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Welsh Names for Boys

Maddox, Maxen and Floyd

by Linda Rosenkrantz

Welsh names for boys have never been as popular in the US as Irish boy names. But over the years some have become widespread enough to lose much of their Welsh accents.  I’m thinking names like Owen (#25), Evan (#86) and Dylan (#31) and Trevor (#380) and Griffin (#224) and Morgan (#744). Here we have names that we are all familiar with in addition to those above (“Funny, you don’t look Welsh!”), followed by some great Welsh names for boys you may not know, plus some unique Welsh nickname names. 

Welsh Names for Boys: 10 best familiars

DAWSONDawson’s Creek first propelled this Welsh son-of-David name in 1998, boosting at an amazing 550 places in one year; it’s now at #194. An offshoot of David nickname Daw, Dawson was used for characters by William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis and Nicholas Spark.

DEWEY—an early 20th century favorite in the US, thanks to naval hero Admiral George Dewey. Recent pop culture Deweys have been the main character in School of Rock and one of the Malcolm in the Middle brothers.

ELLIS/ELIS–the Welsh form of Elijah via the Greek Elias, Ellis was the male pseudonym of Emily Bronte when writing Wuthering Heights. Now enjoying a steep rise, Ellis is #317 in the US, 87 in England and 59 in Wales. It’s also beginning to be used for girls.

FLOYD—a name with a more jazzy-geezer edge than Lloyd, the name of which it’s a variant. Think Pink Floyd.

GARETH—used in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur and by Tennyson for one of King Arthur’s knights in his Idylls of the King. A more contemporary character in The Walking Dead, Gareth embodies its meaning of ‘gentle’; a coolizing nickname would be Gaz.

GRIFFITH—a classic Welsh boys’ name; many medieval rulers of Wales were named the original Gruffudd, including the one native Welsh king to rule all of Wales. It shares the cool nickname Griff with Griffin.

MADDOX—a Welsh name very much at home in the contemporary namescape, Maddox came into the spotlight when Angelina Jolie chose it for her son in 2003 and is now at #140. The original Welsh Madoc (MAH-dog) means ‘fortunate’.

RHYS/REESERhys, with the romantic meaning of ‘ardor, passion’, has been a popular name throughout Welsh history. Rhys now ranks at #464, while Anglicized Reese is 659—and for girls it’s way up at 159, thanks to Ms. Witherspoon.

VAUGHN—also spelled Vaughan, this Welsh name for boys peaked in the US at #346 in 1949—the era of Sarah Vaughn and Vaughn Monroe—it is now sometimes reconsidered as an alternative to Sean.

YALE—the collegiate name used for a key character Woody Allen’s Manhattan; a sophisticated middle possibility.

WELSH NAMES FOR BOYS: 10 hidden treasures

CADOGAN—a lively surname name borne by several early Welsh leaders

CAI (KAY)—Cai was described as King Arthur’s closest companion in the earliest Welsh literature. He lost many of his magical qualities in later Arthurian depictions as Kay.

CAREW—a rarely heard surname name with such notable namesakes as early poet Thomas C and baseball star Rod.

GAWAIN—a gallant Knight of the Round Table name—Gawain was a nephew of King Arthur.

JEVON—an appealing, modern sounding variation of Evan, the Welsh version of John. Another, somewhat more familiar one, is BEVAN.

MACSEN/MAXEN—the Welsh version of Maximus. The nouveau-sounding Macsen actually has a long legendary past and is now just outside the Top 50 in Wales. Maxen is an alternate spelling. So, would you prefer Mac or Max?

PARRY—a common name in Wales, particularly as a middle, it comes from ap Harri, or ‘son of Harry’. (Harri, btw, is now #19 in Wales).

SULIEN (SIL-yen)—this was originally the name of a Celtic sun god and there was an 11th century bishop named Sulien, reputed to be the most learned man in Wales. You could add it to the list of sun-related names.

TEILO (TAY-lo)—the name of an important Welsh saint.

TUDOR– -from Tudur, a Welsh form of Theodore. In its various forms, Tudor shows up regularly throughout Welsh history and literature, and later and more famously in English history: The Tudors!

WELSH NAMES FOR BOYS: Intriguing nickname names

BEDO—a diminutive of Maredudd/Meredith borne by several medieval Welsh poets.

BILO—a nickname for William

IANTO (YAN-to)–a short form of John via Ifan, one of its several Welsh forms. Increasingly used on its own since it was a Torchwood character.

IOLO (YOH-Lo)—a nickname for Iowerth that’s commonly used on its own; an interesting addition to the list of unusual o-ending boy names.

LLEW—short form of Llewelyn, considered a patriotic name that has ranked on its own; another is LLELO.

NYE—diminutive of Aneurin, familiar via Bill Nye the Science Guy

BARTI—a short form of Bartholomew, whose most noted bearer was a pirate.

DEIO—one of the many diminutives of Dafydd.

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond Satran of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. In addition to contributing stories on trends and celebrity naming, she guides the editorial content and manages the Nameberry Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.

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