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Posts Tagged ‘Mabel’

On our holiday last week we stayed at historic Gurney Manor — sometimes called Gurney Street Manor — in Cannington, Somerset.

It is a very special place.

Rescued by the Landmark Trust in the 1980s, much of the fabric dates to before 1400, with substantial additions in the mid-to-late fifteenth century.

Because it largely came down in the world after the seventeenth century, many of its ancient features, including the fifteenth century covered passage across the inner courtyard linking the old kitchen to the hall, have survived.

Unsurprisingly, it proved quite a good hunting ground for names, which are almost text-book examples of the typical names through the centuries, demonstrating fluctuations in fashion both generally, and across the social spectrum.

The original owners — and the family who gave their name to the manor — were a branch of the baronial family of Gurney, the founder of which came to England with William the Conqueror. Only a few names are known from this earliest period, emerging from the fog of remote history; a RICHARD de Gurney, flourished in 1243, when he put in a claim on the mill, then in possession of his “kinsman” WILLIAM, son of PHILIP.

Richard had a son called ROBERT.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the property appears to have been owned by JOHN de Gurney, who was alive in 1327.

The last of the line at Gurney Manor, and probably the one responsible for much of the parts of the hall dating to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, was HUGH, who succeeded to the estate in 1358. Either he, or a son of the same name, was there in 1401, with a wife called BEATRICE.

He had no son, and so the manor passed to his daughter JANE — an unusual name at the time, when the usually feminine form of John was Joan. She married ROGER Dodesham.

Responsible for most of the fifteenth century additions was their son, another WILLIAM, who was a lawyer as well as a landowner.

William had sisters called JOAN and ELEANOR, and on his death in 1480, the Gurney Street Manor passed in trust to Joan’s daughter, AGNES, wife of WALTER Michell, who died in 1487. Agnes and Walter had three sons, who each succeeded in turn, WILLIAM, JOHN, and THOMAS.

Thomas, whose wife was called MARGARET, died in 1503, when the manor passed to his son, another THOMAS. He also had a daughter called ISABEL.

Thomas made a number of improvements and refinements to the house, adding fine windows and new chimneys — but it all came to an abrupt end on December 13, 1539, when he murdered his wife JOAN and sister-in-law ELEANOR, seemingly at Gurney Manor, before killing himself.

He had two known children, another JANE, and another RICHARD.

Richard, who married an ELIZABETH, died in 1563, leaving the manor to his son, TRISTRAM.

Tristram, meanwhile, died in 1574, when the manor passed to his brother, Sir BARTHOLOMEW.

On Bartholomew’s death in 1616, his lands were split between his daughters, JANE and FRANCES. Gurney passed to Jane, wife of WILLIAM Hockmore.

William had considerable property elsewhere, and Gurney’s owners no longer lived there; the house and its acres was let to tenants, so that by the late nineteenth century, it was regarded as just a (large) farmhouse.

The names of most of these tenants is lost, but we still know the names of the house’s owners, and their families.

Jane and William Hockmore, for instance, had six children, SUSANNAH, GREGORY, CHARLES, WILLIAM, FRANCES and RICHARD, not all of whom lived to adulthood.

Gregory, married to MARY, inherited in 1626, dying in 1653, when the estate passed to his son, also called GREGORY (he also had a daughter called JANE).

Gregory II, married to HONOR, also had two children, a son WILLIAM, and, quelle surprise, yet another JANE.

William, who inherted sometime between 1676 and 1680, married another MARY, and had three daughters, MARY, JANE and HONORA; only Honora survived to adulthood, becoming William’s heiress on his death in 1707-08.

She married DAVIDGE Gould (his mother’s maiden name was Davidge) around 1713, and had five children who survived to adulthood: Sir HENRY (d.1794), RICHARD (d.1793), HONORA (d.1802), WILLIAM (d.1799) and THOMAS (d.1808).

Henry, married ELIZABETH, and had two daughters, another ELIZABETH, and HONORA MARGARETTA. Elizabeth married TEMPLE Luttrell; Honora Margaretta, who died in 1813, married General RICHARD Lambart, 7th Earl of Cavan.

And Gurney passed through her to the Earls of Cavan.

(Temple Luttrell was an interesting character; an MP, he was reputedly also a smuggler, and built a folly, called Luttrell’s Tower, at Eaglehurst near Southampton. On his death in Paris in 1803, Luttrell’s Tower passed to the Earl of Cavan too. By pure coincidence, Luttrell’s Tower is also now owned by the Landmark Trust.)

Richard and Honora Margaretta had five children:

  • RICHARD HENRY ROBERT GILBERT (1783-85)
  • HONORA ELIZABETH HESTER (1784-1856)
  • ALICIA MARGARETTA HOCKMORE (1785-1818)
  • SOPHIA AUGUSTA (1787-98)
  • RICHARD HENRY (b. and d. 1788)
  • GEORGE FREDERICK AUGUSTUS (1789-1828)
  • EDWARD HENRY WENTWORTH VILLIERS (1791-1812)

George, who died before his father, married the simply named SARAH, and had five children:

  • HENRIETTA AUGUSTA (d. 1874)
  • ALICIA (d.1913)
  • JULIA (d.1897)
  • FREDERICK JOHN WILLIAM (1815-87)
  • OLIVER GEORGE (1822-98)

Frederick John William’s wife was CAROLINE AUGUSTA, and they also had five children:

  • MARY HYACINTHE (d.1933)
  • SARAH SOPHIA (d.1914)
  • FREDERICK EDWARD GOULD (1839-1900)
  • OCTAVIUS HENRY (1855-1919)
  • ARTHUR (1858-1937)

Frederick Edward Gould’s wife was MARY SNEADE (Sneade was her middle name — her surname was Olive), and their children:

  • FREDERICK RUDOLPH (1865-1946)
  • ELLEN OLIVE (1867-1945)
  • MAUD EDITH GUNDREDA (1869-1940)
  • LIONEL JOHN OLIVE (1873-1940)
  • HORACE EDWARD SAMUEL SNEADE (1878-1950).

Frederick Rudolph had no children by his first wife CAROLINE INEZ; by his second wife, HESTER JOAN, he had two daughters; the first, ELIZABETH MARY was born in 1924.

The following year, Gurney was sold to its tenants of more than thirty years, the Bucknells, and with it an unbroken line of descent, if not of inhabitation, of at least eight hundred years, was finally severed.

The Bucknells were a thoroughly English Victorian middle class family; the father, a classic “gentleman farmer” was a solid and respectable JAMES, his wife an equally establishment MARY ANN. One daughter was ELIZA HARRIS, the other, OLIVE MARY (possibly named in honor of the Countess of Cavan), and they also had a son, BENJAMIN JOHN.

In 1901, there were also three servants living with them at the manor: FRANK, EMILY and MABEL.

Gurney’s time once more owned by its inhabitants was short-lived; the Bucknells sold in 1934, and by the 1940s it had been subdivided into flats. By the 1980s, it was in a sorry, neglected state, with most of the flats empty, but then the Landmark Trust bought it, and the rest is (more!) history…

No-one lives there for more than three weeks at a time anymore, but it has been fully restored to its medieval glory and I think the place rather likes the variety of ever changing faces coming and going, and basks in their rapt admiration.

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There are distint signs now that the pace is gathering in the rehabilitation of names long consigned to granny (or rather great-granny status, as most grannies nowadays are called things like Carol and Susan, and true “granny names” are at least a generation further back).

The trend’s roots actually go back to the seventies and eighties, when the first batch of “Victorian” names started to come back into use. Principal among them have been Emily, Emma, Isabella and Olivia, on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, too, this was the era when names which are only now really capturing the hearts of Americans, such as Alice, Amelia, Beatrice/Beatrix, Charlotte, Matilda and Eleanor (with its pet-form Ellie actually more popular than Eleanor herself), also returned to bask in the sun of popularity.

These could be classed the great-great-granny names; the names borne by the women who went on to name their daughters Lily and Grace, Florence and Evelyn.

This generation began to make a come-back in the nineties.

Some like Lily and Grace are already now thoroughly acclimatized. Some, like Florence, Daisy, Poppy and Ruby, are already considered mainstream in the UK, and are so talked about in the US, it can only be a matter of not very much time before they’re top 100 there too. Others, like Edith, Olive and Maud, are regaining attention.

But there’s a whole Devon cream tea shop’s worth of other delicious and tempting options, and these are the ones I think deserve to be brought back down from the attic.

AgathaI deliberated quite some time about whether to include Agatha, as she’s never actually been very common at all. However, perhaps largely down to Aunt Agatha in the Jeeves stories, she has acquired a distinctly granny edge, and there certainly were more Agathas around in 1910 than 2010! She’s a name I’ll feature on her own some time, as, personally, I love her, and there’s so much to say about her, but I just couldn’t neglect her here, because of my life-long love of all things Agatha Christie…

Agnes — a staple not just of the Victorians and the early twentieth century, Agnes was one of the most popular girls’ names of the medieval and early modern period too. She was under a cloud in the eighteenth century, and again in the twentieth. She is so rich in history, mythology and allusions that she has a post of her own, scheduled for St Agnes’ Eve. But it would be a travesty to not give her a mention here, especially as celeb baby Agnes Lark might well have been the catalyst she needed to spark interest again.

Annie — actually truly belongs  to the great-great granny era, being most in decline since 1881 (when she was ranked 8th). The musical and film arrested her decline in the late seventies and early eighties, but unlike her siblings, she then went back into decline. Her fate may have changed, but at present she still seems to be dithering in the low 300s. Although treated as a pet-form of Ann/Anne, there’s no reason not to consider her a name in her own right, as she’s been used as such so long, and is actually a bit closer to the original Hebrew Hannah, sharing two syllables, rather than just the one.

Blanche — never all that common; like Annie, it hovered in the fifties in the late nineteenth century. Short, elegant, with a long and distinguished history back to medieval times, Blanche makes a worthy alternative to those one-syllable names which are now growing tired, like Claire, Brooke, and Paige.

Doris — in America, one of the darlings of the twenties. This pretty Greek name is definitely ready for revival.

Elsie — already back on the radar and rising, sweet Elsie — usually considered a Scottish short-form of Elizabeth — is also an English surname and essentially the modern form of the Old English Ælfsige “elf-victory.” It’s a must for revival in the UK, slipping comfortably into that established group of friends, Sophie, Evie, Maisie, Ellie, Millie, Katie, Gracie, and Rosie, etc…

Ethel — Ethel’s take up in Victorian times was as a short-form of the numerous girls’ names which featured it as a first element, particularly Etheldred/Etheldreda and Ethelinda. But it is essentially the modern English form of the Old English æthel “noble,” and its German cognate Athalia was used as a name in its own right in medieval times, becoming the English Adela and French Adele. As the name of Lily Allen’s new baby, there are indications are that people are starting to see Ethel — for so long almost the quintessential great-granny name — in a new light. After all, it does combine those softest and most romantic sounds: eth and el…

Freda — Use in the last couple of centuries originated, like Ethel, as a short form of longer names, particularly Winifred and Alfreda. However, also like Ethel, it stands up as a name in its own right, with frithu  meaning “peace” in Old English. Its Norse cognate is found as a name in medieval times: Friða. It survived in Scandinavia as Frida. The Germanic Frieda has also long been used as a variant. Freda is also found in the name of a lwa (divinity) of Haitian Voodoo —   Erzulie Fréda — though in her case, Fréda is probably West African in origin.

GertrudeMy grandmother had the unusual name of Gayther — but was almost universally known as Gertie, the usual nick-name of Gertrude. For a time it was also treated as the archetypal name of a student of my alma mater, Girton College, Cambridge (the shared initial “ger” sound, no doubt). It was also borne by another of my historic heroines, the archaeologist Gertrude Bell. With the strong meaning of “spear-strength,” Gertrude was hugely popular for a time in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and has a distinctly “no-nonsense” air about her. But she does shorten to the gentle Trudy, tom-boyish Gerry and contemporary Tru, as well as the as well that ever-cheerful Gertie…

Gladys — up there with Ethel, Gladys (Gwladys in the original Welsh) is another name that I think only needs a nudge for people to start to think, “why not?” Either the Welsh form of Claudia, or an elaboration of gwlad “country.” After all, there are a number of names ending in, or prominently featuring the “is” sound, such as Alexis, Alice, Allison, Genesis, Melissa, Marissa, Iris, Isis, Paris, Carys, and Cerys, etc. Nor is Gladys actually all that far away from Madison and Addison when you think about it…

Ida — Ida is another that was at her most popular in the late nineteenth century and is long overdue reconsideration; she’s already making steady progress in the UK, and since the very similar Ada is clearly on the up in the US, why not Ida too? Ida was found in Britain in medieval times, though in the Victorian period it was most associated with the nymph of the mountain which shared her name, who was said to have raised the infant Zeus. There’s a whole lot more to Ida, and I intend to feature her as a pick of the week, but she certainly deserves a mention here.

Irene — As the usual English form of the Greek Eirene “peace”, Irene is mostly pronounced with two-syllables, but three is not unknown. With two fresh dramatisations of the Sherlock Holmes takes around at the moment — the big screen Robert Downey, Jr version and the sparkling and clever British television one staring Benedict Cumberbatch — the character of Irene Adler will no doubt be working her magic on how people perceive Irene.

Mabel — The bells should be ringing loudly for Mabel. Roll it around the tongue — “May bell”. How pretty is that? Already rediscovered in certain British circles (ranking 386 in 2010), she vanished in America from the top 1000 in 1960 and has yet to resurface. Mabel originated in the Middle Ages as a shorter form of Amabel.

Mildred — I’ve always had a soft spot of the charming Mildred, an Old English gem meaning “mild/gentle counsel.” Featured as a Witch of the Week here.

Nellie — traditional pet-form of Eleanor, but also used of Helen and Ellen. For a long time Nellie fell under the cloud about the popular song, but it is breaking away now and with that popular “-ie” ending, and those letter “l”s, Nellie has a lot of personality.

Olga — one of my first ever name loves. One of the Russian names that came into fashion in the late nineteenth century, Olga is not actually Russian in origin at all; it is the Russian form of Scandinavian Helga “holy.” Olga was never particularly common, peaking in the US in 1916 in 130th spot.

Opal — a nineteenth century adoption of the name of the precious stone, which derives ultimately from the Sanskrit upala “stone.”  It peaked in the US in 81st place in 1911, and dwindled into obscurity by 1900. Believed by the ancients to be the tears of joy wept by Zeus following his victory over the Titans, in more recent centuries black opals in particular have gained an association with witches.

Pearl — at first used as a nickname — like Daisy — for girls called Margaret, Pearl was in independent use by the mid nineteenth century. It actually peaked by 1890, but remained in the top 100 until 1927. It is just starting to show signs of renewed interest, but there’s still a long way to go.

Phyllis — another pretty “-is” name which has been too long neglected now. It derives from Greek phullon “leaf” (with phullis itself meaning “salad.”).

Vera — Vera is another name of Russian origin, meaning “faith,” though it is identical to the Latin vera, the feminine form of verus “true,” which is the source of the vera of the wonderful Aloe vera. Another of my personal heroines is the British writer and pacificst Vera Brittain. Vera was never particularly common in the US, but has recently started to show signs that its fortunes are changing.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the Grandpas…

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Matilda in Australia and her husband have a little boy with the beautiful name of Peregrine.

Their great passion is travel; they love the outdoors and also enjoy reading. Matilda found out she was expecting Peregrine when travelling, and when her husband encountered the name, they thought it was perfect for their child, as they like unusual, but long-established names with a history.

Peregrine, with its meaning  “traveler,” fitted the bill perfectly.

They are now expecting twins and would like help in finding a name which has a similar sort of background to Peregrine, or sounds harmonious with it.

I’m very flattered to be asked my opinion, and these are my thoughts.

There’s certainly a lot of names of Latin origin, like Peregrine, which would complement Peregrine beautifully, and if the search is widened to include Latin’s close partner Greek, then there are even more beauties to tempt the discerning parent to be:

Boys:

  • Aeneas (ǝ-NAY-ǝs/ǝ-NEE-ǝs) — Greek: ainê “praise.” The son of the Goddess Venus by a mortal, Aeneas according to Greek and Roman myth was one of the few Trojans to survive the Trojan war. The Romans believed he and his followers sailed from the smoking ruins to found a new home in Latium and was the direct ancestor of Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus. Virgil’s masterpiece The Aeneid chronicled that epic journey. In use since the 16th C, mostly in Scotland as an “English form” of Angus.
  • Felix — Latin: felix “auspicious” and “happy.” It was very common in the Roman world, and has also been used in the ESW since the 16th C. Seems to be rising in popularity at the moment, but at 122nd in the UK, and 331st in the US, I think it still falls in the not-common quality.
  • Hector — Greek: hektôr “holding fast.” The name of the champion of the Trojans. Although he was eventually killed by the Greek hero Achilles, he was held in high repute in the ancient world, considered an honorable, loyal, brave and noble man. Used since the 16th C, especially in Scotland, where it was used instead of the Gaelic Eachann (“brown horse”).
  • Octavian — English form of the Latin Octavianus meaning “belonging to the Octavius family (gens) “; the Octavii derived their name from octavus “eighth” from octo “eight” — a very auspicious number, associated with infinity. The two circles represent the joining of Heaven and Earth (or this world and the Otherworld, depending on your perspective). This was the Emperor Augustus’s name from the time of Julius Caesar’s death (and Octavian’s adoption as his heir in Caesar’s will) and the time he took the name Augustus on becoming emperor. Used from the 16th C, but always rare.
  • Philemon (FIL-ǝ-mǝn) — Greek: philêma “kiss.” Philemon and his wife Baucis entertained Zeus and Hermes as they traveled in mortal guise. As a reward they were blessed with long life and the gift that neither would outlive the other; at the moment of their death they were transformed into an oak and linden respectively. Philemon was used as a genuine given name in Ancient Greece, and has been found in the ESW since the 16th C. Although it begins with a “p,” like Peregrine, the initial sound is different, so I don’t think it’s a problen.
  • Ptolemy (TOL-ǝ-mee) — English form of the (Macedonian) Ancient Greek Ptolemaios. Ptolemy’s 2nd C Geographica is one of the most important sources of information on the geography of the Roman Empire to survive from the ancient world. It was only one of his works — he was a true polymath. Ptolemy was a very common name in the Greek world; it occurs in mythology and in history; another significant Ptolemy was the Macedonian general Ptolemaios Soter, founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (to which Cleopatra belonged), and most of Egypt’s last pharaohs were also called Ptolemy. The only drawback of Ptolemy, in my view, is its origin; it derives from the Greek ptolemos, a variant of polemos “war,” and ptolemaios carries the meaning “belonging to war,” “hostile” and “enemy.” But this doesn’t have to be interpreted negatively — there are many things which are worthy to be hostile or an enemy of, including war itself, but also injustice, prejudice, intolerance, hatred, greed, etc., etc. And although it also formally begins with a “p,” that “p” is silent.
  • Rufus — Latin rufus “red.” Not just for red-heads :). The name can also be chosen for its positive associations with red. Like Felix, is definitely on the up at the moment, but still has a long way to go before it is in danger of falling out of the unusual category. Occurs as a nickname as early as the 11th C (a famous example being King William II — known as William Rufus), and as a genuine name from about the 16th.
  • Silvanus — Silas is very much coming into vogue at the moment, but I prefer Silvanus, the name from which it almost certainly derived. Silvanus is the Roman God of woods and wild places. Also used from the 16th C or so.
  • Theophilus — meaning “friend of (a) God/Divine Being,” Theophilus makes an interesting alternative to Theodore and, of course, shares the lovely short-form Theo. Used since the 16th C.

Girls:

  • Althea — the Greek name for the marsh mallow, from althos “healing.” A name from Greek mythology, used by 17th C poets (most famously by Richard Lovelace in “To Althea, from Prison” (1642), containing the famous lines: “Stone walls do not a prison make/Nor iron bars a cage.” A more unusual “long-form” of Thea.
  • Amabel — from the Latin amabilis “loveable.” Amabel has been used since medieval times, though it was quickly eclipsed by its simpler form Mabel. Amabel never quite died out and saw a slight revival in the 19th C, but remains a rarity.
  • Beatrix — Latin: beatrix “she who causes happiness.” Much talked about in name circles, Beatrix is still rare (Beatrice is the more popular spelling, but still uncommon, ranked 834th in the US and 116th in the UK last year).
  • Felicity — Latin: felicitas “happiness.” Felicitas is the Roman Goddess of happiness and good fortune. It’s a name full of cheerfulness and positivity. In use since the 16th C, it has only made it over the parapet in America in the last decade (due to a TV series of the name, which ran 1998-2002), though it has enjoyed a fair amount of popularity in Britain (and Australia too, I think) in the mid 20th C, but is currently still only in quiet usage, ranked 195th in Britain last year.
  • Flora — from the Latin flos “flower”; the name of the Roman Goddess of flowers. Another name used since the 16th C, particularly in Scotland, this time in place of the Gaelic Fionnuala. One of the best-known bearers was Flora Macdonald (1722-90), who famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after his defeat in 1745, helping him “sail over the sea to Skye.” The related Florence is one of those names everyone seems to be watching at the moment, but Flora, although increasing, is still under the radar.
  • Hermione — I’ve featured Hermione a couple of times here at the Nook (here and here) and that’s because I think it’s such a beautiful and special name. Despite being catapulted to fame by Harry Potter, it’s not seeing very much use (yet). As essentially the feminine form of Hermes, one of whose spheres of influence was as the proctector of travelers, Hermione would make a nice choice for those for whom travel is important. It has been used as a genuine given name since the 17th C.
  • Ianthe (eye-AN-thee) — Greek: ia “violets” + anthos “flower.” The name of an Oceanid in Greek mythology. A favorite of the poets since the 17th C; Percy Bysshe Shelley called his daughter, born in 1813, Ianthe. Related are the equally attractive Ione (eye-OH-nee) and Iole (eye-OH-lee), both meaning “violet” and the 19th C hybrid of Iole and Ianthe — Iolanthe (eye-oh-LAN-thee).
  • Miranda — from the Latin mirandus “worthy of admiration.” I rather like Miri/Mirie as a pet-form.Used by Shakespeare for the heroine of The Tempest, the lovely noblewoman exiled since childhood with her slightly mad, wizard father on a magical island, which Caliban describes with exquisite beauty in one of my favorite Shakespearean passages:

… the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

  • Oenone (EE-nō-nee/ee-NŌ-nee) — from the Greek oinos “wine.” The name of a mountain-nymph, the first wife of Paris of Troy.
  • Zenobia — although interpreted as “life of Zeus” in Greek, the name is probably from the Palmyrean form of Arabic Zaynab, the name of a fragrant flowering plant, as the original Zenobia was a 3rd C Queen of Palmyra who defied the Romans. Although she was ultimately defeated, she was said to have lived out her days in Rome as a respected philosopher and socialite. Used since the 16th C, but always a rarity. The American actress Tina Fey called her daughter Alice Zenobia in 2005, but it doesn’t seem to have impacted very much on the name’s use.

Non-classical names which I think also work well with Peregrine are:

Boys:

  • Diggory — A name of a knight in Arthurian Romance. The meaning is very uncertain; the traditional interpretation has it from Medieval French de “of” + egaré “lost,” but this is unlikely. Diggory is probably a much mangled French form of a name which was probably Celtic in origin. There is a legendary king of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) called Dungarth (meaning “deep love”), who might conceivably lie behind the character. Diggory has been used since the 15th C, especially in Devon and Cornwall, and was used by C.S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew, for the hero, whose fantastical journey led to the creation of Narnia and the Wardrobe.
  • Faramond — Old German: fara ‘journey’ + munda ‘protection’.
  • Guy — Old German: witu “wood” or wit “wide” (encompassing the sense of “widely travelled” as well as referring to experience, knowledge, etc).
  • Jago (JAY-go) — the Cornish form of Jacob.
  • Jasper — Jasper is the English form of Caspar, one of the names attached to the fabled three “wise men” in medieval times. Its etymology is not known for certain, but most favor a derivation from the Persian khazāndār “treasurer.” Jasper has been used since the 14th C, and Caspar (the Dutch form) since the 19th. The vampire of the name in the Twilight series has put it in the spotlight, and it is increasing in use, but hasn’t yet reached the top 150 yet.
  • Ludovick — from the Latin form of LouisLudovicus — in orgin an Old German name meaning “loud battle” or “renowned warrior.” As with Ptolemy, the martial element may not immediately appeal, but there are many battles of a non-violent kind to be fought metaphorically in life. Shortens to the fabulous Ludo.
  • Matthias (mǝth-EYE-ǝs) — the Greek form of Matthew “gift of Yahweh.” Depending on your religious persuasion, you may or may not be able to see past the meaning, but it certainly sounds magnificent. A related name which presents the same dilemma is Ozias (ō-ZEYE-ǝs) “strength of Yahweh.”
  • Orlando — an Italian form of Roland dating from the Renaissance, when it featured in two of the most important works of literature of the period, Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. It also had an outing in Shakespeare, and has been used in the English-speaking world since the 17th C. It was actually at its most popular in America in the 1970s (reaching the dizzing heights of 247th place in 1975), and although Orlando Bloom has raised its profile, he doesn’t seem to have affected its use all that much. It remains uncommon.
  • Rafferty — The wild-card. Rafferty is an Irish surname, but can be considered the Anglicised form of the Gaelic names behind that surname, both bynames, one meaning “wielder of prosperity” — highly auspicious — the other “spring-tide” — full of the promise of new journeys to be taken. Its use as a given name without connection to a Rafferty is quite recent, but its roots are old.
  • Torquil

Girls:

  • Christabel — a literary creation of medieval times, a combination of Christ with the –bel ending of names such as Isabel. It returned to modest use in the 19th C thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Christabel” (1816); his own granddaughter was named Christabel in 1843. The suffragette Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958) is the most famous bearer.
  • Clemency — one of the Puritan names which was first used in the 17th C. With its attractive meaning, it remains a lovely choice.
  • Emmeline — a Norman-French name, starting out as a diminutive of the Germanic Amalia, from amal “work.” Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) was the leader of the Suffragettes.
  • Estrella — a Spanish name used in the English-speaking world since the early 19th C. Its roots lie with the Germanic Austrechildis “Easter battle,” but it has long been associated with the Spanish estrella  “star.” Alfonso and Estrella (1822) is an opera by Schubert.
  • Imogen — the heroine of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, one of the few tragedies with a happy ending. Imogen is a princess who undertakes a physical and emotional journey to be reunited with the man she loves. It is generally accepted that the name arose as a misreading of the Celtic Innogen, meaning “daughter.”
  • Jessamy
  • Rosamund
  • Sabrina — don’t let the teenage witch put you off this gem!
  • Topaz — the wildcard in the girls. The name of the precious stone. It derives ultimately from the Sanskrit tapas “heat” and “fire.” It is one of the gem names adopted at the end of the 19th C. Borne by the wonderful character of Topaz Mortmain in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1949).

So what does everyone think? What would you choose?

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Mather

On to “M” in my look at surnames of English, Norse and Anglo-French origin which have yet to see much use as first names…

There are a lot of rich pickings in M, so it comes in more than one part…

  • Maberley, Mabberley — from one of the places called Mapperley. Old English mapuldor “maple-tree” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Mabley — medieval form of Mabel.
  • Mace — dipped toe in the ranks in 1881 and 1902. As a surname, it is a medieval pet form of Thomas and/or Matthew. English “mace” is also a weapon and a spice.
  • Macer — “mace-bearer”; a type of soldier who carried a mace.
  • Machen — a form of Mason.
  • Madder — From Old English mædere “madder”; used of someone who used or delt in dye made from the madder plant.
  • Madeley — from one of the places called Madeley or Madley. Old English male personal name *Mada + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Maffre — from the Old German name Mathefrid “power-peace.”
  • Maldon, Malden — from one of the places of the name. Old English mǣl “cross” + dūn “hill.”
  • Malin — a medieval pet form of Mary.
  • Malkin — another medieval pet-form of Mary.
  • Malosel — Old French mal oisel “bad bird”; a medieval nick-name.
  • Maltby — from one of the places of the name. Probably Old Norse malt “malt” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Malter — in part a variant of “malster” (maalting is an important process in making beer and whiskey, and beer was the staple drink in medieval times).  Another source is from a French place name Maleterre “poor earth.”
  • Malton — from Malton in Yorkshire. Old English mæthel “assembly” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Malyan — and another medieval pet-form of Mary.
  • Mansel — Old French Mancel “inhabitant of Maine”, or mansel “tennant of a manse” (a manse in medieval France was a property large enough to support a family).
  • Manwin — from the Old English personal name *Mannwine “man-friend.”
  • Marber, Marbrow — Old French marbrier “quarrier/carver of marble.”
  • Mardon, Marden — from one of the places of the name, such as with various Old English origins, such as mere “mare” + denn  “woodland pasture” (Marden, Kent), mærc “boundary” + denu “valley”  (Marden, Wiltshire), and mærc + dūn “hill” (Marden, Sussex).
  • Markby — from Markby, Lincolnshire. Old Norse personal name Marki or mork “frontier area,” “wilderness” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Markham — from Markham, Nottinghamshire. Old English mærc “boundary stone” + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor.”
  • Markley — From Markley, Sussex. Old English mærc “boundary stone” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Marler — Old French marle “marl,” used of a quarrier of marl.
  • Marner — Old French marinier “mariner,” “sailor.”
  • Marris, Maris — Old French marais “marsh.” Maris is also familiar to many from the Latin Stella Maris “star of the sea,” now used as an epithet of Mary, but originally used of the Goddess Isis.
  • Marsden — from Marsden, Yorkshire. Old English mærc “boundary stone” + denu “valley.”
  • Marson — from MARSTON.
  • Marston — from one of the places of the name. Old English mersc “marsh” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Martley — from Martley, Worcestershire. Old English mearth “marten” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Maser — Old French maser “maple-wood bowl”; used of someone who made them.
  • Massen — another variant of Mason.
  • Massey, Massie — partly arose as a pet form of Matthew or Thomas, and partly from places called Macey, Massy and Macé in France.
  • Matchell — probably from the Old German name Machelm or Maghelm “might/strength-helmet.”
  • Mather — Old English mǣðere “mower.”
  • Maudsley — from Mawdesley, Lancashire. Personal name Maud + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Maxey, Maxcey, Maxcy — from Maxey, Cambridgeshire. Personal name Maccus ( either from the Common Celtic *makko- “pledge” or perhaps an Old Norse form of Magnus) + Old English ēg “island.”
  • Mayhew — from a medieval form of Matthew.
  • Maylan, Maylon — from Mayland, Essex. Old English mægthe “mayweed” + land “land.”
  • Maylor — from Old French esmailleur “enameler.”
  • Mayner — from the Old German personal name Maginhari “army-might.”
  • Maysey — from Maizy or Maisy in France. From a Latin or Celtic personal name Masius or Macius, the latter perhaps from the Common Celtic *makko- “pledge.”

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