All about Arthurian names, Part I (Male names, A-F)

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, painted by Évrard d’Espinques ca. 1475

When I did a series on names invented for literature a few years ago, I deliberately left out name from Arthurian legends and stories because I wanted to do a separate series about them. Some of these names existed prior to their use in Arthurian stories, while others were created just for the stories.

FYI: These names come exclusively from classic Arthurian works, not modern films, TV shows, and games.

Accolon, sometimes spelt Accalon, is of unknown origin. He’s a Gaulish knight and a lover of Morgan le Fay.

Aeddan is the Welsh form of the Irish name Aodhán, which is a diminutive of aedh and means “little fire.” He’s an enemy of King Arthur.

Aelens is the King of Iceland and father of King Arthur’s follower Escol.

Agravain is a nephew of King Arthur.

Agrestes derives from the Latin word agrestis (rural, wild, rustic, brutish), which in turn comes from ager (farm, field). He’s an ancient King of Camelot.

Amaethon derives from the Brittonic name *Ambaχtonos (ploughman-god, Divine ploughman). He’s the Welsh god of agriculture and an Arthurian warrior in the late 11th century legend of Culhwch and Olwen.

Amr, or Amhar, is King Arthur’s son in the 9th century chronicle Historia Brittonum.

Andret is the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall and an enemy cousin of Tristan.

Anfortas probably comes from the Old French word enfertez or enfermetez (infirmity). This is the name of the wounded Fisher King in the 12th century Arthurian epic Parzifal.

Anguish is the King of Ireland and Iseult’s father.

Arthur may derive from the Celtic roots *artos (bear), and *wiros (man) or *rīxs (king). It may also come from the Roman family name Artorius. The jury is still out on whether King Arthur were a real person, based on a semi-legendary figure, or entirely fictional.

Bagdemagus is the King of Gorre and a Knight of the Round Table. Some scholars believe Bagungus, the name of a character who only appears in Laghamon’s 1190 epic poem Brut, is a corruption of Bagdemagus on account of its rarity.

Balin is one of King Arthur’s knights.

Bedivere comes from the Welsh name Bedwyr, which may derive from roots bedwen (birch) and gwr (man). He’s one of King Arthur’s original friends, and throws the sword Excalibur into a lake to fulfill King Arthur’s dying wishes.

Bellangere derives from the Ancient Germanic name Berengar, which in turn comes from roots bern (bear) and ger (spear). It may also have been inspired by French roots bel, beau (beautiful, great, fine) and anger (anger), and thus means “righteous anger.” He’s a Knight of the Round Table.

Bors comes from the French name Bohort and possibly the Old French root behort or bohort (“jousting lance” or “jousting”). He’s a Knight of the Round Table.

Brunor probably derives from the Ancient Germanic root brunna (armour, protection) or brun (brown). Several Arthurian characters bear this name, including Sir Galehaut’s father.

Cador is probably a Cornish form of the Welsh name Caderyn, which means “battle king” and derives from Old Welsh roots cat (battle) and tigirn (monarch, king). He’s Lady Guinevere’s guardian, King of Cornwall, and the father of King Arthur’s successor Constantine.

Calogrenant, sometimes spelt Colgrevance, is a Knight of the Round Table.

Caradog, or Caradoc, comes from Old Welsh name Caratauc and ultimately the Brythonic name *Caratācos, which derives from Old Celtic root *karu (to love) and means “loved.” He’s a Knight of the Round Table.

Claudas is an opponent of King Arthur.

Culhwch means “hiding place of the pig” in Welsh. He’s a cousin of King Arthur.

Dagonet possibly derives from the Old English word dæg (day). He’s a Knight of the Round Table, usually described as foolish and witless. Eventually he evolved into King Arthur’s belovèd court jester.

Dinadan may derive from Dinn Eidyn (Castle of Edin), the old name for the Scottish city of Edinburgh. He’s a Knight of the Round Table and a good friend of Tristan.

The Knights Of The Round Table Summoned To The Quest By A Strange Damsel (The Summons), by Edward Burne-Jones

Ector is King Arthur’s foster father and Sir Kay’s foster father.

Edern derives from Old Welsh root edyrn (heavy, immense; wonderful, prodigious, marvellous). Previously, it was wrongly believed to come from the Latin word aeternus (eternal). Edern is a Knight of the Round Table and one of King Arthur’s most important counsellors during a battle between Saxons and Danes.

Elyan probably ultimately derives from the Roman family name Aelius, which in turn may come from the Greek word helios (sun). He’s a Knight of the Round Table and the son of Sir Bors. In some stories, he’s also a cousin of Sir Lancelot.

Escanor may derive from the Old Irish name Escae, which in turn comes from Proto–Celtic Eskyom and ultimately Proto–Indo–European H,eysk, which means “to shine, to glitter” and is usually associated with the Moon. King Escanor the Large is an antagonist killed by King Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawaine.

Escol is a follower of King Arthur.

Evelake derives from Evalach, which is probably corrupted from the Middle Welsh name Afallach and the word afall (apple). It may also be a form of the Celtic name Abellio, which some scholars believe ultimately comes from Apollo and thus may be related to the Indo–European root *apelo- (strength). King Evelake of Sarras is the first person to possess the shield destined for Sir Galahad.

Feirefiz is the halfbrother of the title character in the abovementioned epic Parzifal.

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A versatile, international classic

Catherine (Yekaterina) the Great (née Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg) as a Grand Duchess

Though I’ve previously featured the many nicknames for Katherine in all its forms, and my personal favourite forms of the name, I’ve never done a post on the name itself in all of its many international variations.

Katherine derives from the Greek name Aikaterine, which has a disputed etymology. It may come from another Greek name, Hekaterine, with the root hekateros (each of the two), or be derived from Hecate/Hekate (possibly from the root hekas, far off). It also may come from the Greek word aikia (torture), or a Coptic name meaning “my consecration of your name.” Eventually, it became associated with the Greek word katharos (pure), and the Latin spelling was thus changed from Katerina to Katharina.

The name has been extraordinarily popular ever since the fourth century, on account of St. Catherine of Alexandria, an early Christian martyr. Because some scholars believe she was fictitious or confused with Neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria and St. Dorothea of Alexandria, she was removed from the General Roman Calendar in 1969. In 2002, she was put back in as an optional memorial.

Princess Katarina Konstantinović of Serbia, 1848–1910

The spelling Katherine has long been a staple of the U.S. Top 100, from 1880–1934, in 1936, and 1940–2016. Its highest rank to date was #25 in 1991. The spelling Catherine (which is also French) has also long been a Top 100 mainstay, from 1880–1997 and 1999–2001. It was in the Top 50 until 1939, and then again from 1942–61, with its highest rank of #18 in 1914 and 1917.

Kathryn was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1881–1928, 1941–68, and 1974–2001. Its highest rank was #45 in 1951.

Other forms of the name include:

1. Katharina is German and Scandinavian.

2. Katarina is Scandinavian, German, Slovenian, Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian. The alternate form Katarína is Slovak.

3. Katarzyna is Polish.

4. Kateryna is Ukrainian.

5. Katsyaryna is Belarusian.

6. Katariina is Estonian and Finnish.

7. Katerina is Macedonian, Bulgarian, Russian, and Greek. Kateřina is Czech, and Katerína is Icelandic.

8. Katarin is Breton.

9. Katelijn is Flemish.

10. Katelijne is also Flemish.

Hungarian singer and actor Katalin Karády (1910–1990), who was posthumously honoured by Yad Vashem in 2004 as Righteous Among the Nations for hiding a group of Jewish children in her apartment

11. Katharine is German and English.

12. Katalin is Hungarian and Basque.

13. Kattalin is also Basque.

14. Kotryna is Lithuanian.

15. Katrina is English. The alternate form Katrīna is Latvian; Katrína is Icelandic; and Katrîna is Greenlandic.

16. Kakalina is Hawaiian. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this name in an Anglophone area.

17. Katell is Breton.

18. Kateri is Mohawk, pronounced Gah-deh-lee.

19. Katarzëna is Kashubian.

20. Kateryn is Manx.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 1656–1680

21. Kattrin is a rare Coptic form.

22. Catarina is Portuguese, Galician, Gascon, Occitan, Provençal, Languedocian, Aragonese, and Sicilian.

23. Caterina is Italian, Galician, and Romanian.

24. Catrin is Welsh.

25. Catalina is Spanish, Corsican, Sardinian, Occitan, Catalan, and Galician. The alternate form Cǎtǎlina is Romanian.

26. Caderina is Sardinian.

27. Caitrìona is Scottish.

28. Catriona is Irish and Scottish.

29. Catala is Asturian.

30. Gadarine is a rare Armenian form.

Russian human rights activist and humanitarian Yekaterina Pavlovna Peshkova, 1887–1965

31. Kaa’dren is Sami Skolt.

32. Kasia is Vilamovian. This is also a Polish nickname for Katarzyna.

33. Catheleine is Picard.

34. Cathrène is Norman.

35. Cath’rinne is Jèrriaias.

36. Katel is a rare Cornish form.

37. Katarino is Esperanto.

38. Keteriine is Yakut.

39. Chatrina is Romansh.

40. Ekaterine is Georgian.

41. Ekaterina is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

42. Yekaterina is Russian.

The Ys of Medieval Scandinavian, Breton, Basque, Flemish, French, Cornish, Galician, and Spanish names

Because Italian has no names starting with Y, today is another wildcard day. I took great care not to repeat any of the Medieval Y names from my 2018 post.

Male names:

Yagu (Breton) is a form of Jakob, which derives from the Hebrew name Ya’akov. Though traditional etymology claims this name means “heel” and “supplanter,” many modern Biblical scholars believe it comes from Semitic roots meaning “may God protect.”

Yowann (Cornish) is a form of John (God is gracious).

Yrian, Yryan (Scandinavian) is a form of Jurian (i.e., George, which means “farmer”).

Ysaque (Galician) is a form of Isaac, which comes from the Hebrew name Yitzchak (he will laugh).

Ythier (French) derives from Ancient Germanic roots id (labour, work) or idhja (negotiate), and hari (warrior, army).

Yuzhael (Breton)

Female names:

Ybba (Swedish) is a form of Eyba, a diminutive of names starting with the Ancient Germanic root ebur (wild boar). The modern form is Ebba.

Yden (Flemish)

Yenega (Basque) is a form of Iñiga, a feminine form of Eneko. The name may derive from the Basque words ene (my) and ko (a diminutive suffix).

Yfame (French)

Ynes (Spanish) is a form of Agnes, which derives from the Greek word hagnos (chaste). Since St. Agnes was frequently depicted with a lamb, the name acquired the secondary meaning of “lamb,” from the Latin word agnus.

Yzabé (French) is a form of Elizabeth (my God is an oath).

The Ws of Medieval English, German, Slavic, French, Norman, Flemish, and Cornish names

Seeing as there are no Italian names, Medieval or otherwise, from any region of Italy, starting with W, today is another wildcard day featuring other Medieval names. I’ve taken special care not to include any repeats from my 2018 post on Medieval names starting with W.

Male names:

Waelweyn (Flemish)

Waltram (German) derives from Ancient Germanic roots wald (to rule) and hraban (raven).

Wenceslaus (Czech) is the Latinised form of Veceslav (more glory). The modern form of this name is Václav.

Wilkin (English) is a nickname for William (will helmet)

Wilky (English) is also a nickname for William.

Wischard (Norman) is a form of Guiscard, which derives from Old Norse roots viskr (wise) and hórðr (hardy, brave).

Wszebąd (Polish) derives from roots wsze (always, everything, everyone) and bąd (to live, to exist, to be).

Wynwallow (Cornish) is a form of the Breton name Gwenole, derived from Old Breton roots uuin (white, blessed, fair) and uual (brave). The modern Breton form is Guénolé.

Wyot (English) is a form of the Old English name Wigheard, which derives from roots wig (battle) and heard (brave, hardy).

Female names:

Wantliana (English) is a form of the Welsh name Gwenllian, which is composed of roots gwen (fair, white, blessed) and lliain (flaxen).

Wastrada (German)

Weltrude (German) derives from Proto–Germanic roots wela (good, well), and þrūþ (strength) or trut (maiden).

Wigfled (English)

Wilburga (Polish)

Willberna (German) derives from Old High German roots willo (will) and bero (bear).

Williswinda (German) means “strong desire, strong will.”

Wilmot (English) is a feminine form of William. This is also a male nickname for William.

Wistrilde (French) derives from Proto–Germanic root *westrą (west) and Old High German hiltja (battle).

Cornwall’s most popular export

William Morris painting of legendary Queen Guinevere, 1858

Being the age I am, every other woman within ten years of my age either way is named Jennifer in the Anglophone world. Though my personal tastes strongly tend towards classical eccentric and classical unusual, I’ve always had fond feelings for Jennifer. I can’t think of a single bad Jennifer I’ve ever known, and I’ve encountered quite a few over forty years!

Jennifer is the Cornish form of the Welsh Gwenhwyfar (white phantom), which derives from Old Celtic roots •windos (white, fair, blessed) and *sebros (magical being, phantom). Almost everyone is familiar with Norman–French form Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur. Though they sound nothing alike, the Old Irish form is Findabair (Fionnabhair in modern Irish).

It’s just a coincidence that Jennifer sounds very similar to Juniper. The names have completely different etymologies.

U.S. actor Jennifer Jones (1919–2009) in 1953

Jennifer was extremely rare outside of Cornwall before the 18th century, and only began gaining in recognition and popularity in 1906, when Sir George Bernard Shaw used it as the name of the female protagonist in the play The Doctor’s Dilemma. In 1934, it entered the Top 100 in England and Wales. It attained its highest rank of #11 there in 1984, and stayed in their Top 100 till 2005.

Jennifer entered the U.S. Top 1000 in 1938, at #992. It jumped to #891 the next year, then #686, #604, #527, #397, #263, #199, #156. Its big leaps in popularity during the 1940s were likely strongly influenced by the above-pictured Jennifer Jones. The name continued gaining in popularity, and entered the Top 100 in 1956 at #97.

By 1965, Jennifer was #20, and it was #10 the next two years. It then rose to #4 and #3 before landing at #1 in 1970, a position it occupied till 1984. Jennifer stayed in the Top 10 till 1991, the Top 20 till 1998, and the Top 100 till 2008. In 2018, it was #344.

It’s common knowledge that Jennifer got its biggest boost of popularity thanks to the 1970 novel and film Love Story (with the hideous catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”).

A suggested reason it remained on the chart so long past that film is that it was the first love story with a tragic ending many young women saw, and it remained with them all those years. When they had daughters, Jennifer was the natural choice. For similar reasons, the oversaturated Madison is still hanging around the Top 100 years after 1984’s Splash!

Jennifer remained #1 in Delaware, Massachusetts, and Illinois till 1985. Tellingly, its immediate replacement on the overall chart was Jessica. Parents tired of Jennifer turned to a name with a fairly similar sound, just as Emily was replaced by Emma, Madeline overtook Madison, and Amelia replaced Emma. The original names never stopped being widely-used, but many people desired a close-enough substitute.

Italian aristocrat Ginevra de’ Benci (1457–1521), painted ca. 1474–78 by Leonardo da Vinci

Other forms of this hugely popular name include:

1. Guenièvre is French.

2. Ginevra is Italian and Portuguese.

3. Yenifer is Latin American–Spanish.

4. Jenifer is Spanish, Cornish, and English.

5. Jenefer is another Cornish variation.

6. Gwenivar is Breton.

7. Ginebra is Catalan.

8. Ginewra is Polish.

9. Gvinevra is Russian. Not a name that translates well into this language!

10. Xenebra, or Xenevra, is Galician.

U.S. socialite Ginevra King, 1898–1980

11. Gaenor, or Gaynor, is Welsh.

12. Dzsenifer is Hungarian. Also not a language that’s naturally suited to translating this name as-is.

13. Gkouinevir is Greek. What I said about Hungarian and Russian.

14. Dženifera is Latvian. Not exactly fond of this form either.

15. Gennifer is English.

16. Ginnifer, or Ginifer, is English.

17. Jeniffer is a rare Scandinavian form.

18. Jennifera is a rare English form.

19. Llénifer is a rare Spanish form.