Posts Tagged ‘Maud’

My witch of the week series seems to be turning into more of a witch of the month.

There’s just so much I want to say about names, I guess!

This week/month’s choice is a fictional rather than mythological or historic one.

But she was — is — one of my first literary loves.

Mildred Hubble, heroine of Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch series.

I was about seven when I first read the original Worst Witch.

My primary school had a sort of book club; once each term or half-term, we got to take a catalogue home and choose a book.

There were few things to compare with the excitement I felt when the books arrived; you’d go into the class in the morning and see the books we’d ordered sitting on the teacher’s desk, each with a little slip of paper sticking out. Each absolutely spanking new, with that wonderful new-book smell.

The Worst Witch was one of my first purchases, and I still have the copy — though it’s rather more ragged now.

It tells the story of the hapless Mildred Hubble, a young witch just starting to learn magic at a boarding school for witches.

Sound familiar? For the record, The Worst Witch was first published in 1974, more than twenty years before the first Harry Potter.

Although very earnest, Mildred has the gift of making pretty much anything that can go wrong go very wrong indeed.

She inadvertantly manages to save the day by turning the baddies who are planning to take over the school into snails (she was trying for frogs, but still, it did the trick).

Jill Murphy has since written another five books, the last in 2005. It has been a joy sharing them with my own Small Child.

She loves Mildred as much as I do.

There are also the TV shows — the first based on the Worst Witch series itself, the later ones going off in other directions, such as Weirdsister College and The New Worst Witch. I haven’t watched them though — I have a feeling they could never live up to the original books.

Jill Murphy deliberately chose names that were very old-fashioned for her young witches — in 1974.

As well as Mildred, other characters have names such as Maud, Enid and Ethel — all “great-granny names” names hovering on the edge of revival. Will they, or won’t they?

Mildred itself is Old English, and has been around since at least the seventh century.

Originally Mildthryth, it is composed of the elements milde “mild” + þrȳð “power” and “strength.”

Unlike so many Old English names, Mildred survived the Norman Conquest, thanks to a saint popular in the Middle Ages, and managed to cling on in use until the nineteenth century when she was revived along with many other medieval and Old English classics.

She hasn’t fared so well since, which is a shame, as it is a name with charm, character and history.

It also shortens beautifully to Millie, Milly and Milda.

Yet it was given to only 68 little girls in the USA in 2010, and if any received the name in the UK, it was less than three.

But as witchy names go, they don’t get much better than Mildred!

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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:

  • SOPHIA AUGUSTA (1787-98)
  • RICHARD HENRY (b. and d. 1788)

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

  • ALICIA (d.1913)
  • JULIA (d.1897)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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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Last Friday, I speculated on the names of the first child of William and Kate, and, inevitably, Victoria was high on the list.

It is a little ironic that Victoria would now be considered a very traditional and conventional choice for a royal baby.

That wasn’t true when Victoria was named; Victoria — Latin for “victory” — was a rare name in Britain at the time, although it had been in use since the sixteenth century, one of the names plucked from Classical Antiquity. For to the Romans, Victoria was the personification of victory, and worshipped as a Goddess.

Why did Victoria receive such a name? Because that’s what her mother was called. She was Marie Louise Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield.

It wasn’t actually Queen Victoria’s first name, either. That was Alexandrina, after Tsar Alexander I of Russia.

Something else that is mildly ironic is the fact that since Victoria died, only one member of the royal family has received a name which had not been previously borne by a prince or princess of England or the United Kingdom — and that is Andrew. Yet Victoria herself actually made quite a point of breaking with tradition in the naming of her own children.

And her family makes a most interesting sibset.

Oldest of Queen Vicky’s children, born in 1840, was the Princess Royal, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa. Victoria was not just in honor of the Queen, but also the Queen’s mother, who was one of the little princess’s godmothers — the others being Adelaide, the wife of Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, and Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, one of the daughters of King George III. Louisa was the name of Prince Albert’s mother. Princess Victoria married Kaiser Friedrich III in 1858, and was the mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. She died aged only 48, in 1888.

Second was Albert Edward, born in 1841, who ruled as King Edward VII. In naming the heir to the throne such, Victoria caused quite a stir at the prospect of a future King Albert. That had, indeed, been Victoria’s wish; Edward himself chose to rule as Edward upon his succession. He was named after his father, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Victoria’s father, Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died when she was only a baby.

The third child was the tragic Princess Alice, later Grand Duchess of Hesse, whose full name was Alice Maud Mary. Alice, like Albert, had never been borne by a member of the Royal Family before. It is said it was suggested by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who was close to Victoria. Likewise Maud was also a break with tradition, demonstrating Victoria’s medieval tastes, though it was a nod to one of Princess Alice’s godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester (Maud, as most folk know, being a medieval form of Matilda). She was born in 1843, and died in 1878, aged just 35, of diptheria, a month after her four year old daughter had also died of the disease.

Her family was particularly ill-fated; her two-year-old son had died a few years earlier after a fall from a window, while two of her daughters died in the Russian Revolution. Alix (later the Tsarina Alexandra) was famously shot with her family in a basement in 1917. Elizabeth, who married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, was brutally murdered in 1918 along with other members of the imperial family. They were thrown down a mineshaft, grenades thrown in after them, and left to die.

Fourth of Queen Victoria’s children was Alfred Ernest Albert, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Known as Affie, he was the second British prince to be called Alfred since the time of King Alfred; the first was one of the younger sons of King George III. He had died in infancy. Ernest was another new name in the British royal family — an import from Germany. It was the name of Prince Albert’s brother. Alfred was born in 1844, and died in 1900.

Queen Victoria’s fifth child was Princess Helena, later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. Born in 1846, her full name was Helena Augusta Victoria. Helena was another new name for the royal family; she was named after one of her godparents, Hélène, Duchess of Orleans. Augusta was likewise in honor of a godparent, Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. Princess Helena lived to quite a good age, dying in 1923 at the age of 77.

Sixth of Queen Victoria’s progeny was Princess Louise, later Duchess of Argyll. Born in 1848, her full, correct name was Louisa Caroline Alberta. Though baptised Louisa, she was always known as Louise. Caroline had been the name of King George IV’s estranged wife, and Alberta was, of course, in honor of her father. She lived to the ripe old age of 91, dying in Kensington Palace in 1939.

The Seventh child was Prince Arthur, later Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. He was born in 1850, and also lived to be 91, dying in 1942. His full name was Arthur William Patrick Albert. Arthur was very much a choice in line with Victorian fashion, and its love of all things Arthurian. He wasn’t the first prince to bear the name — but it had been a long time since the last: Arthur, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King Henry VII, who died aged 15 in 1502. One of the Duke of Connaught’s godparents, however, was the Duke of Wellington, whose name was, surprise surprise — Arthur. He also shared the prince’s birthday. The choice of William was in honor of both King William IV and another of Prince Arthur’s godparents, Wilhelm, then Crown Prince of Prussia, and later Kaiser Wilhelm I (he later became the Princess Royal’s father-in-law). No British prince had ever been called Patrick before, and its choice was in homage to Ireland — it was no coincidence Prince Arthur was made Duke of Connaught.

Prince Leopold was the penultimate child; later made Duke of Albany, his full name was Leopold George Duncan Albert. Leopold, another new name in the royal family tree, was in honor of the King of Belgium, whose first wife was Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter and heiress of King George IV, whose death in childbirth led to King George’s unmarried sons scrambling to marry and produce a new heir to the throne (which led to Queen Victoria’s birth). Leopold also happened to be the uncle of both Victoria and Albert; Victoria’s mother was his sister, and Albert’s father was his brother.  George was actually in honor of his godfather, King George V of Hanover, grandson of King George III. Leopold received the name Duncan in the same way Arthur acquired Patrick; the Dukedom of Albany had once been borne by heirs to the throne of Scotland. Leopold had the shortest life of all Victoria’s children; he was a haemophiliac and may also have epilepsy. He died in 1884, aged 30.

The youngest of Queen Victoria’s children was Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore, later Princess Henry of Battenberg. Beatrice was yet another name new to the royal family — as was Feodore. Mary was once more in honor of Mary, Duchess of Cambridge, and Feodore was after Victoria’s older half-sister, Anna Feodora of Leiningen. Feodore is one way in which the Russian form of Theodora is transliterated into the Latin alphabet from the Cyrillic. Beatrice was born in 1859, and lived to be 87. She was the last of Victoria’s children to die, passing on in 1944.

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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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The 11th Century Spanish St Casilda

Last week, I wrote about the rare old name Quenilda. Today I thought I’d look at many of the other names ending in -ilda and -ild.

Most -ilda names have the same element in common: the Old English hild ‘battle’ — or its cognate in the other Germanic languages.

The exceptions in the list below are Milda, which is from the Old English milde ‘mild’, Marilda, which is a modern combination of Mary/Maria with -ilda and Wilda, which is an elaboration of plain wild.

There’s also Casilda, a Spanish name of uncertain origins; it was first born by an 11th Century saint, who was said to be the daughter of a Muslim king of Toldeo. If this is true, it would make most sense if it has Arabic roots.

Hild itself is an Anglo-Saxon name in its own right; best known in the form Hilda.

7th Century St Hilda is a well-known East Anglian-born saint, associated with Whitby in Yorkshire (now best known for being a principal location in Bram Stocker’s Dracula and the Whitby Gothic Weekends).

Poor Hilda has yet to shown any signs of rehabilitation itself, saddled as it is with associations of Hilda Ogden in long-running British soap opera Coronation Street.

But not all -ildas should be tarred with the same brush. In the last couple of years, Matilda has returned to the US top 1000, though it still has a long way to go.

Elsewhere, though, it is already becoming very popular. In the UK, for instance, it ranked 46th in 2009.

But it’s Down Under, appropriately enough, where Matilda is really waltzing  — it was 18th in New South Wales in 2010.

This magnificent old name started out in early medieval Germany as Mahthildis, combining Old German mahti ‘might’ and ‘strength’ with hildi — the Old German equivalent of hild. Matilda of Flanders was the wife of William the Conqueror, and the name was extremely popular in medieval times, often in the vernacular form Maud.

One of its traditional short forms is Maddy, and it is one of the medieval names behind the surname Maddison.

But without further ado, here is a hearty selection of -ildas/-ilds from around Europe and throughout the centuries:

Alfhild, Audhild, Borghild, Botilda, Brunhild, Casilda, Clotilda, Durilda, Eoforhild, Ermengilda, Estrilda, Everilda, Farahilda, Farilda, Gerhild, Gilda, Gunhild, Gunilda, Hextilda, Hilda, Ignvild, Irmhild, Kriemhild, Lovilda, Magnild, Marilda, Matilda, Merilda, Milda, Otthild, Pharahilda, Ragnilda, Ravenilda, Reinhild, Richilda, Romilda, Ronilda, Sieghild, Somerilda, Sunilda, Swanilda, Thorilda, Tilda, Torilda, Wachilda, Wilda.

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