Archive for June, 2011

Today’s entry is the sweet – but not so simple – Lydia. As it’s quite a shortie, I’m throwing in a couple of freebies too: the probably related Ilia, Lyd — Lydia’s unrelated ‘next door neighbor’ in the book — and Lyd’s probable parent, Lludd… ooooo!

A character called Lydia featured in four Odes by the Pagan Roman poet Horace in the 1st Century BCE


Greek: Ludios ‘of Lydia’ – an ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, and later a Roman province. The name was ancient – the Akkadians called it Luddu – but the meaning is uncertain; it has tentatively been linked to Proto-Indo-European: *h₁lewdʰo- ‘people’, from which Old German: liut ‘people’, Latin: liber ‘free’ and Greek: eleutheros ‘free’ all developed. The name features in poems by the Roman poet Horace, and was also borne by a character in The New Testament. 16th Century. Bearers: Lydia Becker (1827-90), a British pioneer of the suffragette movement; Lydia Maria Child (1802-80), a US abolitionist and activist for the rights of both women and Native Americans; Lydia Bennett, a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813). French: Lydie.


Another name for Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. It probably derives from Ilium, a poetic name for Troy, as Rhea Silvia descended from Aeneas the Trojan. Ilium itself is almost certainly a corruption of Luwiya, the Hittite name of the region of Asia Minor where Troy lay, which is probably an older form of LYDIA. 20th Century.


A river in Devon, England. It is usually derived from Old English hlӯde ‘noisy stream’, but it is possible that its medieval forms imply this because this is how the Saxons interpreted it and that in reality its roots are Celtic, perhaps with LLUDD at the source. It has more than one interesting feature which may well have once been sites of Pagan worship, such as the ‘White Lady’ waterfall and a series of whirlpools called ‘the Devil’s Cauldron’.


According to the Mabinogion, Lludd was a son of Beli Mawr and brother of Llefelys. He appears as Lud in Geoffrey of Monmouth – and is still remembered in London today in the name Ludgate. His epithet was Llaw Eraint ‘silver hand’, and he is the Welsh parallel of the Irish Nuada Airgetlám – another form of Lludd was NUDD, and ultimately it derives from NODENS. Late 20th Century.

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It’s day 3 of Sneak Peak Week already! Today’s offering is Laura — and friends. Like Estelle, Laura takes us on a wonderful journey. Come with me now on part of it!

The nymph Daphne - whose name means 'laurel' in Greek - was turned into the bay laurel to save her from Apollo's unwanted advances.


The Latin names for the laurel were laurus and — less common — laurea, both of which were, like most trees in Latin, feminine nouns. By the early Middle Ages, LAWRENCE was well-established in Spain and Italy and popularly associated with the laurel. Thus the idea of its use as a name was already established in the medieval psyche. Moreover, the feminine LAURENTIA also existed. Whether Laura arose as a short form of the latter or independent coinage inspired by the former is impossible after more than a thousand years to say, but it is likely to be one or the other. The first known bearer was the 9th Century Spanish St Laura of Cordoba. Laura, Lora and the diminutive LAURETTA were all in use in Britain by the end of the 13th Century. Diminutive: LOLLY (modern); French: Laure, Welsh: LOWRI. Bearers: Laura de Noves (1310-48), wife of the Count de Sade, who is thought to be the most likely candidate for Petrarch’s muse Laura; Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957), the US writer; Laura Palmer, the central – but dead – character of TwinPeaks (1990-91); Laura, Voyage dans le Cristal (1864) was a novel by George Sand.


Lawrence evolved from the Roman surname Laurentius ‘of Laurentium’, Laurentium being a town in Latium, which almost certainly derives from Latin: laurus ‘bay tree’ or lauretum ‘laurel grove’. It was borne by a 3rd Century saint, who is largely responsible for the popularity of the name in later times. He was a medieval favorite, with many churches dedicated to him, and its use in the Middle Ages, gave rise to many surnames such as Lawrence, Lawrenson, Laurie, Lowrie, Lawson and Larkin. It also became established and popular in Ireland from an early date, where it has often been used to render Lorcan. Variant: Laurence. Diminutives: LAW, LARRY, LAURIE; Lanty (Irish). Scots Gaelic: Labhrainn, Irish Gaelic: Labhrás, Scandinavian: LARS, Lorens, Icelandic: Lárus, Dutch: Laurens, French: Laurent, Romanian: Laurenţiu, German: Lorenz, Finnish: Lauri; Lassi (diminutive), Danish: Lauritz, Russian: Lavrantiy, Catalonian: Llorenç, Italian, Spanish: LORENZO, Hungarian: Lőrinc, Polish: Wawrzyniec. Bearers: Laurence Sterne (1713-68), the Irish writer; Lawrence Oates (1880-1912), the British explorer; Laurence Olivier (1907-89), the English actor; Lawrence Durrell (1912-90), the English novelist; Lawrence Watt-Evans (b.1954) the US fantasy and science-fiction writer.


Laurel is now mostly associated with the cherry laurel, often called the English Laurel in North America, probably because of its wholesale planting on British estates in the 18th and 19th Centuries as cover for game birds. Traditionally, however, it referred to the bay laurel, usually now called a bay tree, or simply bay. Middle English: lorer < French: Laurer < Old French: lor < Latin: laurus ‘laurel’. The word is also used to mean an ‘emblem of victory’, sometimes used in the plural laurels, deriving from the ancient practice of making crowns of bay leaves to place upon the heads of victors, originating in the ancient Games at Delphi. In the language of flowers, the laurel stands, unsurprisingly, for ambition and glory. 19th Century. Variants: Laurell, Laurelle.

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Today’s sneak preview is the relatively straightforward Deborah. As it’s quite short, I have also decided to include some of the other bee-themed names…


Hebrew: debōrah ‘bee’ – the name of a biblical character. 16th Century. Diminutives: Deb, Debs, Debbie, Debbi, Debby, Debi. Variants: Debora, Debra. Italian: Debora, Portuguese, Spanish: Débora, Modern Hebrew: Devorah, Dvorah. Bearers: Deborah Milton (b.1652), the youngest daughter of the poet John Milton; Deborah Freeman-Mitford, Duchess of Devonshire (b.1920), one of the Mitford Sisters; Deborah Lipp (b.1961); the US Wiccan author; Miss Deborah Jenkyns, a character in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (1851); Deborah Lee, later Lady Slane, the main character in Vita Sackville West’s All Passion Spent (1931); Deborah Mayfair, the ancestress of the Mayfair Witches in Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (1990-94).

Bee ♀ ♂

Despite its sting, the bee is a much beloved creature, cherished for the honey it produces and respected for the important job it does in pollinating flowers. A summer day in a garden is not complete without the gentle, mesmeric sound of a bee buzzing about its business. Bees are symbolic of hard work and cooperation, living and working as they do in hives containing thousands of others. Bees are also strongly associated with the divine. The ancient Egyptians believed that bees spontaneously came into being from the tears of the sun God Ra. In many traditions, the bee is also symbolic of the soul. The word comes from Old English béo ‘bee’, and has cognates across the Germanic languages. Its ultimate source is thought to be from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning ‘to fear’ and thus ‘to quiver’. As a given name, Bee is mostly regarded as a short form for BEATRIX. However, there is also a surname Bee meaning ‘bee’, which probably arose as a nickname, and is the likely source of early examples of Bee as a given male name. Late 17th Century.


Mi’kmaq: amu ‘bee’.


Welsh: gwenynen ‘bee’. Early 20th Century.


Indian name. San: madhukara ‘bee’.


Greek: melissa ‘bee’. The name of a nymph, credited with inventing the art of keeping bees, as well as being the name of a daughter of a Cretan king, who assisted Amalthea in caring for the infant Zeus. Melissa is also the botanical name for the lemon balm. 17th Century. Diminutive: Mel, Lissa. Bearers: Melissa Joan Hart (b.1976), the US actress, best known for playing Sabrina in the US TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003); Melissa, a Witch in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. Melissa also features in Lord Tennyson’s poem The Princess (1847), and in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida (1884), which the poem inspired.

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This week is ‘Sneak Peek Week’ at Nook of Names. Each day, I shall be previewing the entry or entries for the names of five friends who first ‘put their hands up’ when I announced it on Facebook.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Estelle. It’s a good name to start with, as it demonstrates very well how one entry often leads to another — a name in capitals indicates that name has an entry of its own. And Estelle leads us on a journey that takes us to Rome and beyond…


A French name. It may be from an old form of French: étoile ‘star’ < STELLA. A comparative development of how the word étoile arose from stella can be seen in the development of Étienne from Stephen. However, another plausible option is that Estelle developed as a variant of ESTHER. The -er ending sits awkwardly in French, and the linguistics involved in a shift to -elle in French are slight. Certainly, the resemblance to the Latin stella, if not an archaic form of étoile (no coincidence, as stella and Esther are probably cognate anyway), may have encouraged the development. The name was rare in France before the 19th Century, being found only in Les Charentes and Provence – another hint that its origins lie in Esther; Provence was where Isabella developed from Elizabeth. Although it had become more widespread by the 2nd half of the 19th Century, Estelle’s use in France still largely postdates the publication of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860-61), the heroine of which is Estella – which naturally became Estelle in the French version. Bearers: Estelle Masterson, a (shrewish mortal) character in the US film I Married a Witch (1942).


Latin: stella ‘star’. Stella was used by Sir Philip Sidney in his Astrophel and Stella (1591). Stella Maris meaning ‘star of the sea’ is now considered a title of the Virgin Mary, but it is likely that the title was originally bestowed upon the Goddess Isis. 17th Century. Bearers: Stella Mayfair, a character in Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (1990-94).


In The Bible, Esther was the name given to Hadassah when she entered the harem of King Ahaseurus. It is widely believed to have derived from the Old Persian stāra ‘star’. However, it may actually be from ISHTAR. Esthêr was the Greek form used in The Bible; the Latin forms were Esthera and Hestera, with Esther deriving from the former and HESTER from the latter. Both came into use in the 16th Century and quickly became confused with EASTER and each other. Variant: Esta (modern). Diminutive: ESSIE. Czech, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Portuguese: Ester, Finnish: Esteri, Dutch, French, German, Spanish: Esther, Hungarian: Eszter; Eszti (diminutive). Bearers: Esther Vanhomrigh (c.1688-1723), probably the inspiration for Jonathan Swift’s VANESSA; Esther Forbes (1891-1967), the US writer among whose works was A Mirror for Witches (1928) about the Salem Witch trials. Esther (1689) is a play by Racine.

As you can see, Estelle’s journey doesn’t end with Stella and Esther – but that’s quite enough for today :).

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Today’s post is a sneak preview — which will hopefully give more of an idea about the flavor and feel of the book:

Unlike many books about names, you will find little reference to a name’s so-called ‘popularity’ and ‘style’ in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names. To talk about a name’s ‘fortunes’, how a name has risen and fallen, been ‘in fashion’ or ‘in favor’ — or out of it — to speak of it as ‘enjoying success’, or ‘flourishing’ reduces a name to yet another consumer item, placing value on what is currently in vogue and condemning what is not. It is as well to remember that names are not involved in a competition. The name which is most popular at any one time has not ‘won’ anything.

A trend even worse — currently very much in evidence — is the labeling of a name as ‘hot’, ‘traditional’, ‘cute’, ‘old-fashioned’, ‘exotic’, ‘timeless’, ‘macho’ or ‘way-out’, etc. There are even books available which even promote themselves by stating overtly that this is their ‘style’. But the fact is, most people are innately aware of what the general attitude towards a particular name is at any one time — not that this makes it right. It emphasizes the West’s ever more  materialistic attitude towards names — just another accessory, just another piece of disposable fashion…

Except there’s the rub. Names are not, by and large, at all disposable. You can guarantee that if your principal reason for choosing a name is that it is ‘on the style’, ‘cool’, or (shudder) ‘classy’ (implying some names by definition are ‘vulgar’) when your child is born — you will almost certainly have picked a name that in thirty years will have been thrown in the irredeemable sin bin of ‘dated’. Indeed, as likely as not, the names which will be at their trendiest when your children are having babies of their own will be the ones currently dismissed as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘way-out’. Take a look at where the current top ten names were in the ‘charts’ thirty years ago for a vivid illustration of this. Isabella, for instance, the most popular girl’s name in the US in 2009, wasn’t even in the top 1000 in 1979, Emma languished in 432nd place, and even 2009’s ‘3rd placer’ Olivia was 220th.

Almost every name in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names has worth, of some kind or another. The only ones I would place a caveat on are some of the more recently coined names which have entered general circulation, purely for the reason that although in early use they may have had significant meaning to the people who invented them, this is lost and these names are to all intents and purposes simply born of fashion. But each name should stand alone, be judged upon its own merits, not what other people think about it. For one lesson is clear to anyone casting even a brief eye over those name rankings — perceptions about names, whether a name is in vogue or out, are as changeable as the English weather. And that’s saying a lot…

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The original title of Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names was A Pagan’s Book of Names; it quickly became apparent, however, that this didn’t really take in the book’s full scope. Besides, although the starting premise for writing it was to provide a thorough, helpful source for Pagan and like-minded folk, it was obvious pretty much from the start that it would be helpful not just for the beardy-weirdy types with a penchant for mead, cloaks and candles, but for anyone who was looking for a book of names that was thorough and accurate – but different from the run of the mill. Be not afraid; here ye will not find woolly wafflings or fluffy flights of fancy. There are references to the spiritual and magical significance of names and words where appropriate, certainly. Examples of bearers often have a Pagan/Witchy theme, true. But as far as etymology and history are concerned, the touchstone I worked with was verifiable fact.

But don’t take just my word for it. This is what the lovely English novelist Kit Berry, author of the wonderful and evocative Stonewylde series, published by Gollanz, has to say:

This amazing reference book will very quickly justify its place on any bookshelf. An invaluable source of thousands of names from every corner of the globe and every century of civilization, this book will be a treasure to readers and writers alike.  It’s comprehensively researched, thorough in detail, and utterly fascinating.

K. M. Sheard’s style is entertaining; the initial chapters explain lucidly the history of names from the Sumerians, five and a half thousand years ago, to the present day.  The research is meticulous and scholarly, yet never dry.  This is the sort of reference book that you’ll dip into and find yourself still immersed in an hour later.  I really wish I’d had access to this book when writing my novels; it’s brilliant not only for ideas for Pagan or unusual names, but also in tracing their etymology and ensuring that blunders aren’t made. 

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names will become the definitive source book for anyone needing to research or choose a name – be it for themselves, a baby, a character, an animal or anything else requiring a name.  I cannot recommend this special dictionary highly enough, and will be using it for many years to come as an invaluable writing aid.  Congratulations must go to K.M. Sheard on producing a classic reference book that will doubtless be used throughout the world.

But, at the end of the cliché Pagan folk are the people the book was written for, and it has a Pagan beating heart, so I’ll end this post with a list of names currently in either the US or UK top 100 which by virtue of their meaning and/or history, are ‘Pagan friendly’. Some may surprise you…

Boys: Aaron, Adam, Adrian, Aidan, Aiden, Alex, Alexander, Alfie, Andrew, Angel, Archie, Arthur, Ashton, Austin, Ayden, Bailey, Ben, Benjamin, Blake, Bradley, Brandon, Brayden, Brian, Brody, Bryan, Caleb, Callum, Carlos, Charles, Charlie, Chase, Cole, Colton, Connor, David, Dominic, Dylan, Edward, Eli, Eric, Ethan, Ewan, Finlay, Finley, Freddie, Frederick, Gavin, George, Harley, Harrison, Harry, Harvey, Hayden, Henry, Hunter, Jason, Joel, Jordan, Julian, Justin, Kai, Kian, Kieran, Kyle, Landon, Leo, Leon, Lewis, Liam, Logan, Louie, Louis, Luca, Lucas, Luis, Luke, Mason, Max, Michael, Morgan, Nathan, Nathaniel, Nicholas, Noah, Oliver, Oscar, Owen, Parker, Reece, Reuben, Rhys, Robert, Ryan, Sam, Samuel,  Sebastian, Stanley, Theo, Thomas, Tristan, William, Wyatt.

Girls: Aaliyah, Abigail, Aimee, Alexa, Alexandra, Alexis, Alice, Allison, Alyssa, Amber, Amelia, Amelie, Amy, Andrea, Angelina, Anna, Ariana, Arianna, Ashley, Aubrey, Audrey, Autumn, Ava, Avery, Bailey, Bella, Brianna, Brooke, Brooklyn, Camila, Caroline, Charlotte, Chloe, Claire, Daisy, Destiny, Eleanor, Elizabeth, Ella, Ellie, Emilia, Emily, Emma, Erin, Eva, Eve, Evelyn, Evie, Florence, Freya, Genesis, Georgia, Grace, Gracie, Hailey, Hannah, Harriet, Heidi, Hollie, Holly, Imogen, Isabel, Isabella, Isabelle, Isla, Isobel, Jasmine, Jessica, Jocelyn, Julia, Kaitlyn, Katherine, Katie, Kayla, Kayleigh, Keira, Khloe, Kimberley, Lauren, Layla, Leah, Lexi, Lexie, Liby, Lilly, Lily, Lola, Lucy, Lydia, Mackenzie, Madeline, Madelyn, Maisie, Makayla, Maria, Mariah, Matilda, Maya, Megan, Melanie, Mia, Millie, Molly, Morgan, Mya, Naomi, Natalia, Natalie, Niamh, Nicole, Olivia, Phoebe, Poppy, Rachel, Rebecca, Riley, Rose, Rosie, Ruby, Sara, Sarah, Samantha, Savannah, Scarlett, Serenity, Sienna, Skye, Sofia, Sophia, Sophie, Stella, Summer, Tilly, Trinity, Valeria, Victoria, Zara, Zoe, Zoey.

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After many months of hard work, my baby is soon to be born to the world – Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names: For Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of All Sorts Who Are Curious About Names from Every Place and Every Time. No, I don’t advocate such long names for babies, but as my book is over 700 pages long, I think I can be forgiven for choosing a name to suit it! Besides, I wanted to make it clear exactly what the book is about, and who it is for, and though it’s a mouthful, it does do — as a well-known British commercial says – ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.

It is an exciting time — and a bit nerve-wracking — and now that it is on Llewellyn Worldwide’s website:  and on Amazon  (click here for Amazon UK), I have decided to put my itchy fingers to work on a blog to chart progress and give people a chance to start to get to know my precious bundle.

So what’s it about? In what way is it different? Well, first of all, there’s the detail. This is not just a list of names, glossed with a vague country or language or origin and a two or three word meaning. If names were cars, the typical book on names is like a show-room full of shiny cars, but all the information you are given to make your decision is the make and colour – with a comment or two on its performance, and age, if you’re lucky. Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names not only provides you with the full schematic, but strips it right down to its chassis – before putting it back together again, all spick and span.

Of course, the book doesn’t contain every name – that would be impossible! The number of names people have used around the globe – not to mention the number of potential names in all the world’s languages – must be pretty close to infinite. It does, however, contain most names which have seen moderate to frequent use in the English-Speaking World over the last thousand years, as well as a comprehensive selection of some of the most interesting names borne by people who have walked upon all corners of our glorious Mother Earth, and – as the book is specifically for English speakers – are relatively easy to pronounce.

But what really makes Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names different is the perspective from which it has been written. Instead of the usual Judeo-Christian sociocultural backdrop inherent – even if only obliquely – found in many books on names, this book has been written through a Pagan lens, stripping away the cultural assumptions, and offering a critical look at a name’s true history and origins, which have often been lost or neglected through the centuries of Christian dominance in the West.

Other useful features include a history of names and naming practices, advice on choosing names, a full index with pronunciation guidance, and a number of lists of names by themes likely to appeal to Pagans and other Nature-orientated folk, such as the Five Elements and Four Seasons.

That’s pretty much enough for now. Be sure to pop by again soon, for more on the book – and perhaps a few sneak previews too. I also plan to use this blog to introduce names – or rather suggestions for names – which aren’t in the book, as well as additional lists of suggestions by theme. And here, to start them off, is a list of names on the theme of newness and beginnings. Some are obvious, others less so. All will be revealed in December, when you can look them up in the book!

Ada, Adam, Adara, Alder, Alma, Alpha, Altyerre, Aludra, Alula, Anchor, Anima, Apple, Arwen, Asha, Askr, Bakr, Bala, Beth, Birch, Brutus, Buck, Bud, Búri, Cade, Calendula, Callianeira, Carravogue, Carthage, Catullus, Chaim, Chaya, Chloe, Chloris, Colin, Colina, Colleen, Colt, Cora, Coral, Coria, Corinna, Cyrus, Dagmar, Daigh, Dara, Daran, Dawn, Dayang, Dew, Dragonfly, East, Easter, Elm, Elpis, Embla, Endymion, Eros, Esperanza, Esus, Eve, Even, Evening, Fara, Faramond, Fawn, Fidan, Filiz, Galadriel, Garnet, Genesis, Gorse, Gwion, Hari, Hatshepsut, Hersilia, Hodierna, Hope, Idhunna, Ilkay, Ilknur, Imp, Impi, Indigo, Ingrid, Ithemba, January, Janus, Jevon, Jezanna, Junner, Kanya, Knight, Kore, Kumari, Kwanzaa, Kynsa, Lado, Lena, Levanah, Leveret, Life, Lilac, Lilith, Lucina, March, Marduk, Mavambo, May, Meinir, Minditsi, Mistletoe, Mizuki, Morning, Morwenna, Morwyn, Mugain, Muirenn, Pandora, Mwezi, Nada, Nadezhda, Nadia, Naoise, Nascien, Natalie, Natasha, Neo, Neville, Newell, Newton, Nortia, Nouvel, Nova, Numenius, Nundina, Nyana, Nyx, Orcadia, Ore, Orthia, Paige, Pais, Pallas, Parthalan, Parthenia, Parthenice, Parthenope, Parthenos, Phoenix, Pippin, Porcelain, Praecipua, Primavera, Primrose, Primula, Prince, Princess, Proteus, Pucelle, Raven, Rhian, Richmay, Samhain, Shadin, Shalmaneser, Siduri, Snow, Snowdrop, Sonny, Speranza, Star, Strenia, Sun, Taraja, Tawni, Tesfaye, Toivo, Triptolemus, Tristan, Tryst, Turia, Una, Undeg, Uthman, Violet, Virgil, Virgilia, Virginia, Virgo, Vona, Wanda, Winona, Wishmay, Xavier, Xin, Young.

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