Baby Names That Go Back To 1066

A Plaque from Norwich Castle, built by the Normans after the conquest.

A couple of weeks ago we featured names of the Pilgrims. Today we are featuring names of another group of travelers that go back even farther than the Pilgrims. I am talking about vikings. Most of their names will be familiar.

The pivotal year was 1066. This is the year the Normans, a group of Vikings, conquered England. They were led by Duke William (later known as “William the Conqueror”) who defeated the king Harold at the Battle of Hastings. King Harold died by an arrow shot through his eye.

The impact of this event was profound and far-reaching. The modern British monarchy are descended from these people. The Normans legacy survives today in the Modern English vocabulary and given names.

Many Old English names were replaced with Norman names. However, not all Old English names disappeared. Edith is an example of an Old English name common among the Anglo-Saxon royalty that survived the Norman conquest.

Consequently, I was unable to confirm other medieval names, such as Amable, Eleanor and Griselda, names I would have loved to include, came from the Normans. Nevertheless, Norman names are extremely prevalent in English-speaking countries. If you are from an English-speaking country, chances are someone you know or even you have a Norman name (or a name that was derived from a Norman name).

These names have long been associated with royalty. There is a good chance Prince William and Kate will use a Norman name for their first child. Or maybe they will break with tradition if allowed (I’ve heard the Queen traditionally approves royal baby names).

Most authentic classics that are not Biblical originate from the Normans, such as Robert and William. (Fun Fact: Robert is the only former top U.S. boy name that was not Biblical.) Up-and-coming revival names, Alice and Matilda, which have already become very popular in other English-speaking countries also belong to this group. But even among these established favorites are some surprises.

Take a look (boys are blue, girls are pink and unisex are green):

Bernadine – the feminine form of Bernard
Darcie – from the Norman place-name “from Arcy”
Henrietta – a feminine form of Henry
Joyce – from the Norman male name Josce or Josse
Sidney – possibly from the Norman place-name “Saint Denis”, but was not used as a given name until the 18th century

Most of these names are reassuringly familiar with a stately style. For the newest heir to the British throne, I would love to see a compromise between traditional and daring with one of the less common but still familiar Norman inspired names such as Bertram or Millicent. Cecily is in my top 5 (and fights for the top spot with Opal). A Princess Cecily would be sweet. Time will tell.

One thing is almost certain: Many of these names will still be stylish in 2066.

Readers: Would you pick any of these names for William and Kate’s baby? Which Norman names are your favorites? (multiple answers are allowed)


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  1. I also would love to see Bertram used on a royal baby boy and maybe a little Eileen or Rose for a girl.

    My favorites from the list: Bernard, Bertram, Roland, and Walter from the boys and Claire, Eileen, and Rose from the girls. However, Emeline, Jocelyn, Harvey, Lawrence, Robert, and William are also lovely.

  2. British American says:

    My Henry and Rose are on this list. 🙂 I’d never thought of them as Norman names before. Thought that makes sense. I do like them for their royal English vibe.

    I’m surprised to see Joyce on this list. That’s my Mum’s name – that she’s never much liked. She wishes she was Joy instead. I wonder if she’d like her name more to see it in this company.

    I think it would be super cool if the Royal baby had a familiar but super old fashioned name.

    • Joyce is interesting. It is not a name brought to England by the Normans in its present form. The name was derived from a medieval masculine name Josse. Behind the Name say this was the name of a 7th century saint that was brought to England after the Norman conquest, and then became rare after the 14th century and later revived as a feminine name. They are not clear on when it was revived as a feminine name or when it morphed from Josse to Joyce. I’m not sure if Josse became Joyce before or after it became a feminine name. But they do list it as both feminine and masculine, which makes me think I should color code it green. But Joyce is sort of like Meredith and Vivian, another gender crossover name that seems almost exclusively feminine now.

  3. Not in the list, but I think it might be Diana for a girl.
    For a boy maybe Philip, after W’s. grandfather.

  4. This is about the fifth or sixth time now I’ve seen a blogger suggest or hint that Alice may be the name of the Cambridges’ baby if it’s a girl. When everyone says the same thing, I get very interested!

    I must say, I love Alice, but can’t really imagine a Queen Alice, except in “Through the Looking Glass”. She could always rule under one of her middle names though.


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