Bright names

Though the vast majority of such names have sharply plummeted in popularity, there’s a large quantity of Germanic-origin names formed from the root beraht (bright). Robert is far and away the best-known, with other well-known (albeit not nearly as popular) names including Albert, Gilbert, Herbert, and Hubert. Let’s take a look at this category of names.

Albert (English, French, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Catalan, Romanian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Slavic), Albèrt (Jèrriais), Alberto (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), Alberte (Galician), Adalbert (German, Hungarian), Adalberto (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese), Albaer (Limburgish), Alpertti (Finnish), Aubert (French), Adelbert (German, Dutch), Albertas (Lithuanian), Albrecht (German), Ailbeart (Scottish), Alberts (Latvian), Albertu (Corsican), Alberzh (Breton), Alberta (English, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Hungarian, Polish, Galician, Kashubian, Portuguese), Albertyna (Polish), Albertina (Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Kashubian, Galician), Alberte (French), Albertine (French): Noble and bright.

Bertha (English, German), Berta (Slavic, Hungarian, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian), Berthe (French): Bright. This was my paternal grandma’s name, and she knew it was too unfashionable to merit a namesake. However, I’d love to use her middle name Violet as a middle name for a potential daughter.

Berthold, Bertold (German), Bertoldo (Italian), Bertil (Scandinavian): Bright ruler.

Bertram (English, German), Bertrand (English, French), Bertrando (Italian): Bright raven. I love this name!

Egbert (English, Dutch), Eckbert (German): Bright edge. Not a fan of this name!

Fulbert (French, German): Bright people.

Gaubert (French), Gualberto (Portuguese, Italian): Bright rule.

Gilbert (English, French, Dutch, German), Gilberto (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian), Gisbert (German), Gijsbert (Dutch): Bright pledge.

Herbert (English, French, Dutch, German, Swedish), Herberto (Spanish, Portuguese), Heribert (German): Bright army.

Hilbert, Hildebert (German): Bright battle.

Hubert (English, Dutch, German, French, Polish), Uberto (Italian), Hoebaer (Limburgish): Bright mind; bright heart.

Humbert (English, German, French), Umberto (Italian), Humberto (Portuguese, Spanish): Bright warrior.

Kunibert (German): Bright family.

Lambert (English, German, Dutch, French), Lammert (Dutch), Lambaer (Limburgish), Lamberto (Italian): Bright land.

Norbert (English, German, Dutch, French, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak), Norberto (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), Norbaer (Limburgish): Bright north.

Osbert (English): Bright and good.

Philibert, Philbert (French), Filibert (German), Filiberto (Italian), Filbert (East African): Much brightness.

Rambert (German): Bright raven.

Siegbert (German): Bright victory.

Wilbert (Dutch): Bright will.

Wybert (Middle English): Bright battle.

All about Howard

Today, 18 January, is the 68th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of the great comedian Curly Howard, né Jerome Lester Horwitz. I had a post about the name Jerome three years ago, so now it’s time for Curly’s adopted surname to shine. There’s really not much to say about his middle name Lester.

The English name Howard started its life as a surname, and eventually became a forename as well. There are at least four known etymologies:

Hughard, an Ancient Germanic name derived from roots hug (mind, heart) and hard (brave, hardy). It evolved into Anglo–Norman Huard.

Ewehirde, a Middle English word meaning “ewe-herder.”

Haward, an Anglo–Scandinavian name derived from Anglo–Saxon roots hæg (fence, enclosure) and weard (guard).

Hávarðr, an Old Norse name derived from roots  (high) and varðr (defender, guardian). The modern Norwegian form is Håvard, which entered Norway’s Top 100 in 1962 at #90, then briefly fell off and returned in 1964 at #86. Håvard was in the Top 100 till 2010. Its highest rank was #33, from 1994–96.

In the U.S., Howard was #44 when records began being kept in 1880, and stayed in the Top 100 till 1958. Its highest rank was #24 in 1919 and 1920. In 2018, it was #965, up from #999 in 2017. Surprisingly, Howard made the Top 1000 for girls twice, at #959 in 1888 and #994 in 1928.

In British Columbia, Canada, Howard was in the Top 100 from 1918–48, and again from 1950–60. Its highest rank there to date was #38 in 1923 and 1925.

Hovard is a rare Swedish and German form, and Jovardo is a rare Spanish form.

All about Harold

“Here sits Harold, King of the English,” Scene 31 of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting King Harold II (ca. 1022–14 October 1066)

The English name Harold derives from Old English Hereweald, and the roots here (army) and weald (ruler, power, leader). After the Norman invasion and occupation of England, Harold fell into general disuse, and was only revived in the 19th century.

The Ancient Germanic form Hariwald, or Chariovalda, dates back even earlier, to the first century of the Common Era. Another early, related form is Arioald. This name comes from Proto–Germanic *harja-waldaz, which has roughly the same meaning as Hereweald.

Haraldr, the Old Norse form, was also a common name during these long-ago centuries, in both Scandinavia itself and among many settlers in the Danelaw (Danish-dominated part of England).

King Harald V of Norway (born 1937, reigning since 1991), circa 1956–57

Harold was #116 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and moved into the Top 100 in 1884, at #85. It jumped up the charts every year until attaining its highest rank of #12 in 1915. Until 1928, Harold went back and forth between #12, #13, and #14. It slowly descended in popularity during the ensuing years, and remained in the Top 100 till 1966. In 2018, it was #797.

Though many deride Harold as a geriatric, outdated name, I’ve always found it sweet and charming. It seems like the name of a serious, studious fellow. On a personal level, I’ve become even fonder of it since discovering the great comedian Harold Lloyd (1893–1971), one of the Big Three comics of the silent era.

Harold is one of my heroes because he was a fellow burn survivor, and resolved to become an even stronger performer after almost dying in a 1919 accident with a prop bomb. Many people would’ve given up and retreated from acting altogether, but Harold didn’t let the loss of two fingers, temporary blindness, and a long, touch-and-go hospital stay keep him from his life’s calling.

Other forms of Harold include:

1. Harald is Scandinavian and German, and has been borne by three kings of Denmark, five kings of Norway (including the current king), and three earls of Orkney.

2. Haraldur is Icelandic.

3. Haroldo is Spanish and Portuguese.

4. Harri is Finnish and Welsh.

5. Aroldo is Italian.

6. Aroldos is a rare Greek form.

7. Haroldas is Lithuanian.

8. Harailt is Scottish.

9. Harolyn is a rare, English feminine form. I’m not really a fan of this name!

Masked names

Continuing the Halloween theme for October, here are some names related to the word “mask.” Almost all of them are Ancient Germanic or Old Norse in origin, and thus not so realistic for a modern, real person. Unless otherwise specified, all these names are male.

Adalgrim means “noble mask,” from Old High German adal (noble) and Old Norse grîma (mask).

Aldgrim means “old mask,” from Gothic alds and Old High German alt (old) and Old Norse grîma. This name may also be an alternate form of Adalgrim.

Alfgrim is a Middle English and German name meaning “elf mask,” from roots alf and grim.

Arngrímr comes from Old Norse ǫrn (eagle) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Ásgrímr comes from Old Norse áss (god) and grímr.

Aurgrímnir comes from Old Norse aur (clay, sand) and grímr or grimmr (grim). This is the name of a jötunn, a type of otherworldly creature in Norse mythology.

Auðgrímr comes from Old Norse auðr (riches, fortune, prosperity) and grímr.

Biligrim comes from Ancient Germanic bili (gentleness) and Old Norse grímr.

Ebergrim comes from Old High German ebur (wild boar) and Old Norse gríma (mask).

Edlgrímr comes from Old Norse eldr (fire) and gríma.

Frotgrim comes from Old High German frôd (cautious, prudent) and Old Norse gríma.

Grímr is the Anglo–Saxon, Old Swedish, Old Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish form of Grímr (mask, helmet), which was popular till the 12th century. This is also another name for the god Odin.

Grimbald comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German bald (brave, bold).

Grimbert comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German beraht (bright).

Grimburg comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German burg (fortress), or Gothic bairgan and Old High German bergan (to preserve, save, keep).

Grimfrid comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German fridu (peace).

Grimhard comes from Old Norse grîma, and Gothic hardus and Old High German hart (hardy, brave).

Grímheiður is Icelandic, derived from roots grímr (person wearing a mask) and heiðr (bright, cloudless, clear).

Grimland comes from Old Norse grîma and land (land).

Grímr means “masked person” or “shape-changer” in Old Norse, from gríma (mask, helmet). Since this was also a name for Odin, it may have been given to human boys in the hopes they’d walk through life with Odin’s protection.

Grimulf comes from Old Norse grîma and Gothic vulfs (wolf).

Grímúlfur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse grim (mask, helmet) and ulfr (wolf).

Grimward comes from Old Norse grîma and Old High German wart (guard).

Grimwald derives from Ancient Germanic grim (mask) and walk (power, ruler, leader).

Hadegrim comes from Old High German hadu (battle) and Old Norse grîma.

Hafgrímr comes from Old Norse haf (ocean, sea) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Hallgrímr comes from Old Norse elements hallr (rock) and grîma.

Hardgrim comes from Gothic hardus and Old High German hart (brave, hardy), and Old Norse grîma.

Hildegrim comes from Old Norse hildr (battle) and grîma.

Hildigrímr comes from Old Norse hildr and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Hólmgrímr is an Icelandic name formed from holmr (small island) and grímr.

Hrafngrímur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse hrafn (raven) and grim (mask, helmet).

Isangrim comes from Ancient Germanic isan (iron) and Old Norse grîma.

Isgrim comes from Ancient Germanic îs (ice) and Old Norse grîma.

Járngrímur is an Icelandic name formed from jarn (iron) and grímr.

Jógrímr comes from Old Norse iór (horse) and grímr.

Kolgrímur is Icelandic and Faroese, derived from Old Norse kolr (black, coal, dark) and grim (mask, helmet).

Kriemhild (F) derives from Ancient Germanic grim and hild (battle). This name is famous as a character in the Nibelungenleid saga.

Landgrim comes from Ancient Germanic land and Old Norse grîma.

Liutgrim comes from Old High German liut (people) and Old Norse grîma.

Madalgrim comes from Gothic mathi (meeting place) and Old Norse grîma.

Margrímur is an Icelandic name derived from marr (ocean, sea, lake) and grímr (person wearing a mask).

Menkao (F) can be derived from Japanese elements men (mask) and kao (face).

Moye derives from Chinese elements mo (mask) and ye (deed, job, occupation, karma).

Radgrim comes from Old High German rât (counsel) and Old Norse grîma.

Rotgrim comes from Ancient Germanic hróthi (fame) and Old Norse grîma.

Sigurgrímur is an Icelandic name formed from sigr (victory) and grímr.

Skallagrímr comes from Old Norse skalli (bald head) and grímr.

Stafngrímr derives from Ancient Germanic stafn (stern/prow of a ship) and grímr.

Steingrímur is an Icelandic name derived from Old Norse steinn (stone) and grímr.

Tegrimo may be a nickname for Teudegrimo, the Italian form of an Ancient Germanic name derived from þeud (people) and grim.

Thancgrim comes from Ancient Germanic thanc and Old High German dankjan (to think) or dank (thanks), and Old Norse grîma.

Theudegrim comes from Ancient Germanic þeud and Old Norse grîma.

Þórgrímr comes from Thor/Þórr (thunder) and grímr. The modern Norwegian form is Torgrim.

Víggrímur is a Faroese name derived from víg (battle, fight) and grímr.

Walagrim comes from Old High German walah (traveller, wanderer, foreigner) and Old Norse grîma.

Waldgrim derives from Gothic valdan (to reign) and Old Norse grîma.

Wilgrim comes from Gothic vilja (desire, will) and Old Norse grîma.

Male names of literary origin, A-F

18th century miniature of Tariel and Avtandil meeting in a cave

Aminta was coined by Italian poet Torquato Tasso for his 1573 play of the same name. It’s derived from Greek name Amyntas, from amyntor (defender).

Amiran is the hero of Medieval Georgian poet Moses of Khoni’s great romance epic Amiran-Darejaniani. The name is derived from mythical Georgian hero Amirani, of unknown etymology. I have a character by this name, who breaks out of prison after four years of Soviet torture and walks all the way into Iran, over the Alborz Mountains, to find his wife Alina.

Astrophel was coined by 16th century British poet Sir Philip Sidney for his sonnet collection Astrophel and Stella. The name probably means “star-lover,” from Greek roots aster (star) and philos (lover, friend).

Avtandil is another Georgian name, created by Shota Rustaveli for his 12th century national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin. It’s derived from Persian roots aftab (sunshine) and dil (heart).

Bayard is a magical bay horse owned by Renaud de Montauban and his brothers in Medieval French poetry. It derives from Old French baiart (bay-coloured).

Caspian is a character in C.S. Lewis’s famous Chronicles of Narnia series. Caspian, who débuts in the fourth book, is Narnia’s rightful king who’s been forced into exile by his evil Uncle Miraz. The name probably comes from that of the Caspian Sea, which in turn derives from the city of Qazvin, Iran, named for the ancient Kaspian tribe.

Cedric was created by Sir Walter Scott for a character in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe. He based it on Cerdic, the first historically-verified King of Wessex (and my 48-greats-grandfather). The name is possibly connected to Brythonic name Caratacos, which comes from Celtic root car (love).

Lithograph of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, date unknown

Csongor (CHON-gor) was created by Hungarian writer Mihály Vörösmarty for his 1830 play Csongor és Tünde. It probably derives from a Turkic root meaning “falcon.”

Cymbeline is the title character of a 1609 Shakespeare play about a mythological king based on Cunobelinus, a British chieftain who’s said to have ruled in the first century of the Common Era. It may mean “hound of Belenus,” from Old Celtic root koun (hound) and Belenus, a Gaulish god of the Sun often equated with Apollo. Belenus may mean “bright, brilliant” in Old Celtic.

Cyrano is famous as the title character of French writer Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac. The name may come from Cyrene, the Latinized name of Ancient Greek city Kyrene (now in Libya), which was named after Queen Kyrene of Thessaly. It ultimately means “sovereign queen.” Rostand’s character is based on a real person, 17th century satirist Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac.

Dorian was created by Oscar Wilde for his 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, derived either from Ancient Greek tribe the Dorians or Irish surname Doran (descendant of Deoradhán). The name Deoradhán in turn means “wanderer, exile.”

Ebenezer means “stone of help” in Hebrew. This is used as a place name in the Bible, but most famously used as a person’s name in Charles Dickens’s 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. This is also the real name of next-oldest child Ben Pepper in Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers series. Ms. Sidney used a lot of strange or pretentious names.

Amato as Cyrano de Bergerac, 1910

Etzel is a character in the great Medieval German saga Die Nibelungenlied. It’s a form of Attila, as Etzel is a fictionalised version of Attila the Hun. The name may mean “little father,” from Gothic root atta (father) and a diminutive suffix.

Figaro was created by French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais for the protagonist of his plays The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784), and The Guilty Mother (1792). The name may be derived from the French phrase fils Caron, son of Caron (the playwright’s nickname).

Florimond is the name of the prince in some versions of Sleeping Beauty. It possibly derives from Latin florens (flourishing, prosperous) and Ancient Germanic mund (protection).