Home > Pregnancy > Baby Names > Choosing a Name > The Earliest Names
|

The Earliest Names

In This Article:

Page 2

William and His Book

What's in a Name

The majority of European surnames or family names come from geographical locations or terms, occupations, relationships, or an individual's unique characteristics or physical appearance.

After the Normans had dominated England for several decades, William decided to document the population he had come to control. From this early census report came the Domesday Book, which is one of the earliest records we have of names and naming trends.

As could be expected, thanks to the Norman tradition, the names that were listed showed a reliance on a small group of names for each gender, as well as a strong preference for specific names within each group. Most of society at the time relied on a select list of 20 names for each gender, with Henry, John, Thomas, Richard, Robert, and William accounting for four fifths of the male population; Agnes, Alice, Cicely, Elizabeth, Helen, Isabel, Joan, Matilda, and Margaret accounting for the majority of the women.

In the generations following William's arrival, Norman names continued to replace the English, with Alice, Margery, Maud, Muriel, Olive, and Emma finding favor for girls; William, Richard, Robert, Henry, Hugh, and Ralph became popular for boys.

Onward Christian Names

Alphabet Soup

A Christian name refers to the name given at baptism. In the early Christian Church, the Christian name was added to a person's original name. The terms “first name” or “given name” are often used when referring to Jewish or other non-Christian names.

The next major change in naming would be driven by the Christian Church nearly a century after William came to England. The church had long urged parents to select names of saints or martyrs for their children, believing that using such names would place the bearers under their namesake's protection. However, such advice was largely ignored until the thirteenth century, when the spread of Christianity lead to many converts taking new Christian names when they were baptized.

Saint names—Peter, John, James, Anthony, Paul, and others—began being used in greater frequency for boys. For girls, Mary, Anne, Elizabeth, and Catherine became popular.



<< Previous: Page 1

More on: Choosing a Name

|

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!