Archive for the ‘Surnames as First Names’ Category

As everyone and their auntie knows, today is St Paddy’s day.

And as Patrick is Ireland’s patron, it’s a day as much about celebrating Ireland as commemmorating him.

Although many contend that his feast day of March 17 is because it is the anniversary of his death, many others propose it has more to do with the approaching equinox and Pagan celebrations which marked the arrival of spring.

Of course, it might well be both.

Saturday has become the day when I generally look at great surnames which have not yet seen much use as first names. I plan to take a detailed look at Irish surnames — and surnames from the other Celtic lands — after I’ve finished the English ones, but to mark the special occasion, I thought I’d take a look today at the very best and most wearable contemporary options that Ireland has to offer.

All are Anglicized forms of  the original Irish Gaelic.

  • BardonÓ Bardáin “son of the little bard.” Also Barden and Bardane.
  • Bradigan — Ó Bradagáin probably “descendant of the spirited one.”
  • Branigan — Ó Branagáin “descendant of Branagan” (“little raven”).
  • Branley — Ó Branghaile “descendant of Branghal” (“raven-valour”). Also Brannelly.
  • BrannaghBreathnach “a Breton.”
  • Brannan — Ó Branáin “descendant of Branan” (“little raven”).
  • Cafferty — Mac Eachmharcaigh “son of the steed-rider.”
  • Cassily — Ó Caisile, possibly “descendant of the one from Cashel” or a variant of Ó Caiside — the Irish Gaelic form of the well-known Cassidy.
  • Connan — Mac Canann “son of the little wolf cub.”
  • Coveney — Mac Coibheanaigh “son of the trooper.”
  • Darragh — Mac Dubhdara “son of the black oak” (Darragh is a popular boy’s name in the Republic of Ireland).
  • Donnelly — Ó Donnghaile “descendant of Donnghal” (“brown-valour”).
  • Drennan — Ó Draighnáin “descendant of the blackthorn.”
  • Finnerty — Ó Fionnachta “descendant of Fionnachta” (“white-snow”). Also Finaghty.
  • FlahertyÓ Flaithbheartaigh “descendant of Flaithbheartaigh” (“bright ruler”). Also Flaverty.
  • Foylan — Ó Faoileáin “descedant of Faoileán” (“little wolf”).
  • GallinaghÓ Gailínigh possibly “descendant of the flattering one.” Also Gallina.
  • Gilligan — Mac Giollagáin “son of the little lad/devotee.”
  • Guinevan — probably Mac Dhuinnebháin “son of Donnadubhán” (“little brown-black one”).
  • Hanley — Ó hÁinle “descendant of the dainty one.”
  • Hanlon — Ó hAnluáin “descendant of Anluan” (probably “great champion” — intensifying prefix an + luan “champion”).
  • Helehan — Ó hAiolleacháin ” descendant of the little joyful one.”
  • Henelly — a variant of FENELLY.
  • Hennessy
  • Kendrigan — Ó Cinndeargáin probably “descendant of the little red-headed one.”
  • Kerrigan — Ó Ciaragáin “descendant of the little black one.”
  • Kinneally — Ó Cinnfhaolaidh ” descendant of the wolf’s-head” (i.e. “outlaw”).
  • Kitterick — Mac Shitric “son of Sitric” (Irish form of the Norse Sigtrygg “true victory”).
  • Larrissey — Ó Learghusa “descendant of Learghus” (“sea-vigour”). Also Laracy.
  • Lafferty — Ó Laithbheartaigh. Essentially a variant of FLAHERTY.
  • LynaghLaighneach “Leinsterman.” Also Leynagh.
  • Madigan — Ó Madagáin “descendant of the little hound.”
  • Marron — Ó Mearáin “descendant of the little lively/quick one.”
  • Mellerick — Ó Maoilgheiric, probably “descendant of a devotee of St Cyriac.”
  • Merrigan — Ó Muireagáin “descendant of Muireagan” (probably a diminutive of muir “sea”).
  • Milligan — Ó Maoilegáin, a variant of Ó Maolagáin “descendant of the little bald one/devotee.”
  • Morrissey — Ó Muirgheasa “descendant of Muirgheas” (“sea-action”).
  • Neligan — Ó Niallagain “descendant of Niallagán” (a derivative of the well-known Irish name Neil, essentially “little Neil”).
  • Neylan — Ó Niallain “descendant of Niallán” (also “little Neil”). Also Nealon and Neilon.
  • Olice — perhaps eolgasasch “knowledgeable.” Also Olis.
  • Olisagh — a variant of OLICE.
  • Rafferty
  • Ronaghan — Ó Reannacháin “descendant of the litte sharp-pointed/starry one.”
  • Rogan — Ó Ruadhagáin “descendant of the little red one.”
  • Ruane — Ó Ruadháin “descendant of the little red one.”
  • Solan — Ó Sochlacháin “descendant of the little renowned one.”
  • Soran – Ó Soracháin “descendant of the little bright one.” Also Sorahan.
  • Tansey — Mac an Tanáiste “son of the heir presumptive.”
  • Thoran — Ó Toráin “descendant of the little lord.”
  • Timoney — Ó Tiománaidhe “descendant of the driver.”
  • Toran — variant of THORAN.
  • Traynor — Mac Thréinfhir “son of the strong man.”  Also Treanor.
  • Tynan — Ó Teimhneáin “descendant of the dark one.”
  • Varrelly — Mac an Bhearshúiligh “son of the sharp-eyed (man).”
  • VeighMac an Beatha “son of life.” Also MacVey and MacEvoy.

Mine’s a guinness ;).

Read Full Post »


Back today with some more names which fall into both the surname and “word name” category.

But first, I’d like to say a big thank you to Anna at Waltzing More than Matilda for her lovely review of Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names and Nook of Names. It really makes it all worthwhile :)

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly that D has to offer.

All of them have seen genuine use — some, thankfully, only in the middle spot.

And I truly pity poor Dung Park, who died in Liverpool in 1959, Dunger Lane, baptized in Cambridgeshire in 1803, and Daft Pogson, born in 1843…

Daft Deary Docking Drape
Dafter Death Doctor Draper
Daily Debonnaire Dodge Drave
Dainty Decker Doe Drawer
Daisy Deed Dole Dray
Dale Deem Doll Dredge
Dally Deemer Dollar Dresser
Dame Deeming Dolphin Drew
Damper Deer Dome Dribble
Dams Defender Dool Driver
Damsel Delicate Doomsday Droop
Damson Dell Dormer Drought
Dance Delver Dory Drover
Dancer Den (Denn) Dosser Drudge
Dandelion Denial Dot (Dott) Dry
Dandy Dent Double Dryer
Dane Desert Doubler Dubber
Danger Dew Doublet Duck
Dare Dewy Dough Ducker
Dark Diamond Doughty Duckling
Darker Diaper Dove Dudgeon
Darling Dice Dover Duff
Darnel Dig (Diggs) Dow Duke
Dart Digger Dowe Dullard
Darter Dill Dower Duly
Dash Dilly Dowie Dummer
Dauber Dime Dowl Dumper
Daughters Dimmer Down Dunce
Daw Din Downer Dung
Dawn Dingle Dowse Dunger
Day Dipper Dowsing Dunking
Dayman Disher Doxy Durable
Deacon Ditch Doyley Dust
Deal Ditcher Drab (Drabb) Dusting
Dean Diver Dragon Dusty
Dear Divine Drain Dye
Dearie Dock Drake Dyer
Dearth Docker Drane Dyke

Read Full Post »

This Thursday, we’ll be celebrating St David’s Day here in Wales. So to mark the occasion, this week will have an entirely Welsh theme.

Today it overlaps with a name category which has been on my mind a lot recently: the “son” names.

These are most familiar, of course, as names ending in –son itself, or beginning with Mac-

But there is also the Welsh equivalent – ap.

Wales holds the distinction of being the last place in the British Isles where surnames became universally hereditary.

In many parts of the principality where Welsh remained the dominant language, the patronymic system — in which a person was formally known as ap “son of” or ferch “daughter of” — remained common until the nineteenth century.

But across the centuries, the ap also gave rise to hereditary surnames, surviving as an initial “b” or “p.”

And many of these make interesting first name options.

Here then, are the sons of Wales:

  • Barry – ap Harry (although it has a number of other origins too)
  • Beddard, Bedward – ap Edward
  • Bellis, Belliss – ap Ellis
  • Benian, Benyon, Beynon, Baynham, Binyon – ap Einion
  • Bevan, Beven, Beavan, Beaven, Beavon – ap Evan
  • Bowen – ap Owen
  • Breese, Breeze – ap Rhys
  • Brobyn – ap Robin
  • Brodrick, Broderick – ap Rhydderch/Roderick
  • Parry – ap Harry
  • Penry, Pendry – ap Henry
  • Pinyon – ap Einion
  • Pleaden, Pleavin, Pleven, Plevin – ap Blethyn
  • Pluthero — ap Rhydderch/Roderick
  • Pomfrey, Pomphrey – ap Humphrey
  • Powell, Poel – ap Howel
  • Preece, Prees – ap Rhys
  • Price, Pryce, Prise, Pryse – ap Rhys
  • Prichard, Pritchard – ap Richard
  • Probert – ap Robert
  • Probin, Probyn — ap Robin
  • Probus – ap Robert
  • Prodger – ad Roger
  • Prosser – ap Rosser (an old Welsh form of Roger)
  • Prothero, Protheroe – ap Rhydderch/Roderick
  • Prytherick – ap Rhydderch/Roderick
  • Pugh , Pughe – ap Hugh/Huw
  • Upjohn — ap John
  • Uprichard – ap Richard

Read Full Post »


Part 2 of English surnames beginning with “s” of Old English, Old Norse and Old French origin.

  • Seaber — from the Old English girl’s name Sæburg “sea-fortress”. Over variants include Sebry, Sibary, Siberry, Sibree and the rather dashing Saber.
  • Seabert, Seabright, Sibert — from the Old English boy’s name Sæbeorht “sea-bright.”
  • Seaborn — from the Old English boy’s name Sæbeorn “sea-bear”; beorn was also used to mean “warrior.”
  • Seader — Old English sǣdere “sower.”
  • Seagram — Old English “sea” + grom “servant”; i.e. a sailor
  • Sealeaf — from the Old English girl’s name *Sæleofu “sea-love.”
  • Sealer — Middle English seler “seal-maker.”
  • Sealey, Seeley — Old English sǣlig “happy,” and “blessed.” Used as a nickname, and a girl’s name — medieval forms of this include Sela and Sely. This is also the source of English Seelie, used of “the Seelie Court,” i.e. benevolent fairies.
  • Seamer — partly from the Old English boy’s name Sæmær “sea-famous,” partly from one of the places of the name (Old English sǣ “sea” and “lake” + mere “pool”) and partly Old English sēamere “tailor.”
  • Searle — from the Norman name Serlo: Old German Sarilo, Old Norse Sǫrli, a short form of names begining with saro “armor,” “protection.”
  • Seavers — from the Old English girl’s name *Sæfaru “sea-voyage.”
  • Sedger — from Old English secg “sedge,” probably used of some-one who cut sedge, principally used for thatching.
  • Sedley — from Sidley Green, Sussex. Probably Old English sīd “broad” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Sefton —  from Sefton, Lancashire. Old Norse sef “rush” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Selby — from Selby, Yorkshire. Old Norse selja “sallow-tree” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Sellis — from Old English sealh “willow,” used of someone who dwelt by willows.
  • Semmence — a variant of Simmonds, itself from the Old Norse Sigmundr “victory-protection” and its Old German cognate Sigmund.
  • Semper — from one of the places called Saint-Pierre in France (in Latin, semper also means “always”)
  • Sendell — from Middle English sendal, a type of silk fabric.
  • Senneck — from Sevenoaks, Kent; “senneck” is the old pronunciation of the town. Old English seofon “seven” + ac “oak” — an ancient name which may hint at what was once a sacred grove of the Druids.
  • Senter — Old French saintier “bell-maker.”
  • Serrick — from the Old English boy’s name Særic “sea-ruler.”
  • Sevier, Sevyer — Middle English siviere “sieve-maker.”
  • Sewall — from the Old English boy’s name Sæweald “sea-power.”
  • Seward — from the Old English boys’ names Sæweard “sea-protection” and Sigeweard “victory-protection.”
  • Sewell — partly from the Old English boy’s name Sigeweald “victory-power,” or its Norse cognate Sigvaldr, and partly from Seawell, Northamptonshire or Sewall, Bedfordshire. Old English sǣ “sea” and “pool” + wella “spring” and “stream.”
  • Seyler — a variant of Saylor.
  • Seyner — Old French seignour “lord,” from Latin senior “older.”
  • Shafto — from Shaftoe, Northumberland. Old English sceaft “pole” + hōh “hill-spur.”
  • Shapler — Old French chapelier “hat-maker.”
  • Sharparrow — Old English scearp “sharp” + arwe “arrow”; probably a nickname for a skilled archer.
  • Sharrah, Sharrow — from Sharrow, Yorkshire. Old English scearu “boundary” + hōh “hill-spur.”
  • Shayle — Middle English schayle “to stumble” and “to shamble.”
  • Shayler — essentially a variant of SHAYLE.
  • Shearer — Middle English scherer “reaper” or “(sheep)-shearer”
  • Shenley — from one of the places of the name. Old English scēne “bright” and “beautiful” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Shenston — from Shenstone, Staffordshire. Old English scēne “bright” and “beautiful”  + stān “stone.”
  • Sheraton —  from Sheraton, Durham. Old Norse byname Skurfa “scurfy” + Old English tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Shercliffe — from Shirecliff, Yorkshire. Old English scīr “bright” + clif “cliff” or “slope.”
  • Shillito — a curious Yorkshire surname of uncertain etymology. It probably comes from a lost Yorkshire village. The last element is probably hōh “hill-spur.”
  • Shilton — from one of the places of the name. Old English scylf(e) “shelf” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Shipley, Shiplee — from one of the places of the name. Old English scēap “sheep” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Shipton —  from one of the places of the name. Old English scēap “sheep” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Shirland — from Shirland, Derbyshire, or Sheerland, Kent. Old English scīr “bright” + land “land” or Old Norse lundr “grove.”
  • Shooter — Middle English scotere “shooter” and “archer.”
  • Shorey — Middle English schore “shore” + Old English ēg “island,” probably used of someone who lived on an island near the shore.
  • Shotton — from one of the places of the name. Old English *scēot “slope” or Scot “Scot” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Shute — from Old English *scīete “corner/angle of land.”

Read Full Post »


On to letter “s” of English surnames beginning with “s” of Old English, Old Norse and Anglo-French origin, which have never, or have only rarely, featured in the US top 1000.

It’s another letter with a lot of fabulous names, offering that something a bit different. Looking for a more unusual long-form of Sam, or a new twist on Scott? Read On!

  • Saben — from the personal names Sabin and Sabina “a Sabine”; Sabin has never featured in the top 1000 in the last 130 years either, and Sabina only ever managed 596th place in 1889.
  • Sablin — from Sabelina, a diminutive of Sibylla.
  • Sacher — we have Sacha, why not Sacher? From the Old French sachier “sack-maker.”
  • Sacheverell — a name which saw modest use in Victorian Britain (a famous bearer was Sir Sacheverell Sitwell). From Saultchevreuil in Normandy. Old French: sault “waterfall” + chevreuil “roe deer.”
  • Sacker, Saker — not a sacker of cities but a sack-maker, from Old English sacc “sack.”
  • Sackville — an aristocratic English family (they became Dukes of Dorset), whose name derives from Sauqueville in Normandy. Old French: sambuc “elder” (the tree) + ville “villa,” “farmstead,” “village,” “town.”
  • Saddler — Middle English sadelere “saddle-maker.”
  • Saffery, Saffrey — from the Old English personal name Saefrid “sea-peace.”
  • Sager, Seager — from the Old English personal name Saegar “sea-spear.”
  • Sailant — Old French saillant “dancing”; used of a dancer.
  • Saive, Sayve — from the Old English female personal name Saegifu “sea-gift.” Medieval variants included Seiva and Sageve.
  • St John, Sinjin — like Sacheverell, St John has seen more use in the UK than in the US, being the surname of an aristocratic clan; Sinjin is a phonetic variant. The best-known bearer is St John Rivers in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
  • Salby — from Saleby, Lincolnshire. Old Norse Sali (a short form of Salomon, the Old Norse form of Solomon) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Salinger, Selinger — from one of the places called St Léger in France. Léger is a French form of Leodegar. Borne, of course, by the great J.D. Salinger.
  • Salliss — we have Katniss, why not Salliss? Meaning “(at the) willows,” from Old English sealh “willow.”
  • Salter — Old English sealtere “salt-maker,” or “salt-seller.”
  • Salton — from Salton, Yorkshire. Old English sealh “willow” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Salway — from the Old English personal name Saelwig “prosperity-war.”
  • Sambell — a variant of Semple, from one of the places in France called St Paul or St Pol.
  • Samber — a variant of Semper, from one of the places in France called St Pierre (Peter).
  • Sambrook — from Sambrook, Shropshire. Old English sand “sand” + brōc “brook.”
  • Sanby — from Saundby, Nottinghamshire. Old Norse  sandr “sand” or personal name Sandi (a short form of names containing the element sandr) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Sandall — from one of the places of the name (Old English sand “sand” + halh “nook of land”) or the Old Norse personal name Sandulfr “sand-wolf”).
  • Sander — a medieval pet-form of Alexander.
  • Sandifer — no, not a cross between Sandy and Jennifer. From a lost village in Yorkshire called Sandiford — Old English sandig “sandy” + ford “ford,” “river-crossing.”
  • Sandon — from one of the places of the name. Old English sand “sand” + dūn “hill.”
  • Sandys — Old English sand “sand,” used of someone who lived next to the sands.
  • Sangar, Sanger – Old English sangere “singer.”
  • Sangster — Old English sangestre “(female) singer.”
  • Sangwin — Old French sanguin “sanguine.”
  • Sankin — from a medieval pet-form of Samson.
  • Santon — from one of the places of the name. Old English sand “sand” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Sarell — from the Old Norse personal name Sǫrli, a short form of names begining with saro “armor,” “protection.”
  • Sarson — partly “son of SAYER,” and partly Old French Sarrazin “Saracen.”
  • SauvainSauven, Savin — partly from Silvanus, and partly from Old French salvagin “wild.”
  • Savigny — from Savenay, or Savigni-le-Vieux, France. Both may derive from the Roman name Sabinus (see Saben above).
  • Savoner — from Old French savon “soap”; used of a soap-maker.
  • Sawden, Sawdon — from Sawdon, Yorkshire. Old English sealh “willow” + denu “valley.”
  • Sawle — from a medieval form of biblical Saul.
  • Saxby — Partly from one of the places of the name (Old Norse Old Norse personal name Saksi “Saxon” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement”) and partly French sacqué “drawn” + epée “sword,” used of a man who taught swordsmanship.
  • Saxon — not “a Saxon” as you might think, but from one of the places called Saxton. Old English Seaxe “Saxon” or Old Norse personal name Saksi “Saxon” + Old English tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village,” and Old French secrestein “sexton.”
  • Sayer — from the Old German personal name Sigiheri “victory-army,” which was popular in medieval times in forms such as Sayer and Saer.
  • Saylor — actually nothing to do with “sailor.” Old French sailleor “dancer.”
  • Scafe — from the Old Norse skeifr “crooked,” “awry,” “wild.”
  • Scarborough — from Scarborough, Yorkshire. Old Norse by-name Skarthi “hare-lip” + Old English burh “fortress.”
  • Scarcliff — Lion King meets Wuthering Heights, anyone? From Scarcliffe, Derbyshire. Old English sceard “gap” (the source of my surname, for the record) + clif “cliff,” “slope.”
  • Scholler, Scouler — it looks like it might be the English form of Schuyler — but it’s not. Old Norse skáli “(temporary) hut/shelter” + erg “shieling,” “pasture.”
  • Schorah, Scorah — from Old French escorre “to run out,” “to scout,” “to spy.”
  • Schrieve — Old English scīrgerēfa “sheriff.” Also Shreeve and Shrieve.
  • Scollan — from Scotland — not so much the place as the Norman personal name, though it essentially had exactly the same origin: Norman-French Scot “a Scot” + land “land.” A medieval variant was Scolland.
  • Scollas — from the medieval girl’s name Scolace, a vernacular form of Scholastica, from the Latin scholasticus “teacher,” “scholar,” “person of learning.” St Scholastica was the sister of St Benedict.
  • Scorton — from one of the places of the name. Old Norse skor “ditch,” “ravine” + Old English tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Scotney — from Etocquigny, Normandy, a place-name probably with Celtic roots.
  • Scotto — from Scottow, Norfolk. Old English Scot “a Scot” + hōh “hill-spur.”
  • Scotton — from one of the places of the name. Old English Scot “a Scot” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Scriven — Old French escrivain “writer.”
  • Scrivener — essentially a variant of SCRIVEN.
  • Scudder — Middle English scoudere “clothes-seller” from Old English scrūd “clothes.”
  • Scutt — Middle English scut “tail of a hare,” “hare.”

Read Full Post »


I’ve been musing for a while now on the rich mine of names that are the surnames of artists, poets and writers.

Many of them have a great ring in themselves, as well as carrying strong artistic connotations.

With the most famous, it is as though their names “mean” their paintings.

Say Monet, for instance, and lovely, soft, impressionistc images float into the mind.

Here, then, is my pick of the artists:

  • Alma — Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema, Anglo-Dutch (1836-1912)
  • Anquetin – Louis Anquetin, French (1861-1932)
  • Ayala – Josefa de Ayala  Figueira, Spanish (1630-84)
  • Beale – Mary Beale, English (1633-99)
  • Beaux – Cecilia Beaux, American (1855-1942)
  • Bellocq – Gabrielle Bellocq, French (1920-99)
  • Blair — Edmund Blair Leighton, English (1852-1922)
  • Brangwyn – Frank William Brangwyn, Welsh (1867-1956)
  • Braque – Georges Braque, French (1882-1963)
  • Breton – Jules Breton, French (1827-1906)
  • Carriera – Rosalba Carriera, Italian (1675-1757)
  • Cassatt – Mary Cassatt, American (1844-1926)
  • Cézanne – Paul Cézanne, French (1839-1906)
  • Chase — William Merritt Chase, American (1849-1916)
  • Chéret – Jules Chéret, French (1836-1932)
  • Constable – John Constable, English (1776-1837)
  • Copley – John Singleton Copley, American (1737-1815)
  • Corot – Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, French (1796-1875)
  • Cosway – Richard Cosway, English (1742-1821), and his wife Maria Cosway, Italian (1760-1838)
  • Dali – Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí I Domènech, Marquis de Púbol, Spanish (1904-89)
  • Delacroix – Eugene Delacroix, French (1798-1863)
  • Delaroche – Paul Delaroche, French (1797-1856)
  • Donatello – Donatello di Nicolo Bardi, Italian (1386-1466)
  • Doré – Gustave Doré, French  (1832-83)
  • Draper – Herbert James Draper, English (1863-1920)
  • Durer – Albrecht Dürer, German (1471-1528)
  • Emin – Tracey Emin, British (b.1963)
  • Escher — Mauritz Cornelis Escher, Dutch (1898-1972)
  • Etty – William Etty, English (1787-1489)
  • Fantin – Henri Fantin-Latour, French (1836-1904)
  • Galizia – Fede Galizia, Italian (1578-1630)
  • Gainsborough – Thomas Gainsborough, English (1727-88)
  • Gaudi – Antoni Gaudí I Cornet, Spanish (1852-1926)
  • Godward – John William Godward, English (1861-1922)
  • Gogh – Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (1853-90)
  • Gower – George Gower, English (c.1540-96)
  • Goya – Francisco de Goya, Spanish (1746-1828)
  • Holman – William Holman Hunt, English (1827-1910)
  • Hunt – see Holman
  • Klimt – Gustave Klimt, Austrian (1862-1918)
  • Kneller – Sir Godfrey Kneller, Anglo-Dutch (1646-1723)
  • Lavery – Sir John Lavery, Irish (1856-1941)
  • Leighton – Frederick, Lord Leighton, English (1830-96), also see  Blair
  • Lely – Sir Peter Lely, Anglo-Dutch (1618-80)
  • Leyster – Judith Leyster, Dutch (1609-60)
  • Magritte – René Magritte, French (1898-1967)
  • Manet – Édouard Manet, French (1832-83)
  • Matisse – Henri Matisse, French (1869-1954)
  • Merian – Maria Sibylla Merian, German (1647-1717)
  • Merritt – see Chase
  • Millais  — Sir John Everett Millais, English (1829-96)
  • Millet – Jean-François Millet, French (1814-75)
  • Miró — Joan Miró i Ferrà, Catalan (1893-1983)
  • Monamy – Peter Monamy, English (1681-1749)
  • Monet – Claude Monet, French (1840-1926)
  • Moreau – Gustave Moreau, French (1826-98)
  • Morisot – Berthe Morisot, French (1841-95)
  • Nash – Paul Nash, English (1889-1946)
  • O’Keeffe – Georgia O’Keeffe, American (1887-1986)
  • Opie — John Opie, Cornish (1761-1807) — his wife Amelia was a novelist; Julian Opie, British (b. 1958)
  • Orpen – Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, Irish (1878-1931)
  • Ozenda — Ozenda, Francçois (1923-76)
  • Pajou – Jacques-Augustin Pajou, French (1730-1809)
  • Paxton – William McGregor Paxton, American (1869-1941)
  • Picasso – Pablo Picasso, Spanish (1881-1973)
  • Poynter – Edward John Poynter, English (1836-1919)
  • Quiller – William Quiller Orchardson, Scottish (1832-1910)
  • Ramsay – Allan Ramsay, Scottish (1713-84)
  • Raffet – Denis Auguste Marie Raffet, French (1804-60)
  • Raphael – Raffaello Sanzio de Urbino, Italian (1483-1520)
  • Redon – Odilon Redon, French (1840-1916)
  • Rembrandt – Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch (1606-69)
  • Renoir – Pierre Auguste Renoir, French (1841-1919)
  • Rethel – Alfred Rethel, German (1816-59)
  • Rodin – Auguste Rodin, French (1840-1917)
  • Rockwell – Norman Rockwell, American (1894-1978)
  • Romney – George Romney, English (1734-1802)
  • Rousseau – Henry Julien Félix Rousseau, French (1844-1910)
  • Rossetti – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English (1828-82)
  • Rubens – Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish (1577-1640)
  • Sargent – Sir John Singer Sargent, American (1856-1925)
  • Seurat – Georges Pierre Seurat, French (1859-91)
  • Singer – see Sargent
  • Sirani – Elisabetta Sirani, Italian (1638-65), and her father Giovanni Andrea Sirani (1610-70
  • Sisley – Alfred Sisley, Anglo-French (1839-99)
  • Staël – Nicolas de Staël, Russo-French (1914-55)
  • Steele – Theodore Clement, American (1847-1926)
  • Tadema – see Alma
  • Tanguy – Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy, French (1900-55)
  • Titian — Tiziano Vecellio, Italian (c.1488-1576)
  • Turner – Joseph Mallord William Turner, English (1775-1851)
  • Yeats – John “Jack” Butler Yeats, Irish (1871-1957)
  • Valadon – Suzanne Valadon, French (1865-1938)
  • Vermeer — Jan Vermeer, Dutch (1632-75)
  • Veronese – Paolo Veronese, Italian (1528-88)
  • Vigée – Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, French (1755-1842)
  • Villon – Jacques Villon, French (1875-1963)
  • Watts – George Frederick Watts, English (1817-1904)
  • Whistler – James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American (1834-1903)
  • Zoffany – Johann Zoffany, German (1733-1810)

Footnote: Zeffy at Baby Names From Yesteryear’s recent post — The Peale Family — about the family of American artist and naturalist Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827) demonstrates nicely that naming children after your favorite artists has a long tradition!

Read Full Post »


Today it’s R’s turn in the exploration of little used English surnames of Old English, Norse and Anglo-French origin. It’s a letter rich in promising, contemporary choices!

  • Radcliff — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + clif “cliff.”
  • Raddon — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + dūn “hill,” or denu “valley.”
  • Radford — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + ford “ford.”
  • Radley — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.” Also Radleigh.
  • Raglan, Ragland — from Ragland, Wiltshire. Middle English ragge “stony” + land “land.”
  • Ragley — from Ragley Hall, Warwickshire. Middle English ragge “stony” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Raimes — from Rames, France. Probably Old French rames “sticks,” “posts”; probably referring to a palisade.
  • Ramsden — from one of the places of the name. Old English ramsa “ramsons” + denu “valley.”
  • Rawley — a form of Raleigh, from Raleigh in Devon, or Rayleigh, Essex. Old English rǣge “roe-deer” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rawnsley — from a lost village in Yorkshire. Old English hræfn “raven” (probably used here as a personal name) + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rayden, Raydon — Rayden appeared for the first time ever in 2010, in 928th place, but that still counts as rare enough for a mention here. From Raydon, Suffolk. Old English ryge “rye” + dūn “hill.”
  • Rayer — from the Old German personal name Radhari “counsel-army”; medieval forms included Rathar and Rather.
  • Rayner, Reyner — from the Old German personal name Reginhari “counsel-army” (yes, again!). Introduced by the Normans in the Norman-French form Rainer.
  • Redd — a form of Read, from Old English rēad “counsel,” the source also of Reed, Red and Reid.
  • Reaney — often pronounced “rainy” in its home-town of Sheffield. From Ranah Stones, Yorkshire. Old Norse hrafn “raven” + haugr “hill.”
  • Redvers — from Reviers, Calvados. Old French: riviere “river.”
  • Redwin — from the Old English personal name Rædwine “counsel-friend.”
  • Remfrey — from the Old German personal name Raganfrid “might-peace.” Introduced by the Normans in the Norman-French form Rainfrid.
  • Renham — from the Rainham in Kent or Essex. Old English Roegingas (a tribal name) + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor.”
  • Renner — from Old English rennan “to run.”
  • Renter — Middle English renter “one who owns and lets land.”
  • Renton — from one of the places called Rainton. Old English personal name Rægen “might” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Revis — from Rievaulx, Yorkshire. River name Rye + Old French val(s) “valley.”
  • Rew — Middle English rew “row (of houses).”
  • Richmay — from the Old English female name Ricmæge “rule-maiden.” Occurs as Richemaya in medieval documents.
  • Rickerby — from Rickerby, Cumbria. Old Norse personal name Rikard (the Old Norse form of Richard) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Ridley, Redley — from one of the places called Ridley. Old English rēad “red” or hrēod “reed” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rimer, Rymer — Anglo-French rimour “rimer,” “poet.”
  • Risby — from one of the places called Risby. Old Norse hrís “brushwood” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Risden, Risdon — Old English hrís “brushwood” + denu “valley” or dūn “hill.”
  • Risley — from one of the places of the name. Old English hrīs + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rixon — Middle English atte rixen “among the rushes.”
  • Roaf, Rowe — A form of Rolf, and thus Rudolph.
  • Robey, Roby — partly from Robbie, partly from the places called Robey and Roby. Old Norse “boundary” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.” Roby appeared a few times in the eight and nine hundreds in the late nineteenth century, but not enough to write home about.
  • Rocker — Middle English: rok, rocke “distaff,” used of someone who made them, or perhaps a spinner. Also Rokker.
  • Rockley — from Rockley, Wiltshire. Old English hrōc “rook” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rodley — Old English: hrēod “reed”+ lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Roke — Middle English: atter oke  “(dweller) at the oak.”
  • Rokeby — from one of the places of the name. Old Norse hrókr “rook” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Romer — Middle English: romere “one who has made a pilgrimage to Rome.”
  • Romilly — in the top 1000 in the UK, but not in the US. From Remilly or Romilly in France, or Romiley, Cheshire. The French derive from the Latin Romulus, the English is Old English rūm “spacious” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Romney — from Romney, Kent. The town takes its name from a river. Possibly Old English rūmen “broad” + ēa “river.”
  • Roper — Middle English ropere “a rope-maker.”
  • Rothwell — from one of the places of the name. Old English +roth “clearing” + wella “spring,” “stream.”
  • Routh — from Routh, Yorkshire. Old Norse: hrúthr “rough ground.”
  • Rowat, Rowet, Rowett — from the Old Norse name Hróaldr “fame-ruler,” or from Roet, a medieval pet-form Rolf, or from Old English *rūwet “rough ground.”
  • Rowden, Rowdon — from one of the places of the name. Old English hrēod “reed” + denu “valley” or dūn “hill.”
  • Rowell – from ROTHWELL, or Old English rūh “rough” + hyll “hill.”
  • Rower, Royer — Old French: roier “wheel-wright.”
  • Rowley — from one of the places of the name. Old English: rūh “rough” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rowney — Old English: rūh “rough” + (ge)hæg “enclosure.”
  • Rowton — Old English: rūh “rough”  + + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Roxby — From Roxby, Lincolnshire. Old Norse personal name Hrókr (meaning “rook”) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Royden, Roydon — from one of the places of the name. Old English: ryge “rye” + dūn “hill.”
  • Rudd — Old English: *rud- “ruddy.”
  • Rugeley — from Rugeley, Staffordshire. Old English: hrycg “ridge” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rusher — Old English rysc used of someone who cut or sold rushes.
  • Ryton — from one of the places of the name. Old English ryge “rye” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”

Read Full Post »

Two weeks ago, I took a look at surnames which are identical to “word names,” and are responsible for the appearance of many early word name curios in past centuries.

Here are some more. Some are familiar now as first names; some would make great some first names — and some are awful, but really did get used (mostly as middle names) in the nineteenth century.

I feel particularly sorry for Daniel Coffin Pitt, Hilda Coffin Stainer and Kate Coffin Dash!

Cable Cauldron Children Coffin Coward
Caddie Cause Chill Cog (Cogg) Cowherd
Cage Cavalier Chiltern Coke Cox
Cager Cave Chimney Collar Coy
Cake Caw Chin Collie Crab (Crabb)
Cakebread Century Chip (Chipp) Collop Crabtree
Cale Chafer Chipper Colt Crackle
Calendar Chaff Chipping Comb (Combe) Craft
Calf Chaffinch Chive Comber Crag (Cragg)
Call Chalice Chose Comfort Crake
Caller Chalk Chow Commander Cramp
Callow Chalker Christmas Common Crampon
Calver Challenge Chuck Condor Crane
Camel Challenger Church Conduit Crank
Camp Chalmers Churchman Cone Crapper
Campaign Chamberlain Churchyard Conner Crass
Camping Chambers Circuit Conqueror Crate
Campion Champion Clack Conquest Crater
Can (Cann) Chance Clap (Clapp) Constable Craven
Candle Chancellor Clapper Constant Cray
Cane Change Claret Cony Craze
Canner Changer Class Coo Crease
Cannon Channel Clay Cook Creed
Canon Chant Clean Cool Creek
Canter Chanter Clear Cooper Creeper
Cape Chantry Cleaver Coot Crew
Capers Chap (Chapp) Clench Cope Crewe
Capon Chapel Clerk Copper Crib (Cribb)
Car (Carr) Chaplain Cliff Coppersmith Crick
Card Charge Clinch Corbel Cricket
Carder Charity Clink Cords Crier
Cardiff Charlock Clinker Cork Crimes
Cardinal Charnel Cloak Corker Crisp
Carding Chart Clod (Clodd) Corn Croaker
Care Charter Clodhammer Corner Croft
Careless Chase Clog (Clogg) Cornet Crofter
Caress Chaser Close Cornish Crook
Carless Chat (Chatt) Clot Cornwall Crop (Cropp)
Carlisle Chatter Clothier Coroner Cropper
Carnal Cheater Cloud Cosier Cross
Carol Checker Clout Cost (Coste) Crouch
Carp Cheddar Clover Cotton Crow
Carpenter Cheek Club Couch Crown
Carrier Cheeper Clue Cough Cruise
Carrot Cheer Coal (Cole) Council Crumb
Cart Cheese Coast Counsel Cuckoo
Carter Cheeseman Coat Count Cuff
Cartwright Cherry Coatman Counter Cull
Carver Cheshire Cobble Countess Culvert
Case Chest Cobbler Coup Curl
Casement Chester Cock Courage Curlew
Cash Chesterfield Cockerell Court Curry
Caster Chevalier Cockle Courtier Curt
Castle Chew Cockney Cousin Cuss
Cat (Catt) Chick Cockspur Cove Custard
Catch Chicken Cod (Codd) Coven Cut (Cutt)
Catcher Chide Codling Cover Cutter
Cattle Child Coffer Covert

Read Full Post »

It was the full moon last night, which is the inspiration for today’s pick of the week, the little heard Argent.

Argent falls into the categories of both “surnames as first names” and “word names,” though they share the same source: the Old (and Modern) French argent “silver.”

Silver’s association with the moon goes back to ancient times. It has long been believed to enhance the power of the moon, capable of forging a strong link between the the physical and metaphysical worlds.

The surname probably arose as a nickname for someone with silver hair, while the word has been used in the past as a noun (for a silver coin) and an adjective.

Nowadays, it is mostly confined to heraldry, where it is used of both silver and white in coats of arms.

The Old French word came from the Latin for silver argentum, which gives us the chemical symbol for silver — Ag.

It is cognate with the Welsh arian “silver” — which is still used to mean “money” in Welsh — which is found in more than one Welsh name, such as Arianwen, which combines it with gwyn “white,” “pure,” and “blessed,” and Arianell, which combines it with gell “yellow,” and “shining.”

It may also feature in the name of the Goddess Arianrhod — which is popularly interpreted as meaning “silver wheel” and a reference to the moon.

Caer Arianrhod is the Welsh name for the Milky Way.

The Common Celtic word from which arian derived was *arganto-, and the “g” is preserved in the medieval name Argante — used by Layamon in the twelfth century epic poem Brut as the name of the Queen of Avalon.

She is usually identified with Morgan le Fay, and there are those who argue that the name derives from an older form of Arianrhod.

Another old form is Eraint, which features in the epithet of the mythical Welsh figure Lludd Llaw Eraint “Lludd of the Silver Hand.”

This form also happens to demonstrate well the etymological relation between arian and the Modern Welsh Eirian “shining.”

Meanwhile, its Sanskrit cognate is Arjuna, a name borne by a hero of the epic Mahabharata. The modern Hindi form of the name is Arjun.

Argent itself is first found as a given name as early as the sixteenth century, interestingly enough as a girl’s name. This probably represented a simpler form of Argentea, which was taken directly from the Latin argenteus meaning “silvery” and “of silver.”

By the nineteenth century, it is more commonly found as a boy’s name, often as a middle name, indicative that the surname was now the principal source.

Today, Argent is a rarity. It has never reached the top 1000 in America, and only even appears in the data at all on one occasion, in 1926, when five girls were given the name.

Bursting as it is with heritage and meaning, I think it makes for a great unusual and contemporary choice for a boy or a girl. What do you think?

Read Full Post »

In celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens, here is Part II of the best of the names from Dickens’s works for babies… and cats.

  • Lupin — believe it or not, J.K. wasn’t the first to use this flower name as a surname; Mrs Lupin features in Martin Chuzzlewit.
  • Magwitch — I’d love to name a cat Magwitch after Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations!
  • Magnus — Peter Magnus is another of Pickwick Papers‘s characters. As a first name, Magnus (simply Latin for “great”) has become regarded as particularly characteristic of the Shetlands. It makes the perfect choice for lovers of Felix and Rufus wanting something that is still off the radar…
  • Malta — named after the island, Malta Bagnet appears in Bleak House.
  • Manette — the surname of Dr. Alexandre and Lucie in A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Marley — now most associated with Bob, never forget the other Marley — the ghost of Jacob Marley with his rattling chains in A Christmas Carol… The surname derives from the Old English mearth “pine marten” or “weasel,” or mǣre “boundary” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Maylie — a cheerful surname borne by Mrs Maylie and her children Harry and Rose in Oliver Twist.
  • Merry — not uncommingly used as a nickname for Mercy, as it is in Martin Chuzzlewit for Merry Pecksniff.
  • Micawber — one of the most likeable of all Dickens’s characters is the perennially optimistic Mr Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has a guitar called Micawber.
  • Mulberry — a great name for a not particularly savory character — Sir Mulberry Hawk in Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Nancy — undoubtedly one of Dickens’s best-loved characters, Oliver Twist‘s Nancy is perhaps the best embodiement, in so many ways, of what Dickens’s work was all about. Like Betsy, it’s a Victorian charmer of a name, still falling in America, but reviving in the UK (the oldest daughter of British Prime Minister David Cameron is called Nancy).
  • Nell — another tragic Dickensian character is “Little Nell” — a.ka. Nelly Trent — of  The Old Curiosity Shop. Traditionally, the pet-name for Eleanor, it is also used for Ellen and Helen, and very much falls in that same category as Nancy and Betsy.
  • Nemo — Jules Verne was not the first to have a Captain Nemo — Dickens was; he used Nemo as the pseudonym of Captain James Hawood in Bleak House.
  • Nickleby — surname of the hero of eponymous her of Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Ninetta — the real name of “The Infant Phenomenon” in Nicholas Nickleby.
  • Oliver — the eponymous hero of Oliver Twist. Number One in England and Wales in 2010, and rising rapidly in the US. Usually shortened to Olly or Ollie, there’s always Ol too, and how about the medieval Noll or snappy, modern Liv instead? I’ve even seen Levi suggested…
  • Peggotty — Clara Peggotty, always known as “Peggotty,”  is David’s kind and loving nurse maid in David Copperfield.
  • Pet — the name by which Minnie Meagles is known in Little Dorrit.
  • Phenomenon – “The Infant Phenomenon” is how the Crummles refer to their beloved daughter Ninetta in Nicholas Nickleby. Offers interesting nicknames, such as Phen, Phenie, Nomi, Nomie, Menon, Mena and Minnie.
  • Pip — obliged to legally change his name to Pip, Philip “Pip” Pirrip is the hero of Great Expectations.
  • Pleasant — first used by the Puritans, Dickens used Pleasant  for the character of Pleasant Riderhood in Our Mutual Friend.
  • Plummer — we have Tyler and Mason, so why not Plummer? Caleb Plummer appears in The Cricket in the Hearth.
  • Pumblechook – definitely one for the cats, but too great a creation to leave out. A pompous and somewhat ridiculous character in Great Expectations.
  • Quebec — another of the Bagnet children in Bleak House.
  • Quinion — Mr Quinion, good name, though not a particularly nice character, in David Copperfield.
  • Rogue — Rogue has the halmark of a modern “word name”, but Dickens used it in Our Mutual Friend for Rogue Riderhood. He lives up to his name!
  • Rosa — the charmingly named Rosa Bud features in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Why doesn’t America like the lovely Rosa? She’s 238th in the UK, and rising, but 564th in America — and falling…
  • Seth — another of the Pecksniffs in Martin Chuzzlewit, Seth has been threatining to go stellar for a while, but peaked in 200o in the US in 63rd place and has since slipped back to 165th. Curious, as it ticks the boxes — why Ethan and Noah, but not Seth? The same’s not true in Britain, where it wouldn’t surprise me if Seth enters the top 100 this year.
  • Sophronia — an unusual option for lovers of Sophie and Sophia looking for that something slightly different. Sophronia Lammle is another of Our Mutual Friend‘s characters. From the Greek sôphrôn “sagacious,” “prudent,” and “of sound mind.”
  • Sophy — Although the French-spelling Sophie with an “ie” is the most popular vernacular form of Sophia in Britain at the moment, in the past, Sophy with a “y” was more normal. David Copperfield. Sophy Crewler features in David Copperfield.
  • Sweedlepipe — a particularly good cat name, as Paul “Poll” Sweedlepipe in Martin Chuzzlewit is a bird-fancier!
  • Sydney — Sydney Carton of A Tale of Two Cities is one of my personal favorite characters — I’ve mentioned before my preference for the flawed hero, and Sydney epitomises flawed hero so well. It is he who utters those immortal lines: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Nowadays, Sidney is the preferred spelling.
  • Tattycoram — the name given to Harriet Beadle by the Meagles when she becomes their servant in Little Dorrit. Tatty is a pet-form of Harriet (via Hattie) and Coram was added because it was the name of the founder of the foundling hospital where Harriet spent the first years of her life. Would make a lovely name for a cat.
  • Tite — Tite Barnacle appears in Little Dorrit.
  • Turveydrop — Prince Turveydrop is a dancing master in Bleak House. Cat.
  • Uriah — Like Ebenezer, Uriah may well have suffered because of a Dickensian character. In Uriah’s case it is the odious, unctious Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. I have seen Uriah mentioned positively in recent times, and he made it to 549th place in America in 2010, but can her really shake Heep off? And his disconcerting similarity to the word urine?
  • Wemmick — John Wemmick is a kind man in Great Expectations, known for caring really well for his elderly father.
  • Wopsle — a minor character in Great Expectations, Wopsle would work well for cat — though perhaps reserve it for an indoor one (unless you fancy the idea of standing on the doorstep yelling “Wopsle, Whiskas!”)
  • Zephyr — “The Zephyr” is the pseudonym of Mr Minvins, a character in Pickwick Papers.

Happy Birthday, Charles!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers