Cornish Baby Names
The first time I visited Cornwall was at the tender age of one. Sadly, my dad’s abiding memory of that holiday was a grouching baby grizzling all through his long-awaited sailing trip (something he has yet to fully forgive me for to this day). A few years later my parents bravely returned again, one more child in tow, and fortunately much fun and sandcastle-building ensued.
It wasn’t until several years later when I returned to the region as a fifteen year-old that I was truly able to appreciate the breath-taking beauty of the Cornish coast and countryside. In the intervening years since my last visit I had developed an avid, border-line obsessive, passion for names and their meanings. What struck me was that many houses were named instead of numbered, and these place names, along with those adorning road signs, quickly caught my attention both due to the foreign sound to English ears, and the similarity to my greatest name-love: Welsh names.
After that it was simply a matter of squirreling away any name I came across in a novel or from television that was “Cornish”. And due to my complete inability to resist buying obscure name books hidden away in second-hand book shops, I now have three books on the subject of Cornish names and language. For me, there is something captivating about this lilting language that harkens back to an ancient Celtic past.
There is no doubt that Celtic names are hot at the moment. Several Gaelic-Celtic favourites have slipped effortlessly into the mainstream and are now widely used. Of these, Irish names have long reigned supreme, and it hasn’t taken long for parents and namers to look to Scotland for alternative Gaelic gems.
Now, in a bid for even fresher choices, the Britannic-Celtic languages are coming to the fore and Welsh names are beginning to look appealing and distinctive. Just lurking behind this spotlight is Cornish: the still relatively undiscovered sister-language.
If you are looking for a name with Celtic heritage and a unique yet oddly familiar ring – then look no further than the offerings from Cornwall.
Traditional Cornish names:
CHESTEN – Cornish form of Christine
ESELD (ez-ELD)– form of Isolde
JOWANET – Cornish form of Joan
LAMORNA – place name
LOWENA, LOWENNA (lo-WEN-a) – ‘joy’
CADOR, CADWUR (CAD-ur) – ‘warrior’
CASWORAN (caz-WOR-an) – ‘battle powerful’
KENVER – ‘great chief’
MARGH – Cornish form of Mark
MASSEN – Cornish form of Maximus (through the Welsh Macsen)
TREEVE – place name
Those who favour a name seeped with history can look to Cornwall’s multitude of medieval saints and semi-mythical figures for namesakes:
ENDELYN, ENDELLION, ENDELIENTA
IA, EIA, YA (EE-a)
WENN, GWEN, WENNA
BRYOK, BREOK (bree-OK)
GORON, GORRON – ‘hero’
KENEDER (ken-ED-ur) – ‘bold chief’
MADERN – This survives as a Cornish surname, Maddern
For a fresher feel, you could look to names that do not have traditional usage but come from the Cornish vocabulary or are more modern compound creations:
CAJA – ‘daisy’
DELEN – ‘petal’
ELESTREN (el-EST-ren) – ‘iris’
ELOWEN (el-LOW-en) – ‘elm’
ENOR – ‘honour’
GWENNOL –‘ swallow’
KELYNEN (ke-LIN-en) ‘holly’
KENSA (KEN-za) – ‘first’
KERESEN (ke-REZ-en) – ‘cherry’
MELYONEN (mel-YON-en) – ‘violet’
METHEVEN (me-THEV-en) –‘June’
MORGELYN (mor-GEL-in) – ‘sea + holly’
MORENWYN (mor-REN-win) ‘fair + maiden’
MORVOREN (mor-VOR-en) – ‘sea + maiden’ or ‘mermaid’
NESSA – ‘second’
ROSENWYN (roz-EN-win)– ‘rose + fair’
SOWENA, SOWENNA (so-WEN-a) – ‘success’
STEREN – ‘star’
TEGAN (TEGG-en) – ‘pretty thing’/’ornament’
TREGERETH (tre-GAIR-eth) – ‘compassion’ / ‘mercy’
TRESSA – ‘third’
Eleanor Nickerson, better known to nameberry message board visitors as Elea, is a twenty-something primary school teacher living in Coventry, England who, beyond having a name obsession, loves chocolate, reading, travelling and teaching.
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on October 21st, 2009 at 2:11 am
Fantastic!! I loved reading this Elea thank you. I actually love Tressa for a mn. I even suggested it to my DH and he loves it too 😀 If we had another girl she’d be our third so the meaning is perfect. Your blog may have helped name our future baby.
on October 21st, 2009 at 3:24 am
Thanks for a very interesting blog Elea!
on October 21st, 2009 at 4:53 am
Elea, I’ve been waiting for your guest blog on Cornish names — this was pure delight! Many thanks for your impressions of lovely Cornwall and the many melodious names one encounters there.
on October 21st, 2009 at 8:28 am
Elea, I found your blog so interesting, having been fascinated for a long time with Celtic names. One of my daughters has a name that is often described in name books as Cornish in origin — Jennifer. IS that name Cornish — and if so, what would be the original form?
on October 21st, 2009 at 8:50 am
What a great post, thank you! I really enjoyed these names- I especially love Kerensa, just added to our considerations for our little girl.
on October 21st, 2009 at 9:09 am
Patricia — from what I know Jennifer is a variant of Guinevere, which probably looked something like Gwenwhyfar (spelling is butchered) in one of the old Celtic languages. The Cornish version I’ve seen listed is Jennifry. I don’t know if Jennifer is the actual version. The name means “white wave.”
on October 21st, 2009 at 9:13 am
Behind the name lists the original Welsh form as Gwenhwyfar.
on October 21st, 2009 at 9:42 am
Oh, I love Endellion! Isn’t there a Saint Endellion – or maybe she’s one of those former saints?
And Emblyn, Kerensa, Jory – what great names. Thanks for this list!
on October 21st, 2009 at 10:51 am
I’m so glad so many of you found the list interesting!
Disa_lan — I love Tressa! What a lovely idea! I’m so glad this may have inspired you 🙂
Nephele — It was your lovely encouragement that spurred me on to write this! Thank you!
Patricia & Andrea — Jennifer is indeed the Cornish version of Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar originally in Welsh). It is in fact the only Cornish name to become so widespread, that it has become undistinguishable as a “Cornish” name. Jennifry is the Cornish version of Winifred, from the Welsh Gwenfrewi.
Abby — Yes, Endellion is a medieval Cornish saint. Endellion is the ‘anglican’ version, Endelyn is the Cornish version and Endelienta is the Latin 🙂
Charlotte Vera Said
on October 21st, 2009 at 1:17 pm
Brilliant list! And I think I finally have a nickname for my daughter Roseanna thanks to your list — Rosen!
on October 21st, 2009 at 1:33 pm
What a great blog Elea. I’ve sent it to my friend to have a read of. 😉
on October 21st, 2009 at 2:17 pm
Have loved Welsh and Cornish names forever. I like Morwenna, Guinevere, Arianwyn, and Rhiannon. I have loved Guinevere since I first read Mists of Avalon (although it is spelled Gwynhfar (or something like that) in the book). I also recently fell in love with Kerenza. Thanks for giving me more lovely choices.
on October 21st, 2009 at 3:20 pm
I love these names. They sound like something out of LOTR.
on October 21st, 2009 at 7:03 pm
Great post! Morwenna and Nessa are names from Middle Earth, so I love them, and Elestren ‘iris’ is one of my favorites from the list.
on October 21st, 2009 at 11:41 pm
Oops! Morwenna is actually Morwen (from “The Children of Hurin”).
on October 22nd, 2009 at 1:08 am
I love these! Elestren really caught my attention and Caja is so sweet. You forgot two of my favorite Cornish names: Hedra and Minver.
on October 22nd, 2009 at 2:38 am
Great blog, Elea! 🙂 I love Rosenwyn! 🙂
on October 22nd, 2009 at 7:58 pm
this is really cool! I like Caja and Emlyn for girls and Perran for a boy. Demelza was one of the winners of Australia’s Next Top Model.
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