It’s day 3 of Sneak Peak Week already! Today’s offering is Laura — and friends. Like Estelle, Laura takes us on a wonderful journey. Come with me now on part of it!
The Latin names for the laurel were laurus and — less common — laurea, both of which were, like most trees in Latin, feminine nouns. By the early Middle Ages, LAWRENCE was well-established in Spain and Italy and popularly associated with the laurel. Thus the idea of its use as a name was already established in the medieval psyche. Moreover, the feminine LAURENTIA also existed. Whether Laura arose as a short form of the latter or independent coinage inspired by the former is impossible after more than a thousand years to say, but it is likely to be one or the other. The first known bearer was the 9th Century Spanish St Laura of Cordoba. Laura, Lora and the diminutive LAURETTA were all in use in Britain by the end of the 13th Century. Diminutive: LOLLY (modern); French: Laure, Welsh: LOWRI. Bearers: Laura de Noves (1310-48), wife of the Count de Sade, who is thought to be the most likely candidate for Petrarch’s muse Laura; Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), the US writer; Laura Palmer, the central – but dead – character of TwinPeaks (1990-91); Laura, Voyage dans le Cristal (1864) was a novel by George Sand.
Lawrence evolved from the Roman surname Laurentius ‘of Laurentium’, Laurentium being a town in Latium, which almost certainly derives from Latin: laurus ‘bay tree’ or lauretum ‘laurel grove’. It was borne by a 3rd Century saint, who is largely responsible for the popularity of the name in later times. He was a medieval favorite, with many churches dedicated to him, and its use in the Middle Ages, gave rise to many surnames such as Lawrence, Lawrenson, Laurie, Lowrie, Lawson and Larkin. It also became established and popular in Ireland from an early date, where it has often been used to render Lorcan. Variant: Laurence. Diminutives: LAW, LARRY, LAURIE; Lanty (Irish). Scots Gaelic: Labhrainn, Irish Gaelic: Labhrás, Scandinavian: LARS, Lorens, Icelandic: Lárus, Dutch: Laurens, French: Laurent, Romanian: Laurenţiu, German: Lorenz, Finnish: Lauri; Lassi (diminutive), Danish: Lauritz, Russian: Lavrantiy, Catalonian: Llorenç, Italian, Spanish: LORENZO, Hungarian: Lőrinc, Polish: Wawrzyniec. Bearers: Laurence Sterne (1713-68), the Irish writer; Lawrence Oates (1880-1912), the British explorer; Laurence Olivier (1907-89), the English actor; Lawrence Durrell (1912-90), the English novelist; Lawrence Watt-Evans (b.1954) the US fantasy and science-fiction writer.
Laurel is now mostly associated with the cherry laurel, often called the English Laurel in North America, probably because of its wholesale planting on British estates in the 18th and 19th Centuries as cover for game birds. Traditionally, however, it referred to the bay laurel, usually now called a bay tree, or simply bay. Middle English: lorer < French: Laurer < Old French: lor < Latin: laurus ‘laurel’. The word is also used to mean an ‘emblem of victory’, sometimes used in the plural laurels, deriving from the ancient practice of making crowns of bay leaves to place upon the heads of victors, originating in the ancient Games at Delphi. In the language of flowers, the laurel stands, unsurprisingly, for ambition and glory. 19th Century. Variants: Laurell, Laurelle.