By Linda Rosenkrantz
The legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table represent the essence of chivalry and romantic love. And the names in those tales conjure up images of knights in shining armor, ethereal medieval ladies, the court of Camelot and the heroic quest for the Holy Grail.
These legends have existed for over a thousand years, interpreted by countless writers and poets, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Crétien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory, and Alfred Lord Tennyson and have persisted through such modern interpretations as T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, the basis of the stage musical Camelot, countless films, including the spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and numerous TV shows.
Here are the Nameberry Picks of the 14 most interesting Arthurian names, drawn from several different sources and versions. We’ve looked beyond the original Knights and their associates to some of the more unusual Arthurian names, which could still work for a modern child
Blanchefleur—The wife of Sir Percival in several versions of the Arthurian stories and the mother of Tristan in Tristan and Iseult. With the not hard to figure out meaning of ‘white flower,’ this could make for an interesting and surely unusual smoosh name. It was actually quite popular in the High Middle Ages; the Blanche part was originally used as a nickname for someone with pale blonde hair.
Eliabella—This was a cousin of King Arthur. We’ve already heard Elizabella—it’s the name recently given to her daughter by Alyssa Milano—how about Eliabella as a sight switch? It’s also been spelled Elyabel,
Eluned–-pronounced eh-LOON-ed in English, el-EEn-ed in Welsh, she was a legendarily beautiful and intelligence handmaiden of the Lady of the Fountain in the Welsh Arthurian romance Owein, who had a magic ring that rendered her invisible. There is also a saint by this name.
Evaine—Well connected, Evaine was the wife of Bors the Elder, mother of Lionel, and aunt of Lancelot. Spelled Yvaine, it was featured in the Neil Gaiman fantasy novel Stardust, the character played by Claire Danes in the movie. Yvaine has her fans on Nameberry, where she is Number 592, but Evaine, with the popular Ev-beginning is another possibility.
Gareth—Gareth was the lover of Eluned, brother of Gawain, and a nephew of King Arthur. This Welsh name, meaning “gentle, became popular in Britain in the 1970s, and is starting to find favor here as one of the new softer boy names. It’s currently Number 680 on Nameberry.
Gawain—A nephew of King Arthur, Gawain was a friend to young knights, a defender of the poor and a consummate ladies’ man He was also a great healer, via his knowledge of herbs. Makes an interesting alternative to the Scottish form, Gavin.
Gracia—a niece of King Arthur. This pretty Latinate version of Grace is not unusual in Spain or the American Hispanic community, and ranked on the US popularity list back in the early 1880’s. Gracia Hughes is a sympathetic character in both the Full Metal Alchemist manga and anime.
Guinevere—The beautiful queen consort of King Arthur and lover of Sir Lancelot bears one of the names most directly connected to the tales of Camelot. Long eclipsed by its Cornish form, Jennifer, it feels much fresher, more evocative and romantic. The first name of Miss Pettigrew in the novel and movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is Guinevere.
Iseult—the legendary lover of Tristan. A medieval variation of Isolde, Iseult has an appealingly mysterious quality, attached to the influential romantic tragedy Tristan and Iseult.. The famous Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne named her daughter Iseult. In addition to the Iseult who was the adulterous lover of Sir Tristan, there were others by that name in the Arthurian cycle. You can have your pick of several other spellings: Isolde, Iseo, Yseult, Isode, Izolda or Isotta.
Lotta—Lotta was a Queen of Ireland. In modern times this would be seen as a short form of Carlotta, though it stands alone in Finland, where it is ranked as Number 34. Astrid Lindgren highlighted it in her books about Lotta on Troublemaker Street and it was also featured in Enid Blyton’s The Circus Series; Lotta Crabtree was a famous 19th Century American entertainer. But a child with this name could cause a lotta comments.
Pelleas was a Knight of the Round Table, sometimes referred to as ‘the gentle knight.’ There is a beautiful and tragic opera by Debussy called Pelléas et Mélisande, based on a play by Maurice Maeterlinck. If you are looking for an unusual s-ending boys’ name, you might want to consider this.
Taliesin—A historical figure, bard to King Arthur, Taliesin is the oldest known Welsh poet, and this was sometimes seen as another name for Merlin. This evocative Welsh mythological name calls up the architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright, who used it for his own two famous residences. It’s pronounced with four syllables.
Tor –Sir Tor was a Knight of the Round Table, son of King Ars. This name, commonly heard in Scandinavia as a variation of Thor, and pronounced TOOR, is also a Hebrew name meaning ‘turtledove.’ A short, powerful choice that’s a Top 100 name in Sweden..