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Cornish Baby Names Blend Ancient and Modern

Cornish Baby Names Blend Ancient and Modern

Cornish baby names are a mostly untapped treasure trove of rare, romantic choices that are also easy on the eyes and tongue.

Cornwall, geographically isolated in the far south-west of Britain, has a distinct identity of its own. It is home to ancient legends — the Arthurian tales are as much Cornish as they are Welsh — and a whole host of semi-historical saints. Jennifer, the most successful Cornish name of all time, is a form of Arthur’s wife Guinevere; and the saintly name Endellion made headlines in 2010 when the then-British Prime Minister David Cameron used it as a middle name for his daughter, born in Cornwall.

The sea-swept landscape has inspired modern literature like Daphne Du Maurier’s novels and the Poldark series, which sparked interest in names such as Demelza and Morwenna.

The Cornish language, closely related to Welsh, survived uninterrupted until the eighteenth century, and is still an important part of Cornish culture. It lives on in place-names in Cornwall, some of which are also used for people. In the twentieth century, patriotic parents started to use Cornish vocabulary words like Elowen and Caja as baby names.

Cornish names also include local forms of classics, like Jago (James) and Jowan (John), and ones that were once used widely in England but survived longer in Cornwall, including Tamsyn.

We’ve rounded up some of the best Cornish names to give you a flavor. For even more, check out our Cornish Baby Names list.

We also highly recommend British Baby Names as a reliable and fascinating source. The author, Eleanor Nickerson, analyzed the top Cornish names used in Cornwall, and more recently delved into a whole load on Instagram.

Popular Cornish Names

Ok, “popular” is a relative term. Apart from Jennifer, Tristan and Denzel, none of these names have ever been widely used in the US. But if you’ve heard of any Cornish names, it’s probably these ones.

They’re the perfect balance of familiar-yet-different. Elowen makes a lyrical alternative to popular El- names like Ella and Eleanor. Jago fits perfectly with Arlo, Theo and other cool o-ending boy names. Altogether, they sound as fresh and romantic as Jennifer did to parents fifty years ago. 

Cornish Nature and Word Names

In Cornwall today, parents are keeping the Cornish language alive and celebrating local heritage by adopting plant names, months, numbers and other vocabulary words as baby names, especially for girls.

Cornish Place Names

Look at a map of Cornwall (or visit it, if you’re lucky enough), and you can’t miss the distinctive place names. They derive from natural features and the names of legendary figures, and sometimes from origins lost in the mist of time. Parents have used some of the more lyrical ones for their children, including rivers (Tamar, the traditional border of Cornwall), islands (Bryher), sea coves (Lamorna) and villages (Zennor). These are a few of our favorites.

Cornish Saints’ Names

The first Christian saints in Britain, in the fifth and sixth centuries, made a huge impact on Cornwall that can still be seen in place names and local traditions today… and in baby names. Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall, is in regular use, as are others like Merryn and Senara. Here are more saintly Cornish names that deserve wider recognition.

Unique Cornish Names

A few more of our favorites. Some are ancient yet sound fresh, like Kitto, which probably started life as a cognate to the Welsh Guto, a diminutive of Gruffydd. Others are more modern in usage but have a distinctly Cornish flavor: Ailla, although its origins are uncertain, is used by some Cornish parents as a local version of Isla.

If you love these names, find more in  our full list of Cornish Baby Names.

Got a name story to tell? If you'd like to write about your personal experience with your own name, your child's name, names in your family or your culture, we'd love to consider your story for publication on Nameberry. Email us a sentence or two about your idea at clare@nameberry.com

About the Author

Clare Green

Clare has been writing for Nameberry since 2015, covering everything from the next high-rising names to how to choose a multilingual name, and keeping up-to-date with international baby name rankings. She has a background in linguistics and librarianship, and lives in England with her husband and toddler. You can follow everything she reads about names on Twitter or Scoop.it, or reach her at clare@nameberry.com