Magical Medieval Names: Aelyth to Wystan
By Theresa Elsmore
Looking for something further back in history and different than the current vintage naming trend? Since The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and Vikings, we think it’s time some really Olde World classics get some attention.
It’s a common misconception that medieval namers drew from a very small stock of choices. From the Anglo-Norman period in England of the 13th and 14th centuries, there’s a wide variety of hidden gems waiting to be rediscovered. They bring to mind the warmth of a blacksmith’s hearth, the trotting of a horse, the romance of forbidden love, and chivalry. Here are some favourite medieval names poised to be awakened from their slumbers.
Of Anglo-Saxon origin, this soft name has several strong meanings, the Anglo-Saxon one being, “seasoned warrior.” It’s the medieval form of Æðelgyð, which means “noble war.” Aelythis also thought to be a variant spelling of the Scottish Gaelic Alyth, meaning “ascending, rising”. It was the name of an Anglo-Saxon saint, Æthelgyth of Coldingham. There is a similar in sound Welsh name, Delyth, meaning pretty.
Originally a male Latin name, we think this one is ready for a gender switch. It means “imitating, rivalry.” Used in England during the Anglo-Norman period, it’s an elegant alternative to the popular Aria and Amelia. Used in the Arab and Hebrew communities, it now ranks at Number 381 nationally after entering the Top 1000 in 1998. It also comes with adorable nicknames Miri, Mira and Amie.
If Juliana can make it to the Top 100, why not the brilliant Brilliana? It means, “of Brill,” a town and historic seaport in the west Netherlands. Lord Conway named his daughter Brilliana while living there in the late 17th century. She later became a well-known English letter-writer. Nickname-ready as well, you can get quickly to the vintage Billie, Lily, or Ana, or the modern Brilla or Liana.
This beautiful name fits well in the current naming trend, of astronomy names, with the eighth most popular on our girl names’ list being Aurora. It’s one of the female variants of Caelestis; a Latin name meaning, “of the sky, heavenly”.
Perfect for a spring baby, this name derives from the Germanic goddess Eostre, known as the goddess of the dawn, and the namesake of the Easter holiday in some languages. Meaning “dawn battle,” this strong name is unique yet familiar via having the same ending as Matilda. In the 12th-century Arthurian tales, another variation, Estrildis, was the name of a German princess who became the wife of King Locrine of Britain.
This sweet name derives from the Old English word meaning “beloved day.” A common medieval English Christian name, it’s still sometimes used in Cornwall. The name was given to boys or girls born on a “Love Day,” which was a day for meeting between enemies and litigants with the aim of having peaceful settlement. These days were held between 13th and 17th centuries.
Love the nicknames Bella or Sibby? This elegant name is a diminutive of Sibyl, a Latin name meaning, “prophetess, oracle”. It combines elements of Isabella and Sybil, which has seen some resurgence via its appearance on Downton Abbey. In Greek and Roman legend, sibyls were female prophets revered for their divine knowledge and wisdom.
This Germanic name means “brave boar,” and comes from the Germanic elements ebur “wild boar” and hard__, “brave, hardy.” The Normans introduced it to England and it’s been seldom used since the Middle Ages, except for a few literary references, such as in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly, Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, and Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women. With the abundance of classic E names ending in D such as Edward and Edmund, and more recently Eddard, we think Everard could tread its own path.
Pronounced “GOW-win,” this Welsh name was borne by the nephew of King Arthur who was a knight of the round table. He was a popular hero in medieval tales such as the romantic poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight‘, written in the 14th century. Modern parents have historically preferred to use Gavin.
Theodoric is strong boys’ name pronounced “THEE-uh-DAW-rik”. The Germanic name means “ruler of the people,” derived from the elements theud “people” and ric “power, ruler”. It makes a robust alternative to Theodore, and shares the popular nickname option Theo. Historically, it was borne by Theodoric the Great, a 6th-century king of the Ostrogoths who went on to become the ruler of Italy.
This gentle name with a brute meaning comes from the combination of the Old Norse elements “Thor”, the Scandinavian god of thunder, and “stone.” A very successful Viking king of Dublin, Thorstein the Red, son of the Viking Olaf, flourished in Scotland in the ninth century.
Pronounced “WEY-stahn” this is a handsome alternative to Wyatt. It has its origins in the Old English name Wigstan, and means “battle stone.” Wystan is best known now for being the first name of the eminent British poet W. H. Auden.
Theresa Elsmore is an interior designer and writer from the south shore of Montreal, Canada. She has an obsession for names, a love of history and music, and an overabundance of yarn stocked for crocheting.