peace"
Gervase (English) the English form of a Latinized form of a Germanic name meaning "spear"
Gregory (Latin) "watchful, alert"
Guillaume (French) French form of William, "resolute protector"
Guy (Norman) the Norman form of Germanic names beginning with the element witu or wit
Hélie (French) Maybe a form of Helios, the Greek word for "sun"?
Henry (Germanic) "home ruler"
Hugh (Germanic) "heart, mind, or spirit"
Jordain (English) Anglicized form of the French form of Jordan, "to flow down"
Joscelin (Norman) the Norman French variant of a Germanic name, Gautelen, which was derived from the name of a Germanic tribe, the Gauts
Odo (Germanic) a short form of any name beginning with od, "wealth, fortune"
Osgood (Germanic) "god is good"
Otto (German) late form of Odo, "wealth, fortune"
Peter (Greek) "stone"
Philippe (French) French form of the Greek Philippos, which means "lover of horses"
Ranulf (Old Norse) Scottish variant of the Old Norse Randulfr, "rim of a shield"
Robert (Germanic) "bright fame"
Rocelin (uncertain) possibly a male variant of Rosalyn, "soft horse"?
Roger (Germanic) "famous spear"
Roland (Germanic) "famous land"
Stephen (Greek) "crown"
Thibault (French) French form of the Germanic Theobald, "bold people"

Thomas (Greek) Greek form of the Aramaic name Te'oma, "twin"
Toly Turstin (Old Norse) "Thor stone"
Walter (Germanic) "ruler of an army"
Warin (Germanic) "enclosure"
William (Germanic) "resolute protector"

Feminine Names
Adelaide (Germanic) "noble sort"
Ailith (uncertain) possibly an Anglicized form of Ailís, the Irish form of Alice, a short form of Adelaide
Alice (Old French) a short form of Adelaide, "noble sort"
Amaria (Latin?) Possibly from the Latin amarus, "bitter"
Avelina (Old French) pet form of Avila, the medieval Latinized form of Avis, a Germanic name of unknown meaning. During medieval times, the name became associated with the Latin word avis, meaning "bird".
Beatrix (Late Latin) from the Latin Latin Viatrix, meaning "traveler". The spelling was altered to include bea, part of the Latin element beatus, meaning "blessed"
Betta (uncertain) Possibly a pet form of Elizabeth, "God is my oath"
Brigit (Irish) "exhalted one"
Catin (uncertain) probably a contracted form of Catarina, a variant of Catherine, "pure"
Christiana (Latin) Feminine form of Christian, meaning obvious
Eleanor (French) from the Provençal name Alienor, possibly a form of Helen, meaning uncertain
Emeline (French) French form of the Latin Aemilius, "rival"
Florencia (Roman) from the masculine name Florentius, "flourishing, prosperous"
Gemma (Italian) "precious stone"
Giliana (uncertain) feminine form of the Latin Julian, "youth"
Helena (Latin) Latinate form of Helen, meaning uncertain
Héloïse (Old French) uncertain meaning; possibly derived from the Greek helios, meaning "sun"
Ilaria (Italian) Feminine form of Hilarius, "cheerful"
Isabelle (Spanish) English spelling of the Spanish variant of Elizabeth, "God is my oath"
Isemay Jolicia Joya (English) "joy"
Juliana (Latin) feminine form of Julian, "youth"
Lia (English) short form of names ending in lia
Luciana feminine form of Lucian, "light"
Margaret (Greek) "pearl"
Margery (English) medieval English form of Margaret, "pearl"
Matilda (Germanic) "strength in battle"
Melisende (Norman French) derived from the Germanic name Amalaswinth. "strength in work or labor". This was the name of Charlemagne's daughter.
Mirabell (Latin) "wonderful"
Osanna (French) a form of Hosanna, a Hebrew word meaning "deliver us"
Pavia (Scandanavian) "day"
Philippa (Greek) feminine form of Philip, "lover of horses"
Reyna (Spanish) a variant spelling of Reina, "queen"
Roana (Scottish?) possibly a variant on the Scottish isle of Rona
Rose (English) "rose"
Sabeline (Galican) pet form of Sabella, a Galican form of Isabel, "God is my oath"
Sibylle (Germanic) Germanic form of the Greek Sibylla, "prophetess"
Theda (Greek) pet form of Theodora, "gift of God"
Ysolt (French) an English spelling of the French Yseult, a form of Isolde, possibly a Welsh name meaning "beautiful". In the legend of Tristan, the hero is in love with a married woman bearing this name, and also married to a woman who bears the name.
About the Author
Brian Yalung has been naming babies for 10 years. For more information, please visit http://www.babynamesguide.biz
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