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‘Love’-ly Names for Valentine’s Day

Today is an good excuse to take a tour through names in the Dictionary that derive from words related to love.

Latin

Latin amo “I love” gives us a wealth of names, both masculine and feminine. The participle amandus/amanda ‘meant to be loved’ becomes Amant and Amanda, and the adjective amatus/amata ‘loved, beloved’ gives rise to Amat and Amata. On the active side of things, amator ‘lover’ turns into the name Amadore. From the Old French development of the Latin root, we have Ami and Amy, and then finally there are the compounds: Amadeus ‘beloved by God’ is wholly Latin, while the lovely Amadilde displays the unusual combination of a Latin prototheme with a Germanic deuterotheme.

Latin carus/cara ‘dear, beloved, loved’ was popular in Italian developments, including Caro and Cara simpliciter, and the compounds Bellacara, Carabella, Caradonna, and Deocar. The superlative form of the adjective is found in Carissima.

Finally, the Latin goddess name Venus is the root of the name Venerio (and also the word ‘venereal’, so we wouldn’t recommend this option to anyone seeking a name for their baby.)

Celtic

The root of the romantic Welsh name Angharad is a Proto-Celtic word for ‘love’.

The Old Breton word cum can mean both ‘gentle’ and ‘beloved’, and appears in the name Iarncum.

Hebrew

In rare cases, the name Dodo can derive from a Hebrew word meaning ‘beloved’. A more well-known Hebrew name with this meaning is David.

Slavic

The Slavic element drag, drog, drah ‘precious, beloved’ is a popular theme, found in Dragoslav.

Germanic

Old English is where we must turn for names of deriving from a Germanic element meaning love, specifically, lēof ‘dear, loved’. Here on the feminine side we have Loveday as well as, possibly, Lovewell, though the origin of the latter is uncertain, and on the masculine side Lefchild, Lefsy, Lefward, and Lefwin.

Greek

Finally, we have two names incorporating Greek φίλος ‘dear, loved, loving’: Philip and Theophilus.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Arthurian Names: Kay/Kai/Cai/Cei


Sir Kay is the son of Sir Hector, and the foster-brother of Arthur. He, along with Bedivere, is one of the earliest characters to appear associated with Arthur in the literary cycles, appearing in early Welsh poems such as the Welsh Triads and Culhwch ac Olwen. His name appears in a variety of forms in the various sources. In English he is Kay or Kai, in French romances the name is spelled Keu, and in Welsh, his name is Cei or Cai. These last forms, the earliest ones, give clue to the origin: Cai is a Welsh form of the Roman praenomen Gaius (see entry in next edition), also spelled Caius. The origin of this praenomen is uncertain, but it may be related to Latin gaudere ‘to rejoice’. So with this name we have seen names of Celtic origin (Arthur, Gawain, Guinevere), Germanic origin (), and Greek origin (Elaine, Hector), and now we’ve a name of Roman origin. (It won’t be the last!)

The name was never common, but it was used in England, particularly in areas with strong Welsh and Breton connections; Reaney & Wilson s.n. Kay mention one Britius filius Kay from 1199.

It is not clear to what extent the relationship between Kay/Cai/Keu etc. and Gaius/Caius was recognized medievally — i.e., the extent to which occurrences of Gaius can be taken as examples of the influence of Arthurian legends. In fact, the extent is probably very minimal, especially given other more likely routes to the name, such as the various minor New Testament characters, saints, or popes. In Italy — which is where our current single example comes from — the influence of Julius Caesar, Pliny the Elder, and Tacitus, all of whose praenomina were Gaius on the Renaissance likely contributed to the use of the name more than the Arthurian character.

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