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Old English Names



Old English was the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, Germanic tribesman who lived in England during the Dark Ages, conquering and mastering the native Celtic tribes. They dominated the southeastern part of Britain until the 11th century, and they spoke a language called Anglo-Saxon, or Old English. It was a mishmash of various Germanic tongues, with many regional varieties.

In one of those delightfully ironic twists of history, the Anglo-Saxons were conquered and mastered by the Normans. In 1066 Duke William of Normandy (known to history as William the Conqueror) invaded England and claimed the throne as his own, bringing with him his own aristocracy and culture. Norman French became the language of the elite in England, and Old English the language of the subjects. These two languages eventually merged to form Middle English, and later Modern English as we speak it today.



A typical Anglo-Saxon name (like most other Germanic names) was of two syllables and consisted of two words that reflected the Anglo-Saxon way of life. Some of these could make the first syllable of the name, some the second, and some could go in either slot. Such pieces include:

Aelf (Alf, Elf) - Elf
Aethel (Athel, Ethel) - Noble
Behrt (Bert, Berth) - Bright, Shining
Beorn (Bern) - Bear
Ead (Ed) - Rich
Eald (Ald, Eld) - Old, Wise
Frith/Fried (Fred) - Peace
Gar - Spear
God - God, gods
Gyth (gith, ith)- War, Strife, Battle
Hard - Strong, Hardy
Hild - Battle
Leof - Dear
Mild - Mild
Mund - Protection
Raed (Rad, Red) - Advice, Counsel
Ric (rick, rich) - Power, Ruler
Stan - Stone
Thryth - Power
Weard (Ward) - Guard
Wulf - Wolf
Wyn/Wine - Friend


Most Anglo-Saxon names died out soon after the Norman Invasion. The only two to really survive in continuous use in England from the Anglo-Saxon era on down are Edward and Edmund. These two survived because King Henry III had a great admiration for Edward the Confessor. He named two of his sons Edward and Edmund, and these two names were staples of the English royal families (and the English population) for generations.


Few other Saxon names survived. Most had died out by the 14th century in England.
Such names include:

Ailith
Aldred
Aldwin
Esmond
Estrild
Ethelburga

Frideswide
Godric
Godwin

Kenelm
Kennard
Kendrick
Kenward
Leofric

Swithin
Uchtred


Occasionally, one of these names lasted into the Middle Ages long enough to provide a surname. If so, then occasionally one may find the surname as a transferred first name.



During the Victorian Age, the British (and by extension, the Americans) participated in a major revival of many older names. Medieval romances (like Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King, and the collected works of Sir Walter Scott) often used obsolete names which thrilled the Victorians’ sense of history. Many of these names were “revived” and then passed onto the general population. Unfortunately, many of these names are once again obsolete.

Revived Anglo-Saxon names include:

Albert
Alfred
Alvin
Athelstan
Audrey
Chad
Cuthbert
Edgar
Edith
Edred
Edwin
Egbert
Eldred
Elfrieda
Elgiva
Elwin
Ethel
Ethelbert
Etheldreda
Ethelinda
Hereward
Hildred
Mildred
Norman
Osbert
Osborn
Osmond
Oswald
Oswin
Rowena
(possibly an Old English name)
Wilbert
Wilfred
Winifred (as a masculine name)



Anglo-Saxon (Old English) Names Hosted by Edgar’s Name Pages include:

Ailith
Albert
Aldred
Aldwin
Alfred
Alvin
Alwyn
Athelstan
Audrey
Aylmer
Chad
Cuthbert
Edgar
Edith
Edred
Edward
Edmund
Edwin
Egbert
Eldred
Elfrieda
Elgiva
Elwin (Alvin)
Esmond
Estrild
Ethel
Ethelbert
Ethelburga
Etheldreda
Ethelinda
Frideswide
Godric
Godwin
Goldwin
Grimbald
Hereward
Hildred
Kenelm
Kennard
Kendrick
Kenward
Leofric
Mildred
Norman
Osbert
Osborn
Osmond
Oswald
Oswin
Rowena
Swithin
Uchtred
Wilbert
Wilfred
Winifred


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