Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Celtic 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 »

Happy St David’s Day — from a sunny (yes, it is!) Wales!

As a St David’s Day present, here are the entries from Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names for David and Dewi.

David ♂ Biblical name of Hebrew origin. The meaning isn’t all that clear, but seems mostly likely to derive from a root meaning “beloved,” although, interestingly enough, the Hebrew letters which make up the name David are exactly the same ones used for “mandrake.” 12th C. St. David is the famous leek- and daffodil-wielding patron saint of Wales — but his real name was actually DEWI.

Diminutive forms: Dawe (historic); Dave, Davey, Davie, Davy.

David in other languages: Welsh: Dafydd; Dai (diminutive), Irish: Dáibhead, Daithí, Gaelic: Dàibheid, Dàibhidh, Cornish: Daveth, Czech, French, German, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish: David, Hungarian: Dávid, Lithuanian: Davidas, Italian: Davide, Latvian: Dāvids, Pol: Dawid, Arabic: Da’wud, Hawaiian: Kāwika, Maori: Rāwiri, Finish: Taavetti, Taavi (diminutive).

Bearers: two medieval Scottish kings (d. 1153 and 1371); David Copperfield, the eponymous hero of Dickens’s 1850 novel, and the stage-name of  American illusionist David Kotkin (b. 1956); David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George, (1863–1945) and David Cameron (b. 1966), both British Prime Ministers; David Eddings (1931–2009), the American novelist; David Bowie (b. 1947), the British singer-songwriter.

Dewi ♂ ♀ The boy’s name Dewi is a very old and very interesting name. Dewi Sant is the Welsh name for St. David, and many people believe it is simply the Welsh form of David. It isn’t. David is simply the name adopted to render Dewi in English, a long time ago. Almost certainly, his name actually derives from the Common Celtic *dOEwo- “(a) God,” cognate with Zeus, Latin deus, Sanskrit deva and the Irish Dagda, etc.

The element is well attested in given names in the Roman period — examples include Deomiorix, Deiana, and Deieda. Some have attempted to derive the name from Dewydd, an alleged “old form” of Dafydd—the Welsh form of David — but the argument works just as well the other way — Dewydd may well represent an attempt to synthesize Dewi and Dafydd. The simple fact is, biblical names were not used in sub-Roman Britain, and thus the likelihood of someone genuinely being called “David” in sixth-century Wales is, quite frankly, about as likely as someone in the period being called Jayden.

Dewi was used as a given name in the Middle Ages, probably in honor of the saint, but then disappeared until its revival in Wales in the nineteenth century.

By coincidence, the Malaysian girl’s name Dewi means “Goddess.”

I love coincidences! ;)

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus!

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 »

As promised, here’s the second part of Welsh Flowers that have great name potential. Pronunciation at the end if you want to sound like you were born and bred in the Land of Song.

  • Gwaedlys — pink persicaria
  • Gwendon — bedstraw
  • Gwenith y gog — figwort
  • Gwenonwy — lily of the valley
  • Gwern — alder
  • Gwlithlys (g-LITH-lis) — sundew
  • Helogan — celery
  • Helygen — willow
  • Helyglys — lesser willowherb
  • Isop– hyssop
  • Lili Mai — lily of the valley
  • Ller — darnel
  • Llin — flax
  • Llwyfen (“LHOO-ee-ven”) – elm
  • Llyriad — broad-leaved plantain
  • Maglys — lucerne
  • Meillion — clover
  • Melenydd — hawkweed
  • Melyn euraidd — golden rod
  • Melyn Mair — marigold
  • Melenllys — greater celandine
  • Merllys — asparagus
  • Merywen — juniper
  • Mesen — acorn
  • Miaren — briar
  • Murlys — wall pellitory
  • Onnen — ash
  • Oren — orange
  • Pabi — poppy
  • Pansi — pansy
  • Pengaled -(pen-GA-led) – knapweed
  • Persli — parsley
  • Pren — tree
  • Pren Ceri — medlar tree
  • Pren Eirin — plum tree
  • Rhedyn — fern
  • Rhos Mair — Rosemary
  • Rhosmari (ros-MA-ree) — Rosemary
  • Rhosyn — rose
  • Saets — sage
  • Safri — savoury
  • Serenyn — squill
  • Siasmin — jasmine
  • Suran — common sorrel
  • Syfi — strawberries
  • Syfien — strawberry
  • Taglys — field bindweed
  • Tansi — tansy
  • Tegeirian (te-GAY-ree-an) — orchid
  • Teim — thyme
  • Tormaen — golden saxifrage
  • Tresi Aur — laburnum
  • Trilliw (TRI-lhee-oo) — pansy
  • Trydon — agrimony
  • Ywen — yew

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” ipronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

Read Full Post »

The adoption of “word names” is much more widespread and accepted in Welsh, and are regularly heard within Wales.

Names of flowers and trees are, naturally, a popular choice too.

But there are still many that have been little used so far, names which are accessible to English-speakers too.

So if you have Welsh heritage you want to honor, or simply a love of Celtic lands, here’s a collection of Welsh flowers and trees for you:

(If you want to say ‘em like a native, general pronunciation guidance given at end — unless something is particularly tricky)

  • Aethnen — aspen
  • Afal — apple
  • Afallen — apple-tree
  • Afan — raspberries
  • Afanen — raspberry
  • Alaw — water-lily (also means “melody”)
  • Arian Gwion — yellow rattle (literally Gwion’s silver)
  • Banadl — broom
  • Bedwen — birch
  • Blodyn — flower
  • Bronwerth — borage
  • Brwynen — rush
  • Brythlys — scarlet pimpernel
  • Calon Afal — devil’s bit scabious
  • Camri — camomile
  • Cawnen — reed
  • Ceian — carnation
  • Ceilys — pink
  • Ceirios — cherries
  • Celyn — holly
  • Celyn Mair — butcher’s broom
  • Cenawen — catkins
  • Clais yr hydd — dog’s mercury
  • Clais y moch — clary
  • Clefryn — sheep’s bit scabious
  • Collen — hazel
  • Corsen — reed
  • Crinllys — dog violet
  • Crys y brenin — henbane
  • Cyren — currants
  • Dail Arian — silverweed
  • Danadl — blind nettle
  • Delia — dahlia
  • Derwen — oak
  • Draen — briar
  • Draenen ddu — blackthorn
  • Draenen wen — hawthorn
  • Dringol — common sorrel
  • Drysïen (“DRUH-see-en) — briar
  • Dwyfog (“DOO-ee-vog”) — wood betony
  • Eglyn — golden saxifrage
  • Eirin — plums
  • Eirinen — plum
  • Eirlys — snowdrop
  • Eithen — gorse
  • Elinog — bittersweet
  • Erwain — meadowsweet
  • Eurlys — yellow vetch
  • Fandon — woodruff
  • Fioled — violet
  • Ffarwel haf — Michaelmas daisy
  • Ffion — foxgloves
  • Ffwsia — fuchsia
  • Gellygen — pear-tree
  • Glesyn — borage
  • Greulys — groundsel

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” pronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

Part 2 next week!

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 »

That’s “Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!” in English.

Saint Who?

In Wales, Dwnywen (pronounce “doo-in-wen” — the “doo-in” bit pronounced so quickly that it almost sounds like “dwin”) is considered the “Welsh St. Valentine,” and people increasingly mark St Dwynwen’s as well as — sometimes instead of — Valentine’s day.

Naturally, she has also become the Welsh patron saint of lovers.

Like Valentine, she’s a saint of very shadowy roots.

The legend says she lived in the fifth century, one of the many daughters of the legendary Brychan Brycheiniog — a man who, according to the myths, has more saintly children under his belt than most of us have hot dinners.

There are many versions of her tale, but in essence, she fell in love with a young man called Maelon, but would not marry him, either because her father forbade it or because she had sworn herself to a life of saintly celibacy.

She prayed for a solution — and an angel appeared with a magic potion to give to Maelon.

She gave it to him — and it turned him into a block of ice, thus saving him the sorrow of pining away for her, and to remove him from her temptation.

In some versions, she then asks for three requests — that Maelon be released, that she never marry, and that she could become the patron of true loves.

Not exactly happy-ever-after, but at least there’s no beheading!

The centre of Dwynwen’s cult was originally on a small island off the coast of Anglesey called Llanddwyn Island, which preserves another form of her name within its — Dwyn.

She is also known as Donwen, and Donwenna — all of which hint strongly at what may well be her true origin, the ancient Cymric Goddess Dôn.

Her name is almost certainly a combination of Dôn with gwyn. This is a familiar ending in Welsh names — featuring as Gwyn and Gwen at the start of names, and -wyn and -wen at the end (in Welsh, -wyn is always masculine, and -wen is feminine).

It’s basic meaning is “white,” but it also carries the sense of “pure” and “blessed.”

Dôn is the Welsh equivalent of the Irish Goddess Danu. In Welsh myth, she is the mother of the Plant Dôn—the “Children of Dôn”— a number of major Welsh deities, including Gwydion and Arianrhod.

As a very ancient Goddess, unraveling her name is difficult, and there are a number of options. One is the Common Celtic *dƒnu- “gift.”

However, she is associated with a number of rivers. There are four called Don in the British Isles, plus others that are related: the Dane in Cheshire,
two Devons (one English, one Scottish), and possibly the Teign, Tone, and Tyne too. Then there are the great European rivers deriving from the same root: the Danube, the Dneiper, and the Donetz.

Moreover, in the early medieval period, Dôn may also have been known as Donwy. An old name for the River Dee, which flows through Chester, is the Dwfrdonwy (dwfr is a Middle Welsh word meaning “water” + Donwy), while the Welsh name for the Danube is Afon Donwy—i.e. “River Donwy.” Donwy is also found in the name of yet another Welsh river, the Trydonwy, known in English as the Roden.

All this makes it quite likely that the name’s roots lie far, far back with the Proto-Indo-European *dānus “river.”

But there’s a further twist to this tale. What if this Goddess’s associations with rivers is so ancient that instead of her gaining the name “river,” the word *dānus derived from her name?

This would explain why there does not seem to be any vestige of *dānus with the meaning “river” in any of the living Celtic languages, despite the large number of rivers in the British isles which seem to derive from it.

But there is a further option for its etymology.

A clue lies with Deva, a Celtic name by which the Romans knew the River Dee. It points firmly towards the Proto-Indo-European *deyw-o- “a divine being,” combined with the suffix -ono- (often indicative of the name of a Deity).

Originally, *deyw-o-, seems to have carried connotations of relating to a sky God; it litters the Indo-European languages in words meaning “a god”, as well as names of individual Gods and Goddesses themselves, such as Zeus and Diana.

Despite her popularity in modern Wales, Dwynwen is a rarity. But it’s a pretty name, and whatever the truth that lies at its roots, no-one can dispute that it has history and positive associations in abundance.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus!

Read Full Post »

Branwen is one of a small and select group of Welsh names which featured in Welsh mythology and was also used widely as a genuinue given name in medieval times.

It is also one of the Welsh names richest in significance.

Superficially, it breaks down to bran “raven” and gwyn “white.”

But there’s a great deal more to these two words than meets the eye.

For a start, Bran is also the name of perhaps the most significant figure in all Welsh myth, called Bran the Blessed in English, and Bendigeidfran in Welsh.

In the important Welsh collection of tales dubbed the Mabinogion by a scholar of Welsh in the nineteenth century, Bran is called a king — but he is also a giant, whose head, after he himself has been killed, continued to live on, laughing and joking with his companions for seven years… until one of them accidentally opened a forbidden door.

His head is said to be buried beneath the White Tower at the Tower of London, as a talisman against Britain ever being invaded.

And to this day, his totem animals, ravens, can be found at the Tower.

As such, the raven is considered a bird whose presence invokes protection.

In Norse mythology, the ravens Huginn and Muninn are associated with Odin, and were depicted on Viking banners. Their names derive from the Old Norse hugr “thought” and munr “memory.”

To many Christians, however, the bird, with its strong associations of death, is sinister — but to Pagans, the raven’s associations with death serve only to remind us of the ever-turning wheel of life, death, and rebirth, a motif which is found in myth.

In Beowulf, it is the raven who heralds the new day after Beowulf ’s victory, while in some versions of the Arthurian cycles, King Arthur is said to be reincarnated as the raven.

Which brings us back to Bran and Branwen.

Branwen’s name carries all the same potency of Bran’s, and all the same symbolism. But hers is coupled with that ever significant Welsh gwyn. It doesn’t just mean “white,” but also “pure” and “sacred.” Many of the shadowy early Welsh “saints”, whose names are only known to us through the existance of a “llan” (a word now used of the land upon which an ancient church stands, but which almost certainly goes back to Pagan times) contain gwyn as an element.

If most of them aren’t in reality Gods, Goddesses or genii loci (“spirits of the place”), I’ll eat all my hats.

Sadly, Branwen’s own tale is tremendously sad. Her marriage to Matholwch, King of Ireland was doomed from the start, when her brother, Efnisien, chose to insult Matholwch by attacking his horses. Bran compensated Matholowch by giving him the fabled Cauldron of Rebirth, and, after that all seemed at first well — for a time.

In Ireland, Branwen gave Matholowch an heir — a son called Gwern (this means “alder” in Welsh; a significant choice, as the alder is Bran’s sacred tree). But malicious gossip at court turned Matholwch against his wife, and he began to mistreat her badly. Branwen sent the birds to tell her brother, who came to Ireland with a great army.

At first the two sides attempted to negotiate, but when Efnisien once again wreked havoc (this time by throwing Gwern on the fire), full-scale war ensued, leading to Bran’s death. Only seven of his warriors survived to take his head back to Britain.

As for Branwen, she died of grief.

Despite this sad tale, Branwen was used in the medieval period in forms such as Brangwain, Brangwayna and Brangwyne, giving rise to the surnames Brangwyn and Brangwin. As Brangain (and many variations therein), it features in the medieval lays of Tristan and Isolde. The latest variation of this character’s name to emerge is Bragnae, which occurs in the 2006 film Tristan and Isolde.

Branwen fell out of use in Wales by the end of the medieval period, but returned again in the nineteenth century and became quite popular. It doesn’t see much use in Wales now — or anywhere else — but it’s a beautiful and evocative name ripe for use once more.

Read Full Post »

It’s St Andrew’s Day today — Scotland’s national day.

To mark it, I thought I’d feature some of  my favorite of Scotland’s lesser known names, past and present:

Affrica ♀ — The Anglicized form of the Gaelic  Oighrig, an ancient name. Its meaning isn’t known for certain, but most agree the most likely source is the Old Irish Aithbhreac. It is found in a number of other forms across the centuries, including Africa, Affreca and Effrick. One bearer was a Viking princess of the Isle 0f Man, who married John de Courcy, the twelfth-century de facto king of Ulster.

Aldan ♂ — The name of the legendary founder of the Scottish Clan Home has two possible origins; it could be the Scots Gaelic form of English Aldwin “old friend,” or a variation of the Old Norse name Haldane – “half-Dane.”

Archina ♀ — The usual feminine form of Archibald; although is is a German name in origin, it took strongest root in Scotland. Nowadays, its pet-form Archie is more common, and used across Britain. Archina (a contracted form of the original Archibaldina), however remains uncommon.

Beathag ♀ — diminutive form of Gaelic beatha “life.”

Dolina ♀ — A simplified form of Donaldina, the Scottish feminine form of Donald. Its Gaelic forms are Doileag, Doilìona and Doilidh.

Ferelith ♀ — Anglicized form of the Gaelic Forbhlaith “true sovereignty.” It was the name of one of the two heiresses of an early thirteenth-century Earl of Atholl. Other forms include Forflissa, Fernelith and Forveleth. It does not seem to have survived the Middle Ages, but was re-adopted in the late nineteenth century—an early example being Ferelith Ramsay (1882–1951), daughter of Sir James Henry Ramsay, 10th Baronet of Bamff, Perthshire. The novel Ferelith (1903) by Victor Hay, the 21st Earl of Errol, is probably responsible for making the name a little better known. Errol bestowed the name upon his own daughter a year later—Lady Rosemary Constance Ferelith Hay (1904–44). Lady Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon (1917–80), later Princess Anne of Denmark, was a niece of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Fingal ♂ — The name in Irish myth of the Scottish giant who built the Giant’s Causeway so he could fight Finn McCool in Ulster, and—after being tricked by Finn’s wife Una—hotfooted it back to Scotland, ripping up the Causeway behind him as he went. He gave his name to Fingal’s Cave, immortalized in Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (1830) — commonly known just as Fingal’s Cave. In Gaelic, Fingal’s name is Fionnghall fionn “white” + gall “stranger.”

Gormelia ♀ — Latinized form of Gormal, a traditional Scots Gaelic name—gorm “blue” and “green.” Other forms include Gormail, Gormel, Gormyle, Gormilia and Gormula.

Islay ♀ ♂ — a modern Scottish name, taken from the name of the island, known for a single malt whisky produced there. Its Gaelic name is Ìle, although the ultimate origin of the name is uncertain. It may be a combination of the Old Norse  name Yula + ey “island.”

Macbeth ♂ — Anglicized form of the Scots Gaelic Macbeathamac “son” + beatha “life.” Although now regarded as a surname—and forever associated with the infamous Scottish king who was immortalized by Shakespeare in his tragedy Macbeth—Macbeth is actually a traditional personal name.

Marsailí ♀ — Gaelic form of Marcella.

Morag ♀ — Scottish pet-form of Mòr, an ancient Gaelic name, cognate with the Irish Mórmór “great.” Morag, is the name f an alleged monster that lives in Loch Morar, first sighted in 1887. There are also the Katie Morag children’s books by Mairi Hedderwick.

Sidheag ♀ — an old Gaelic name, deriving from sidheach “wolf.”

Sorley ♀ — Anglicized form of the Gaelic Somhairle, the Gaelic form of Somerled, from the Old Norse Sumarlíði “summer wayfarer,”

Talarican ♂ — The name of an eighth-century Pictish bishop and saint, also known as Tarkin and Tarquin. Little is known about him, and the fact that there is more than one well dedicated to him, such as St. Tarkin’s Well at Fordyce, Aberdeenshire, hints there might be more to him than meets the eye. The meaning probably goes back to the Common Celtic *talu- “forehead” + *r-g-
“king.”

Vanora ♀ — a Scottish form of Gaynor, a form of Guinevere. Vanora’s Grave in Meigle, Scotland, is a grass-covered mound in front of which two carved Pictish stones of Christian date are known to have once stood.

Read Full Post »

This month’s name takes us reeling a jig over the sea to the Emerald Isle.

Aidan is currently very popular around the English-speaking world, although, in both America and Britain the spelling Aiden is now preferred, presumably because of influnece from Jayden and friends.

But, unlike Jayden, Aidan has a long and distinguished history — and is a particularly fine Pagan name.

Aidan is the usual Anglicized form of Irish Aodhán, which combines  aodh “fire” with the diminutive suffix -án. Thus it means “little fire.”

It was used in Ireland from at least the sixth century; though the usual Old Irish form was Áedán, and the “full form” Áed/Aodh were much more common. Numerous figures from history and legend bore the name.

Aodh is also the name of a God, regarded as a sun God. He is one of the children of Lir, who were turned into swans through the machinations of their evil step-mother Aoife.

The most famous Aidan, however, has to be the seventh-century saint of the name, associated with Lindisfarne. St Aidan is credited with introducing Christianity to Northumbria from Iona.

Still, it is clear it was a Pagan name before him :).

And as well as its ancient Pagan credentials, let’s not forget its potent meaning:

Fire.

Fire is one of the classic four elements. Its importance to humankind is attested by the myriad of mythological stories which surround it, especially about how humankind first acquired it— from the tale of Prometheus in the Greek tradition, to the Choctaw story of Grandmother Spider stealing fire.

Understandably, fire is associated with the Sun, and — in all Northern Latitude countries — with the South, with summer and with the color red. It is representative of energy and passion, and the “spark” of life that animates and burns within us all. We use expressions in everyday English such as “hot” or “fiery” tempered without thinking, so common and embedded is the notion that anger or passion and fire are one.

Gods and goddess of fire play a significant role in most mythologies, such as the Irish Brigid, who is one of the most revered Goddesses in modern Paganism.

And many modern Pagans mark the festivals with a fire, especially the classic “fire festivals” — namely the cross-quarter ones of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain.

So, if you’re looking for a boy’s name which is popular and well-known, but which has lots of Pagan mojo, why not consider the lovely Irish Aidan?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108 other followers