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These Names Are Older Than You Think

These Names Are Older Than You Think

Some ancient names you just know are ancient. Weighty historical monikers like Athelstan, Guinevere, Pharamond and Blanchefleur conjure up images of castles, cloaks and courtly romance.

But other ancient names might come as a surprise!

Did you know that 80s sweetheart Candace started life as an Ethiopian royal title several centuries BCE? Or that noughties hit Gavin is actually a medieval relative of Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table?

Certain medieval names, historic names and mythology names from ancient cultures have aged remarkably well – so well, in fact, that their antique origins can be hard to reconcile with the image they conjure up today.

Read on for 25 more names that are way older that you might think!

25 Names Older Than You Think

Alison

A medieval French and English diminutive of Alice, also recorded as Alyson, Allison and Allyson as early as the 15th century.

Aubrey

Started life as a Norman French form of Alberich, the name of a dwarf king in Germanic mythology. Aubrey was a popular male name in medieval England, and remains fairly well-used for boys in the UK.

Austin

A contraction of Augustine, popularized by two notable saints in the 5th and 6th centuries. Also recorded as Austyn in England as early as the 16th century.

Avery

A French variant of the Old English royal name Alfred, also spelled Averie and Averay.

Brian

Irish high king Brian Boru led his army to defeat against Viking invaders in the 11th century, ensuring the popularity of his name for centuries to come. The Bryan spelling was also recorded as far back as the 16th century.

Caitlin

A huge hit in the US throughout the 1980s and 90s that spawned countless variations, Caitlin originated as the Irish version of Cateline, a medieval French form of Catherine.

Chad

Now an internet shorthand for a stereotypical arrogant alpha male, Chad is actually a 7th-century English saint’s name, deriving from Anglo-Saxon Ceadda.

Chloe

Ancient greek goddess of the harvest Demeter had many epithets, among them Anesidora “sender of gifts”,  Malophorus “apple-bearer” and… Chloe. It means “green shoot” and refers to the goddess’ role in promoting new plant growth in the spring.

Denise

The name of two early saints, deriving from the Latin Dionysia, and also found spelled Denys, Denyse and even Denis or Dennis, coinciding with the masculine form.

Emery

Newly popular as a modern twist on Emma or Emily, this fashionable name traces its roots back to the old Germanic masculine names Amalric or Emmerich, borne by several early kings.

Griffin

Relatively common in medieval England as an anglicized form of the Welsh royal name Gruffydd, now mostly used as a cool contemporary surname from the same root, or in reference to the mythical creature.

Jessica

A Top 10 girl name from the 1970s right through to 2000, Jessica first appeared in this form in Shakespeare’s 1596 comedy The Merchant of Venice. He is thought to have based it on the Old Testament name Iscah.

Kai

Kai feels like the epitome of a modern name: cool, punchy, super international. But in Scandinavian and German-speaking countries, it’s a traditional diminutive of several ancient names, including Gerhard, Nikolaus, Cornelius and Gaius.

Kristin

Along with Kirstin, Kirsten and Kiersten, this 80s favorite is actually a Nordic form of Christina, documented in Norway from as early as the 12th century.

Larkin

A newly trendy surname now more popular for girls in the US, but which originated as a medieval diminutive of the male name Laurence.

Linda

The name that finally unseated Mary from its generations-long #1 spot in 1947 now has a specific midcentury flavor. But it was already in use in medieval times as a short form of Germanic names containing the productive lind element, such as Adalinde, Erlinde, Godelinde and Richlinde.

Milo

A modern favorite recorded as early as the 7th century in France and other European nations, deriving from a Germanic root meaning “mild, good, generous”.

Morgan

This unisex choice has different etymologies for different genders, but its roots go back a long way regardless. For boys, it derives from the Old Welsh name Morcant, borne by several early kings from the late 6th century. For girls, it's the name of the sorceress Morgan le Fay in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century Arthurian chronicles. He likely based it on Celtic elements meaning “sea born”.

Natalie

This English form of the Latin name Natalia has a modern feel, but it's an ancient saint’s name and has long been used for babies born near Christmastime. The Russian diminutive Natasha is also older than you might think. She’s one of the heroines of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, published in 1865.

Pax

That crisp X ending is very on-trend right now, but celebrity baby name Pax actually derives from the Latin for “peace”, and was the name of the Roman goddess of peace.

Scott

Originated as a Roman byname for someone from Scotland, recorded there as early as the 12th century.

Stacy

Stacy, Stacey or Stace was actually more common for males in medieval times, as a diminutive of the saint’s name Eustace. It could also be short for Anstace, a medieval form of Anastasia.

Tiffany

Tiffany really started to catch on in the US after the iconic Audrey Hepburn movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, released in 1961. It peaked in 1988 with over 18 thousand births. But it’s actually a medieval English name: a form of Theophania traditionally given to girls born on Epiphany (January 6).

Wolf

Judging by the reaction to Kylie Jenner’s announcement of her son’s (original) name, Wolf, you’d think she made it up! But Wolf or Wulf is an ancient Germanic name, in use since at least the 8th century and also featuring in compound names such as Wolfgang, Wolfhart and Wolfram.

Wyatt

This cowboy-cool surname comes from the medieval name Wyard or Wyot, in turn deriving from Old English Wigheard “brave in battle”.

About the Author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from the top baby name trends 2023 to how not to choose the next big baby name. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active forums community ticking.

Emma's articles on names and naming trends have been featured in publications including the Huffington Post, People, Today's Parent, Fatherly, and Good Housekeeping.

A linguist by background, Emma speaks several languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and four young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.