“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Though many deride Harold as a geriatric, outdated name, I’ve always found it sweet and charming.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!