A quintessentially Irish name

St. Brigid of Kildare, painted by Patrick Joseph Tuohy

One needn’t be a passionate Hibernophile to be aware Bridget is one of the most quintessential of Irish names. And unlike most Celtic names, this one spread to many other languages instead of staying a primarily native product.

Brighid means “exalted one” and “power, strength, virtue, vigour.” Brighid was a goddess of fire, poetry, and wisdom.

Another beloved bearer was the abovepictured St. Brigid of Kildare, who lived in the 5th century and became one of Ireland’s patron saints. However, because this was the name of a saint, it was considered too sacred for normal use. Only in the 17th century did Brighid, or Brigid, become popular.

As Brigitta, this name has also long been popular in Scandinavia. The 14th century St. Brigitta is Europe’s patron saint.

The most common English form is Bridget, which has never been in the U.S. Top 100. Its highest rank to date was #112 in 1973.

Beata Brigida, painting of St. Birgitta of Sweden, done between ca. 1534–66 by Jerónimo Cosida

Other forms of this popular name include:

1. Bridgette is English.

2. Brigitte is French.

3. Brigita is Latvian, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Sorbian, Kashubian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Croatian. The variant Brígida is Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese.

4. Berit is Scandinavian.

5. Brygida is Polish.

6. Birita is Faroese.

7. Brigitta is German, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, and Russian.

8. Bríd is modern Irish.

9. Brìghde is Scottish.

10. Birgithe is a rare Scandinavian variant.

1924 self-portrait of U.S. miniature painter Birgitta Moran Farmer (1881–1939)

11. Birgit is Scandinavian and German.

12. Ffraid is Welsh.

13. Piritta is Finnish. Nicknames include Pirkko, Priita, Pirjo, and Riitta.

14. Breeshey is Manx.

15. Birte is Norwegian.

16. Bergit is Scandinavian.

17. Berc’hed is Breton.

18. Birgitte is Norwegian.

19. Britta is German and Scandinavian.

20. Birkide is Basque.

German actor Brigitte Helm (1908–1996)

21. Bregida is Occitan.

22. Brigyta is Lithuanian.

23. Bríxida is Galician.

24. Bedelia, or Bidelia, is an Irish diminutive.

All about Arthur

Stan Laurel (né Arthur Stanley Jefferson),
16 June 1890–23 February 1965

To mark the 55th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of dear Stan Laurel, I’m shining the spotlight on his birth forename, Arthur. I love this timeless, classic name that works on any fellow of any age, from any background. If I’d been born male, I think Arthur would’ve been the perfect name for me.

Arthur’s etymology is unknown, though there are two posited meanings, the obscure Roman family name Artorius, or Celtic roots artos (bear) and viros (man) or rigos (king). The name is used in English, French, German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages. It rose to popularity in the Middle Ages thanks to legends about King Arthur, who probably wasn’t a real person (though he may have been based on real people).

Arthur was #14 in the U.S. in 1880, when name records were first collected. It alternated between #14 and #15 till 1904, and remained in the Top 20 till 1926, the Top 50 till 1953, and the Top 100 till 1969. The year I was born, it was #143. In recent years, it’s been on a gradual rise. Arthur was #229 in 2018.

The name is also popular in Belgium (#1), France (#7), England and Wales (#7), Denmark (#17), Northern Ireland (#21), Switzerland (#42), Scotland (#46), New Zealand (#63), and Ireland (#73).

Tapestry of King Arthur, ca. 1385

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Artur is Slavic, Estonian, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Armenian, Albanian, Uzbek, Turkish, Ossetian, Romanian, Scandinavian, and Basque. It’s currently #40 in Portugal, #49 in Poland. The alternate form Artúr is Slovak, Hungarian, and Irish.

2. Arturo is Spanish and Italian.

3. Artturi is Finnish. Nicknames include Arttu and Arto.

4. Artair is Scottish.

5. Artūrs is Latvian.

6. Arzhur is Breton.

7. Arturi is Georgian and Albanian.

8. Arthouros is Greek.

9. Artūras is Lithuanian.

10. Arturu is Maltese.

Italian–American political activist and poet Arturo Giovannitti, 1884–1959

11. Èrthu is Norman and Jèrriais.

12. Tuur is Limburgish.

13. Artús is Occitan and Asturian.

Female forms:

1. Arturiana is Romanian.

2. Artura is a rare English, Spanish, and Italian form. The alternate form Artūra is Lithuanian.

3. Arthurine is French.

4. Arthurina is English.

5. Arthuria is English.

6. Artha is English.

7. Artūrė is Lithuanian.

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.

The many forms of Martin

To mark Martin Luther King Day, I thought it’d be fitting to do a post spotlighting this incredible hero’s name.

Martin comes from the Latin Martinus, which in turn derives from Martis, the genitive case of Mars. The Roman god Mars was copied from the Greek god Ares, the god of war. Mars may derive from the Latin word mas (male). Very fitting, given that the astrological glyph for Mars is the same as the symbol for male!

St. Martin of Tours, a fourth century bishop, is France’s patron saint. One of many legends about him depicts him as ripping his cloak in half to warm a freezing beggar during winter. Because he was such a beloved saint during the Middle Ages, his name became popular across Christendom. Theologian Martin Luther later added to the name’s popularity.

Statue of Mars at Rome’s Capitoline Museums, Copyright Andrea Puggioni

Martin is used in English, French, German, the Scandinavian languages, Finnish, Macedonian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Estonian, and Croatian. The variant Martín is Spanish, and Martîn is Norman.

In the U.S., Martin was Top 100 from 1880–1970. To date, its highest rank was #44 in 1880. In 2018, it was #272. It also enjoys popularity in Galicia (#2), Spain (#3), the Czech Republic (#13 in 2016), France (#24), Norway (#25), Slovenia (#36), Hungary (#38), Catalonia (#41), Belgium (#73), Ireland (#79), and Switzerland (#82).

Polish historian, diplomat, and cartographer Marcin Kromer (1512–89), painted by unknown 1688–1703

Other forms of Martin include:

1. Martim is Portuguese.

2. Martyn is Welsh, Ukrainian, and Manx. This is also a Russian variation.

3. Marcin is Polish.

4. Márton is Hungarian.

5. Martti is Finnish.

6. Máirtín is Irish. Without accents, Mairtin is Scottish.

7. Martynas is Lithuanian.

8. Martino is Italian.

9. Mattin is Basque. The nickname is Matxin.

10. Morten is Danish and Norwegian.

Self-portrait (1553) of Dutch painter Maarten van Heemskerck, 1498–1574

11. Martí is Catalan.

12. Maarten is Dutch.

13. Martijn is also Dutch.

14. Mārtiņš is Latvian.

15. Mārcis is also Latvian. It started as a nickname for Mārtiņš, but is now used as a given name in its own right.

16. Mårten is Swedish. The variant Marten is Dutch.

17. Màrtainn is Scottish Gaelic.

18. Martèin is Emilian-Romagnol, a Gallo-Italic language spoken in northern Italy.

19. Martiño is Galician.

20. Martinos is a rare Greek form.

Hungarian actor Márton Rátkai, 1881–1951

21. Martinu is Corsican.

22. Marttiin is Finnish.

23. Marzhin is Breton.

24. Mātene is Maori.

25. Měrćin is Sorbian.

26. Mieta is Vilamovian.

27. Môrcën is Kashubian.

28. Martinian is an English, Russian, and Ukrainian form of Latin name Martinianus, which derives from Martinus, the original Latin form of the name. Martinus is also the official Dutch form, though almost no Dutch people use Latin forms of their names outside of legal documents.

29. Martiniano is Spanish and Italian.

30. Martinien is French.

Roman Emperor Martinian (Sextus Marcius Martinianus), ?–325

31. Martinijan is Serbian and Croatian.

32. Martynian is Polish.

Female forms:

1. Martina is English, German, Italian, Catalan, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Slovenian, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Aragonese, Gascon, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian, and Croatian. The name is #2 in Catalonia, #3 in Spain, and #4 in Galicia. In Icelandic, it’s Martína.

2. Martine is French, Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian.

3. Martyna is Polish.

4. Martinha is Portuguese.

5. Martixa is Basque.

6. Martyne is Québecois.

7. Martien is Dutch. This can also be a male name.

The many forms of Thomas

American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, 1847–1931

Thomas, a name used in English, German, Dutch, French, Greek, and the Scandinavian languages, comes from the Aramaic name Ta’oma (twin). This name has long been a mainstay of the Christian world (in a variety of languages) due to Thomas the Apostle, who famously doubted the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection till he saw and felt the wounds himself. According to tradition, he was martyred in India.

Thomas was introduced to the Anglophone world by the occupying Normans, and became quite popular thanks to the martyred St. Thomas à Becket, a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury. From the 13th to 19th centuries, it was among the five most common male English names, and is still fairly popular today.

Portuguese-born Brazilian poet Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, 1744–1810

The name was #8 in the U.S. in 1880, when records were first kept, and ranged from #8 to #12 till 1968. In 1969, it was #13, and then began gradually descending in popularity. Thomas remained in the Top 50 till 2005, and has never ranked below #63 (in 2011 and 2012). In 2018, it was #49.

Thomas also enjoys popularity in Northern Ireland (#9), Ireland (#12), England and Wales (#12), Scotland (#14), New Zealand (#14), The Netherlands (#14), Italy (#34), Belgium (#38), Austria (#53), France (#58), Switzerland (#76), and Norway (#90).

Polish Prime Minister Tomasz Arciszewski, 1877–1955

Other forms of Thomas include:

1. Tomos is Welsh. Nicknames include Tomi and Twm (pronounced kind of like “tomb”).

2. Tàmhas is Scottish. Anglicisations include Tavish and Tòmas.

3. Toma is Romanian, Georgian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian.

4. Tuomas, or Tuomo, is Finnish, with nicknames including Tomi and Tommi.

5. Tomass, or Toms, is Latvian.

6. Tomasso is Italian.

7. Tamati is Maori.

8. Toomas is Estonian.

9. Tomaz is Breton. The alternate form Tomaž is Slovenian.

10. Tomé is Portuguese.

Tomasso I, Marquess of Sanluzzo (1239–96)

11. Tomasz is Polish.

12. Tomas is Lithuanian, Norwegian, and Swedish; Tomás is Spanish, Irish, and Portuguese; Tomaš is Sorbian, Serbian, and Croatian; Tomáš is Czech and Slovak; Tomàs is Catalan; and Tómas is Icelandic.

13. Tamás is Hungarian.

14. Thomaase is Manx.

15. Thonmas is Jèrriais.

16. Toman is Vlach.

17. Tammes is a rare Danish form.

18. Tomasi is Tongan, Fijian, and Melanesian.

19. Tomasy is Malagasy.

20. Tomisav is Vlach.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, first President of Czechoslovakia (1850–1937)

21. Tomašis is Romani.

22. Tommes is Limburgish.

23. Tomôsz is Kashubian.

24. Tömu is Swiss–German.

25. Tovmas is Armenian.

26. Tuma is Arabic. The alternate form Tüma is Vilamovian.

27. Tumasch is Romansh.

28. Tummas is Faroese.

29. Tûmarse is Greenlandic.

30. Foma is Russian.

Romanian hospital director, bacteriologist, educator, and humanitarian Dr. Toma Ciorbă (1864–1936)

31. Lillac is Caló–Romani.

32. Duommá is Sami. Other Sami forms of Thomas are Dommá and Duomis.

Female forms:

1. Thomasina is English.

2. Tomine is Norwegian.

3. Tamsin, or Tamsyn, is Cornish.

4. Thomaḯs is Greek.

5. Thomaḯda is also Greek.

6. Thomai is another Greek form.

7. Tuomasiina is a rare Finnish form.

8. Tommasina is Italian.

9. Tomazja is Polish.

10. Tomásia is Portuguese.

Portuguese noblewoman Leonor Tomásia de Távora, 3rd Marquise of Távora (1700–59)

11. Thomine is French and Danish.

12. Tomasina is a rare English form.

13. Thomassine is a rare French form.

14. Thomassin is French–Cajun.

15. Thomasine is a rare Swedish and English form, and archaic French and Danish form.

16. Thomasin is English.

17. Thomasse is archaic French and English.

18. Tomasine is archaic Norwegian, last recorded in the 1940s.