Monday, 15 October 2012

Surname-y Name

Apologies for the awful title. Brain is mush. Anyway, I still have not been able to find A Dictionary of English Surnames, but I did manage to come across another interesting source while on my quest. Patronymica Britannica: A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom came to the rescue! No medieval given names to be had (at least not so far), but a great assortment of surnames to look through. A small sample of surnames was taken, the ones that seemed to resemble in some way or another a name that is mainstream and/or recognisable.

Addice ('son of Adam') - A medieval surname that could work very well as a given name today. Think of it as a hybrid of Addison and Alice, it certainly looks and sounds like it. And let's not forget that it would be another way to lead us to the popular nickname Addy. But its meaning could tip it into masculine territory, although the variant spelling of Addis probably would work best for a boy.

Ade ('to be red') - This can go either way. Ade is ultimately a contraction of Adam, and it has clear similarities to Abe. There is also the Frisian name Adde, a masculine short form for adal, meaning 'noble'. However, it works as a feminine name, too. Ade brings to mind Ada, which shares Adde's beginnings.

Arter ('bear king' or 'bear man') - The Dictionary claims that Arter is a vulgar pronunciation of Arthur. Certainly their origins are shared, but Arter can hold its own. It has the same sound that made Carter a success in the US (it was #41 in 2011), plus it shares Arthur's fun nicknames, Art and Artie.

Baynard ('straight' & 'brave') Bernard has had a good run, staying in the top 100 from 1880 to 1947, but it is now barely holding on to the top 1000. Those who have abandoned Bernard have done so likely because he seems dated, so could Baynard be the answer? He is as sturdy as Bernard, but he's in possession of the very modern nickname Bay.

Beckley ('pickaxe' & 'wood') - This surname seems so usable, with its unisex status and the trendy -ley ending. Similar surname names such as Becket, Benett and Blakeley spring to mind, so Beckley isn't such a strech. Its obvious nickname, Beck, sounds rather handsome, but it can be made more girl friendly - Beckley can lead to Becky, if Rebecca just isn't an option.

Hannay ('son of Senach') - This Scottish surname has very similar elements to traditional Hannah but with a modern twist. For those who are not fans of the Old Testament name, Hannay steps away from the religious connotations. But for those who like Hannah's biblical beginnings but want something a bit different, Hannay is reminiscent of the Yiddish form of Hannah, Henye.

Harrow ('a heathen temple') - It's a London borough, a preppy independent school, and a surname all rolled into one. Could Harrow be the masculine equivelant of Harlow, or just another alternative? Maybe both. Nicknames such as Harry and Roe could give it that little push that this very English sounding name needs to take off.

Iden - Is a surname derived from a village in Sussex, England. Iden is another surname that works well for both genders, although similarities to names such as the Old Norse Oden - the Swedish form of Odin (meaning 'inspiration, rage, frenzy') - and Hebrew Idan (era), is likely to place Iden on the boys' side. But not all is lost if you would prefer Iden for a girl: think of Idun ('to love again' or 'ever young'), the mythological Norse goddess of spring and immortality, or Ida but with a funky, boyish add-on.

Jex (possibly 'supplanter' or 'Jehova has favoured')- An early medieval surname that has total 21st century flavour. It has interesting origins, possibly linked to either Jacob or John, but it has come down to us in this form as the Anglicised version of French Jacques. The use of the very trendy X is what makes Jex a possibility. It sits comfortably next Max, Pax and even Jaxon (or Jaxson, take your pick), but it can also play with the traditional Jed or Jeb.

Image: Random cute unicorn chess piece thing taken from 'Patronymica Britannica'.