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.

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!

All about Elizabeth

Though I’ve had prior posts about my favourite forms of the name Elizabeth, and its many nicknames, I’ve never had a post devoted to the name in its entirety. This post will also only focus on derivatives of the standard form Elizabeth, not related names Isabel and Lillian (unless those are a language’s only forms of Elizabeth). Despite their origins, they’ve for all intents and purposes developed into their own independent names.

Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 1560s, artist unknown

The English name Elizabeth comes from the Hebrew Elisheva, “my God is an oath.” Its historic popularity stems in large part from the fact that this was the name of John the Baptist’s mother. Traditionally, it was much more common in Eastern Europe (in its variety of forms) until another famous bearer (pictured above) appeared in the 16th century and made the name popular in Western Europe too.

Since the U.S. began keeping data on names in 1880, the name has never fallen below #26 (in 1948). It was in the Top 10 from 1880–1923, in 1925, from 1980–2001, in 2003 and 2004, in 2007 and 2008, and in 2012 and 2013. In 2018, it was #13.

The name enjoys more modest popularity in Scotland (#75), New Zealand (#81), Ireland (#60), and England and Wales (#44). The alternate spelling Elisabeth, used in German, English, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages, was only #788 in the U.S. in 2018, and has never charted higher than #302 in 1984.

Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, later Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna of Russia, now Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr (1864–1918)

Other forms include:

1. Elisabet is Scandinavian, Catalan, Finnish, and sometimes Spanish. The alternate form Elísabet is Icelandic.

2. Élisabeth is French.

3. Elisabete is modern Portuguese.

4. Elizabeta is Slovenian and Croatian.

5. Elikapeka is Hawaiian.

6. Elixabete is Basque.

7. Elisabeta is Romanian.

8. Elisabetta is Italian.

9. Elisavet is modern Greek.

10. Eliisabet is Estonian.

Princess Elisabeta of Romania, later Queen of Greece (1894–1956)

11. Elisabed is Georgian.

12. Erzsébet is Hungarian.

13. Elizabete is Latvian.

14. Eilís is Irish.

15. Elżbieta is Polish. The alternate form Elžbieta is Lithuanian.

16. Ealisaid is Manx.

17. Ealasaid is Scottish.

18. Elisaveta is Bulgarian and Macedonian.

19. Yelizaveta is Russian.

20. Yelyzaveta is Ukrainian.

Georgian actor Elisabed Cherkezishvili (1864–1948)

21. Alžbeta is Slovak. The alternate form Alžběta is Czech.

22. Jelisaveta is Serbian.

23. Bethan is Welsh.

24. Lizaveta is Russian.

25. Zabel is Armenian.

26. Sabela is Galician.

27. Elspeth, or Elspet, is Scottish.

28. Eisabèu is Provençal.

29. Élîzabé is Jèrriais.

30. Elizabeto is Esperanto.

Polish poet Elżbieta Drużbacka (1695/98–1765)

31. Elisabette is a rare French and English form.

32. Elisapeci, or Ilisapeci, is Fijian.

33. Elisapie is Inuit.

34. Elizabet is Belarusian and Bulgarian.

35. Eliżabetta is Maltese.

36. Elizete is a rare Brazilian–Portuguese form.

37. Elzabé is Namibian.

38. Elžbjeta is Sorbian.

39. Erihapeti, or Irihapeti, is Maori.

40. Il-shvai is Amharic.