First there was the era of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, then there was the second (Kennedy) coming of Camelot, and now it’s been suggested that we might conceivably be entering a third, this seems like a good time to look back at the names of the original Knights, their fair damsels and their cohorts.

We look at these names through the prisms of several sources: Sir Thomas Malory created the image of the castle and court of Camelot in his 15th century Le Morte d’Arthur, then Lord Tennyson composed the popular and influential Idylls of the King, and then the 1960 Broadway musical and film Camelot was based on T. H. White’s tetrology The Once and Future King.

From these varied interpretations, here are some of the Arthurian names that could still work today:

ARTHURKing Arthur was the legendary leader who led the defense of Britain against the Saxon invaders. His name, of Celtic origin and unknown meaning, most popular a century ago, is showing signs of a revival.

AZREAL –An obscure Knight found only in the Malory version

BALAN and BALIN –two brothers who accidentally killed each other in a duel

BLANCHEFLEUR — the pretty floral name of the sweetheart of Percival.

CAI — The Welsh version of the English Sir Kay–which is now totally feminized.

CONSTANTINE — He became King after Arthur‘s death; his powerful names means “steadfast.”

ELAINE — A rare French name in the mostly-Celtic Arthurian lexicon, Elaine is showing new life in its Elena form.

ENID –the wife of Geraint; a name that is not next in line for revival.

GALAHAD — One of the three achievers of the Holy Grail, renowned for his purity and gallantry, to the point where his name symbolizes these chivalrous qualities so strongly it precludes use for a modern boy.

GARETH –This Welsh name, meaning “gentle,” became popular in Britain in the 1970s, and is now starting to find favor here.

GAWAIN — A friend to young knights, a defender of the poor and a consummate ladies’ man, Gawain was also a great healer, via his knowledge of herbs.

GERAINT –A character in Welsh folklore as well as Arthurian legend, probably most famous via the Welsh tale Geraint and Enid. Might not be the easiest name for a 21st century lad.

GILLIMER –An unusual name found in Mallory‘s version.

GUINEVERE — The beautiful Queen consort of King Arthur, in love with Lancelot; an interesting namesake for a godmother Jennifer.

LANCELOT — The finest swordsman and one of the most trusted of King Arthur’s knights–despite the fact that he was the lover of Queen Guinevere.

LIONEL — One of the few Arthurian names to survive in contemporary times. Could be due for a revival.

MERLIN –The wizard who served as the King‘s sage advisor.

MORGANMorgan le Fay was a powerful sorceress and antagonist of Arthur and Guinevere. Set the path for Morgan as a unisex name.

OWAIN — Sir Owain was also called Ywain, Yvain, Ewain and Uwain–take your pick.

PERCIVAL— One of two knights who accompanied Galahad on the quest for the Holy Grail. A name that has become sissified over the years.

TRISTAN — A Round Table Knight as well as the star of the Tristan and Iseult romance; has been growing in modern popularity since the 70s.  We recently met a girl Tristan too, so it can make kind of an updated Kristen.

TURQUINE — a rogue knight. Definitely not a good guy.

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Lola Says:

March 6th, 2009 at 10:51 am

I know an Arthur, Bedivere, Gawain, Galahad, Lancelot, Percival & Guinevere sibset (I might have forgotten one) ! Galahad’s the one I know, personally. Absolutely awesome dude. Makes me think Galahad is usable on the right kid, in the right family!

Blanchefleur makes me swoon and I’ve got both Arthur & Morgan floating around on my lists. I really dig Lionel (how debonair!) and Constantine. Take off that final ‘e’ and Constantin is a family name for me (one of those great Uncles I’m always talking about). I really love Constantin and would kill to be able to consider him up front. But he’s a bit too much next to the other kids. 🙁 Someone use Constantine/Constantin, please? I would be so thrilled!

Alicia Says:

March 6th, 2009 at 10:52 am

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Arthur!! I also really like Azreal.

And, Enid is one of my FAVORITE names. I think she’s so sweet. But, alas, everyone I’ve ever talked to hates her.

Lola Says:

March 6th, 2009 at 11:04 am

I don’t hate Enid, Alicia. I think she’s pretty, strong and rather elegant. It’s Elaine I dislike! Seems whiny. 😛

Annika Says:

March 6th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

I really enjoyed reading that entry!
I have to admit though that I first came to think about Arthurian names while reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon”. Besides the names that were mentioned above and some different spellings (Morgan is Morgaine, Guinevere is Gwenhwyfar etc.) there are a few more names, that might be interesting and as far as I know also have historic routes. Those would be:

Igraine- mother of Morgaine/Morgan le Fay and Arthur
Viviane- high priestess and sister of Igraine
Morgause- another sister of Igraine and Viviane
Morded/Gwydion- son of Morgaine and Arthur, not a really likeable figure in here
Taliesin- sorcerer and father to Igraine, Morgause and Nimue- beautiful but silent daughter of Elaine and Lancelot
Niniane- a priestess

Emmy Jo Says:

March 8th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

I love Arthur, Gareth, Gawain, and Guinevere. Arthur makes our list (it honors a grandfather) but as our last name starts with G, we’ve discarded the others. I’ve actually met a little girl called Guinevere — she is about 10 and usually goes by Gwenna.

Elaine is lovely — I think it would be a refreshingly unusual choice for a little girl, much the way Mary is today.

I think Galahad could be usable for the right kid and right parents. It has a very gallant sound, though I suppose “Gal” might not be the best nickname.

Isolde/Iseult doesn’t make the list on her own? I think she’s VERY usable (and gorgeous). As long as her parents don’t call her brother Tristan. That would be icky.

stephanie-elizabeth Says:

June 18th, 2009 at 12:26 pm

I LOVE Guinevere! Its been on my list for years…I love Arthurian legend. I always like Gwyn for a nickname, but the above mentioned Gwenna is cute, too. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Stephanie Says:

January 6th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

So nice to see that there are others out there who like the name Galahad for a boy! I have loved the name for years (and I happen to be a medievalist), but my husband is not so sure. While I do not want to give my children over-used names, I also do not want their names to be too strange and unique or cause them problems while growing up. I also like Guinevere and Elaine. Merlin would probably cause some laughs . . .

Joe Says:

June 16th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I have a 12 year old: Guenevere. A 6 year old: Cai. A 3 year old: Lucan. A nearly 2 year old: Morgan. And looking for a name for our 5th (due in January). We were thinking Merlin for a boy, but I really like the name Taliesin…

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