The names of people living in Anglo-Saxon England are very different from our modern names. Here is our list of some of our favourite girls’ names in Old English.
Elisabeth Okasha’s book Women’s Names in Old English is a lengthy study of naming patterns from Anglo-Saxon England. Okasha writes:
when the Anglo-Saxons came to choose a given name for a female child, that the names were more often than not chosen from a set of those that were considered traditionally suitable for women. Even taking into account that many names may have been lost to us, this set of female names appears to have been limited in its extent. Moreover, as far as we can tell, this set of female names seems to have remained largely constant throughout the historic Anglo-Saxon period.
There are only about 300 female names that could be found in sources from that era, recorded in chronicles, saints’ lives, wills and charters. Most names were chosen by combining two words, while others came from a single word.
We’ve come up with our twenty favourite girls’ names – if you are considering a different type of baby name, perhaps you will pick one of these!
Ætte – it possibly means ‘nobility’.
Blædswiþ (Blaedswith) – from ‘splendour’ and ‘strong’.
Cwenhild – from ‘woman’ and ‘war’.
Cynewise – from ‘family’ and ‘wise’.
Eawynn – from ‘river’ and ‘joy’.
Eorcengod – from ‘treasure’ and ‘good’.
Friþugyþ – from ‘peace’ and ‘battle’.
Giefu – means ‘gift’.
Golde – it almost certainly means ‘gold’.
Heiu – this name comes from one of Bede’s writings, which tells the story of a seventh-century abbess. It might mean ‘high’.
Leofgifu – from ‘love’ and ‘gift’
Lufu – it can mean ‘love’ or ‘dear’
Mildþryþ (Mildritha) – from ‘kind’ and ‘might’
Oslaf – from ‘God’ and ‘widow’
Pege – we are not sure what the name means, but our example comes from a woman in an important noble family from Mercia who would become an anchoress and a saint in the eighth century.
Ricule – it is suggested that this word is related to the Old English word rice, which means ‘powerful’.
Sigeburg – from ‘victory’ and ‘dwelling’.
Sweterun – from ‘sweet’ and ‘mystery’.
Tate – means ‘to gladden’. This could also be a shortened form of the name Tatswiþ, which is a combination of ‘glad’ and ‘strong’.
Wynflaed – from ‘joy’ and ‘beauty’.
Women’s Names in Old English was published in 2011 by Ashgate. Since no text exists from Anglo-Saxon England to explain why these people chose the names that they did, this study attempts to look at what made a female name in England over a thousand years ago. Buy it on Amazon.com
Top Image: Bodleian Library MS. Junius 11