History of Old English Names
Old English is the oldest form of the English language and looks almost completely different from the modern English we speak today. Also called Anglo-Saxon due to the groups of Anglo-Saxons who settled in England from Germany and Denmark, Old English was spoken throughout England from 450 AD to 1100 AD. Old English was rarely written down, so very few records of it survive today. Many Old English texts were also written in runes. This uses an entirely different alphabet from the Latin alphabet used for English today. The most famous piece of literature written in Old English was the epic poem, Beowulf.
Following the Norman conquest of 1066, Old English was gradually replaced by the Anglo-Norman language (also referred to as Anglo-Norman French). From this grew the period of Middle English which was spoken during the Late Middle Ages from roughly the 12th to the 14th century.
Old English names were heavily influenced by the German and Scandinavian invaders that came before the Norman Conquest. After 1250, names shifted almost completely to Norman names like Robert and William.
Ætheling (also spelled Ethel) was a frequently used Anglo-Saxon name prefix meaning"noble" that was used to indicate royalty.
Anglo-Saxon names, like many traditional Germanic names, were usually composed of two elements: a prefix and a personal name. For example, the name Aethelred is a combination of two elements æthel, meaning "noble", and ræd, meaning "advice."
By the 14th century, there were fewer than a thousand names in use, the most popular being John and Alice. In 2009, there were 60,900 names in use in England and Wales, the most popular being Oliver and Olivia.
10 Common Old English Girl Names and Meanings
If you're looking for a baby girl name that's fit for royalty, use our list of Old English names for baby name inspiration. These historical names also make great choices for unique middle names for your little girl.
- Alison - A common girl's name meaning "son of the noble"
- Brook - meaning "stream"
- Bryn - A name from the Welsh word meaning "mound" or "hill"
- Ethel - meaning "noble" or "regal"
- Farrah - a baby girl's name meaning "beautiful."
- Golda - From the Old English for 'to shine'.
- Isolda - Meaning 'fair' in Old English. Isolde is a variant, as is Eseld, which is Cornish.
- Lee/Leigh - Meaning "glade" or "small meadow"
- Morwen - A name derived from the Cornish word for "maiden."
- Ravenel - A unisex name (more commonly used for girls) meaning "raven."
10 Common Old English Boy Names and Meanings
If you're looking for a baby boy name with a long history behind it, these name options are noble and powerful options.
- Alfred - meaning, "wise counsel" (Alfie is a common nickname)
- Broderick - meaning, "from the broad ridge"
- Caldwell - meaning "cold spring"
- Chadwick (Chad is a common nickname) -the meaning of Chadwick is "dairy farm of Ceadda."
- Egbert (also spelled Ecgberht) - a name that derives from old Germanic words meaning "bright edge"
- Emerson - From an English surname meaning "son of Emery".
- Godric - An Anglo-Saxon name meaning "God's ruler."
- Kendrick -From the Old English given name Cyneric meaning "royal power."
- Oscar - Derived from the Gaelic words meaning "deer" and "friend." Osgar was a popular name variation in Old English.
- Willard - Derived from the Old German name Willhard meaning "bravery" or "will."
Old English Baby Names That Are Still Popular Today
If you're looking for a unique baby name inspired by Old English customs, many of these names are still in use today! Here are some popular names with Old English roots that have stood the test of time.
- Bradley - A habitational name meaning "old meadow."
- Presley - A name from English origins, this name means priest clearing. In modern times, Presley is more commonly used as a girl's name.
- Harlow - Harlow is a place in West Yorkshire and comes from the Old English word hær meaning "rock" and hlaw meaning "hill." Harlow was the 324th most popular girl's name in 2020 according to data from the Social Security Administration.
- Kendall - A name with Celtic origins meaning "Ruler of the valley." Today, Kendall is a popular girl's name thanks to celebrity figures like Kendall Jenner.
- Brandon - The name Brandon is of Old English origin and means "fiery hill."