Category: medieval names

posted by: Abby View all posts by this author

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Names from the Middle Ages are fascinating. They’re often quite similar to those parents love today, but tend to be almost entirely overlooked.

Nameberry has long had the Coolator. I would call this the Medievalizer, except that sounds like a torture device.

Instead, this is a list of the 2013 US Top Ten for girls, with suggestions for parents looking for something just a little different – or maybe something that would be right at home in the eleventh century.

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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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